Off-campus University of Miami users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your University of Miami CaneID and Password.

Non-University of Miami users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Keyboard Performance (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

James Robert Floyd

Second Committee Member

Rosalina G. Sackstein

Third Committee Member

Dennis Kam

Fourth Committee Member

Tian Ying


This essay illustrates the principal technical and compositional innovations in the piano literature of the twentieth century, through an examination of the piano etudes written by the period's most accomplished pianist-composers. The etude is generally regarded as one of the most common musical forms designed to provide pianists with practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The most influential composer who established the norm for the composition of piano etudes and raised their suitability as concert works was Frederic Chopin. Piano etudes, however, gradually shifted as compositional vehicles in the twentieth century. Composers began to discard the harmonic language of traditional theory by employing more irregular and atonal materials, which gradually replaced the standard figurations of nineteenth-century composition. The author addresses works based on traditional technical idioms such as intervals (double thirds, fourths, fifths, and octaves), scales, arpeggios, chords, repeated notes and finger independence in Chapter Four. In Chapter Five, works containing modern types of notation and unusual technical requirements are examined. The format for these chapters is as follows: general comments on the complete work, compositional description of each individual piece and finally, performance remarks. This essay is limited to piano etudes written by composers who are also generally regarded as accomplished pianists. The composers discussed in this essay are Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin, Bela Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, Geörgy Ligeti, Louise Talma, and William Bolcom. In addittion, this essay collects and examines piano etudes that are considered suitable for both study and concert programming, a criterion that narrows the etude selection examined in this essay to works that have been recorded and performed in public.