Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation is in two parts. The first is an original composition, The Devil in the Belfry, while the second is a discussion of Claude Debussy’s unfinished opera, La Chute de la Maison Usher. The Devil in the Belfry is a rhapsody for viola and orchestra based on Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of the same title. It contains quotations from the few sketches that Debussy left for his unfinished work, Le diable dans le beffroi. Quoting Debussy’s sketches was the sensible course of action, since they have the same literary basis as my work, and because I wish to pay tribute to these unfinished treasures. Poe’s tale tells the story of a town, the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittis, where its inhabitants are only concerned about two things: keeping time, and cabbage. One day a devil, carrying a big fiddle, arrives in the town creating chaos in the people’s systematic lives. The devil goes into the belfry, attacks the bell ringer, and rings the bell thirteen times instead of twelve, thus horrifying the entire town. He stays in the belfry while playing an Irish jig and tolling the bells by pulling the ropes with his teeth. The devil playing a “big fiddle” is the reason for the choice of the viola as the solo instrument. Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher is an opera based on Poe’s tale, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” All that remains for this opera are sketches, scored as a particell. This work occupied Debussy’s mind for over a decade until his death in 1918. As Debussy immersed himself in the story, he began to identify himself and his surroundings to those in the ‘House of Usher.’ Therefore, this work is also a window into Debussy’s mind. The first chapter shows the importance of Poe in France and different ways to interpret “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The second chapter is centered on Debussy’s letters, demonstrating his profound interest in this opera. The last chapter is an analysis of the libretto and the music of La Chute de la Maison Usher.



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Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Constantinides, Dinos

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Music Commons