Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


The Music of Marc Battier, Kee Yong Chong and Gene Coleman: Compositions for Traditional Asian Instruments and Electronics in the Twenty-First Century

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Music Composition

First Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Nora Engebretsen (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Mikel Kuehn (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Adam Fullenkamp (Committee Member)


Well-known repertoires exist of instrumental works synthesizing Eastern and Western elements and also of works that combine acoustic instruments with electronics. In this document, I study the integration of Eastern and Western elements in a subset of works for electronics with Traditional Asian Instruments (TAI) and, in some cases, also traditional Western instruments. The goals are to draw attention to this repertoire and its inherent challenges, and specifically to demonstrate strategies used to integrate the TAI and electronics—with the hope that the analytical tools provided in the document will help others approach works involving cultural syntheses and, in particular, that this will offer guidance to composers interested in writing for TAI and electronics.

This document examines three music compositions chosen because of the composers’ different cultural backgrounds and relationships to TAIs: Mist on a Hill by Marc Battier (France), Endless Whispering by Kee Yong Chong (Malaysia) and Spiral Network by Gene Coleman (United States). Their individualistic orientations toward materials offer three solutions to the three problems in composing for TAI and electronics: how the three chosen composers with different cultural backgrounds write for TAI and electronics and their perspectives on traditional instruments; the difficulty in dealing with the nuances in timbre and different notational systems; and how they define the role of electronics in the chosen works for this document. Studies of individual pieces examine the influence of TAI on pitch structure, and explore the connections between TAI and electronics/Western instruments in terms of pitch, timbre, and musical technique/gestures.

This study is supported by my original contribution of cultural maps which are guides to the recurrence of any traditional playing techniques associated with the TAI, whether they occur in the TAI, Western instruments, or electronics. The issues of notation will be discussed in the document because the three selected compositions are engraved in Western notation while TAI music is engraved in traditional notation that reflects the aesthetic, musical style and practical purposes of the culture of the TAI origins. Battier, Chong and Coleman present three different solutions to notational problems, but all integrate TAI elements into electronics and other instrumental parts if present. I hope the findings and approach through cultural maps lead to greater interest in this repertoire among composers and musicians at large.