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Emily Dickinson's "There came a wind like a bugle--: a singer's analysis of song settings by Ernst Bacon, Lee Hoiby, and Gordon Getty

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Emily Dickinson is a well-known American poet of the nineteenth century, and her oeuvre consists of nearly 2,000 posthumously published poems. Written largely in hymn form with unique ideas of punctuation and grammar, her poetry attracts composers with its inherent

Emily Dickinson is a well-known American poet of the nineteenth century, and her oeuvre consists of nearly 2,000 posthumously published poems. Written largely in hymn form with unique ideas of punctuation and grammar, her poetry attracts composers with its inherent musicality. The twentieth-century American composers Aaron Copland, Ernst Bacon, Lee Hoiby, and Gordon Getty have created song settings of Dickinson's poetry. Copland's song cycle Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson (1949-50) is admired by many as an illustration of poetry; however, the Dickinson cycles by Bacon, Hoiby, and Getty are also valuable, lesser-known representations of her writing. Settings of one poem, "There came a Wind like a Bugle--", are common among Copland's Twelve Poems, Bacon's cycle Songs from Emily Dickinson: Nature, Time, and Space (1930), Hoiby's Four Dickinson Songs (1988), and Getty's The White Election (1982). These latter three settings have previously undergone some theoretical analysis; however, this paper considers a performance analysis of these songs from a singer's point of view. Chapter 1 provides background for this study. Chapter 2 consists of a biographical overview of Dickinson's life and writing style, as well as a brief literary analysis of "There came a Wind like a Bugle--". Chapters 3, 4, and 5 discuss Ernst Bacon, Lee Hoiby, and Gordon Getty, respectively; each chapter consists of a short biography of the composer and a discussion of his writing style, a brief theoretical analysis of his song setting, and commentary on the merits of his setting from the point of view of a singer. Observations of the depiction of mood in the song and challenges for the singer are also noted. This paper provides a comparative analysis of three solo vocal settings of one Emily Dickinson poem as a guide for singers who wish to begin studying song settings of this poem. The Bacon and Hoiby settings were found to be lyrical, tonal representations of the imagery presented in "There came a Wind like a Bugle--". The Getty setting was found to be a musically starker representation of the poem's atmosphere. These settings are distinctive and worthy of study and performance.

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2011

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Libby Larsen's Margaret songs: a musical portrait of Willa Cather's Margaret Elliot

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Libby Larsen is one of the most performed and acclaimed composers today. She is a spirited, compelling, and sensitive composer whose music enhances the poetry of America's most prominent authors. Notable among her works are song cycles for soprano based

Libby Larsen is one of the most performed and acclaimed composers today. She is a spirited, compelling, and sensitive composer whose music enhances the poetry of America's most prominent authors. Notable among her works are song cycles for soprano based on the poetry of female writers, among them novelist and poet Willa Cather (1873-1947). Larsen has produced two song cycles on works from Cather's substantial output of fiction: one based on Cather's short story, "Eric Hermannson's Soul," titled Margaret Songs: Three Songs from Willa Cather (1996); and later, My Antonia (2000), based on Cather's novel of the same title. In Margaret Songs, Cather's poetry and short stories--specifically the character of Margaret Elliot--combine with Larsen's unique compositional style to create a surprising collaboration. This study explores how Larsen in these songs delves into the emotional and psychological depths of Margaret's character, not fully formed by Cather. It is only through Larsen's music and Cather's poetry that Margaret's journey through self-discovery and love become fully realized. This song cycle is a glimpse through the eyes of two prominent female artists on the societal pressures placed upon Margaret's character, many of which still resonate with women in today's culture. This study examines the work Margaret Songs by discussing Willa Cather, her musical influences, and the conditions surrounding the writing of "Eric Hermannson's Soul." It looks also into Cather's influence on Libby Larsen and the commission leading to Margaret Songs. Finally, a description of the musical, dramatic, and textual content of the songs completes this interpretation of the interactions of Willa Cather, Libby Larsen, and the character of Margaret Elliot.

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2013

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Modernism and misogyny in Arnold Schoenberg's Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, Opus 15

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Arnold Schoenberg's 1908-09 song cycle, Das Buch der hängenden Gärten [The Book of the Hanging Gardens], opus 15, represents one of his most decisive early steps into the realm of musical modernism. In the midst of personal and artistic crises,

Arnold Schoenberg's 1908-09 song cycle, Das Buch der hängenden Gärten [The Book of the Hanging Gardens], opus 15, represents one of his most decisive early steps into the realm of musical modernism. In the midst of personal and artistic crises, Schoenberg set texts by Stefan George in a style he called "pantonality," and described his composition as radically new. Though stylistically progressive, however, Schoenberg's musical achievement had certain ideologically conservative roots: the composer numbered among turn-of-the-century Viennese artists and thinkers whose opposition to the conventional and the popular--in favor of artistic autonomy and creativity--concealed a reactionary misogyny. A critical reading of Hanging Gardens through the lens of gender reveals that Schoenberg, like many of his contemporaries, incorporated strong frauenfeindlich [anti-women] elements into his work, through his modernist account of artistic creativity, his choice of texts, and his musical settings. Although elements of Hanging Gardens' atonal music suggest that Schoenberg valued gendered-feminine principles in his compositional style, a closer analysis of the work's musical language shows an intact masculinist hegemony. Through his deployment of uncanny tonal reminiscences, underlying tonal gestures, and closed forms in Hanging Gardens, Schoenberg ensures that the feminine-associated "excesses" of atonality remain under masculine control. This study draws upon the critical musicology of Susan McClary while arguing that Schoenberg's music is socially contingent, affected by the gender biases of his social and literary milieux. It addresses likely influences on Schoenberg's worldview including the philosophy of Otto Weininger, Freudian psychoanalysis, and a complex web of personal relationships. Finally, this analysis highlights the relevance of Schoenberg's world and its constructions of gender to modern performance practice, and argues that performers must consider interrelated historical, textual, and musical factors when interpreting Hanging Gardens in new contexts.

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2012

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Educating theatrically proficient singers: the necessity of acting training in undergraduate voice performance programs

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ABSTRACT

This study will have three sections: 1) outlining the imperative need to include in-depth character study in the preparation of art-song performance; 2) addressing the insufficient theatrical equipping of young collegiate singers in leading undergraduate applied voice programs and its

ABSTRACT

This study will have three sections: 1) outlining the imperative need to include in-depth character study in the preparation of art-song performance; 2) addressing the insufficient theatrical equipping of young collegiate singers in leading undergraduate applied voice programs and its causes, and 3) suggesting methods to advance acting training in classical voice programs. The primary goal will be to improve art song performance pedagogy and the performer’s ability to emotionally communicate with the audience. The first section will demonstrate why character study is necessary in the preparation of a sound art song performance. The musical works used in this study will be Songs of Travel (1904) by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A Young Man’s Exhortation (1929) by Gerald Finzi. These works provide examples of the cycle type in which a single character moves forward through time during the course of the song cycle. The second section will investigate the inadequate instruction received by students in undergraduate voice programs, concerning character analysis, by gathering course requirements from a variety of public and private universities. It will also examine the accrediting bodies that dictate much of the standardized curriculum across the majority of music schools in the U. S. such as the National Association of Schools of Music and the Higher Learning Commission. In the final section, a number of improvements will be suggested and examined according to their viability in training singers to convey both the musical and dramatic context found in the art song repertoire. The sources used in the course of this study include the scores (Boosey and Hawkes) of the aforementioned works, as well as published research on those works. Syllabi and curriculum checksheets from various university voice programs are also used to determine the required course requirements in contemporary applied voice degrees. The accrediting processes from bodies such as the National Association of Schools of Music and the Higher Learning Commission are used in my assessment of obstacles that those processes may inadvertently present.

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Date Created
2018

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Chen Yi's song set As in a dream: the merging of Chinese and Western musical idioms

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In an interview with the author, composer Chen Yi shared thoughts regarding her inspiration to compose the piece As in a Dream. She composed the first version in 1988 for soprano, violin, and cello. Left unpublished, this work was re-done

In an interview with the author, composer Chen Yi shared thoughts regarding her inspiration to compose the piece As in a Dream. She composed the first version in 1988 for soprano, violin, and cello. Left unpublished, this work was re-done in 1994 with the Chinese instruments zheng and pipa in place of the violin and cello. As in a Dream is a setting of two linked poems of six lines each by Qingzhao Li, one of the earliest female poets in China. Chen Yi kept the voice part the same in the two versions, but adapted the accompaniment to suit the Chinese instruments.

This study of As in a Dream focuses on the 1994 version, and especially on the first song, with a view to introducing the singer to its Chinese elements. To help performers to understand better the text of the set, a translation and transliteration of the two poems by Qingzhao Li are offered with line-by-line interpretation. An introduction to the history and characteristics of the zheng and the pipa is supported by examples of the uses of these instruments in the songs. Drawing upon information provided by Chen Yi in the interview with the author, a discussion follows of Mandarin speech tones and their effect on the melodic design of As in a Dream, with music examples. An examination of traditional Beijing Opera styles of singing, with insights provided by Rao Lan, the soprano for whom the work was written, leads to a description of the fusion vocal technique required for performance of As in a Dream and some of the rules for diction in Mandarin Chinese.

Intended as an introductory guide for the soprano contemplating performance of Chen Yi’s As in a Dream, this study also reveals the combination of Eastern and Western musical characteristics in these songs and gives examples of how the music interprets the veiled meaning of the poetry.

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Date Created
2015

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Nicolás Suárez Eyzaguirre and his Monólogos del desierto: a brief biography and a performance guide for singers

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The purpose of this study was to: (1) record and describe a brief history of the life and career of Bolivian composer Dr. Nicolás Suárez Eyzaguirre, and (2) write an analysis from a vocal performer's perspective of Suárez's song cycle

The purpose of this study was to: (1) record and describe a brief history of the life and career of Bolivian composer Dr. Nicolás Suárez Eyzaguirre, and (2) write an analysis from a vocal performer's perspective of Suárez's song cycle for soprano and piano, Monólogos del Desierto, with texts by Dr. Guillermo Mariaca Iturri.

In August of 2013, I traveled to La Paz, Cochabamba, and Coroico, Bolivia, with translator Dr. Marie Cooper Hoffman for thirteen days in order to conduct interviews with Suárez, his family, his colleagues, his composition professors, and other professional musicians. In addition to both in-person and e-mail interviews, I reviewed television productions, videos, and newspaper/magazine articles that featured interviews with Suárez and/or reviews of his works. Also, I familiarized myself with Suárez's compositional style by performing a leading role in the 2011 world premiere of his opera El Compadre; collecting and listening to as many recordings of his works as I could find; and reading the transcript of Suárez's Doctor of Musical Arts Lecture Recital. For this study, I focused specifically on the compositional style of his three-song cycle Monólogos del Desierto. A performance of the work will be part of my defense of this paper.

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2015