Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts


Music Performance

First Advisor

Dr. Jefferson Johnson

Second Advisor

Dr. Lori Hetzel


A text with many layers of depth married to music with a variety of methods of interpretation allows for an academically satisfying learning, rehearsal, and performance process. Choral directors, and the choristers they serve, enjoy scrutinizing all the ways they feel connected to or disconnected from the text and music in any piece that proves worth their efforts. American composer Dr. Cary Boyce’s (b. 1955) Kosmos (2007), a setting of a poem from Walt Whitman (1819-1892) of the same name, indeed provides the substance an academic group desires. At choral festivals in the Pacific Northwest during the 2021-2022 academic year, there has been an exciting amount of interest in meaningful texts. All choral directors want to program texts that allow students to feel empowering emotions and explore the essential themes in their lives. Directors also want to find pieces that have equal quality and academic interest in the actual music. Pieces like Cary Boyce’s Kosmos are unique and essential in addressing that programming issue in providing a text with gravitas, with an equally matched, academically viable music setting of the same depth. The primary method for creating unity throughout the piece is the Chaconne. Each cycle has different nuances, but the ground bass remains essentially the same. The most significant interruption of the pattern creates a type of chiastic structure with the highest note in the vocal part (and the only text from the Whitman poem altered by the composer). This extra material allows the second half of the Chaconne structure to draw back from its climax to an elongated resting place—all of which corresponds with Whitman’s poem in ideology, though not exactly in form. Exploring Walt Whitman’s Kosmos through the analysis of Cary Boyce’s musical composition allows the participants in that process many meaningful and interesting discoveries. Boyce’s extensive knowledge of music history and theory are evident in the many hidden delights in this seemingly simple piece. When joined with Whitman’s iconic text, one can relish examining the relationship between the text and music and ponder the remaining relevance to the social and political climate today.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)