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12. The Song Cycle as a Genre: Some Recent Views

Suurpää, Lauri Indiana University Press ePub

This chapter examines recent views of the song cycle, describing various perspectives on the issue of unity (or the lack thereof) suggested in the literature. My aim is to provide a general context for my interpretation of Winterreise as a cycle.

In section 2.1 I examined early nineteenth-century views of the emerging genre of the song cycle and demonstrated that the writers of the time almost unanimously based the unity of song cycles on poetic factors, with music usually playing no role in their assessments of a cycle’s cohesion. In our time, the situation is different. At least in the Anglo-American literature, musical features are almost invariably commented on along with textual aspects whenever the unity of song cycles is discussed. The musical coherence is sought primarily in thematic and motivic cross-references, large-scale harmonic unfolding (connections among the keys of individual songs), or a combination of these. In order to give an overview of such approaches, I will describe some studies of song cycles in a general manner without relating their ideas to my own views just yet. As will become apparent in the next chapter, I do not share all the views represented in these writings, at least if applied to Winterreise. (A more general discussion of song cycles is outside the scope of this book.)1

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Fifteen: Johann Sebastian Bach

William Brown Indiana University Press ePub

Bach appeals to that which we all need in living, which is a kind of order of things, whether an inner order or an outer one. Bach is on so many levels—the intellectual level—that you see how the voices are living with each other, next to each other, above each other, and somehow harmonize. Then when you hear his church music, his B minor Mass, or the Passions that he wrote, he becomes a religion in himself. You can be feeling, when you hear those Passions, that you are really communing with God. That’s Bach. And there is no composer who did not appreciate that. Everyone, whether that’s Beethoven or Mozart or Chopin, had to concern themselves at one point or another with Bach.

Each of the Partitas is a masterpiece in its own way, but this one is a favorite of audiences and performers because of the beauty and variety presented in the various movements. The grandeur of the Sinfonia is a wonderful way to open a recital and allows both performer and listener the opportunity to become accustomed to the sonority of the instrument. Too often the player approaches these pieces with too much emphasis on the top voice, without giving attention to all the voices. There must always be direction. Bach’s lines are always going somewhere. There are sequences. There must be clarity of form, and the rhythm must be exact.

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1. A Biblical Story for the Post–World War II Generation? Victor Young’s Music for DeMille’s Samson and Delilah

Stephen C. Meyer Indiana University Press ePub

When Cecil B. DeMille was preparing to pitch his idea for a film on Samson and Delilah to Paramount, he was—at least according to the account in his autobiography—far from confident. “A new generation of executives had grown up since The King of Kings,” he wrote, referring to his 1927 Christ film,

and most of them greeted my suggestion of Samson and Delilah with the expected executive misgivings. A Biblical story, for the post–World War II generation? Put millions of dollars into a Sunday school tale? Anticipating this familiar chorus, before the meeting held in my office to decide on my next production, I asked Dan Groesbeck to draw a simple sketch of two people—a big brawny athlete and, looking at him with an at once seductive and coolly measuring eye, a slim and ravishingly attractive young girl.

When the executives trooped in, ready to save me and Paramount from the ruinous folly they were sure I had in mind, I greeted them, saw them to their seats, and brought out the Groesbeck sketch.

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Chapter : 9. The Drama of Tonal Pairing in Chamber Music of Schumann and Brahms

Indiana University Press ePub

Peter H. Smith

If it is reasonable to assume that musical meaning emanates from a composition’s technical characteristics, then there is perhaps no more basic a source for expressivity in tonal music than the centripetal force of the tonic. The overarching control of a tonal center that is established at the outset and reaffirmed at the close provides one means to create the archetypal musical drama of departure and return. That the tonic may remain implicitly present despite its absence from the musical surface affords the possibility for a composition to project a sense of distance in the journey, which, through the further influence of monotonality, may be characterized by either clearly directed motion or delays and detours on the way to the goal of closure.1

The highly developed formal patterns of the eighteenth century, with their tendency to dramatize large-scale tonal relationships, are especially conducive to these basic forms of musical expression. In the nineteenth century, the situation becomes more complicated, as a penchant for decisive articulation of large-scale tonal relationships gradually loses sway as a stylistic hallmark. Composers instead tend increasingly to favor a seamless musical fabric marked by heightened degrees of continuity and formal ambiguity. These composers further complicate the picture by expanding the tonal resources for the key areas of their forms, while they also manifest a keen interest in alternatives to the unambiguously centered monotonality of the eighteenth century. The degree to which these alternatives may have come to replace or merely to supplement univalent tonal centricity remains open to debate. There seems to be no question, however, that nineteenth-century form exhibits techniques of tonal organization that challenge, even if only temporarily, the transparency of the monotonal ideal.

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3 The Friction on the Floor: Negotiating Nightlife in Accra, 1940–1960

Nathan Plageman Indiana University Press ePub

On Saturday Nights in the mid-1950s, a young Alex Moffatt would sneak out of his family house so that he could go to the Tip-Toe, Seaview, or another of Accra’s many nightclubs. To prepare for these excursions, Moffatt would raid his uncle’s closet, select a suit, tie, and pair of black shoes, and inform the other members of his family that he was retiring to bed. When it was clear that everyone else had fallen asleep, Moffatt got up, changed clothes, and quietly made his exit. When he returned home hours later, he took extreme care to open the front door, replace the borrowed items, and enter his room without alerting his unsuspecting parents, uncle, or grandmother. On Sunday morning, Moffatt awoke to a household that had no idea that he had ever left. For the next few years, Moffatt and his equally devious peers used these secretive methods to gain access to one of the city’s most exciting spheres of musical recreation. At that time, many city residents upheld nightclubs as the place to go on Saturday Nights. Within their walls, large crowds gathered to enjoy the offerings of a new generation of highlife dance bands, such as Accra’s Rhythm Aces, the Black Beats, and E. T. Mensah and the Tempos, that had taken the colony by storm. But nightclubs offered patrons more than an evening of music and dance. Like many other residents, Moffatt and his friends sought out these venues not simply to revel in highlife’s vibrant sound; they did so in order to actively participate in a wider struggle concerning the colony’s social and cultural future.1

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