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How Harmonic Structure Shapes Characterization in John Adams’ Nixon in China

How Harmonic Structure Shapes Characterization in John Adams’ Nixon in China

John Adams’ harmonic language, based on triads, brings a familiar aural environment to audiences; however, the harmonic structure connecting these harmonies is less conventional. Furthermore, this structure plays an important role in shaping the musical characterization of the historical figures portrayed in the opera. Professor Johnson will describe how Adams depicts the aspirations and motivations of President Nixon, Madame Mao, and Premier Chou by exploring the harmonic structures underlying the three most memorable arias in Adams’ Nixon in China.

Professor Johnson is author of the book John Adams’s Nixon in China: Musical Analysis, Historical and Political Perspective.

 

Free and open to the public

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Presented in partnership with the Princeton Public Library


Professor of Music Theory, Ithaca College

Timothy Johnson

Timothy A. Johnson is Professor of Music Theory at Ithaca College and Chair of the Department of Music Theory, History, and Composition. He also serves as President of the Music Theory Society of New York State. Johnson’s most recent book, “John Adams’s Nixon in China: Musical Analysis, Historical and Political Perspectives,” ties together analytical observations about the opera with cultural, political, and historical aspects of the scenes, characters, and issues raised in the opera.


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