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RUNNING HEAD: MUSIC THEORY ANALYSIS

MUS 715: Music Theory


Analysis
I Am by Andrew Boysen Jr.
Chlo Plamondon
Northern State University

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

Music Theory Analysis


I Am by Andrew Boysen Jr.
I Am by Andrew Boysen Jr. is a programmatic, through-composed concert band
score that uses a variety of noteworthy motives to portray emotions connected to a
specific tragic event. This piece was commissioned by Craig Aune and the Cedar Rapids
Prairie High School Band of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in February 1990. I Am was written in
memory of a baritone saxophone player in the band, Lynn Jones, who was killed in a car
accident that year. The words I Am are taken from the following poem that Jones wrote
just days before his death:
I Am
Life, Music, Competition.
I like exciting things, and doing good for others.
Beauty, Successfulness and Smartness are important to me.
I like to achieve recognition.
I can succeed if I really put my mind to it.
I am very set in my ways,
But I an change when I realize my ignorance.
I like a simple nonchalant lifestyle.
I hate ignorance.
I hate structuredness.
This is me. I am!
Motives used to depict emotion throughout the journey of this piece include a
recurring delayed resolution, pedal tones, foreshadowing, senza misura (without time),

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

rhythmic devices such as syncopation and ostinato, aleatoric music and pitch class set
theory. Boysen also uses contrast as a motive throughout the piece to demonstrate intense
opposing emotion and confusion. He uses thin and dense textures, simple and dense
harmonies as well as tension and release. This paper will discuss Boysens use of motive
in developing emotions related to apprehension, joy, tragedy, hope and acceptance.
We experience for the first time at the end of the A1 over B section at measure
twenty-six and twenty-seven the ii-iii motive that will continue to surface many times
throughout the piece. This motive is a delayed resolution that, programmatically, will
continue to express a symbol of hope and peace. Transition one, measure thirty-three to
thirty-six, brings the listener away from an apprehensive emotion developed in the first
section of the piece with the alto saxophone playing the ii-iii motive of hope, followed by
the baritone sax playing the same motive leading into part two of the piece. Boysen uses
the human voice towards the end of the piece in the same hopeful and peaceful ii iii
motive with the lyrics I Am. The voices singing the ii-iii motive removes the
instrumental barrier allowing the musician to connect on a more personal level with the
music being created. The piece ends with voices only singing the ii iii motif to leave
the listener with the feeling of acceptance and hope.
The compositional technique of pedal tones can either create stability or tension in
a piece of music. A growing sense of apprehension and tension starting in measure eight
is achieved through the addition of the timpani playing a pianissimo F pedal. A sad and
ominous atmosphere is established on the firm ground of the F pedal, while a rising bass
line above it creates suspension and tension. In section G, measure 101, Boysen uses an
Ab pedal in the mallets, tuba and bass clarinet, the time is very slow (quarter note = 60)

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

and the style has transitioned to be very legato and the dynamic level is again soft. The
Ab pedal is employed differently than the F pedal was in part one of the piece. The F
pedal was used to create suspense and tension, while this Ab pedal is being used to create
a sense of solidity and consistency. The pedal here is eliciting a feeling of peace, as
opposed to the feeling of ominous apprehension stated earlier. The J section continues to
develop the emotion of hope, reversing the Ab pedal into the high end of the band, use of
the ii-iii movement in the mid-voices, the use of accents amongst the melodic movement.
The last new section, K, displays the emotion of serenity, which is a state of calm,
peaceful and eventually untroubled. An Ab pedal in the bass voices creates a sense of
being grounded at home, and the simple clarinet and baritone saxophone duet is a
reflection of the beginning of the work.
There are three instances in this piece that Boysen uses the technique of
foreshadowing. A suspended cymbal role in measure nine foreshadows tension in the
low brass harmonic movement over a suspenseful pedal tone. The second inversion Bb
major triad in measures sixteen and seventeen foreshadow a feeling of peace and hope
that will eventually come, and the short C section is resolved to an Eb major chord over a
Bb pedal, which is foreshadowing the Eb major section to come at measure thirty-seven.
The first two measures of the piece do not belong to a particular section. Instead,
a very distant tam-tam scrape under a fermata rings out of time. The lack of time and
reflective quality of the ring brings the listener into a state of reflection, similar to a
meditation bell signaling the beginning of an individuals practice. This effect draws us
into the piece by creating a sense of wonder about what to expect for the remainder of the
work. Like the beginning of a journey into meditation, we cannot predict what the next

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

moment will bring. The aleatoric section at measure ninety-five begins with a B
diminished chord over D in the bass, and like the beginning of the piece is senza misura,
without time. A ringing suspended cymbal and tam-tam at the end of section F mark the
emotion of disbelief and self-reflection, very similar to the first sound of the entire piece.
This effect allows the listener to recover from the fogginess of the accident and the terror
of the aftermath. It is the quiet moment of pure sadness and disbelief at what just
happened.
According to the program notes, the aleatoric section at measure ninety-five is
used to represent the foggy morning of the accident in which Lynn Jones died. It begins
pianissimo and as instruments layer into the texture, the section grows in volume and
intensity. The entire wind section of the band is playing a combination of cluster chords
and rhythmic motives, while each member the percussion section is playing a different
intense rhythmic motive with changing dynamics and accents in order to create as much
feeling of chaos as possible. Section F, measure ninety- six, marks the pivotal moment in
the young boys life and climax of the piece which is the end of the fifty-one second
aleatoric section. The use of fortississimo dynamics, a fast tempo (quarter note = 144)
accented triple and eighth notes and pitch class set theory, create a sense of pure terror.
The notes of the pitch class set at measure ninety-six are Ab, Bb, B, Eb, and E [10, 0, 1,
5, 6] in their normal order of this pitch set. The prime order would be (0, 2, 3, 7, 8).
Texture is another compositional device used to portray emotion throughout the
piece. The solo texture of a pianissimo clarinet in the opening of the piece represents a
feeling of pensiveness, reflecting in deep and serious thought. The feeling of growing
apprehension continues into the next section of the piece, A1 over B, as the horn in F and

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

solo clarinet embark on a call and response of similar melodic material from the A
section over the identical harmonic structure of the B section and F pedal in the timpani
and tuba. Sparse, thin textures at section D keep the feeling carefree and pleasant. For
example, the use of a canon effect between the clarinets and flutes at section D1 denotes
conversation and the lack of heavy low brass and percussion keeps the feeling
lighthearted. Section D2 employs the entire band playing accented unison melodic
movement in mixed meter depicting total unabridged joy and happiness!
At the start of part three, measure eighty-eight, the flutes and clarinets play fast,
syncopated minor lines that are interjected by semi-tone minor movement in the low
voices of the band. Accented, seemingly random, notes are layered into the texture from
the saxophones and horns in F, which adds to the confusion and spinning feeling of fear
for a loved ones life. Growing in intensity through dynamics, and slowing down in tempo
create more tension leading into the aleatoric section of the piece. A solo clarinet at
measure one hundred and nine plays the same melody as in bar four in Ab Major amongst
the texture of voices and Ab pedal representing the reflective nature of a lamenting
emotion. Crescendoing to a fortissimo, the I section moves into a representation of
optimism. A faster tempo, use of a full brass choir and maestoso style cause the listener
to feel optimism and hope despite the sadness experienced in part three of the piece.
The harmonic movement in section D of part two is major in tonality and follows
a familiar and comfortable chord progression (I, IV, I, IV, I, IV etc... I, V, I, V6/4, I6, V,
I , IV, etc...) all the way until the next major change at measure seventy-three. The tempo
is more than twice as fast as part one of the piece, the opposite of reflective, but depicting
the simplicity of living life in the moment. Programmatically, the simplicity of this

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

harmony represents the simplicity of life for this young man. The harmonic movement at
section D2 is I, V, IV, I (B Major, Db Major plus 2 pivot points at measures sixty-five
and sixty-six), and the delayed resolution of ii iii I. Much like the arrival of hope and
peace amongst apprehension in part one, the same effect is used in measure seventy-three
where we experience the Cb Major triad (spelled with a B natural), a reflection of the
harmonic movement from the tense atmosphere of part one. This causes the listener to
feel a brief moment of concern through the use of tension. Over the Cb Major chord, the
melody is Lydian in context, giving it a feeling of curiosity. Measure eighty-one is the
beginning of a third transition period, which is iii ii I harmonic movement in Eb
Major over a Bb pedal in the mallets. Total contentment and peace is felt in this transition
because of the use of the I chord and consistent major tonality.
Part Three of this piece starts with a fourth transition, which is four measures long
and depicts sudden fear and worry by layering in an Emin9 chord in the low register of
the flute at a pianissimo dynamic. It is completely different from the previous section and
causes the listener to feel quite a bit of tension and concern. Section E depicts growing
anxiety as the situation worsens as it moves towards f min. At the end of the aleatoric
section at measure ninety-six, the flutes, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and tenor
saxophone are playing concert f minor against the clarinets, bassoon and baritone
saxophone playing a concert e minor scale. Sheer terror is created through this
harmonically dense section of music. The H section changes from lamenting, to a more
hopeful reaffirmation of life through the use of growing dynamic level and a syncopated
melodic quote (I, V, I, V6/4, I6, V, I) in the clarinets from section D that was depicting
joy and happiness. The harmonic movement in this section at measure 125 (brass choir

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

Maestoso) is similar to the D section in that it is easily recognizable and comfortable to


our ears, (I, vi, IV, V, I, vi, IV, ii, V, I) especially after having experienced the fear from
part three. Section G, measure 101, marks the fifth and the final part of I Am and
remains in Ab major for the duration of the piece.
The C section is four bars of tension and release in the flutes over a now Bb
pedal. Boysen Jr. uses minor leading tone chords to create tension on beat threes, that are
released to major chords on beat ones (Eb minor leading to F major, Ab minor leading to
Bb major and Cb major leading to Db major).
The opening A section of part one continues with a solo clarinet at a pianissimo
dynamic suggesting that the piece may be in the key of Bb minor. The F pedal in measure
8 is the fifth of Bb minor, further suggesting that we might be in that key. The low brass
instruments enter with a Bb Minor chord at the start of the B section, measure ten, but in
measure eleven, there is a C major chord, which obscures the tonality, adds to the tension
against the F pedal and suggests that Boysen is not actually writing in any particular key
at this point in the piece. The next six measures continue to move in stepwise motion (Eb
minor, F Major, Gb Major, Ab Major and finally resolving to Bb Major). This is a motive
that we will see again later in the music. Part two introduces the listener to the child this
piece was commissioned in memory of. It is a celebration of life in the key of Eb major.
Eb Major is often associated with bold, heroic music such as Beethovens Eroica
Symphony, and also with joyful music such as the fourth movement, Jupiter, of Holsts
Planets Suite. Looking back at the bold statements from the poem after which this piece
is titled shows that Eb Major is a suitable key for this section of the piece. Jones believed
in himself and had a distinct conviction of his identity. In a lot of ways, this IS heroic for

MUS 715 - Music Theory Analysis

a teenager. The final statement of his poem, I AM! depicts strength a definite feature
of a hero, thus the use of Eb major is extremely relevant to this section.
In my opinion, there is a major inconsistency in the tonal language of this piece. I
believe that as a programmatic, through-composed piece of music this lack of tonality is
an extremely effective compositional device. Unlike a piece of absolute music, Boysen
works very diligently to portray emotion through sound. The use of pitch class set theory,
aleatoric measures, recurring motives and pedal tones create a sense of never ending
change and constant shift of reality. I Am is an extremely effective piece of music that
continuously engages the listener on a reflective journey through the fragility of life.