Order and intuition: An exportation of musical objectivity and subjectivity

Plan Author

  • John Ivers, 2016

Fields of Concentration

  • Music

Sample Courses

Project Description

A portfolio of compositions in various media, ranging from electronic to orchestral works.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Matan Rubinstein
  • Stan Charkey

Outside Evaluator

  • Samuel Pluta, University of Chicago


This Plan included a portfolio of compositions in various media, as well as a music theory analysis paper on the work of Arvo Pärt. The compositions range from electronic to orchestral works, and include a setting for three short poems by anonymous authors with soprano, flute, cello, and piano, a string quartet, and a sound installation consisting of four sculptures placed along a path on campus. The music theory paper traces Arvo Pärt’s concern for musical objectivity, from his early career to the development of tintinnabulation. The independent project, “Threads,” is a self-narrative of electronic pieces produced from field recordings or samples with special meanings to the composer.


Frames is a three part mixed media work that explores the concept of sonic perspective and the shifting of sonorities between acoustic spaces. In film, a single person is typically shot from a multitude of perspectives however, in music, multitrack recordings are often mixed into a single stereo recording. I realized that ‘viewing’ a single sound source from multiple perspectives (acoustic spaces) could itself become a compositional tool. Every acoustic environment has a unique resonance, and when audio is amplified in the space it colors the sound in unique ways—this is apparent in pieces such as Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room.

How does Pärt distance himself from his compositions to in order achieve perfection? To understand this question, both perfection and imperfection must be defined. If perfection is found through the emancipation of a work from its creator, then imperfection can be defined as the subjective and intuitive process of the artist. Earthly imperfection is the affective, the ego, the emotional—in music it can be found in tone-painting of madrigalists, the narrative desire for resolution in romanticism, and the sensual expressionism of the early modernists. According to Pärt, if a work of art is to reach emancipation, the artist must first deny their own intuition, subjectivities, desires, and ego during the compositional process. Pärt seeks the “objective” that lay outside of the individual.