Making Words Sing: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Song by Jonathan Dunsby

By Jonathan Dunsby

What makes a classical track a tune? overlaying such contrasting composers as Brahms and Berberian, Schubert and Kurtág, Jonathan Dunsby considers the character of vocality in songs of the 19th and 20th centuries. The essence and scope of poetic and literary which means within the Lied culture is topic to shut scrutiny opposed to the backdrop of "new musicological" considering and music-theoretical orthodoxies. The reader is hence provided the simplest insights on hand inside an evidence-based method of musical discourse.

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As if Dido wants not only the relevant people on stage in her fictional world to remember her but also, clearly – and even if only out of context – you to do so, and me? Even though we do not customarily worry about this almost confusing network of questions, and the potential questions not articulated here, it is evident on reflection that the ‘intentionality’ of any text is not something we can ultimately hope to escape. ‘Everything we encounter in verbal language did mean something in the first place’ implies a certain degree of autonomy of any text, and this is I think precisely what Roland Barthes signals repeatedly in his writings, of which a choice instance is as follows: All writing will .

On the other hand, song does simply resist our deep organicist urges, which have often been squabbled about in rather futile discussion (mainly, it has seemed, by those whose critical agendas simply do not intersect with the mainstream of Western music theory, as they are perfectly well entitled not to do), but to which urges it ought to be at least possible to consider alternatives of some sort that do not go so far as to deny them. ’47 As Fink well knows, it is much easier to conceive of this in looking at some music of the late twentieth century, especially the ravishing world of the so-called minimalists, than the more established repertoire considered in detail here, yet the aspiration is one well worth bearing in mind, and in the traditions of discussing music and text the ‘totality-machine’ approaches – looking for literal correspondences between note and word, looking for an idealized unity of poetic conception, looking for some kind of elusive ‘third’ language that, if it exists, we can be sure is completely, 47 Robert Fink, ‘Going Flat: Post-Hierarchical Music Theory and the Musical Surface’, in Rethinking Music, ed.

Willi Reich, Schoenberg: A Critical Biography, Harlow, Longman, 1971, 236–42 (Appendix 1). Arnold Schoenberg, The Musical Idea and the Logic, Technique, and Art of its Presentation, ed. and trans. Patricia Carpenter and Severine Neff, New York, Columbia University Press, 1993. 28 Making Words Sing melody as Puccini’s ‘E lucevan le stelle’ from Tosca40 the words of the aria are neither written into the music example nor mentioned. It is certainly possible to overreact to such relatively isolated pieces of evidence, and it would be ludicrous to imagine that a composer whose own oeuvre focused repeatedly on new challenges in word/music relations – from the 2nd String Quartet (1908) and Pierrot lunaire to Moses und Aron and the Modern Psalm (1950) – was anything other than continually thinking about them.

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