Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

By Susanne K. Langer | Go to book overview
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Problems of a Song-Writer

MARIO CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO

I HAVE WRITTEN a great many songs in my life; I have published more than one-hundred and fifty (not to mention all that have remained in my desk) and I have composed them in all the languages I know -- Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Latin. My ambition-even more than that, a profound urge within me -- has always been to unite my music to poetic texts that arouse my interest and emotion, to interpret them and at the same time to set them forth in lyric expression, to stamp them with the authentic and therefore undetachable seal of melody, to give utterance to the music that is latent within them, and, in doing so, to discover their real source in the emotions that brought them into being. In short, it is the "need for song" that has spurred me on, a need quite natural and altogether familiar to Italians. But, at least during the 19th century, my countrymen satisfied this need predominantly through theatre music (in which the quality of the words -- which were often only a pretext -- counted little); whereas my preferred territory has been the more intimate one of vocal chamber music, and my aim that of approaching the purest and highest poetic expressions, not only in Italian, but in foreign languages as well. That is why I have set to music not only Saint Francis of Assisi, Dante,

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