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Pictures of strangers

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Title: Pictures of strangers
Author: Baumgardner, Myles Bradford, 1980-
Date: 2011-10-25
Publisher: University of Missouri--Kansas City
Citation: Baumgardner, Myles Bradford. "Pictures of Strangers." Order No. 3481313, University of Missouri - Kansas City, 2011.
Abstract: Pictures of Strangers is primarily concerned with the differences between perception and reality. These differences are approached both conceptually and musically through a variety of means. The movement titles are drawn from the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Ashley, and Laurie Anderson. Each of these artists has frequently confronted the paradoxes of perception and reality in their own works as it relates to the reconciliation of the individual and society and the individual and modern technology. Whether represented by the slowly evolving madness of Dwayne Hoover in Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, the simultaneously disturbingly nostalgic and surreal depiction of American life in Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives, or the clear disconnective properties of modern technology in Laurie Anderson's O Superman and Time to Go, all of these artists address the issue of the elevation of false realities and the role that our technologically obsessed society plays in advancing these idealized stereotypes. The title "Pictures of Strangers" directly refers to the promotional photos used in retail picture frames. These photos typically depict an idealized event or relationship such as a wedding, or a loving couple sitting in a park. These strangers are meant to represent a situation to which the buyer can relate but never faithfully duplicate since idealized settings cannot reflect actual circumstances. These concepts are represented musically by the recurrence of a descending motive found throughout the piece. The motive is initially heard in the first movement, where it resists attempts at thematic development by instead forcing its supporting material to evolve around its own static existence. This motive is less prominent in the subsequent movements until it is eventually mocked by the brasses in the final movement, which initiates a sarcastic circus march. The development of this motive, or its lack of development, in relationship to its changing musical surroundings is meant to depict the differences in individual perception and absolute reality. The music's commentary on the use of technology in modern society and its relationship to the works of the artists mentioned above may only exist in the mind of the composer, but this musical work is his reality and is subject to his own perceptions.

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