Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


Found Composition: Ecological Awareness and its Impact on Compositional Authority in Music Employing Electronics

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Dalton Jones (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Mikel Kuehn (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Arne Spohr (Committee Member)


A body of music exists that to varying degrees surrenders compositional decisions to environmental observation. Many composers utilizing electronics allow an increasing awareness of climate change and human impact on our shared environment to influence their work in some regard. In many cases, this is accompanied by the notion of removing themselves (i.e., their authority as the composer) from the compositional process. This document brings diverse repertoire together to explore the various nuances of climate cognizance permeating the end result of a work.

Offered is an examination of how environmental awareness impacts the degree to which a composer, utilizing electronics, relinquishes musical decisions. Chapter One identifies the subject matter and existent scholarly literature, expanded through discussion of major figures like John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, and Olivier Messiaen, as well as free improvisation. Chapter Two explores the means in which composers utilize the soundscape, viewed through established areas such as field recording, acoustic ecology, soundscape composition, sonification, and ecoacoustics. Chapters Three through Five examine the work of Hildegard Westerkamp, Matthew Burtner, and Jez riley French. Chapter Six offers additional environmental views and social concern, working toward an aesthetic which may be posited as aligning with found composition.