Britten's Musical Language (Music in the Twentieth Century) by Philip Rupprecht

By Philip Rupprecht

Mixing insights from linguistic and social theories of speech, ritual and narrative with music-analytic and old criticism,Britten's Musical Language bargains clean views at the composer's fusion of verbal and musical utterance in opera and tune. It presents shut interpretative stories of the key ratings (including Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, The flip of the Screw, warfare Requiem, Curlew River and demise in Venice) and explores Britten's skill to model advanced and mysterious symbolic dramas from the interaction of texted music and wordless discourse of factors and topics.

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The music drama combines the sounds of God’s promise with those of mankind’s rejoicing. At this moment in the performance, a threshold is crossed. When those watching join in Tallis’s ancient hymn tune, echoing Noye’s family and all the animals, they pass from silent witnesses to inhabitants of the symbolic world visible before them. 44 Each singer takes a place in a miraculous and exotic sounding totality – the music’s contrapuntal strictness (canon) is a sounding confirmation of the one as a constituent atomic part of an all.

The indirectness of the choric voice in the Sunday Morning scene is characteristic, and its purely sonic relation to Peter’s actual stage presence is crucial to the drama of the Act 2 hut scene (where we hear Hobson’s approaching drum), and, most powerfully, in the Act 3 mad scene, founded on their off-stage voices calling Peter’s name. The role of the chorus is always indirect, yet powerfully coercive; it is their proximity to Peter’s hut that prompts the boy’s fatal cliffside escape, after all (and I will return in detail to their role in the mad scene).

Introduction 21 discourse. 35 For much of the reflection process, I have suggested, Britten’s Lachrymae conflates speaking presences in a scenario with connotations of utterance occluded or held back, if not of outright struggle among speakers. 36) Articulating a purely instrumental claim to voice, Lachrymae returns discussion of utterance in Britten’s music to Jakobsonian concepts of contact as the channel through which communication flows. 39 Composed around a yearning for what is absent, Lachrymae dramatizes the gulf – central to Britten’s art – between instrumental utterance that is complete in itself and an articulate utterance, grounded more directly in the expressive capabilities of verbal language.

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