Benjamin Britten: Text Setting as Cultural Custodian in Art Song


Higgins, Paul (2010) Benjamin Britten: Text Setting as Cultural Custodian in Art Song. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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Abstract

Proposing the thesis that, for Benjamin Britten, text-setting analysis is analogous to song analysis; this dissertation cautions that non-engagement in text-setting is to approach song as if it were instrumental music; likewise, to consider inadequately the wide-ranging musical implications of music-text relations is to limit the interpretive possibilities of song. This research approaches the analysis of song through an engagement with songs composed by Britten in the 1930s from texts by W. H. Auden. Blending insights from literary and linguistic studies with rhythmic analysis, this necessarily interdisciplinary research places song analysis in cultural context; text (poetic and musical) requires social context. Setting out with this rationale and these aims, this dissertation offers new perspectives for song interpretation, song classification and the social function of song. Poetic analysis is presented as central to an understanding of Britten’s song text setting. The mimetic possibility of song to present word and mood painting receives widespread support. This dissertation goes beyond this often considered diminutive fundamental capacity of song to represent text, and recognises a more complete representation of poetic form, the effect of individual words and word units and poetic meaning, in song. Musical language is repeatedly and consistently shown to highlight, to reinforce, to accentuate, to stress, to correlate and align with text; essentially song complements or contests verbal language. These musical equivalences are shown to be derivative of text but also become independent of text in song. Text setting is proposed not as one possible component of song analysis; rather text setting is the ultimate consolidating focus of song interpretation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Benjamin Britten; Text Setting; Cultural Custodian; Art Song;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > Music
Item ID: 4068
Depositing User: IR eTheses
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2013 17:54
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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