Title page for ETD etd-11172010-124431

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hobson, David Andrew
URN etd-11172010-124431
Title Joep Franssens' Harmony of the Spheres: A Conductor's Analysis
Degree Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)
Department Music
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Fulton, Kenneth Committee Chair
Bade, Lori Committee Member
Daline, Matthew Committee Member
Peck, Robert Committee Member
Bennett, James Dean's Representative
  • music of the spheres
  • dutch music
  • minimalism
  • spinoza
  • Franssens
Date of Defense 2010-10-13
Availability unrestricted
Harmony of the Spheres is Dutch composer Joep Franssens’ most extensive choral work to date, exhibiting a substantial possibility to enter the international repertoire as a complete work; however, several of the movements can stand alone effectively. Presented in five symmetrically conceived movements, Franssens scores the piece for SSAATTBB chorus with only the addition of full string orchestra for Movement III. The composition seeks to explore profound connections between science, music, philosophy, religion, and human relationships, intertwining excerpts from Benedict de Spinoza’s magnum opus, Ethica, allusions to the ancient idea of the music of the spheres, and European minimalism. Franssens considers himself part of a movement amongst Dutch composers known as “New Spirituality” in the Netherlands.

The research is divided into three chapters. The first chapter offers a brief background of the composer and describes the compositional history behind Harmony of the Spheres. Chapter Two, titled “Spheres of Influence,” explores the diverse influences on the composer and the work: Spinoza and Ethica, the ancient concept of the music of the spheres, American and “Holy” minimalisms, and the compositional philosophies of the Franssens and J. S. Bach. These critical underpinnings enlighten much of the compositional strategy and style employed by the composer. The final chapter presents an analytical overview of the work, informed by the varying influences described in Chapter 2 as well as representing a conductor’s perspective in relating the intriguing stylistic traits and challenges of the work.

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