Saturday, April 14, 2012
Mt. Holyoke College
Monica Chieffo, "Maria’s Veils, Salome’s Machinery: The Dance Scene in Metropolis and Salome"
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) has been judged by critics and scholars as a hallmark in the history of cinema and as the site of contentious statements about modernity, such as the aestheticization of technology and overtly formulaic gender roles. At the center of this discourse is the figure of the female robot Maria. In his influential analysis of the film, Andreas Huyssen notes how the perspective of the camera lens coincides with the male gaze, suggesting that the robot is constructed and subsequently animated by male vision throughout the film narrative. The film’s five-minute dance sequence—wherein the robot Maria emerges from an ornate urn to dance for a room full of male dinner guests—is reduced therefore to an instance of male vision. Huyssen leaves out completely any discussion of the score by Gottfried Huppertz, with whom Lang worked very closely. The film’s recent restoration and the release on DVD of the uncut version synchronized to Huppertz’s score allows for a comprehensive interpretation that takes into account both the image and sound as sources of meaning.
In this paper, I will give particular attention to how music—in addition to visual grammar—regulates and contains dance as a more complex theatrical event. Through Huppertz’s music this scene is both a spectacle of technology by cinematic means, and an aesthetic object. Music in particular is the medium that makes the dance present, but that also represents dance. If traditional interpretations have tended to reduce Lang’s imaginative sequence to the instance in which woman is generated visually by male desire, here I argue that the insertion of the dance is also a tactic that relies on a certain familiarity with operatic tradition and conventions of dance scenes such as the Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss’s Salome.
Jacquelyn Sholes, "A “Cremation Cantata”?: Contextualizing the Dramatic Conclusion of the Brahms-Wesendonck Correspondence"
Mathilde Wesendonck is best known to historians for her romantic entanglement with and artistic influence on Wagner in the 1850s. What is less commonly realized is that, once her relationship with Wagner had cooled, Mathilde not only became an admirer and personal acquaintance of Brahms, but also began a correspondence with him that was to last for several years (1867-74), during which she attempted to foster their relationship on both personal and artistic levels. A little-known oddity is the poetic text she composed and sent to Brahms in 1874 in the hope that he would set it to music as a work for chorus and soloists. The remarkable subject matter of her poetry: cremation.
The practice of modern cremation, demonstrated the year before at the Viennese Exposition of 1873, had begun to attract much attention among the medical community and the press in both Europe and North America, but was new, controversial, and generally unavailable. In appealing to Brahms to write a work on the subject, it was Mathilde’s earnest intention to encourage the movement’s growth. Upon receiving her ode to cremation, Brahms, much amused, immediately forwarded it to his friend Theodor Billroth, who likewise derived from it much unintended humor. Word of the would-be “cremation cantata” soon spread to other friends, including art historian Wilhelm Lübke and Julius and Clara Stockhausen.
Little (mostly in German) has been written about this awkward moment in music history. This paper surveys Mathilde’s texts and the relevant correspondence in English translation (previously unavailable), explains her literary and other references, situates these materials within the context of Brahms’s relationship to Mathilde Wesendonck, and contextualizes them with regard to the significance of the year 1874 for the poetry’s unconventional topic.
Joel Schwindt, Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607): Pulchritude through proportion, and why it mattered to the Accademia degli Invaghiti
This paper examines Monteverdi’s creation of aesthetic pulchritude in Orfeo through the proportional distribution of tacti around corresponding events that emphasize the play’s moral message. Although the primacy of moral instruction over the play’s more dramatic events opposes our modern theatrical sensibilities, it is in keeping with the maxim, “docere, movere, delectare” (teach, move, delight), which taught artists of the period to give priority to moral edification. Orfeo’s structural design aligns with poet Torquato Tasso’s prescription for the creation of beauty through the “proportional arrangement of corresponding parts”; this principle informs Tasso’s epic poem, Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), yielding a structural design analogous to Orfeo’s. Such prescriptions were likely meaningful to the Invaghiti, whose motto was “Nihil pulcherius” (Nothing more beautiful), and whose “stewardship of the art of poetry” (according to a member of the academy) was demonstrated by the Scipione Gonzaga’s active role in the publication of Tasso’s epic. These shared constructions, based on common artistic philosophies, offer new insight on the possible impact of the Invaghiti’s aesthetic proclivities on Orfeo’s structural design, as well as a unique illustration of the close connection between these artistic media during this period.Orfeo’s key events emphasize the text’s moral warning against the abandonment of hope to despair. Monteverdi underscores these contrasting emotional states through his association of hope with G-Mollis, and despair with A-Durus, juxtaposing the two modes around these events. The first act, for example, is equally divided around Orpheus’s first words (“Rosa del ciel,” set in G-Mollis), in which he expresses his hope for happiness in his betrothal to Eurydice; this recitation is preceded by a recollection of his earlier despair, set in A-Durus. The entire score is precisely centered on the Dantean allusion, “Abandon all hope, you that enter,” uttered twice by none other than the allegorical character Hope, first over G-Mollis, then A-Durus. Hope then abandons Orpheus, creating a powerful representation of the "abandonment of hope" to despair.
Lester Zhuging Hu, "Towards Modal Coherence: “Modal Chromaticism” in Gesualdo’s two “O vos omnes” settings"
In 1611 Carlo Gesualdo (ca. 1560-1613) published his last volume of sacred compositions, the Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Week. As Glenn Watkins pointed out four decades ago, the six-voice setting of Lamentations 1:12 “O vos omnes” in this publication appears to be a revision of Gesualdo’s previous five-voice setting of an almost identical text published in Sacrae Cantiones in 1603. In this paper, I examine Gesualdo’s revisionary process, and consider its implications for the development of Gesualdo’s sacred style and for our conception of sixteenth-century modal theory and chromaticism.
Scholarly literature has to date not provided a satisfactory historically informed analytical framework for understanding Gesualdo’s sacred compositions. Current methods for analyzing sixteenth-century chromaticism, such as Kyle Adams “new theory” of “tonal systems,” are accurate “objectively,” but do not shed light on the approach of sixteenth-century theorists and composers. A close reading of Gioseffo Zarlino’s historic treatise Le Istitutioni harmoniche leads me to propose the notion of “modal chromaticism,” a term that I use to unite the practice of late-Renaissance chromaticism with the modes. “Modal chromaticism” takes a work’s cadential “forma” as fundamental to its modal identity, regards chromaticism as “local” events over cadences and chordal sonorities, and considers how this “local” chromaticism interacts with the “global” modality of the piece. My analysis of Gesualdo’s revisionary process of “O vos omnes” shows that his 1611 setting retains most of the “local” chromaticism of his 1603 setting, but renders it more compliant with and supportive of its “global” modality. It shows the interrelation rather than the contradiction of modality and chromaticism in Gesualdo’s music, and suggests that in the final decade of his life—marred with myths of his madness and sadomasochism— Gesualdo adopted a model of rational modal coherence in his sacred music.
Heather de Savage, "Hidden Lessons: Tonal Structure and Personal Faith in Heinrich Schütz's Motet “Gedenke deinem Knechte an dein Wort”, SWV 485"
The music of Heinrich Schütz, like that of Monteverdi, has long been recognized as forming a bridge between Renaissance and Baroque practices, with traditional devices such as the use of a modal harmonic framework carrying over from the era of Josquin into that of J.S. Bach. As Eva Linfield has observed, Schütz’s incorporation of the functional modal degrees as cadential points is particularly notable in his motets or motet-style works, his choice of mode influenced by the mood of the text. I argue that Schütz’s interest in pitch-based musical architecture can also be traced at a deeper level, and that the composer systematically employed linear elements as predetermining factors in the underlying harmonic structure of certain works. Furthermore, this architecture is closely related to individual words or phrases of the text, and reflects the composer’s well-documented interest in thoughtfully personal text-setting throughout his exceptionally long career.
Among Schütz’s large-scale works that present different approaches to embedding linear elements within a harmonic structure, the most intricate of all is “Gedenke deinem Knechte an dein Wort”, from the composer’s final work, the Schwanengesang (1671), and the text of which, centered on the concept of laws and statutes, was clearly of unusual significance for the composer, as he wished a verse from it to form the core of his funeral sermon. The setting incorporates the complete psalm tone 8 as the melodic and structural basis of the piece, with cadential points that present not only certain functional degrees of the mode, but actually retain the linear content of the psalm tone through harmonic prolongation. While his works often exhibit other creative priorities, the compelling tonal and theological narrative of this motet, combined with evidence of proportional design and possible number symbolism, accord it a special place at the heart of Schütz’s final work.
**There was a scheduled sixth paper that was not delivered**