'If music and sweet poetry agree' : the marriage of two art-forms, with particular emphasis on speech rhythm & inflection, dramatic intensity & musical coherence
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 10:27 authored by Middenway, R
This applied research project has focussed on the sequence of compositional challenges faced when setting verse to music, its principal output a folio of settings of verse spanning thirteen centuries. For the sake of general accessibility, the texts selected were predominantly in English, with two sets in translation from the original Japanese and one in Latin. The works included in the folio are: a choral canzonet; a duet; four complete song cycles and extracts from a fifth; a cantata for solo voices, choir and chamber ensemble; and a piece for two solo voices and orchestra. To provide a broader compositional context, excerpts from two of the other works completed during the project are included in the folio: from a piano sonata, and from a new realisation of the Latin medieval church opera, The Play of Daniel. Three other instrumental pieces completed during the project are omitted from the folio. Experience as a singer, choral conductor, opera production and stage manager and long-time music and opera critic has inevitably informed my creative practice. In this Exegesis I identify some composers whose approaches to word-setting have consciously and no doubt unconsciously influenced my personal approach over the years, and consider ways in which specific works of several of them might have influenced some aspects of the pieces in the folio. In the core of the exegesis I consider two key works in the folio, documenting in varying detail the procedures employed in text selection and analysis, and subsequently in musical synthesis. But the overall creative process depends on unconscious art as much as conscious craft; in this contextualising document I consider the verse itself and the evanescent clouds of ideas and emotions that evidently drove the various poets, my personal responses, and the musical processes by which I set out to communicate these ideas and emotions to performers and audiences, balancing craft and art with the aim of illuminating the verse.
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