Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


"Because there is no basis for comparison": The Self-Accompanying Singer and Roger Reynolds' Sketchbook for The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Jane Rodgers (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Ronald Scherer (Other)

Third Advisor

Katherine Meizel (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Pelletier (Committee Member)


Roger Reynolds' Sketchbook for The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an unusual work, as it calls for a vocalist to accompany themselves at the piano. Though there are many contemporary singer/keyboard performers, this is not a common practice within the contemporary classical music community. The practice is not without precedent; there is ample historical evidence that self-accompanying was once an accepted and promoted practice within western art music. In contemporary contexts, works calling for a vocalizing pianist have become more prevalent over the last twenty years, but this has not been true for self-accompanying repertoire. Works requiring simultaneous vocalization and keyboard performance place a significant cognitive burden on the performer, and research in multi-tasking and automaticity highlight some of the issues relating to this type of performance. As one of only a few works Reynolds has produced for the combination of voice and piano, Sketchbook’s construction is exemplary of Reynolds’ compositional style. Access to his pre-compositional materials illuminates Reynolds’ unique approach to composition, and his economical use of limited musical material is on display in this work. This document analyzes Sketchbook for both its musical characteristics and for the potential challenges it creates for the self-accompanying singer.