I have been influenced by Bach, by jazz, by Mozart, Gershwin, Ravel, Motown, Rock and roll, John Cage, everything I listen to... the world of sound”

Joseph Ott, April 24, 1977

Joseph Ott:  A Survey of Musical Style


At the beginning of the 20th century, composers of classical music were experimenting with an increasingly dissonant pitch language, which sometimes yielded atonal pieces. Following World War I, as a backlash against what they saw as the increasingly exaggerated gestures and formlessness of late Romanticism, certain composers adopted a neoclassic style, which sought to recapture the balanced forms and clearly perceptible thematic processes of earlier styles. After World War II, modernist composers sought to achieve greater levels of control in their composition process. At the same time, conversely, composers also experimented with means of abdicating control, exploring indeterminacy or aleatoric processes in smaller or larger degrees. Technological advances led to the birth of electronic music. Experimentation with tape loops and repetitive textures contributed to the advent of minimalism. Still other composers started exploring the theatrical potential of the musical performance (performance art, mixed media, fluxus).

In America composers formed their own ideas. Many American composers represented a new methodology of experimental music, which began to question fundamental notions of music such as notation, performance, duration, and repetition and led to the continuation of modern avant-garde musical traditions and experimental music.

Certainly, the work of Joseph Ott has firm footing in the avant-garde. Many of his compositions are experimental in nature, involving the performer and listener in unconventional ways. Following is an overview of his musical style including descriptions of four distinct stylistic periods with an emphasis on the experimental works produced between 1968 and 1977.


The work of Joseph Ott is characterized by synthesis; synthesis of old and new, of the traditional and the nontraditional, of the familiar and the unfamiliar.  Imitative and canonic devices more common to the Renaissance and Baroque periods give structure to a colorful palate of twentieth-century dissonance and harmony.  Primitive, driving rhythms motivated by an elemental beat are transformed into complex, mechanical, motoristic polyrhythms.  Traditional instruments are used to produce new and unconventional sounds.

The rhythmic vitality of Ott’s music is one of the most dominant characteristics of his musical style.  A regular beat, or pulse, is foundational and fundamental to the rhythmic context.  A large variety of duple, triple, and asymmetrical meters are used; many pieces are multimetric.  Polyrhythmic textures and ostinatos are prominent,and often have a driving, frenetic quality.  The effect of the polyrhythms and ostinatos is sometimes primitive and elemental, and other times mechanical and motoristic.

Balance is another characteristic quality. The balance is that of unity, or repetition, and contrast, of emotional and intellectual content.  Harsh, percussive articulations and dense, polyphonic textures are relieved by passages of quiet, transparent beauty and poignant lyricism.  Rhythmic ostinatos often provide a foundation for sustained melodies.  Serious and profound musical expressions are contrasted by moments of humor and satire. 

Texture is prominent in Ott’s compositions as it fulfills in his music the same function that melody and harmony do in the periodic forms of earlier centuries.  Textural patterns are the repeated and recognized element, not specific melodies or harmonic progressions.  A broad spectrum of articulations, dynamics, and pitch registers are explored, combined and contrasted.  Many polyphonic and imitative devices are incorporated.  Aleatory and improvisational passages provide yet another variation.

Finally, humor and satire are subtle, variegated threads woven through a rich fabric of profound, musical expression.  Ott’s dry, often satirical sense of humor is readily evident in his music and subtitles of pieces such as Satiric Suite, Suite No. 2 for Woodwind quintet, and Suite for Solo Double Bass. Creative, original titles such as Matrix, Cybernetic Structure, Popularia, Church House Moan, Five Deductions In Syllogistic Form, Choices, and Semitic Dance are descriptive of the character, quality, and form of the music.  Humor and satire are used freely and indicate Ott’s extensive practical and historical knowledge of musical form and texture.

Ott’s works are primarily for acoustic instruments, although a significant number have been written for solo voices or choral groups.  Each family of instruments is well represented, displaying his extensive knowledge of orchestration.  In addition to smaller ensembles of two or more instruments, standard chamber ensembles are used.  These include woodwind quintet, brass quintet, string quartet, and piano trio.  In compositions for large, concert ensembles, the orchestra is used more frequently in early works and the wind ensemble appears more often in later works

The standard complement of woodwind, brass, and string instruments is used in these larger works.  The percussion section, however, is generally quite large and is a prominent part of the texture.  The piano and other pitched instruments, such as the xylophone and timpani, have significant role in many compositions.  Mr. Ott avoids traditional “band” sounds and strives to create a unique, wind ensemble timbre in his works.  It is not treated as poor imitation of an orchestra.

Many pieces incorporate noises made by traditional instruments or electronically produced sounds.  Electronic compositions progress from combinations of live and prerecorded ensembles, to pieces of entirely synthesized material.  The spatial movement of sound is an important component of these works, as is Ott’s desire to involve the listener as an active participant in the musical experience. 

First Period (1949-1959)

Consisting mainly of early student works, the majority of Joseph Ott's early works are for orchestra, piano and voice.  According to Mr. Ott, his earliest works were rather traditional in nature.  Some works are impressionistic or romantic in style and harmony.  Compositions written in the 1950s often have quartal harmonic basis.  The rhythms were straightforward and relatively simple.  The musical ideas and forms were laid out in a very symmetrical way, with little contrast

Second Period (1960-1969)

Compositions from this period reveal the origins of Ott’s later compositional style and harmonic vocabulary.  Over one hundred works were produced during this period, most of which are for orchestra or piano and a significant number for woodwind, string, or brass instruments.  Works of this period are more dissonant.  Atonal harmonies are used, employing a wider range of dissonant intervals.  Rhythms used in this period become increasingly complex and sophisticated.  Ostinatos and polyrhythms are common elements; different articulations are used to help define rhythms. 

Significant works from this period are Premise for Orchestra, Winter’s Night, Matrix IV for piano trio, and Three Studies in Polyrhthms.

Third Period (1968-1977)

Works during this period are of an experimental and nontraditional nature.  Joseph Ott produced over 200 compositions between 1968 and 1977.  Over half are electronic works for tape alone or in combination with other instruments.  A large number are for woodwind or brass solos and ensembles.  In addition, four works for wind ensemble, five works for orchestra, two string quartets, a couple of compositions for piano trio, four works for jazz band, a mass and several keyboard compositions were written during this span of time.

The continued use of atonal harmonies and complex rhythms often appear in different, less traditional contexts.  The majority of compositions written during these years are either aleatory or electronic, or both.

A significant concern during this period is the exploration of musical aspects, or elements, which historically had not been highly organized.  The spectrum of noise and sounds, produced either acoustically or electronically, is one such element.  Nontraditional sounds made by using acoustical instruments in unconventional ways are incorporated.  Approximate pitches, glissandi, and other improvisational techniques are indicated.  The sound of live performers and electronically synthesized music are mingled and combined.

A second aspect is the use of environmental space in music and the spatial movement of sound within the environment.  A small ensemble may be divided into two groups placed on opposite sides of the stage.  The same effect may be achieved with a prerecorded tape played on strategically placed speakers, used in conjunction with the group performing.  Or a computer might be used to distribute the electronic sound on a multichannel tape. 

Ott's desire to create formal structures that make these other, often unfamiliar, elements more comprehensible and to provide an opportunity and means for the listener to become more of a participant and less or a spectator in the musical process is also evident.

Permeating all of these elements, however, is a fascination with textures.  The variety of polyrhythms, melodic contours, articulations, dynamics, instrumental tone colors, polyphonic and imitative devices, the density of the sound—all are components of texture.  As these textures are repeated within a composition, they give shape and form to the music.  They become as recognizable as the formal elements of melody and harmony were in the past. 

Ott’s aleatory compositions contain varying degrees and types of controlled chance elements and can generally be classified into two categories:  In the first category much of the composition is notated, or determined by the composer, and only a few choices are left to the performer’s discretion.  In the second category, the performer is involved to a greater degree in the selection process.

Although the earliest composition with aleatory elements was written in 1965, most were written between 1968 and 1974. The following is a list of first category works by title and date of composition. Works with tape are indicated.

Unit 2572 L.A. 64, 1965

A Mass of Textures, 1969

How Like a Winter, 1969

Matrix IV, 1969

Matrix V, 1969

NOMOS, 1969

Aeolian Harp, 1970, tape

Matrix VII, 1970, tape

Alphabet Soup, 1971

Sonnet, 1971

Collage, 1971

Variable Fixed Form, 1971, tape

Mindscapes, 1971

Matrix VI, 1971

Music for Tuba and Two Channel Tape, 1971, tape

Timbres, 1972

Extensions for Orchestra, 1972, tape

7:22:73, tape

Africotta, 1974

A myriad of textural and aleatory effects have been incorporated into these pieces. The chance elements appear within a framework of notated parameters, which often include rhythm (polyrhythms especially are prominent), tempo, meter, dynamics, and articulation. Almost all of the compositions listed have detailed instructions on how to perform and interpret the aleatory elements. The compositions with tape have specific directions about the placements and coordination of the tape machines and speakers so as to create the desired effect.

Two of the most used aleatory elements in works of the first category are improvisation and approximate pitch. In Collage, a variety of improvisational textures are juxtaposed. Players are instructed to improvise on random pitches, or from a low to high register on duple and triple subdivisions of the beat, or on half and whole note rhythms. Later is a section of free improvisation. Variable Fixed Form has similar combinations. The performer is asked to repeat a given note as fast as possible or “improvise rapid legato figurations on given pitches.” This piece includes notation for approximate pitches; a three line staff symbolizes high, middle and low ranges.

In Mindscapes, four sets of simultaneous directions are given to various sections of the wind ensemble. The woodwinds are to play melodic contours in the rhythm notated. The trumpets are to improvise on ascending scale patterns of four notes, with each trumpet starting a half step apart. The low brass play in a similar pattern on descending notes. The horns have ascending glissandi. In addition, the piano has a clustered trill.

A similar texture is used in Extensions. The piece opens with a thundering, ten second period of improvisation for the whole orchestra. This is followed by a static stretch a quietness – almost a period of suspended animation. Then, the improvised texture is repeated for eight seconds, after which the quietness returns again. The sequence keeps repeating in shorter and shorter segments of time until a new idea is introduced. The effect is like that of a door in a quiet hallway opening and closing as guests enter a noisy party or of lightning punctuating the dark, watchful stillness before a summer storm.

Music for Tuba and Two Channel Tape has additional improvisational techniques. The tubist is told to “use alternating fingerings-nervously.” In another place, only a melodic contour or design is given on the three line staff. This type of contour is notated by stems without noteheads in Africotta. Also included in Music for Tuba and Two Channel Tape are glissandi, lip trills, and instructions to “bend the pitch a half-step lower.” In Aeolian Harp, the body of the composition is framed in the tuning ritual and warmup; the piece has no abrupt beginning or end.

Many of the improvisational techniques in these and other pieces are used concurrently or are combined with more common tone clusters composed of sustained, chromatic notes to create variegated tonal colors and fluctuating textures. The discordant, improvised textures enhance and complement the dissonance of the atonal harmonic context.

A second type of aleatory element, noise, is often added to the spectrum of sounds. The synthesized electronic sounds of the tapes are the most obvious. The variety of sounds that can be produced by acoustical instruments is also explored. Variable Fixed Form calls for three types of trumpet mutes. In timbres, the mute is used to tap out a rhythm on the floor of the stage. Other brass sounds include vocalizing into the tuba and using it as a megaphone in Music for Tuba and Two Channel Tape. Most of Ott's pieces incorporate the piano as a percussion instrument. Piano tone clusters are one of the most frequently used effects in these aleatory works. Some are large chromatic clusters played with the forearm or a flat hand. Others are limited to a fifth or an octave in range and are distributed up and down the keyboard in ascending or descending patterns. In Collage, an organ is given a tone cluster with the instructions to gradually release the keys one at a time. Other piano effects include playing a note while the strings are dampened with the fingers between the pin and the dampers, a fingernail glissando on the strings, striking the lower strings with timpani mallets, and allowing the piano to resonate by depressing the damper pedal. Events, has an indication to slam the key cover down onto the keyboard. This is used as a signal for the audience to respond with a hand clap. At the end of the piece, the cover is repeatedly closed, leading the audience into its final applause.

In general, a large number of percussion instruments, colors, and techniques appear in Ott's works. A combination of thirteen pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments are used in Collage in addition to the piano. The timpani receives special attention. The instruction say to “hold tow sticks in left hand so that they are pressed firmly on drum head. In right hand tremolo with stick between the shaft of the other tow sticks.” At the end of the piece, the temple blocks have a polyrhythm that slowly comes to a stop. The effect is enhanced visually by directions to make the motion of playing without hitting the instrument. Extensions has a similar timpani effect to the one above, created by placing a triangle in the center of the largest drum head, striking it with a mallet, and then making a pedal glissando. Yet a third is produced by hitting the side or rim of the drum.

The vocal works of the period also contain a wide range of noise elements. Effects used in Sonnet, a piece for four part chorus with piano and percussion, include approximate pitches, hissing sounds, use of only the vowel sounds on certain words, glissandi, repeated consonant sounds, and a tremolo created by stomping feet on the risers. In Choices, a list of emotionally charged words is interpreted in programmatic and aurally graphic ways. The emotional connotations are expressed with alliterative and onomatopoetic effects. Although it is mostly non-pitched and non-metered, the vocal sounds are carefully orchestrated and notated. Durations of elapsed or relative time replace meters. Dynamic changes help define the unstructured rhythmic motion of the piece. Other sounds used are unison heavy breathing, whistling, foot stamps, finger snaps, and thigh slaps. A Mass of Textures, for SATB chorus, employs extensive vocal and textural effects. Comprised of six movements, vocal effects include whispers, vocal fluctuations, glissandi, stutter effects, contrasts and changes in dynamics, articulations, and note durations and spoken phrases repeated in a random, imitative manner. Syllables of the words are coordinated so that each syllable occurs somewhere within the chorus on each note of the rhythm: seven syllables, seven notes in the rhythmic pattern, and seven chorus parts, and rising and falling cascades of sound are created by staggered entrances and by the proportional polyrhythms distributed throughout the parts. Echo effects are created as the chorus moves from syllable to syllable by increasing the rhythmic ratios between the parts by eighth note increments from the highest part to the lowest.

A variety of sounds from string instruments is required in works of this period. Sting Quartet No. 4 includes the following: heavy bow pressure to make a scratching sound, pizzicato, ponticello, arco above the bridge, col legno on the body of the violin, and striking the top of the violin with the fingers. In Extensions, at one point the notes are to be bowed on the side of the bridge, parallel to the strings. This piece also calls for slow glissandi to the highest possible pitch; dry, non-vibrato tones; muted, rapid glissandi between two notes; notations to bow any two or four strings above the bridge; and snap pizzicatos on the finger board, in addition to other techniques already mentioned.

A similar exploration of sounds possible on an instrument is achieved in Quartet for Solo Alto Saxophone. This piece was commissioned by Kenneth Dorn of the University of California, who provided a list and a tape of the various sounds used, and then asked Ott to integrate them into the composition. Included are:

Key slaps

Timbre changes: lip glissandi and slurs, flutter tonguing, “Jazz” or “Bop” style passages, keyed and lip trills, and vibrato and straight tone.

Multiphonics: several notes played simultaneously; specific combinations of harmonics are produced by false fingerings.

Buzz tones: singeing and playing simultaneously.

Air sounds: made by blowing air through the instrument without activating the reed.

Hand pops: remove mouthpiece, hit right hand against the opening of the pipe.

Brass sounds: made by playing into the pipe with trumpet embrochure

Marimba slaps: or key slaps with the tongue closing the pipe

Quarter tones: indications to play tones either a quarter tone flat or sharp.

The title page of this composition lists precise instructions for altering the taped sounds of the live saxophone by changing the playing speed of the tape. Four tape recorders are used: one records the live performer, and the remaining recorders are essentially the other three members of the quartet. A canonic form results from the delay between the machines. The imitative device is reinforced for the audience by the placement of the speakers. Because of the tape delay, the sound moves between speakers in a clockwise direction around the audience, surrounding them with sound.

Several other aleatory works further demonstrate Ott's concern with the spatial movement of sound and with involving the audience as a participant in the musical experience. Matrix V and Matrix VII have seating charts for the performers. In 11:11:72 for Woodwind Quintet, the taped material in the first movement in panned from the left to the right speaker throughout the movement. The last movement of this piece instructs the performers to move about the stage or throughout the house while playing if they so desire. Variable Fixed Form and Collage have directions for the placement of the tape machines and speakers so that the audience is enveloped in the sound.

Aleatory works of the second category are constructed with the same devices as the first, but the material is organized differently. Short, musical phrases or ideas are notated on separate pieces of paper or on photographic slides. These “events” are then arranged and played in random order. Cohesion of the diverse parts is attained with aurally-coordinated tempi and through the reuse of previously played material. The musical content of these works is generally less complex than that of the first category. Works in this category are:

Combinations, 1969

Events, 1969

Choices, 1971

Constructions, 1971

Five Environmental Projects, 1971

Slide Piece No. 2, 1971

Slide Piece No. 3, 1971

String Quartet No. 4, 1971

Cybernetic Structure, 1973

Homage to Marinetti, 1974

Events, String Quartet No. 4, Choices and Cybernetic Structure are for small ensembles and have notated, paper scores. Events was composed for two pianos with audience participation. It consists of permuted combinations and sequences of six events, or aleatory motives: 1) Any high pitch in the upper two octaves of the instrument. 2) Any low pitch in the lower two octaves of the instrument. 3) A chromatic cluster of approximately one octave in any register. 4) A rapidly repeated pitch in any octave consisting of from two to five repetitions. 5) A sustained melodic line of at least four tones. 6) Closing the key cover causing a percussive crash. The score contains mostly arabic numerals which serve as abbreviations for the musical content. The events are dived between the two pianos, adding a spatial element to the music. Dashes symbolize periods of rest between events. The piece is made up of four sections connected by transitional links. These links are enclosed in boxes and are the point at which another event is incorporated into the sequence. Durations and dynamics are left up to the performers' discretion. Choices is a work that can be performed either with eight live, solo voices, or with a combination of four prerecorded and four live, solo voices. It consists of a series of words organized into three columns. The first and third columns contain nouns and the second column contains verbs. Simple sentences with a wide variety of meanings and emotional content are constructed by choosing one word from each column. Any word may be used one or more times or not at all in the course of the performance. The specific sequence and number of sentences or “events” contained within the performance in an arbitrary decision left up to the ensemble. String Quartet No. 4 and Cybernetic Structure are constructed out of a series of notated, aleatory events played by the different instruments of the ensemble in random order. The resultant form is a combination of a continuous sequence of coordinated metric shifts and gradually unfolding or changing texture. The periods of silence in Cybernetic Structure are of particular interest for their implied humor. The performer is to assume an emotional attitude and perform the silence “heroically” or “with cowardice”.

Combinations, Constructions, Slide Piece No. 2, Slide Piece No. 3 and Homage to Marinetti are composed for band or orchestra – large ensembles and scores are visual representations reproduced on photographic material and projected onto screens for performance. The works have detailed performance and logistical instructions. The large ensembles are broken up into sections according to timbre. In Slide Piece No. 2, the orchestra is divided into three parts: wind instruments (both brass and woodwinds), string instruments, and percussion (including piano). In Combinations, the three sections consist of woodwinds brass, and percussion. The form of Combinations is representative. Each instrumental section is given a set of twenty slides consisting of ten ensemble, six solo, and four blank slides, and its own projector. The organization of the slides and the sequence in which they are projected is random. After all twenty slides have been performed once, the order may be repeated or changed, completely or in part. Unlimited textural variations are possible. A time element, or structure, can also be added to the texture of the piece as the slide projectors are operated simultaneously but independently. This random structure is further aided by the format of the slides themselves. The notations on the slides are reversible both horizontally and vertically, and they can be inserted into the projector in any direction and can be manipulated to yield inversions and retrogrades. The visual nature and structure of these pieces results in the exclusion of a conductor, usually an indispensable element in the works for large ensembles. Slide piece No. 3, commissioned by Ellsworth Snyder in 1971 contained similar projected visual instructions and random structure.

Five Environmental Projects consists of five descriptions of physical situations - passages or rooms - in which electronically produced sounds are activated by a person moving through the environment. Ott explains his motivation and concept in notes, "My concern, interest and enthusiasm lies in the prospect of conceiving of situations (and carrying them out) wherein the "audience" can freely manipulate and construct their own personalized experience. This is my main concern now. I think what I envision would not even be considered music by any traditional standards (but should be, perhaps) because it can be a sound experience in every sense as profound and by its nature as personal as any traditional conceptions have been", July 14, 1970.

The first two projects consist of a tunnel and a maze. A variety of sounds are continuously and repetitively transmitted through a large number of loudspeakers mounted in the walls and ceilings. As the participant walks through, his experience could be likened to that of a waiter hearing snatches of different conversations and voices as he walks through a crowded restaurant. The sound texture is created and affected by the mixture of sounds between loudspeakers, and by the spill-over effects from other parts of the tunnel and maze. The participant controls the length of his personal "sound composition" by the speed at which he travels through the environment. The third project provides a similar experience with radio transmitters instead of walls and loudspeakers. The participant is given a portable radio receiver and constructs the sound experience by walking through a series of small, overlapping, radio transmission areas.

In the fourth project, a suspended series of steel balls set in motion by the participant function as electrical switches which control and activate the pitches on an electronic organ. A second set of steel balls controls the tone colors, or organ stops. A rhythmic dimension is added by the sound made when the steel balls contact.

Light and color, as well as sound, are used in the fifth project. The environment described is a circular room with electronic sensors in the walls. As an object or the participant moves towards the walls, a pitch is activated. The volume of the pitch rises in proportion to the participant's proximity to the wall: the closer the participant goes to the wall, the louder the pitch becomes. These sounds in turn activate a series of different colored lights. The intensity of the lights corresponds to the intensity of the volume of sound. A kaleidoscope of color and tonal clusters and intensities is created as the participant moves throughout the room.

The room also includes a "dead spot", or an area in which the participant may stand without activating the sensors. It is suggested that a group of participants be placed inside the room within this "dead spot". No prior directions or descriptions of the room's qualities are to be given. The overhead lights are then turned off, leaving the room in darkness. As the participants becomes uncomfortable and move or make sound, the sensors are activated. The participants discover and create both an individual and a group sound experience by exploring the environment.

Electronic Works

Over half of the works composed by Ott between 1968 and 1977 are electronic works. Like the aleatory works, most are confined to this time frame. Aeolian Harp, composed in 1970, is Ott's earliest piece with electronic sounds (consisting of acoustical sounds recorded electronically).

Ott's electronic works can be categorized into three groups, two of which use electronic tapes in conjunction with live performers and acoustical instruments. The third contains works for electronic tape alone.

The first group involves an ensemble of acoustic instruments who records half of the parts in a composition and then plays other parts as the recorded material is played back. In some compositions the parts are recorded and then immediately passed through several machines with a time delay in between to create canonic texture. Pieces that fall under this category are:

Aeolian Harp, 1970

Matrix VII, 1971

Music for Solo Tuba and Two Channel Tape, 1971

Choices, 1971

Collage, 1971

Variable Fixed Form, 1971

Extensions, 1972

Quartet for Solo Alto Saxophone, 1972

Double Piano Trio, 1986

The second group involves a solo instrument or ensemble combined with an electronically synthesized tape made by the composer. The tape then functions as an additional, independent member of the ensemble. Pieces solo instrument or ensemble with tape are as follows. Some of the taped electronic parts have been converted to digital and available on CD which is noted.

Timbres, 1972

11:11:72 for Woodwind Quintet, 1972

7:22:73, 1973

Bart's Piece, 1973 CD

Tapestry, 1974

Concerto for Tuba and Electronic Tape, 1974 CD


Chroman V, 1975

Chroma IV, 1977 CD

Three Little Pieces for Trumpet and Electronic Tape, 1978 CD

Chroma III, 1981

Chroma II a, 1982

The third group consists of over a hundred works composed on a synthesizer and directly recorded onto tape. Most of these pieces were composed between 1973 and 1977. In 1976 Ott was awarded a commission by Richard Bales, director of the National Gallery of Art Orchestra in Washington D.C., to write a piece of electronic music in honor of the Bicentennial.  The piece was specifically designed to take advantage of the architecture of the East Garden Court and involved placing a number of very large speakers in the courtyard.  A multi-channel tape manipulated by a computer specially built by Mr. Ott produced movement of sound between speakers, thus, space, and the spatial movement of sound, was a significant musical element of the composition.  LOCUS-1977 was performed at the National Gallery in the East Garden Court on April 24, 1977, as a part of the 34th American Music Festival and was the first concert of all electronic music presented at the National Gallery.

Richard Bales interviews Joseph Ott about the premiere of LOCUS-1977, April 24, 1977

See Catalog of Electronic Works

Fourth Period (1978-1990)

The fourth period consists of works written from 1978 until his death in 1990.  In this period, the musical style developed in the 1960's is continued and draws from nontraditional elements of the preceeding period to reach mature expression.  Style traits that were formative in earlier periods are used with consistency and confidence.  Those characteristics include:  atonal harmonies, polyrhythms and ostinatos, a wide range of dynamics and articulations, imitative and polyphonic devices, and divergent melodic contours and pitch registers.  A changing succession of textures continues to be a fundamental element of the formal structures of these works.  The vertical density of textures in this period, however, is generally less than that of earlier periods. Aleatory and electronic elements so prominent in the 3rd style period seldom appear in works of this period.  Significant works from this period are Cynical Set, Palo Duro, Mosaic, and Piano Trio No. 3 for which Ott was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985.


Joseph Ott, published and unpublished notes, interviews, scores

Kristen Franz, Joseph H. Ott:  A Survey of His Life, Compositions and Musical Style through 1987

Wikipedia – 20th-century classical Music