Allan Holdsworth academic theses

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Over the years, Allan has inspired some academic work. Here are a few notable entries. The list is not comprehensive.

Freer's PhD dissertation

Freer, N. (2021): Allan Holdsworth: Principles of Harmonic Organisation in Selected Compositions.

Nicholas Freer published the world's first PhD dissertation on Allan in 2021. The abstract reads: "This thesis analyses selected post-tonal compositions by contemporary guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This thesis uses the pitch-class set-theory model as a basis of analysis. It also engages contemporary post-tonal extensions to existing tonal concepts such as voice leading in set-class space, consonance and dissonance measures, transposition and symmetry. Within the thesis and the Holdsworth compositions selected, various levels of connections are explicated through harmonic analysis of surface level transformations, succession analysis from individual simultaneities up to macro-organisational structures and formal processes. Holdsworth consciously eschews the harmonically prescriptive functionality and acculturated melodic syntax of traditional tonal jazz (often replicated through imitation), purposely manifesting his own paradigm. This paradigm has several key components: an expansion of chord-scale principles, a wide range of referential sets utilised as linear and vertical sources of pitch-class grouping, the employment of non-tertian harmony, and the utilisation of non-functional harmonic succession(s)."

As you can see, this is pretty advanced stuff. The thesis can be downloaded for free from the Melbourne university website. Be aware that when we have accessed the site, it has often been quite slow.

Schille's master thesis

Schille, B. (2011). Allan Holdsworth: reshaping harmony (Master's thesis).

The most widely distributed of Holdsworth theses is probably Bjørn Schille's master's thesis in musicology, "Allan Holdsworth : reshaping harmony". In Schille's own words:

"This thesis examines improvisation and musical structures the way Holdsworth himself understands them. Three different songs are subjected to analysis in order to identify how his personal approach to for example chords, scales and sound characterizes the music. Focus is also given to guitar technical aspects and their relationship to the musical expression of Allan Holdsworth."

The thesis can be downloaded here:

Rosenberg's thesis

There's also:

Rosenberg, J. C. (2013). " I'd Rather Be Broke and Happy than Miserable and Rich": The Life and Music of Allan Holdsworth.

This is a bachelor's thesis that contains a biography and musical analysis.