The Assimilation of Musical Styles In Michael Colgrass' "Urban Requiem"

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Thomas V. Fraschillo

Advisor Department



During the twentieth century, syntheses of various musical styles became increasingly common in western art music. The jazz idiom inspired compositions in the early twentieth century by Stravinsky, Gershwin, Milhaud and others. Continued experimentation throughout the twentieth century yielded works that combined traditional western music techniques with various folk and popular music traditions. In Urban Requiem , by Michael Colgrass, this fusion of styles and techniques provides vivid images for the listener. Colgrass creates an aural cityscape by bringing together jazz, Afro-Cuban, and African techniques in a collage of sounds. Jazz-influenced sounds provide the backdrop for the saxophone quartet, which portrays four characters passing through the memories of a once-thriving city now in disrepair. The Afro-Cuban and African influences mark individual "neighborhoods" in this urban environment. Colgrass utilizes various devices from each of these idioms to enhance the listener's experience. Instruments, sounds, and rhythms drawn from jazz, Afro-Cuban, and African music are integral in presenting urban images. The overlapping styles and irregular movement from one section of the piece to another also remind the listener of the constantly changing environment characteristic of a large city. Colgrass' incorporation of jazz, ethnic music traditions, and techniques common to western art music provide the listener with a composition filled with conflict and emotional energy.