Studies in Music with Text

Studies in Music with Text

Studies in Music with Text

Studies in Music with Text

Excerpt

I have organized the book into sections determined mainly by the composers involved, in order of the times during which they flourished: Mozart, Schubert, Clara and Robert Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Schoenberg (in his tonal, atonal, and twelve-tone phases), and Milton Babbitt (whom I count as following in the tradition). The arrangement is more than a mechanical convenience. Readers interested in music with text, but unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the music of Schoenberg and Babbitt, are likely to feel more at ease with the music of Mozart and Schubert, and—if drawn into the book through that port of entry and interested in continuing—will probably find the chronological arrangement a reasonable way to proceed through the material.

The essays do not fit completely within the historical containers assigned to them by the chronological arrangement of sections. Many of them touch on more general issues involving music with text. Two of the Mozart essays, for example, touch on Freudian slips made by characters in either text or music or both; another touches on relations between music analysis and stage direction. One of the Schubert essays is primarily about the phenomenology of listening; to illustrate its critical stance and technical apparatus it discusses a Schubert song in some depth. Two of the Schumann essays investigate a music-theoretical topic as they explore, within their respective songs, relations between minor tonality and Phrygian modality. Two of the Wagner essays discuss the nature, uses, and problems of an influential analytic system promulgated by Hugo Riemann at the end of the nineteenth century. One of them illustrates certain kinds of analytic observations, in such a context, that are facilitated by some theoretical concepts of my own devising. The Brahms essay brings to the fore ideas associated with Brechtian Epic acting style: it examines who the singers are in their social context, and what social roles they are fulfilling by performing the song. One of the Schoenberg essays explores that composer’s attitude toward melody, rhythm, and meter in general, beyond the bounds of music with text; the sorts of observations made there resonate in an interesting way with some of Riemann’s ideas about rhythm, though the essay does not explicitly engage those theories as such. Another Schoenberg essay brings to an operatic scene a method of large-scale analysis, pertinent to Schoenberg’s hexachordal music in general, that sprang from my own theoretical work of the 1960s. Yet another essay, containing fairly extended analytic commentary on Schoenberg’s second string quartet, primarily focuses on ways in which the traditional European . . .

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