Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Document Type



For composer Chris DeBlasio, the omnipresence of HIV/AIDS during the final years of his life helped to channel his creative energies into a unique compositional voice. At a time when certain elements of the New York music scene rewarded atonality and musical experimentation, DeBlasio pursued a lyrically tonal, theatrically-informed style in the company of composers such as Jake Heggie and Ricky Ian Gordon. Unfortunately, his death in 1993 at age thirty-four limited the growing awareness of his compositions in the greater artistic community and robbed him of the success eventually experienced by his fellow tonal compatriots. Today, he is best known for a single song (“Walt Whitman in 1989”) published in The AIDS Quilt Songbook. The purpose of this study is twofold. First of all, I explored the life of Chris DeBlasio, discovering elements of his personality, as well as specific life events, that contributed to his choices as a composer. To accomplish this first goal, I consulted a variety of documentary sources and interviewed several persons who had personal or professional relationships with DeBlasio. This exploration revealed an intense yet disciplined and pragmatic personality whose career was shaped by an abiding love of the theater, a close-knit circle of friends and the homosexual community of 1980s New York City. Secondly, I sought to define the basic characteristics of his art songs. I first analyzed the three sets of songs, defining DeBlasio’s execution of a number of elements such as rhythm, harmony and form. I then concluded with an in-depth analysis of his artistic response to AIDS and death – his song cycle All the Way Through Evening. These analyses demonstrate the three primary characteristics found in his songs: his use of musical techniques and poetry that favor accessible realism over esoteric abstraction, his near-obsessive use of tone painting, and his skillful crafting of poetically and musically cohesive song cycles. Appendices provide a listing of the published songs and the commercial discography of the songs, as well as a catalogue of the items held in the DeBlasio archives.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

O'Neill, Patricia A.



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Music Commons