Saturday, September 28, 2013
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Erinn Knyt, "New Instruments, New Sounds, and New Musical Laws: Ferruccio Busoni, Edgard Varèse, and the “Music of the Future”"
The disparity between Edgard Varèse’s early European compositions, described in Romantic or Impressionistic terms by those who heard them, and his experimental American compositions has contributed to the widespread assumption that Varèse reinvented himself after encountering the sights and sounds of New York. When composers are named as sources of influence, Richard Strauss and Claude Debussy are most frequently mentioned. Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky sometimes follow. While these composers undoubtedly influenced Varèse, especially with regard to his harmonic choices and use of episodic structures, they did not provide models for more characteristic features of his experimental compositional style: rhythmic simultaneity, expansion of the tonal system, the use of non-traditional instruments, and new means of formal organization based on sound.
Varèse repeatedly referred to Ferruccio Busoni, to whom he went for compositional advice from 1908-1913, as the most seminal influence on his experimental music, stating: “he [Busoni] crystalized my half-formed ideas, stimulated my imagination, and determined, I believe, the future development of my music.” While several scholars have mentioned aesthetic similarities between the two composers, the scope and importance of the relationship has yet to be documented. Based on concert programs, letters, lectures, scores, interviews, and annotations in Varese’s copy of Busoni’s Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music, my paper provides the first detailed account of the Busoni-Varèse connection. It documents Busoni’s significance as Varese’s teacher, mentor and friend, while analyzing parallels between aesthetic ideals, compositional styles, and concert organizing activities. In so doing it not only provides missing information about Varèse’s little-documented musical activities in Berlin (1908-1913), but also much-needed context for his compositional innovations and for the development of experimental music in the early twentieth century.
Evan MacCarthy, "The English Voyage of Pietrobono"
Praised by poets, scholars, and fellow musicians of his day, the singer, lutenist, and teacher Pietrobono de Burzellis (c. 1417-1497) achieved international renown for his skill at improvisational singing and performance on plucked instruments. Until recently, archival documents recorded his presence at many courts of the Italian peninsula (including Milan, Naples, Mantua, and his hometown of Ferrara) and as far as away as the Hungarian court. However his travels brought him further from Italy than previously noticed by musicologists. Twenty years ago, the late Adriano Franceschini published his transcription of an August 1466 testament drawn up by Pietrobono in advance of a risky trip ‘ad partes Anglie’ that he was planning to begin the very next day. The testament not only makes reference to this journey, but also describes the duties his wife must fulfill as his heir, which included a visit to the shrine of Santissima Annunziata in Florence. Numbered among the witnesses to this notarial document (of which there were many) was his tenorista Francesco Malacise, as well as important nobles at the Estense courts. Whether Pietrobono reached his destination or not, this planned trip to England not only demonstrates the long distance to which his reputation called him, but also offers new and intriguing evidence of music and musicians traveling between England and Italy in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, among larger diplomatic retinues, and at the very same time Britons like the singer Anna and the composer Robertus de Anglia were in or near Pietrobono‘s Ferrara.
Emiliano Ricciardi, "A Late Blossom: Torquato Tasso’s Lyric Poems and Neapolitan Madrigal Culture"
Collectively known as Rime, the lyric poems of Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) enjoyed a remarkable fortune among madrigal composers, who produced hundreds of settings of these poems. The vast majority of the extant madrigals on the Rime date from the 1580s and the early 1590s, when Tasso’s lyric poems were published in a number of widely circulating literary prints. The musical fortune of the Rime rapidly declined in the following years, due to the limited number of literary prints published after Tasso’s death in 1595 and to a shift in the composers’ taste toward more modern poetry, such as that of Marino and Chiabrera. This decline occurred homogenously in virtually all Italian cities and regions, with a notable exception, Naples, where the production of madrigals on Tasso’s lyric poems spiked precisely around 1600.
In this paper I investigate why composers like Dentice, Gesualdo, Montella, and Nenna, among others, showed interest in Tasso’s Rime at a time in which they were no longer fashionable among madrigalists. In particular, I show that their fondness for Tasso’s poetry was influenced by local literary trends and by their patrons’ relationship with the late Tasso, who spent a substantial amount of time in Naples in the last few years of his life and circulated his work in the Neapolitan cultural milieu. Furthermore, I examine how Neapolitan composers related to the musical tradition associated with Tasso’s Rime, demonstrating that although they occasionally displayed awareness of earlier settings, they departed from the tradition by providing highly original musical renditions of Tasso’s lyric poems. In so doing, this paper sheds light not only on the musical reception of Tasso’s Rime in Naples and on the causes of its lateness, but also on the Neapolitan school’s place in the history of the late madrigal.
Alessandra Jones, "Massenet’s Scènes Dramatiques (1874) and the French Art of Distilling Shakespeare"
Jules Massenet composed his fifth orchestral suite, titled Scènes dramatiques, just prior to achieving international success. He based the suite, as indicated on the title page of the published score, on dramatic moments from several Shakespeare plays. The first movement, drawing on The Tempest, begins with a large storm before shifting focus to the fantastical elements of the play. The second movement depicts Desdemona before her murder in Othello—a scene not found in the original play, but one that is clearly of interest to Massenet and, later, Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi’s presence also looms over the third and final movement, which attempts a larger narrative as it brings us through some of the major moments of Macbeth: the witches, Banquo’s ghost at the banquet, and the coronation of King Malcolm.
In this paper, I analyze Massenet’s interpretation of these plays and place this work in the wider context of Shakespeare’s French musical reception. In particular, I argue that Massenet had in mind various operatic and symphonic works by Verdi, his “god” Hector Berlioz, the “illustrious master” Charles Gounod, and his beloved mentor Ambroise Thomas. For instance, the triumphant ending of the Macbeth movement parallels the ending of Verdi’s 1865 revision of Macbeth, which was specifically written for a Parisian audience. Massenet also included and then later omitted a movement based on Romeo and Juliet—a subject that both Berlioz and Gounod had already tackled. This piece is then representative of the development of not only a young composer, but also a long-standing French musical trend, albeit one that soon died out. Massenet never wrote an opera based on Shakespeare, but his Scènes dramatiques looks back at his musical heritage right before he stepped into his own spotlight.
The first printed collection of Lasso’s work (Antwerp: Susato, 1555) ends with two of the earliest chromatic polyphonic compositions of the sixteenth century: Lasso’s “Alma Nemes,” and Rore’s “Calami sonum ferentes.” Lowinsky reads Rore’s “Calami” as an “antichromatic manifesto,” the sound of which satirized Vicentino’s advocacy for chromaticism. Most scholars accept Lowinsky’s interpretation, but I question his reading of Rore’s motet as a mockery of chromaticism. Both Rore’s “Calami” and Lasso’s “Alma” set texts that call for a “new and sweet sound”—a cue for chromaticism, commonly associated with the soave affect and the resurrection of ancient Greek music.
I argue that these two motets suggest that already in its earliest examples in the sixteenth century chromaticism was adapted to serve different musical functions and styles. In the tradition of Venetian madrigals, Rore’s chromaticism responds to the text with local expressive effects. The trajectory of interval affects and local tonal centers follow the psychological journey of the text. Influenced by Roman-Neapolitan madrigals, Lasso’s chromaticism eschews local drama but creates a peculiar ambience for the whole. Homophonic progressions of major triads embody the “new and sweet” sound called for by the text. Rore’s dramatic effects and Lasso’s otherworldly atmosphere provide the foundation for two distinct legacies in the history of Renaissance chromaticism.
Mary Caldwell, "A Patchwork Prayer: Poetic and Musical Borrowing in a Medieval Song"
At least eight times a day across premodern Europe, the prayer “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord” (“Deus in adiutorium meum intende; Domine ad adiuvandum me festina”) sounded from the lips of the faithful as the standard introduction to the hours of the Divine Office. This brief, psalmic text was an almost utilitarian petition that served countless functions in the daily life of clerics, monastics, and laity alike, from its recitation before laborious tasks, to its use in warding off the devil and accompanying the sign of the cross. Reflecting its omnipresence in medieval culture are the numerous musical settings of Deus in adiutorium preserved in manuscripts of both sacred and secular repertories. One such setting of the verse that has received only scant attention is a monophonic Latin refrain song preserved solely in a thirteenth-century Parisian manuscript. In this sacred song, Pater creator omnium, the prayer functions as the refrain, while the surrounding stanzas are quotations derived from other sacred texts. As a whole, Pater creator omnium is an utterly unique poetic patchwork that meditates, largely through its Deus in adiutorium refrain, on salvation obtained through continual prayer. In this paper I examine the complex poetic borrowing in Pater creator omnium and argue that the song not only borrows text but also music from contemporaneous tropes of the liturgical verse. In other words, I connect for the first time this unusual patchwork song to a much larger medieval repertory of monophonic and polyphonic settings of Deus in adiutorium. Moreover, I unveil striking resonances between the numerous repetitions of Deus in adiutorium as the refrain of Pater creator omnium and its broader cultural significance as an all-purpose petition and salvific prayer whose efficacy is increased through constant reiteration.
John Forrestal, "“Always is Always Forever”: The Musical Trajectory of the Process Church of the Final Judgement"
The Process Church of the Final Judgment (1964-1974) was a Scientological offshoot created by two former members of the London branch. Their experimentations with psychotherapy led to the development of an incredibly tight-knit group of followers, who subsequently made a pilgrimage to the Yucatàn peninsula of Mexico where a natural disaster imbued their collective spirituality with apocalyptic reinterpretations of Christian theology. Upon returning to London and the States, the Process took their eschatological message to the streets. The Process' religious canon contained a large musical output; rock bands within the cult developed out of collective musical energies, in addition to hymns and chants that served a Utilitarian purpose. Members of the Process were contiguously in the same social circles as many famous musicians, such as Mick Jagger. Thus, their influence can be seen in the popular musical idioms of their time, although there’s little mentioned in biographical accounts about their influence.
Over three decades since the schism that marked the end of the Process, their teachings ostensibly live on today, through a musical collective known as Holy Terror, and through a band “the Sabbath Assembly” reinterpreting the hymns of the Process. My intention is to recreate the historical framework of this unique religious movement, especially the cross-relationships between it and the popular music of their time. Upon providing a solid foundation, my intent is to explore the lineage and re-adaptation of Processean ideology in this contemporary musical milieu, and the processes of change that take place in the religious tenets intrinsic to Processean thought and the mindsets of contemporaneous re-interpreters. I also intend to explore Holy Terrorism within its subcultural context, and its relation to a larger global narrative–particularly the over sensationalized eschatological concepts that are inextricably intertwined in the moral, political, and sociological fabrics of mainstream contemporary society.