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Where words leave off, music begins: A comparison of how Henry Purcell and Franz Schubert convey text through their music in the compositions Music for a while and Erlkönig
Kungl. Musikhögskolan, Institutionen för klassisk musik.
2017 (engelsk)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts), 10 poäng / 15 hpOppgave [Kunstnerisk arbeiden]
Abstract [en]

”The singer is always working through a text that in some way or another inspired the vocal line and its texture,” wrote American pianist, pedagogue, and author Thomas Grubb. But exactly how does a text inspire a composer to create this synergy between words and music?

During the course of my studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, I gradually began to deepen my knowledge and awareness of Henry Purcell and Franz Schubert. I was at once astounded by their ability to seemlessly amalgamate the chosen texts to their music, and decided that this connection required greater research.

The purpose of this study was thus to gain a deeper understanding of how Purcell and Schubert approached the relationship between text and music by studying the two pieces Music for a while and Erlkönig. I also wished to discover any similarities and differences between the composers’ approaches to word painting, in addition to discerning the role of the accompaniment to further illustrate the narrative.

I began by reading literature about the two composers as well as John Dryden and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the poets whose texts were set to music. Once a greater understanding of them had been attained, I proceeded to analyze the texts and music for a greater comprehension of Purcell’s and Schubert’s methods. For early inspiration, I listened to numerous versions of the pieces by different musicians on YouTube.

Both Purcell and Schubert used various tools in their compositional arsenals to accomplish their effortless combination of text and music. Amongst others, Purcell employed tonal ambiguity, unexpected harmonies, and repetition, while Schubert made use of vivid imagery, inventive treatment of chromaticism, and unmistakable rhythmic motifs.

The analysis demonstrated that, while both composers painted lively and dramatic pictures in their compositions, their methods were strikingly different. The role of the accompaniment in Music for a while leaves much to the individual taste and ability of the instrumentalist(s) performing to assist the singer in setting the scene. In contrast, Schubert instructs the pianist in Erlkönig explicitly how they are to play, while additionally the piano personifies the fifth character in the story, the horse. Indeed, the role of the singer in the two pieces is equally at variance with the other. With Purcell, the singer portrays a priest, while the singer in Erlkönig personifies four different voices, each with their own melody, character, and tessitura.

I hope this study will inspire others to delve deeper into the material with which they work to offer a more profound understanding to themselves and, ultimately, the listener.

sted, utgiver, år, opplag, sider
2017.
Emneord [en]
Word painting, poetry, Lied, art song, Purcell, Schubert, Dryden, Goethe, Music for a while, Erlkönig
HSV kategori
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:kmh:diva-2342OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kmh-2342DiVA, id: diva2:1087853
Utdanningsprogram
Kandidatprogram musiker
Veileder
Examiner
Tilgjengelig fra: 2017-04-11 Laget: 2017-04-10 Sist oppdatert: 2017-06-09bibliografisk kontrollert

Open Access i DiVA

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Erlkönig(9755 kB)54 nedlastinger
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Music for a while(8517 kB)46 nedlastinger
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