Music, School of


First Advisor

Paul Haar

Date of this Version



Stow, Nicholas J., "A Performer's Analysis of the Compositional Approaches in Short Stories for Saxophone Quartet by Jennifer Higdon." DMA document, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2019.


A DOCTORAL DOCUMENT Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Musical Arts, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Professor Paul Haar. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 Nicholas J. Stow


The purpose of this document is to further the saxophonist’s understanding of Short Stories (1996) for saxophone quartet by Jennifer Higdon. By connecting biographical information with a thorough analysis including a commentary on programmatic influences, the saxophonist can gain a greater awareness of the context surrounding the piece and successfully portray important compositional elements inherent in the work.

Jennifer Higdon is one of the most respected classical composers of the early 21st Century, gaining acclaim through a continually expanding catalogue of works that include operatic, orchestral, choral, and chamber compositions. As a two-time Grammy and Pulitzer Prize awardee, Higdon’s music has already received scholarly attention through an investigation of her works to better understand her compositional devices. Previous research focuses on select orchestral works and chamber works for flute while little research exists on the works for saxophone.

This document first presents an overview of Higdon’s childhood experiences in the 1960s-70s which influence her compositional style. An overview of Higdon’s general style follows with references to some of her most successful works. Next, this document reveals the genesis of Short Stories by providing historical information of the commissioning process gained through interviews with members of the commissioning ensembles and the composer. Lastly, this document investigates the compositional approaches of the piece through an analysis of form, texture, melody, harmony, timbre, and rhythm, including a commentary on key programmatic elements.

Advisor: Paul Haar

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