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Navid Bargrizan

School of Music
2017-2018 Tedder Family Doctoral Fellow

Navid Bargrizan received a Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship for his dissertation project entitled “Microtonality, Technology, and Dramatic Narrative in the Theatrical Music of Harry Partch and Manfred Stahnke.” He traveled to Germany for archival research and to conduct interviews related to Stahnke’s operas.

(PHOTO: Timothy Sofranko)

In his research Bargrizan explores the intersections of innovative tuning systems (the use of intervals shorter than what is found in traditional Western music), technological media, and dramatic structures in the theatrical music of the American composer Harry Partch and the German composer Manfred Stahnke, two untraditional composers who sought to work in ways beyond mainstream Western art music. He argues that these interrelationships go beyond functioning as mere formative elements. They become means to address both composers’ cultural discourse and the philosophical, mythical, ritual, and psychological connotations of their works. His research focuses on an analysis of intonation (pitch changes), intermediality (the use of digital media as a performance medium), postdramatic aspects (based on the theory of postdramatic theater), as well as Partch’s distinctive notions of corporeality (a more engaging participatory approach), and Stahnke’s concept of meloharmony (the relationship between micro-intervals and micro-rhythms).

Previous scholars have left the theatrical music of the last sixty years—especially the experimental and multimedia pieces—mostly untouched. Bargrizan’s work offers the first exhaustive scholarly work which systematically elaborates on the philosophical, technological, musical, and theatrical facets of Partch’s and Stahnke’s stage works. Bargrizian shows that the tonal, theatrical, and technological tools used by both composers reflect their personal, cultural, and philosophical inclinations and reinforce the dramatic content of each of the original literary sources. Furthermore, he illuminates the understudied conceptual interconnections of the musical and extra-musical facets of these revolutionary theatrical works. As an interdisciplinary project at the intersection of music, theater, and technology, this dissertation hopes to begin a trend of research on the link between American and German experimental theatrical music, motivated by composers’ cultural criticism.