Degree Name

Master of Arts (Hons.)


Faculty of Creative Arts


This thesis examines aspects of ritual in the music of Australian composer Ross Edwards. After an overview of Edwards's significant compositional output, an exploration of the relationship between music and ritual is made. The term 'ritual', when applied to music, is often used in a conveniently vague manner and without qualification. Rather than discount the term, it will be shown that 'ritual' may be a rich and useful metaphor when it is defined closely.

The idea of ritual is suggested in the music of Ross Edwards on a number of levels: firstly through the concept of ritual as an artistic intention, expressed in various ways, such as extra-musical symbolism, musical quotation and association. Underlining this is a philosophy contrary to the doctrine of art for its own sake; rather the composer aims for the music to be meaningful on a broader social level, and to be 'functional' or useful in a spiritual dimension as was the music of, for example, the medieval Christian church. On a second and more abstract level, Edwards employs a ritualistic method of composition, in which a number of characteristic musical figures, through constant reuse and repetition behave like rituals themselves. In addition to having a purely compositional role, these musical 'icons' also appear to have a personal imagery attached to them. Detailed analyses of two important orchestral works-Yarrageh . (1989) and Symphony Da Pacem Domine (199l)-are offered as supporting evidence for the argument, as well as more general analyses of other works.

A folio of original musical compositions is submitted in addition to the thesis.


Accompanying sound cassette can be consulted with the hard copy of the thesis in the Archives Collection, call no. 780.924/EDW/C-1