American art song in the new millennium

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American art song in the new millennium

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1. Irene Girton International CMS Conference, July 9, 2001 American art song in the new millennium The history of art song isn’t very long, really not much more than 200 years or so, stretching back as far as Mozart. Art song remains alive and well today, witness to a style evolution which travels from the 19th-century golden age of the Lied through the first half of the 20th century, the Modernist phase, followed by a neoromantic period, leading to the present state of a post-modernist aesthetic.The history of art song isn’t very long, really not much more than 200 years or so, stretching back as far as Mozart. Art song remains alive and well today, witness to a style evolution which travels from the 19th-century golden age of the Lied through the first half of the 20th century, the Modernist phase, followed by a neoromantic period, leading to the present state of a post-modernist aesthetic.

2. Yeston said, while working on December Songs: Die Winterreise is the greatest song cycle ever written. It has a contemporaneity that never goes away, and what I hope to do is to create a modern equivalent, to paraphrase the ethos of Die Winterreise, with its ambivalence, its major/minor duality, and its natural images that are metaphors of the character’s internal state. Only instead of a young man in Austria, it’s a woman in New York – Central Park instead of the Austrian forest. The rels w/Winterreise and Die sch M are at times extremely direct, obvious, even forced in places, while at other times parallels between Yeston’s and Schubert’s style are more subtle. For example, Yeston uses the harmonic technique of modal mixture, a favorite of Schubert’s, for moments of extreme poignancy and for dramatic turning points – there’s an excellent example in Yeston’s first song. In the 19th-c Lied, a mingling of immediate sensation with references to long-range time abound. Note, e.g., Rueckblick (backward glance) from Winterreise: (see notes), and many many other songs, which recall times and places gone by. Yeston said, while working on December Songs: Die Winterreise is the greatest song cycle ever written. It has a contemporaneity that never goes away, and what I hope to do is to create a modern equivalent, to paraphrase the ethos of Die Winterreise, with its ambivalence, its major/minor duality, and its natural images that are metaphors of the character’s internal state. Only instead of a young man in Austria, it’s a woman in New York – Central Park instead of the Austrian forest. The rels w/Winterreise and Die sch M are at times extremely direct, obvious, even forced in places, while at other times parallels between Yeston’s and Schubert’s style are more subtle. For example, Yeston uses the harmonic technique of modal mixture, a favorite of Schubert’s, for moments of extreme poignancy and for dramatic turning points – there’s an excellent example in Yeston’s first song. In the 19th-c Lied, a mingling of immediate sensation with references to long-range time abound. Note, e.g., Rueckblick (backward glance) from Winterreise: (see notes), and many many other songs, which recall times and places gone by.

3. Hypnotic, trudging piano part; melodic congruence (see next slide)Hypnotic, trudging piano part; melodic congruence (see next slide)

4. Shows the pitch contour relationships between end-lines.Shows the pitch contour relationships between end-lines.

5. Direct text reference to “In der Fremde,” song 1 from Schumann’s Liederkreis op. 39. Play. Note also Yeston’s use of or bVI in an un-Schubertian, but highly referential way at end of song, to link C major w/C minor. Schubert would have used this as an aug 6th, perhaps, or as a pre-dom’t chd – Yeston uses it more baldly than that, going directly back to tonic. Direct text reference to “In der Fremde,” song 1 from Schumann’s Liederkreis op. 39. Play. Note also Yeston’s use of or bVI in an un-Schubertian, but highly referential way at end of song, to link C major w/C minor. Schubert would have used this as an aug 6th, perhaps, or as a pre-dom’t chd – Yeston uses it more baldly than that, going directly back to tonic.

6. Notation for this relationship Notation for this relationship

7. Obvious style analogy – drone bass, swirling accompaniment. The next-to-last line of the Yeston song has the words, “Mr. Bookseller, let me in…”, while the Schubert song’s penultimate line reads as follows: “Wunderlicher Alter, soll ich mit dir geh’n?” Obvious style analogy – drone bass, swirling accompaniment. The next-to-last line of the Yeston song has the words, “Mr. Bookseller, let me in…”, while the Schubert song’s penultimate line reads as follows: “Wunderlicher Alter, soll ich mit dir geh’n?”

8. Very odd song (the Schubert) – much discussion re the meaning of the song. Are the 3 suns Faith, Hope and Love? The real sun, and the eyes of his beloved? (the two that sink). That aside, we see again a direct correspondence of text and image, as well as a slightly more subtle link of pitch contour (next slide) – neighbor-note idiom. Very odd song (the Schubert) – much discussion re the meaning of the song. Are the 3 suns Faith, Hope and Love? The real sun, and the eyes of his beloved? (the two that sink). That aside, we see again a direct correspondence of text and image, as well as a slightly more subtle link of pitch contour (next slide) – neighbor-note idiom.

9. Emphasis on 3: neighbor-note gesture in the Schubert; prolongation of 3 through linear descent in Yeston. Both foregrounds express the same simple middle-ground. Emphasis on 3: neighbor-note gesture in the Schubert; prolongation of 3 through linear descent in Yeston. Both foregrounds express the same simple middle-ground.

10. Ethos, imagery, personification directly taken from Die schöne Müllerin, not Winterreise. River / stream as character; rippling accompaniment, explicit text reference. Ethos, imagery, personification directly taken from Die schöne Müllerin, not Winterreise. River / stream as character; rippling accompaniment, explicit text reference.

11.

12. In Heggie’s own words: What an amazing time it is for American art song! … For me, every song is a drama of its own… In each song I try to create a sense of the psychology and emotion behind the words in order to create a sense of character; but I also try to leave plenty of room for the performer to invest his or her own sense of the drama… In these songs the singer encounters the full gamut of the influences I grew up with: folk music, jazz, pop, opera, rock, art song. I encourage performers to embrace these elements in the songs and not shy away from them. If it feels jazzy, well, it probably is.” In an email to me, he wrote “When I was writing Eve-Song, I was definitely in a transitional period for my writing ... I suddenly felt the impact of all the jazz I grew up listening to (my father was a jazz saxophonist). My left-over academic conscience kept yelling at me to ignore that influence, but the real me kept wanting to let it just happen ... what evolved in the song cycle is a steadily growing jazz sound, particularly starting with Eve's first encounter with the snake ("Listen") and then in the song "Snake" itself, of course. I guess more than anything, it refers to a greater sense of liberation and freedom -- for Eve AND for the composer. The cycle itself was really key in me getting used to trusting gut instincts in my writing ... and to acknowledging all of the musical influences I grew up with: including jazz, pop, tv, shows, rock, etc. … As for being identified as a post-modernist ... I haven't a CLUE! ... I just write what I write and hope it speaks. Poetry by Philip Littell (wrote libretto for Andre Previn’s opera “streetcar named desire”) In Heggie’s own words: What an amazing time it is for American art song! … For me, every song is a drama of its own… In each song I try to create a sense of the psychology and emotion behind the words in order to create a sense of character; but I also try to leave plenty of room for the performer to invest his or her own sense of the drama… In these songs the singer encounters the full gamut of the influences I grew up with: folk music, jazz, pop, opera, rock, art song. I encourage performers to embrace these elements in the songs and not shy away from them. If it feels jazzy, well, it probably is.” In an email to me, he wrote “When I was writing Eve-Song, I was definitely in a transitional period for my writing ... I suddenly felt the impact of all the jazz I grew up listening to (my father was a jazz saxophonist). My left-over academic conscience kept yelling at me to ignore that influence, but the real me kept wanting to let it just happen ... what evolved in the song cycle is a steadily growing jazz sound, particularly starting with Eve's first encounter with the snake ("Listen") and then in the song "Snake" itself, of course. I guess more than anything, it refers to a greater sense of liberation and freedom -- for Eve AND for the composer. The cycle itself was really key in me getting used to trusting gut instincts in my writing ... and to acknowledging all of the musical influences I grew up with: including jazz, pop, tv, shows, rock, etc. … As for being identified as a post-modernist ... I haven't a CLUE! ... I just write what I write and hope it speaks. Poetry by Philip Littell (wrote libretto for Andre Previn’s opera “streetcar named desire”)

13. Parallels with Ives’s “The Cage:” see next slide.Parallels with Ives’s “The Cage:” see next slide.

14. Parallels with Ives’s “The Cage:” sinuous stepwise recitative-like melody, with non-tertian chords, symmetrical in both cases. Heggie’s harmony is voiced in 5th+2nd, while Ives’s is voiced in superposed 4ths. Heggie’s can be revoiced with A on bottom as 4ths.Parallels with Ives’s “The Cage:” sinuous stepwise recitative-like melody, with non-tertian chords, symmetrical in both cases. Heggie’s harmony is voiced in 5th+2nd, while Ives’s is voiced in superposed 4ths. Heggie’s can be revoiced with A on bottom as 4ths.

15. The song has an ostinato bass line that immediately calls up a sultry jazzy association. The singer preserves this mood until the climax – next slide. The song has an ostinato bass line that immediately calls up a sultry jazzy association. The singer preserves this mood until the climax – next slide.

16. Talk about the composer-performer relationship (Heggie and Yeston also!). Augér wanted a work which “spoke about the finding of mature love (in contrast to the girlish tone of much of Frauenliebe und Leben, e.g.). Sonnets fr Port Augér’s fav poetry above all. EBB’s poems portray a creaive woman grappling w/issues that continue to confront modern women, within a stylized and romantic language. Other Larsen song cycles: ME, drawn from the 1938 autobiography of Brenda Ueland, “a woman of fiery, if not disciplined, personality.” A fantastic narrative voice. Also Margaret Songs, based on a story by Willa Cather and drawn from Larsen’s opera Eric Hermannson’s Soul.Talk about the composer-performer relationship (Heggie and Yeston also!). Augér wanted a work which “spoke about the finding of mature love (in contrast to the girlish tone of much of Frauenliebe und Leben, e.g.). Sonnets fr Port Augér’s fav poetry above all. EBB’s poems portray a creaive woman grappling w/issues that continue to confront modern women, within a stylized and romantic language. Other Larsen song cycles: ME, drawn from the 1938 autobiography of Brenda Ueland, “a woman of fiery, if not disciplined, personality.” A fantastic narrative voice. Also Margaret Songs, based on a story by Willa Cather and drawn from Larsen’s opera Eric Hermannson’s Soul.

17. This motive represents both a musical embrace, and a persistent resistance to coming together, signified by the d8ve to which these converging lines progress. At the end of the song, paradoxically, the lines do converge at last to an 8ve pair of A-flats – in one writer’s opinion, this signifies a temporary loss of nerve on EBB’s part. In the 5th and 6th songs, she regains her conviction that Robert Browning is worth risking all, “leaving all,” for.This motive represents both a musical embrace, and a persistent resistance to coming together, signified by the d8ve to which these converging lines progress. At the end of the song, paradoxically, the lines do converge at last to an 8ve pair of A-flats – in one writer’s opinion, this signifies a temporary loss of nerve on EBB’s part. In the 5th and 6th songs, she regains her conviction that Robert Browning is worth risking all, “leaving all,” for.

18.

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