AMS-NE Chapter Meeting
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Providence College (RI)
Ji Yeon Lee, “Tristan und Isolde and Francesca da Rimini: An Intertextual Reading”
Wagner’s·Tristan und Isolde·(1865) and Zandonai’s·Francesca da Rimini·(1914) share important musical and dramatic similarities. Wagner and Zandonai’s compositional languages are both characterized by chromatic harmony and goal-driven mobility, although the latter’s approach is naturally more radical. Both plots portray illegitimate romance and uncontrollable passion leading the protagonists to fatal ends; furthermore,·Francesca’s narrative—drawn from “Inferno” of Dante’s La Divina Commedia—invokes·Tristan at key points. In Act 1, a minstrel recounts the Tristan story; “Isolde” is mentioned during the ladies-in-waiting scene in Act 3, as an analogy for Francesca; in the same act, Paolo’s “Daylight is my enemy, the night is my friend” recalls phrases from the Act 2 love duet of Tristan. ·
Beyond surface similarities, however, there is a more sophisticated structural connection, as well as significant implications for genre interpretation. The present paper attempts an intertextual reading of the two operas based on structural organization and dramatic temporality. I first investigate the architectural relationships within two sets of paired scenes: the Act 2 love duet in Tristan·and the Act 3 love duet from·Francesca, with their outbursts of erotic passion; and Isolde’s Transfiguration and the Act 4 duet of·Francesca. I then consider the two pairings in respect to dramatic reading and stylistic genre, specifically, the opposing temporalities defining the diverging dramatic telos and operatic style between the two operas: the suspended timelessness achieved by sublime union and imaginary transcendence in the High Romantic·Tristan, versus the ruthless dynamism of brutal murder and realistic collapse in the verismo·Francesca.
Penny Brandt, “Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo Respighi, Composer and Protagonist”
From the perspective of the twenty-first century, it is tempting to lament that Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo (1894–1996) traded a promising career as a composer for the opportunity to become the housewife of her composition teacher, the celebrated composer Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936). In reality, marriage provided Olivieri with connections and performance opportunities that served her career even after Respighi’s death. When she married, she ceased composing to support her husband’s career; her assistance included the emotional and domestic care that one might expect from a spouse as well as advice and melodic ideas for his music. This presentation introduces Olivieri and her style and tracks her musical influence in representative works by Respighi.
Olivieri’s activities both before her marriage to Respighi and after his death demonstrate an active and able musical mind. Her interest in medieval music predates his and is manifested in her output as well: her dramatic cantata Il pianto della Madonna is a setting of a medieval Italian lauda text that incorporates the sequence Victimae paschali laudes into a quasi-modal polyphonic setting. Following her husband’s death, Olivieri’s main focus remained championing Respighi’s works; she created arrangements of them and completed his unfinished opera, Lucrezia.
Olivieri supported her husband’s career in lieu of pursuing her own, a choice that leaves her music largely undiscovered, and even unperformed. Her own writings are informative, but leave unclear the extent to which Olivieri influenced and was in turn influenced by Respighi, who composed several works that incorporate Gregorian themes and another that employed a Flamenco tune Olivieri had learned from her mother as a lullaby. Listeners have had difficulty discerning which passages of Lucrezia are Olivieri’s work. These problems of attribution and influence demonstrate how completely each musician seems to have appreciated and assimilated the compositional style of the other.
Jane Daphne Hatter, “Plorer, Gemir, Crier: Musical Mourning and the Composer”
Amongst the numerous musical laments composed in the decades around 1500, at least twenty works set texts expressing grief for the passing of a musician. As musical memorials for musicians these self-reflexive compositions also document a critical moment in the emerging professionalization of the composer. Previous scholarship focuses on laments setting French texts, particularly Meconi's insightful work on the motet-chanson, while largely ignoring the far more numerous Latin-texted lamentations. Interest in the novelty of the motet-chansons by Ockeghem and Josquin has obscured the contribution and cultural relevancy of Obrecht's equally affective cantus-firmus motet for his own father, also a professional musician (Mille quingentis / Requiem). I argue that the cultivation of generic diversity in these early laments for musicians, self-consciously mixing text-types and preexistent musical elements, established important conventions for musical mourning and provided later generations with tools for celebrating musical paternity.
Individually these works are often mined for biographical details, but as a group they tell us more about musicians' sense of history and community. A survey of the musical and textual features of these pieces reveals a movement away from compositional innovation toward a standardization of the musical markers of mourning. For example, I show that the practice of transposing a preexistent melody to an E final as a symbol of lament originated with Obrecht, not Josquin, as has generally been assumed. In just three generations musical laments for musicians changed significantly from displays of personal mourning, giving depth to documented relationships, to monumental tributes. I argue that this change can be explained in part by a parallel shift in the transmission of the twenty extant pieces, moving from the intimate circles of manuscript culture to the more public world of print. This transformation tells us a great deal about the changing status of composers as public figures.
Benjamin Korstvedt, “Nineteenth-Century Music Criticism, or a Prehistory of the Post-Modern Paratext”
Music criticism from late nineteenth-century Vienna often fascinates modern readers. It tends to be so much more extreme in its rhetoric and vibrant in its opinions than anything of the kind written today that it can excite us even now. Questions about the significance of this body of criticism and about how to read it meaningfully in critical-historical terms have long engaged musicologists.
Recently I have returned to this topic, inspired in part by Jonathan Franzen’s revival of Karl Kraus’s critique of Viennese journalism, as well as by recent writings about the profusion of electronic paratexts that attach themselves to all sorts of texts in this new digital age. “Paratext,” a term adopted from French post-structuralism, refers to textual additions, whether by the author or by others, that form a “fringe” or threshold around the primary text. Classically, a paratext is designed to exert “an influence on the public, an influence that ... is at the service of a better reception for the text and a more pertinent reading of it" (Gèrard Genette).
This presentation focuses on reviews of a performance of Bruckner’s String Quintet in January 1885 in order to show how a reading of Viennese music criticism as a prototype of the contemporary paratext can clarify the relationship of critical writing to the music work and its audience, well as to its deeper socio-cultural context. The most remarkable of these reviews, notably those by Max Kalbeck and Gustav Dömpke, seem to have been intended as a type of brilliantly ironic paratext, aiming to facilitate not a better reception for the Quintet, but rather a worse reception. The presentation concludes by suggesting the motivations behind them and considering how their rhetoric mobilized underlying sociopolitical tensions for polemical purposes.
Paula Musegades, “Aaron Copland’s Hollywood Film Music”
MEDIUM CLOSE UP: Leaning in closely, a young couple passionately embraces while expressing their love: a melodic line swells in the rich orchestral accompaniment.
One might well discover some version of this familiar scenario in nearly every romantic drama from Hollywood’s Golden Age, right down to the syrupy sweet melody scored with lush orchestration. Indeed, such wall-to-wall scoring of warm romantic music set the Hollywood standard for several decades. From 1939-1949, however, American composer Aaron Copland simultaneously challenged this stock practice, while expanding upon a score’s traditional role in film, by composing five individualized and highly acclaimed film scores for “Of Mice and Men” (1939), “Our Town” (1940), “The North Star” (1943), “The Red Pony” (1949), and “The Heiress” (1949).
This paper investigates Copland’s final Hollywood score for William Wyler’s “The Heiress,” revealing how he defied traditional film scoring practices in order to convey the inner complexities of the film’s highly dramatic narrative. Throughout the score Copland struck a balance between musical silence and sound; he avoided saturating the film with traditional nineteenth century music, which emphasized the moments requiring a musical cue, while rendering musically silent moments as equally important. As Copland explained, “too much of the music sounds opulent… almost ‘fat’ when the scene really calls for a ‘lean’ sound.” In this paper I will demonstrate how Copland, by practicing his alternative approach to film scoring, provided a significant step forward in the advancement of Hollywood film music by allowing audiences to register both the presence of the music and the power of its absence.
Brent Wetters, “‘La Mémoire Musicale’: Pierre Boulez’s Remembrance of Bruno Maderna”
The twentieth century was eclecticism in search of common practice. From serialism, to aleatoricism, to minimalism, new trends were proposed as the next true path for new music. One moment in 1975 seems to crystallize both the failure of those dogmas and prepare for the present situation. Pierre Boulez’s Rituel memorializes the Italian composer and conductor Bruno Maderna. Previous studies, like that of Jonathon Goldman, have revealed ways that the work functions rhetorically as a memorial, and key aspects of the work clearly reference Maderna’s compositions. However, the intent of the memorial remains obscure in these analyses. In what ways does Boulez engage with the substance of Maderna’s work and compositional philosophy? I argue that in Rituel Boulez makes a poignant statement about Maderna’s place in the history of post-War music and at Darmstadt. The work explores themes he had presented earlier in an obituary written just days after Maderna’s death. Boulez tried to come to terms with a man and a musician who confounded him, and seems to accede to Maderna’s position—a position that refuses to commit to any one compositional trend. Rituel is a departure from earlier serial works by Boulez; it represents an encounter with the difficulties he found in Maderna’s work. Boulez was known for consistency and rigor with which he applied himself to his craft, whereas Maderna eschewed such consistency, or at least dogmatism. Yet Boulez found himself unable to dismiss Maderna as unserious. Rituel is written for a flexible mode of interaction between conductor and orchestra, and in this way seems to be written for Maderna to conduct, and is, therefore, a work where its central performer will always be found to be missing. Boulez thus memorializes Maderna by both emphasizing his absence and celebrating his legacy, a legacy that remains unfulfilled.