David Metzer

Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

 
 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Pastoral and anti-pastoral music and landscapes in Final Fantasy X, XII, XIII, and XV (2023)

The worlds of role-playing video games (RPGs) are comprised of a wide variety of locations, from verdant forests to eerie ruins, and music plays a critical role in determining how players feel about (and in) their surroundings. Ludomusicologists have started to investigate how music influences players’ perceptions of landscapes in video games, but the broader study of how particular types of areas and their music affect players remains relatively unexplored. This dissertation examines pastoral and anti-pastoral landscapes and music in Final Fantasy X, XII, XIII, and XV. Through the analysis of selected areas from the four games and a discussion of the results of an empirical research study, it argues that pastoral and anti-pastoral landscapes employ distinct sets of musical and visual features that elicit emotional responses of relaxation and apprehension, respectively. This study traces the visual characteristics of pastoral forests and fields back to ancient poetry, specifically Theocritus’s Idylls and Virgil’s Eclogues, and contends that these areas foster feelings of peacefulness in players owing to their participation in this broader pastoral tradition. Pastoral music in the four Final Fantasy games similarly puts players at ease by drawing upon elements of the pastoral topic in Western art and film music. Anti-pastoral landscapes, on the other hand, are dark, foreboding locations such as caves, ruins, and tombs that resonate with depictions of the Underworld in Ancient epic as well as the disruptive influence of the City in Virgil’s Eclogues. The visual and musical settings of these areas rely upon horror film and video game conventions to unsettle players. There is also a subset of locations in Final Fantasy X, XII, XIII, and XV that do not belong exclusively to either category. These locations have been designated as ambiguous landscapes. They elicit a more complex emotional response from players by employing visual and musical features that conflict with one another or by incorporating ambiguous elements that blur the distinction between pastoral and anti-pastoral.

View record

"The mighty spring tide of Finnish music": nationalism and internationalism in the music of Leevi Madetoja (2018)

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Finnish nationalists struggled to define their country’s national identity while simultaneously navigating two foreign infractions: Swedish rule, which remained influential even after Finland was annexed by Russia in 1809, and Russian colonization, which continued until Finland’s independence in 1917. Inspired by Herder, they justified claims for cultural and political legitimacy by disseminating a written form of the incipient Finnish language, manufacturing a national epic, the Kalevala, and reinforcing the myth of Finland as a homogenous national entity rooted in the natural world. Meanwhile, Finnish musicians sought to advance their nation’s international standing by producing works aimed at the elevation of Finland’s artistic canon. Jean Sibelius was only one of several influential artistic figures active in early twentieth-century Finland. Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), who lived and worked in Sibelius’s shadow, composed a number of weighty, melancholic works, many of which include national associations. For example, Madetoja’s Second Symphony (1918) was inspired by the events of Finland’s civil war, while his first opera Pohjalaisia (1924) explores a narrative of self-determination and freedom from oppression. As there is little information available on Madetoja outside Finland, this project aims to bring an awareness of his life and work to a wider audience. It begins by situating Madetoja in the larger political and artistic nationalist movements of the time. Madetoja’s incorporation of a sense of place in his output, through the integration of folk idioms and references to the Finnish landscape, is explored through an assessment of his contemporaneous critical reception. This in turn reveals how Finnish audiences received his work with respect to Finland’s nationalist undertakings. Further, through a detailed analysis of the Second Symphony, this study discusses Madetoja’s style through a demonstration of his twentieth-century adaptation of older formal models and his development of strong organic connnections among themes and motives. This dissertation concludes by investigating the commonly held perspective that Madetoja’s work exhibits to a certain extent a French character, and it situates Madetoja vis-à-vis his colleagues Sibelius and Debussy, aiming at a broader understanding of Madetoja’s international position.

View record

A Canadian opera aria anthology for soprano (2017)

A problem that Canadian opera faces is that once works are premiered, they rarely receive any further performances. Singers must overcome numerous barriers to sing these works due to limited score accessibility and lack of aria adaptations and recordings. Even if singers feel passionately about Canadian opera, such obstacles may impede their motivation to perform Canadian repertoire.This thesis aims to increase the awareness and accessibility of Canadian opera through the creation of a “Canadian Opera Aria Anthology for Soprano.” The anthology includes background information about the operas, composer and librettist biographies, opera synopses, and aria adaptations. In addition, performance and interpretive guides have been formed from the author’s own research in performing these works, available recordings, and from information gathered from the author’s interviews with the composers and librettists.Hopefully the arias within this anthology will not only provide singers with useful arias for auditions, but also give them and their audience a lens through which they may better understand Canadian opera and culture. Ultimately, this research aims to increase the recognition of Canadian opera and to develop a greater interest and appreciation for these works so that one day, they may become a part of the standard operatic repertoire and reach both Canadian and international stages.

View record

Music in nature, nature in music: sounding the environment in contemporary composition (2017)

This thesis examines nature as both a concept and source material in contemporary music. Composers reinforce, revise, and challenge existing conceptualizations of nature through their engagement with natural settings, live or recorded environmental sounds, and/or non-sounding environmental information. How composers understand nature informs the ways in which they employ aspects of the physical world in their music. This study explores the interplay between nature-as-concept and nature-as-source-material in art-based walks, outdoor music, electroacoustic composition, and concert-hall pieces. Through analysis of works representative of these wide-ranging genres, this thesis offers a critical assessment of how nature is imagined in a contemporary musical context. The concept of a continuum is used as both a structural and theoretical tool in this study. A gradual transition from real-world encounters with nature to an abstracted experience of it is made over the course of the thesis. The works discussed in Chapter Two exist as lightly edited recordings made by artists during an outdoor walk/improvisation. The outdoor theatre piece considered in Chapter Three takes place at a lake and draws on that environment in several ways during a performance. The two electroacoustic compositions investigated in Chapter Four combine unmodified and modified nature sounds. The natural world is still present in the concert-hall works discussed in Chapter Five, but recorded nature sounds are combined with live instrumental music based on environmental properties and processes. In addition, this thesis traces four themes across works. These are technology, human presence, myth, and the transformation of the environment. The works under consideration demonstrate a range of approaches to composing with and conceptualizing nature. Some of the works comment on environmental issues, such as noise pollution and climate change. Others aim to drive understanding beyond the limits of human perception; that is, to open up new psychological spaces. In different ways, the works under focus illuminate the relationship between humans and the natural world. By stimulating discourse around how we think about nature, these pieces encourage critical thought regarding our place as humans in the physical environment.

View record

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Reinventing disability inclusion : representations of disabled bodies in Spring Awakening (2015) and Oklahoma! (2019) through casting, physical movement, and music performance (2022)

Actors with disabilities have rarely appeared in musical theater and when they have, they have been limited to playing characters with disabilities. Two recent musical productions, however, have cast actors with disabilities for characters that were originally written as non- disabled. In Chapter Two, I demonstrate that Deaf West Theatre Company’s 2015 adaptation of Spring Awakening cast a mixture of Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing actors to perform together. This production also featured Ali Stroker, the first woman in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway. Stroker was later cast for the role of Ado Annie in Daniel Fish’s 2019 revival of Oklahoma!, the subject of Chapter Three of this thesis. This study explores how these contemporary musical productions address issues of disability inclusion and representation within the United States. I place these productions within the history of the disability rights movements and d/Deaf rights movements, revealing how these performers in the shows have advocated for disability visibility. Each chapter presents an analysis of how these productions challenge ableism. Through music, staging, choreography, and performance, these productions expose the blind spots in ableist history. Furthermore, scholars on American musicals have yet to explore how music functions in creating visibility for disability. This study, however, offers musical analyses of several songs from each musical. Conducting close readings of these songs, I examine lyrics and music, including such elements as vocal delivery, rhythm, texture, and dynamics. My analytical readings show visibility for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and wheelchair-using bodies. By placing these songs within the context of disability, and through an analysis of musical and dance elements, this study shows how disabled performers have challenged audiences to hear what they have to say about disability and the particular stories that they choose to tell. The thesis reveals the significance of these actors’ performances in efforts of erasing disability stigma and allows the audience member to reflect on current injustices to do with casting and representation in the United States.

View record

She's ahead of the times: a study of how Buffy Sainte-Marie's music addresses Indigenous rights (2020)

Most singer-songwriters in the 1960s and 1970s wrote protest music in opposition to the Vietnam War and in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Cree musician Buffy Sainte-Marie (b. 1941), however, was one of the few artists composing songs to call out the wrongs done to Indigenous peoples in North America, such as land dispossession, treaty violations, relocation, and Residential Schools. This study demonstrates how Sainte-Marie’s music addresses Indigenous injustices within both Canada and the United States. Discussions of Sainte-Marie’s music have dealt mainly with her lyrics. This study, in contrast, examines both lyrics and music, including such elements as harmony, timbre, form, vocal delivery, and dynamics. Furthermore, her songs are placed within the history of the protest music genre, revealing how Sainte-Marie uses aspects of the genre to advocate for Indigenous rights. Each chapter presents an analysis of how Sainte-Marie’s songs disrupt colonialism. Her music offers a history that challenges and exposes the blind spots in settler histories. Sainte-Marie also addresses the concerns of the American Indian Movement during the 1970s and the sexism that took place within the organization. By placing Sainte-Marie’s songs within the protest music genre, and through an analysis of both textual and musical elements, this study highlights the importance of her music in challenging the listener to really listen to what she has to say and the particular stories that she chooses to tell. The thesis reveals the significance of Sainte-Marie’s music in efforts of decolonization and allows the listener to reflect on current Indigenous injustices still taking place in North America.

View record

Joan La Barbara's Early Explorations of the Voice (2016)

Experimental composer and performer Joan La Barbara treats the voice as a musical instrument. Through improvisation, she has developed an array of signature sounds, or extended vocal techniques, that extend the voice beyond traditional conceptions of Western classical singing. At times, her signature sounds are primal and unfamiliar, drawing upon extreme vocal registers and multiple simultaneous pitches. In 2003, La Barbara released Voice is the Original Instrument, a two-part album that comprises a selection of her earliest works from 1974 – 1980. The compositions on this album reveal La Barbara’s experimental approach to using the voice. Voice Piece: One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation explores the timbral palette within a single pitch. Circular Song plays with the necessity of a singer’s breath by vocalizing, and therefore removing, all audible inhalations and exhalations. Hear What I Feel brings the sense of touch into an improvisatory composition and performance experience. In October Music: Star Showers and Extraterrestrials, La Barbara moves past experimentation and layers her different sounds into a cohesive piece of music. This thesis is a study of La Barbara’s treatment of the voice in these four early works. I will frame my discussion with theories of the acousmatic by Mladen Dolar and Brian Kane and will also draw comparisons with Helmut Lachnemann’s musique concrète instrumentale works. In doing so, I will chart La Barbara’s experimentation and use of the voice in its original function. Specifically, the voice as the first means expression, not requiring text or traditionally musical elements, but as an communicative wordless instrument.

View record

Joan La Barbara's Early Explorations of the Voice (2016)

Experimental composer and performer Joan La Barbara treats the voice as a musical instrument. Through improvisation, she has developed an array of signature sounds, or extended vocal techniques, that extend the voice beyond traditional conceptions of Western classical singing. At times, her signature sounds are primal and unfamiliar, drawing upon extreme vocal registers and multiple simultaneous pitches. In 2003, La Barbara released Voice is the Original Instrument, a two-part album that comprises a selection of her earliest works from 1974 – 1980. The compositions on this album reveal La Barbara’s experimental approach to using the voice. Voice Piece: One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation explores the timbral palette within a single pitch. Circular Song plays with the necessity of a singer’s breath by vocalizing, and therefore removing, all audible inhalations and exhalations. Hear What I Feel brings the sense of touch into an improvisatory composition and performance experience. In October Music: Star Showers and Extraterrestrials, La Barbara moves past experimentation and layers her different sounds into a cohesive piece of music. This thesis is a study of La Barbara’s treatment of the voice in these four early works. I will frame my discussion with theories of the acousmatic by Mladen Dolar and Brian Kane and will also draw comparisons with Helmut Lachnemann’s musique concrète instrumentale works. In doing so, I will chart La Barbara’s experimentation and use of the voice in its original function. Specifically, the voice as the first means expression, not requiring text or traditionally musical elements, but as an communicative wordless instrument.

View record

Genre and Parody in the Music of the Beatles (2015)

From the earliest outbreak of “Beatlemania” in 1963 to the announcement of their breakup in 1970, The Beatles fulfilled, exceeded, and reformed our conceptions of popular music. They have enjoyed an enduring popularity with critics and audiences and have cemented their position as one of the most celebrated acts in popular culture. Although it would be difficult to attribute their success to a single factor, it could be argued that their eclectic sound ensured their mass appeal. As their careers progressed, The Beatles effortlessly combined and moved between different genres. Many of these genres were atypical for popular music of the 1960s and can be regarded as parody. This thesis approaches parody as an important stylistic trait of The Beatles’ music. Parody is a broad concept that can be found in a number of forms of art and entertainment. By drawing from literary criticism and musicological discourse, this study develops a broader understanding of parody in which popular musicians evoke the music of another genre through borrowing and create a critical distance between their work and the preexisting one. Further investigation reveals how The Beatles applied parody to their music and how it was used by the band to connect with their listeners. In such songs as “Back In The U.S.S.R.” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” The Beatles parody different musical genres in order to evoke social commentary. Genre parody is not exclusive to individual songs. It is one of the unifying threads in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which The Beatles parody the English music hall and use genre to connect themes on the album. Despite these instances, parody remains an underexplored practice in their music. Many scholars of the band will acknowledge the musical and critical elements associated with parody; however, they do not use the term, nor identify parody as a recurring practice in The Beatles’ music. This thesis hopes to shed light on this topic and add to our understanding of the rich legacy of The Beatles.

View record

Gesture and sympathy in the 1969 BBC production of Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes" (2014)

Throughout his career, Benjamin Britten was actively involved in the composition of music for television and film, for projects ranging from documentary soundtracks for the General Post Office Film Unit (1935-36) to television adaptations of his operas. This thesis will examine the television production of Peter Grimes, which was shot under Britten’s supervision in 1969 at the Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh. The production has Peter Pears, Britten’s partner and collaborator, in the title role, a role that he also performed in the 1945 premiere of the opera.As in many of his operas, Peter Grimes encourages the audience to sympathetically identify with a character who is an outsider in society. Grimes, for example, is rejected by the people in the local village, yet is made to be a multi-dimensional character who the audience is encouraged to feel sympathy for. The thesis will examine how gesture is used in the production to create a sympathetic connection between Grimes and the audience. It will also pay particular attention to the use of camera techniques to enhance this connection through different shots including close-ups and framing the individual against the crowd. In addition, it examines how the gestures performed relate to and interact with the accompanying score. The gestures used by Grimes in three scenes of the opera will be examined in detail: the Prologue, Interlude IV, and Act III scene ii.This thesis will examine Britten’s perceptions of the character of Grimes, his involvement in the television production process, and his views on acting. Through looking at Pears’s copies of vocal scores, it will also explore his relationship with Grimes and how he approached gesture in his operatic roles.

View record

The individual of late modernity in Istvan Anhalt's Foci (1969) (2014)

Hungarian-born Canadian composer Istvan Anhalt’s (1919-2012) multimedia work, Foci (1969), was written during a time of rapid technological and social change. Composed for taped and live voices, electronics, and instruments in Montreal amidst the political upheavals of the Quiet Revolution, Foci is a work that exemplifies new directions in musical technique that were being explored in Canada at the time. Foci is also a work that comments on broader cultural developments in a period known as late modernity. Sociologists such as Jock Young and Anthony Giddens have described this period as one that is characterized by an increase in the dissolution of traditional social and personal boundaries, a rise in individual autonomy, and the permeation of anxiety into all spheres of life, which Albert Camus argues is the result of one’s increased awareness of the Absurd.The thesis will explore how Foci can be read as a work that embodies various struggles that the individual of late modernity encounters, including the challenge of creating oneself from a philosophical blank slate (Chapter 2), reconciling traditional notions of religion and faith with late-modern ones (Chapter 3), navigating through interactions with others and groups while balancing the need for individuality and uniqueness (Chapter 4), and finally, confronting the late-modern idea that any singular truth is untenable (Chapter 5). By studying the sociological context of Foci in conjunction with its musical characteristics, an understanding of the work’s place and significance in Canadian music history as well as in the changing social and cultural conditions of the 1960’s is acquired.

View record

 

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses

Program Affiliations

Department(s)

 

If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.

 
 

Planning to do a research degree? Use our expert search to find a potential supervisor!