Author Identifiers

Yagan Kiely

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Lindsay Vickery

Second Advisor

Stewart Smith


The octatonic pitch set can be found in the works of many composers since the early nineteenth century, often with different characteristics of the pitch set being exploited by the composers. Much of the literature on octatonicism relates to specific instances in compositions or a specific composer’s approach to it rather than exploring octatonicism from a more holistic perspective. This dissertation serves as a holistic resource for the characteristics of the octatonic pitch set; whether as a scale, especially with regards to common practice harmony; or an unordered set. It does this by considering the contextual historical implications of the octatonic pitch set; the historic lineage of octatonic usage; and, significantly, with the goal of extracting specific compositional devices from the works of various composers that come from a variety of stylistic, historical, and harmonic perspectives. These compositional devices are learnable methods, or conventions that a composer can modify, build upon or implement into their own work. The contextual historical information, along with the description of the characteristics of the octatonic pitch set and, especially, the compositional devices are all intended to be both a single pedagogical resource and starting point for composers in relation to developing new octatonic compositional techniques and a holistic theoretical overview of octatonicism. The evidence, retrieved from third party analysis of select composers’ octatonic works, finds learnable compositional devices from broad stylistic backgrounds that can be reinterpreted and expanded into individualised compositional methods.

Included in

Music Commons