The ‘Public’ as Protagonist: Realism in the Operas of Berg By Danielle Sutcliffe In a short space of time, between 1900-1935, operatic protagonists began to change. The traditional depiction of characters as heroes based on biblical, mythical or aristocratic figures metamorphosed into a tool for commenting on the perceived social and moral breakdown of society. Morten Solvik postulates that ‘the challenges posed by modern philosophy and science at the turn of the century awakened the suspicion among many intellectuals that something essential was missing from the equation, that there was a yawning gap between what we are taught to be true and what we sense is true about the world around us’.1 He described the aesthetic divergence of composers such as Berg and Schoenberg from that of figures like Mahler who remained with the idealised view of life and art. It is in many ways through this divergence that composers began to initiate the notion of the ‘public’ as protagonist. Berg began to employ protagonists from the lower classes, characters with personality flaws that highlighted the degradation of societies’ traditional moral values. This paper will focus on the operas Lulu and Wozzeck and the various devices the composer used to achieve this change. These include an exploration of well-known music topic types such as Dance Forms (including the influence of Jazz) as well as what seem to be emergent topic types, such as Anxiety and Geometric Serialism. All of which go some way to illustrating the differences in class (both between the characters in the opera and between the characters and the projected audience). They also illustrate the battles with moral issues these protagonists now faced. Furthermore,
the various ways in which different musical motifs and instruments can be used to explicate a theme, such as murder, or a character’s personality trait will be explored. By utilising a through-composed structure and presenting different levels of elaboration in the musical language an audience’s empathy with the characters’ situations can be further advanced. Through the partial abandonment of the Romantic tradition, regarding the formal structure of the opera, Berg created a more reflective urban environment. This was brought about largely by the use of conversational word setting, thus provoking an atmosphere with a greater sense of realism. Background The use of such innovative techniques underpinning the dramaturgy of these operas runs parallel with a contemporaneous German literary trend, which became known as the German Naturalist movement, including dramatists such as Johannes Schlaff, Bertolt Brecht and Arno Holz. Raleigh Whitinger in his book Johannes Schlaff and German Naturalist Drama (1997, p.135) mentions that: In essence, the naturalist depictions of bourgeois reality further reduced the religious and heroic horizons. These plays do not venture into metaphysical speculation; they do not relieve the audience from the dismal picture of reality with intimations of heroic triumph that valorise female sacrifice. In contrast to Hebbel’s, theirs is a world that asks little and says less about the nature of God. Theirs is a world in which the expectations of heroic triumph remain unfulfilled. As well as disabusing reader or audience of the notion that turning points or dramatic change are the stuff of reality, they discourage the idealistic hope that individual suffering might testify to the
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Figure 1: Pitch row (upper part) taken from Lulu, Act III, Scene 1.
workings even of a drastically flawed God, or that the individual society might initiate social change. This parallel between the two genres was anything but coincidental. Berg set three of Schlaf’s poems, Winter and Regen in his Jegend Lieder, and Im Zimmer in the 7 Early Songs. While these songs do not epitomise the harsh realities that are reflected in Berg’s operas they are still composed of urbane subjects; Winter, a Room, etc. For Instance the text to Im Zimmer includes the lines: A little red fire crackles in the stove and flares up. And with my head upon your knee, I am contented. It was after the setting of these poems that Berg began to explore the immoral aspect of society epitomised by the use of ‘real’ people as opposed to kings and deities. Due to the low percentage of the audiences that would have been lower class the presentation of such material might be regarded as similar to placing the underbelly of society under a microscope. The majority of the audience would perhaps be experiencing this type of immoral behaviour for the first time, although a minority would possibly identify with the characters. The audience’s perspective would have changed dramatically, the composer no longer making a declaration of aspiration to the audience. Rather than battling with dragons and giants the protagonists in the opera’s of Berg now battle with moral issues; prostitution, jealousy, destitution and adultery in Berg’s Lulu (1929-35), and murder, madness and class distinction in Wozzeck (1917-22). Along with this change in stratagem the musical language has also changed. The complex extended harmony has been replaced with more direct structures; the highly varied world of leitmotifs in Wagner’s ring cycles replaced with one pitch row which is varied but embedded throughout the whole opera, as in Lulu an example of which is shown in figure 1, and is associated with the leading character Lulu. By removing the embellishment and elaborate
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harmonies from the music Berg gives a greater sense of the reality present in the drama. The dramas are centred on members of the public, not the convoluted world of Monarchs and Gods, and therefore Berg’s use of the orchestra and pitch material is more economic and consequently more indicative of the subject material. From this pitch row, Berg derives tone rows for Alwa and Dr Schön. By using just one tone row to represent three characters, Berg reinforces one of the principle aspects of the opera, the love triangle that occurs between these three characters. This facet of the plot is also a theme that even the upper classes would recognise, thus narrowing the gap between the audience and the lower classes and heightening the sense of reality. Musical Topics The Topic of Dance Throughout the history of music theatre different dance types have been used in order to indicate the social caste of the characters. One example of how composers have depicted the hardness of everyday life has been to call upon the dance topics linked to the lower classes. While for the aristocratic socialites there were dances originally associated with the French courts, ie. the Courante, Chaccone, and the Gavotte, for the lower classes of the Classical and Romantic eras however there are the more rustic dances, like the Jig.2 The distinctive rhythm and compound metre of the Jig gives a spirited and lively impression more suited to the rural shepherds than the upper classes, indeed the Siciliano, which Monelle – in his book The Musical Topic: Hunt, Military and Pastoral (2006) – suggests is the dance most closely associated with the pastoral, uses the same dotted rhythm and time signature. The Pastoral topic however does not signify the large percentage of the population which forms society’s ‘underbelly’, but instead it signifies the mythical rustic ‘peasant’ classes that live an idyllic existence in the forests or fields. This line of reasoning is illustrated in the introductions to Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (1901-3) and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (1914).
In the latter, the Pastoral topic appears at the start of the piece and introduces the Fisherman, a content peasant. He evokes the wind and thanks her for helping him with his work. He seems satisfied to be at his work with no hidden agenda or schemes developing further on in the text. In Gurrelieder the topic invokes a forest in which there is also an Alpine Horn present in the bar before figure one. It presents an E flat chord which was the standard key for German hunting horns and was traditionally used in music to evoke the woodland, including the mythical extension of that (nymphs, dryads, etc.) which returns us to the idealistic notion of the pastoral (Monelle 2000, p.40). This view of the lower classes became a conventional code of the Classical period and as mentioned above continued through to the 1900s. But it is also this type of idealistic symbolism that some composers at the start of the 20thcentury appeared to want to distance themselves from. The idea that the poor led happy carefree lives full of love and merry dances was replaced to start to show the common members of the public in a more contemporary, realistic light. Through the combination of different dance forms a more specific picture of a given situation or a character’s personal status can be illustrated. An example of this is the combination of Waltz and Jazz, described by Monelle as follows: Furthermore, as a hermeneutist [Hatten] is able to show that topics may be juxtaposed and may condition each other; there may be ‘pastoral tragedy’, ‘learned rustics’, and so forth. (Monelle 2006, 23, citing Hatten 1994)
This set of Topics brings a flexibility whereby the signifiers change depending on the conditions of the situation. The signifier’s ingredients, while easy to recognise in one piece of music, might be drastically altered in another though remaining innately recognisable. Alternately a topic with many different aspects, like the various dance forms, can use a combination of these aspects to create a diverse atmosphere or implication. For instance, the combination of the Waltz and Jazz forms in Lulu, underline both the lower class element of the character and the scandal of the situations Lulu creates around herself. The Waltz originated in the 17th-century and appears in both Lulu and Wozzeck. Designed as a dance for the lower classes, the close contact with one’s partner’s body contrasted sharply with the stately dances of the aristocracy – the minuets, polonaises, and quadriphilles – in which one kept one’s distance. The Waltz was the first closed position dance, originally performed with arms twisted at shoulder level, the closed hold was soon introduced. By the end of the 18th-century, this old Austrian peasant dance had been accepted by most of the higher society.3
The Waltz was criticised on moral grounds by those opposed to its close hold and rapid movements.
In July of 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent. A blistering editorial in The Times a few days later stated: ‘We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English
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court on Friday last … It is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.’ One can see how such a dance would originally have had associations with notions of sexuality and the ‘prostitutes and adulteresses’ as mentioned above. It is however possible to suggest that, over the passage of 50-100 years, the correlation could have softened somewhat and metamorphosed into a signifier of love rather than purely one of sex, particularly considering the other, more controversial dances that had emerged in the intervening years, such as Jazz. The blossoming realism in the portrayal of the public is efficiently illustrated by the differences between the two types of waltzes used by both Schoenberg and Berg. Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder has as its main characters King Waldemar and his love Tovelille. The waltzes in this piece use the sonorous, thick textures and extended tonality evident in Mahler and Wagner, a traditional waltz rhythm and a major key, all synonymous with the public perception of true romantic love. In Gurrelieder the waltz is used each time Waldemar or Tove sing of their love for each other, for instance in the first song sung by Waldemar ‘Nun
Figure 2:The traditional form of the Waltz in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, followed by the ‘Jazz’ version in Berg’s Lulu.
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dämpft die dämmerung’ (‘Now dusk damps every sound’) (figure  in the score) (shown in figure 2) and in the second of Tove’s songs ‘Sterne Jubeln, das Meer’ (‘The stars rejoice, the shining sea’) (at figure  in the score). Lulu’s waltzes however rely on the expression of a ‘real’ person, an unrefined commoner not a king or queen or mythical being, and consequently the waltz is no longer the epitome of idealistic love and romance but rather a dissonant jazz version (figure 2). The use of a jazz band in place of the orchestral instruments that appear in earlier operas is the first notable difference. It is well documented of course that Jazz originated at the close of the 19th-century in the dance halls and brothels of the South and Midwest of America where the word jazz commonly referred to sexual intercourse.4 While the emancipation of slaves led to new opportunities for education of freed African-Americans strict segregation meant limited employment opportunities. Black musicians provided ‘low-class’ entertainment at dances, minstrel shows, and in vaudeville, as well as in the bars, clubs and brothels where ragtime developed. When in his opera Wozzeck he directs the orchestra to play a slow Ländler, the peasant dance that preceded the waltz, Berg highlights the parallel between the topic and the text. The soldiers and girls of the barracks are dancing and bemoaning the state of the world: ‘Why is the world so sad? Even money goes rotten!’ as is the want of all drunks around the world. At this point Wozzeck appears and sees Marie and the Drum Major dance by and cries out ‘Turn! Roll about! … Everything is wallowing in lust: man and woman, creatures both human and
animal!’. This demonstrates not only that Berg knows the connotations of the dance, but also the origin of its name as ‘roll about’ which literally translates as ‘wälzt’.5
This is one of the most common topics in works composed by Berg in this period. Possibly due to the need to break away from the idealism of romantic composers. However it is interesting to note that just prior to this move away from idealism Freud had presented his analysis of the psyche, an analysis which included his suggestions that our psyche consists of three different components,9 the id, the superego and the ego.
Another lower class dance used in Wozzeck is the Polka, a peasant dance of Bohemian origin6 that due to the ease with which it could be learnt became a popular dance with men particularly. This is because for these types of dances it is the man’s responsibility to know the Figure 3: Signifiers of the Thriller topic from Wozzeck, steps and lead The question Act 1 Scene 2, Berg 1917-22. the woman then arises as which makes to what would them harder to happen if the learn. Unfortunately the fact that it was popular ego fails in its control of either, or both, of the for men made it an unpopular dance with the other two components? By letting the id take parents of young girls everywhere.7 In Wozzeck control of the psyche a person is liable to act a Schnellpolka or fast polka is played just after out their desire for sex and/or violence followed Wozzeck kills Marie thus emphasising the by considerable attacks of anxiety and guilt. baseness of both Wozzeck’s character and of the By showing the underbelly of society enacting people that dance on through such a grave and murder, adultery and finally madness, Berg intense act as murder. might be seen as exploring the consequences of the protagonist’s failure to control their own ‘Anxiety’ subconscious resulting in the appearance of a The Anxiety topic8 appears in Wozzeck, Lulu topic dedicated almost wholly to the illustration and Die Altenberglieder, as well as Bartok’s The of aggression and anxiety. Although it is perhaps Miraculous Manderin. It is signified by a more not possible to prove or disprove this theory it homophonic and conjunct texture to the music, is well-known that Berg and Freud had met and often mostly monorhythmical with either that some of Freud’s associates and pupils were the woodwind or brass playing a syncopated friends of the composer. rhythm. This creates a driving force behind the music informing the listener that it is The topic of Anxiety uses syncopated irregular leading somewhere. This is maintained by the rhythms to mimic the ragged breaths of use of tremolo in the strings and drum rolls someone who is nervous, irregular vocal entries or rhythmic impulses. There are also gradual and wide ranging leaps to create the atmosphere crescendos to a climax in both percussion of panic and ostinatos or bass pedals in the and voice. An example of this topic presented lower instruments to create suspense. It is successfully in Wozzeck appears in Act 1 Scene 2 not often that an individual will come across and can be seen in figure 3. the situations outlined in Wagner’s operas, however the sensations that accompany fear
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and anxiety are all too familiar. We have all at some time in our lives experienced the feeling of our heart beating loud and constant in our chest; the ostinatos and pedal notes provide the musical equivalent to this constancy. We have also all heard our voice quiver and change as our nervousness overwhelms us and this uncontrollable behaviour is echoed by the irregularity of the pitch and rhythm. This topic uses sprechgesang or sprechstimme as a main signifier for the anxiousness and fear that they feel.10 This technique embodies the topic of Anxiety both psychologically and physiologically. Psychologically for the reason that as the singer moves away from the pitch the audience becomes unsure of it. There are no ‘normal’ parameters here for them to grasp onto; therefore making it quite uncomfortable to listen to, but still has more in common stylistically with an average person’s conversational style than, say, a Da Capo Aria might. When performing this technique the singer contracts her vocal tract, so physiologically it becomes more anxious to listen to, as a perceptive audience will hear the strain in the performer’s voice. The technique is also reminiscent of the fact that when our emotions run high we do tend to pitch our words as exclamations. This effect is used extensively throughout the expressionist operas of Lulu and Wozzeck and has been seen to at times ‘evoke the most mysterious inner expressions of the mind, like the unspoken words of the subconscious mind’.11 In Wozzeck this is certainly possible, for Berg most repeatedly uses this particular technique when Wozzeck is hallucinating. For instance in Scene 2 Andrés and Wozzeck are in a field with the town in the distance. Wozzeck exclaims ‘This place is cursed!’. He goes on to describe his vision as it occurs, becoming increasingly
convinced that someone is after them. In Lulu sprechstimme is not used to give vent to the character’s ‘inner voices’ but rather to accentuate the angst of the situations she finds herself in. It is used here in combination with staccato and rapid delivery, making the vocal parts sound more harsh and accented. This allows the listener access to the emotion of the character, perhaps more readily than a sung melody might. This then leads the audience to empathise with the characters and the plot, to feel the fear the characters are feeling. Gone are the days of assured victory against insurmountable odds. Instead we are presented with the possibility that the story may not turn out alright in the end, and that the threat the character faces – whether it is blackmail, attempted murder or an act which they themselves must commit – is actual and may be insuperable. For instance the self-effected prostitution of Lulu or the forced solicitation of the young girl in The Miraculous Mandarin. Musical motifs In his introduction to Claudio Abbado’s recording of Wozzeck, Douglas Jarmen explains that as well as using topics to elucidate the characters’ personalities Berg also uses musical motifs and musical forms to symbolise the psychological essence of the scene. For instance the various ‘inventions’ of the final act represent the obsessions that, by this stage of the drama, dominate Wozzeck’s tortured mind. Thus the single note B natural, present throughout the murder scene of Act III Scene 2, moves up and down the score, passing between the different instruments while receding into or emerging from the orchestral texture. Representing the idea of the murder as it grows or diminishes in intensity in Wozzeck’s thoughts, until it comes to the fore at the moment of the murder itself and then erupts into the enormous double crescendo that forms the following orchestral Figure 4:The B natural is present here at the point of the murder, in both the timpani and Marie’s scream for help. Wozzeck, Act 3 Scene 2, Berg 191722.
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interlude. Berg uses a similar technique in Lulu to show the difference in the characters’ personalities, although often with a very critical attitude. For the more obvious illustrations of this theory, one should look at three of the lesser characters that appear throughout the opera – Schigolch, the Athlete and the Schoolboy. Schigolch Schigolch initially appears in the second scene of act I just before the painter has committed suicide. The musical language used for his character is very chromatic with irregular rests. The rhythms are mostly in either semiquavers or quavers, depending on the situation but rarely mixed. This gives an impression of an old man slightly unsteady on his feet (the irregular rests), but with a constancy about his nature (the separation of the rhythms into either quavers or semiquavers). He is the character that has known Lulu the longest and therefore probably one of the only constants in her life as her name is changed by the professor and the painter and we soon find out that Lulu is in fact not her real name. The range of the instrumentation used is always low when used in conjunction with this character; Berg asks for a ‘higher characterbass’ to play the part and the range of the orchestration reflects that. The other device Berg uses in conjunction with his character is the glissandi. In act I it is used in the clarinet part, and in act II it is used in the string parts.
The Athlete This character is portrayed in the music by Berg as a cumbersome man. He is rendered absurd in a most brutal and direct manner, his music built with the most manifestly coarse materials. By having the piano struck with the player’s fists and forearms, on black keys, white keys and in glissandos, Berg defines a character whose principal virtue is boorishness. The vocal part calls for a heroic bass with comic impact. This big voice is then combined with a disjunct, pentatonic theme made more lumbering temporally by the almost exclusive use of crotchets and minims. With glissandi and grace notes added to the blend it becomes a graceless picture of an oafish man (figure 5). His vocal line is often doubled by the trombone, an instrument which, as has been discussed above, is usually associated with the egocentric side of man, when it is clear the id has begun to overwhelm the ego. This is a side of the Athlete’s personality that is shown to the audience when he and others are discussing Lulu’s jailbreak. She is to be his wife once she is free and he talks, not of his love for her, but of the money she will make for him as a dancer and acrobat. He reveals that he will not even be accompanying her to Paris but will send her with Schigolch, whom he believes to be her father. The Schoolboy In contrast to the Athlete’s lumbering persona the schoolboy is portrayed as an excitable youth. Rhythmically faster than his elders,
Glissandi have often been associated with drunks and vagabonds12 so when Schigolch is introduced as a beggar in the first act it becomes an appropriate device to underline this side of his character13. The trombone is the instrument most associated with this device due to the ease with which it can be performed, but Berg often used the clarinet as well, an instrument that Figure 5:The Grace notes, glissandi and piano chords due to differing pressure and associated with the Athlete, Lulu, Berg 1929-35. positioning of the embouchure a performer can produce an exceedingly vulgar glissando. Berg uses a combination of the two instruments he utilises quavers, triplets and semiquavers, in Wozzeck to accompany the two drunk his voice rises, often arpeggiated, with each journeymen as they voice their anguish at the phrase as if (as directed at bar 103) his state of their immortal souls. statements are fanfares. He is often doubled or echoed by the flute, oboe or clarinet,
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all high-pitched instruments themselves, all adding to the impetuous atmosphere around this character. This character helps to offset the other characters. The recklessness of youth, and relative innocence of the character, contrasts with the older characters’ scheming personalities. It is as if the composer is warning us how impressionable young men can be in the presence of their elders, by showing how an infatuation with a woman has led this boy into crime.
and Wozzeck. It is used in much the same way the Mannheim Rocket is used in diatonic music. The Mannheim Rocket is a rising arpeggio in the tonic key that often appears at the beginning of a piece to raise the listener’s awareness of its key centre. In this case the topic uses all 12 tones to accentuate the fact that the music is atonal and therefore all tones are equal. It is usually written so that it forms a geometric shape on the score, a block (Altenberglieder) or a triangular/wedge shape (Gurrelieder).
In Lulu it appears at bar 93 as a rising diagonal shape, at the beginning of the first act when the three main characters and the painter are introduced. It appears firstly as four descending chords, then as separate tones connected in sequence by slurs to show importance and then as an ascending melody in the strings. This scene very quickly introduces the main dramatic theme of adultery, the main characters, and the musical language, immediately giving the audience an idea of what is to come.
The through-composed structure innovated by Berg in Lulu both defines and illuminates the new style of writing. Classical and Romantic operas usually consisted of a collection of arias, duets, etc. This structural technique produced many beautiful stand-alone works but, in a literary parallel, is reminiscent of the soliloquies and monologues of Shakespearian theatre, works of major significance but they certainly do not reflect the normal conversational patterns of the listening public. During the Classical and Romantic operas you are expected to suspend your disbelief, including your expectation of conventional modes of communication.
Where the Geometric topic reflects the modernity of the piece another device reflects the conversational aspect itself. Each character is associated with a certain instrument or musical style such as the alto saxophone linked to Alwa,
However throughout the opera Lulu, Berg employs an innovative through-composed structure as if the characters are having normal conversations, arguments and negotiations, consistently reminding you of reality. From the first scene of act I Berg dispenses with the idea of one character dominating a scene by introducing four characters in the first six bars. Thus the conversational style is introduced immediately also. Although the Painter is silent the other three characters each utter only a sentence at a time, themselves only encompassing one to two bars each. The music also reflects this style: at bars 93-97 a Figure 6:The Geometric Serial Topic (outlined) series of slurs connect the focal present in Lulu, Act 1 bars 93-99. tones shared between the violins and viola. At this point, as if to underline the modernity of this technique, the the virtuosic violin that corresponds to the ‘geometric serial’ topic appears. Marquis and the piano chords that show the boorish nature of the Athlete. The exchanges The Geometric Serial Topic in the text are then emulated in the score by This is a proposed new topic that the author has the interactions of these instruments. These found used extensively in atonal music including associations also highlight the social differences pieces by Bartók in 14 Bagatelles, Schoenberg in of the characters, for instance the high-bred Gurrelieder and in Berg’s Die Altenberglieder, Lulu Marquis is represented by a ‘Concertante Solo
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Violine’. This is initially introduced in a choral variation at the beginning of act III, a very stately homophonic form that accentuates the aristocratic character, with the virtuoso violin then accompanying his voice as he argues with Lulu. It is likely that at the time of composition it would have been only the well off that would have been able to afford a ticket to see a concert and therefore the correlation between the concerto and the rich would have been more apparent. Although this shift towards realism was not shared by all Germanic composers of the time, as is mentioned in Solvik’s exposition, Mahler and others continued with Romantic traditions, it certainly was not restricted geographically. The
of scenes that illustrate aspects of intolerance. To exemplify this Nono uses contextual slogans that were present at the time, for instance ‘Morte al fascismo!’ (‘Death to Fascism’) and ‘Down with discrimination!’. Statements, made particularly by the police and government, that were recorded in the aftermath of World War Two are also used when the police are interrogating the emigrant. The use of speech at this point, rather than a sung melody adds to the realistic methodology used throughout this work. At three points Nono employs a ‘voice’ to give testimony to the events of the scene. For instance in Scene III the Voice of Sartre proclaims: ‘At no time has the wish to be free been more urgent or stronger. At no time has oppression been more violent or better armed’,15 providing a temporally contextual bond between the art of the opera and the real world it is depicting.
Figure 7:The Marquis’ Virtuosic accompaniment. Lulu, Act 3 Scene 1, Berg 1929-35.
Czech composer Janá ek (1854-1928) employed the same socio-realist approach in his operas Jen fa (1904) and Kat’a Kabánova (1923-4). This socio-realist approach was readdressed later in the 20th-century, most notably by Benjamin Britten and Luigi Nono (1924-1990). In 1945 Britten wrote Peter Grimes, the main protagonist of which is introduced as an outcast in his village because of his rage and mistreatment of others. This character then gradually descends into madness and eventually suicide, which is shown musically by the violence of the score and the use of the same signifiers outlined above in connection with the Anxiety Topic. An example of this is present in Act I Scene I at figures 37-49 in the score. While a storm is raging Captain Balstrode torments Grimes. The content of their conversation is dark, concerning the feelings of the villagers towards Grimes, and the death of his apprentice. This is mirrored in the music by a quasi recitative vocal part performed over wide ranging leaps and tremelo strings. Nono’s Intolleranza (1960) concerns a refugee from Southern Italy who, through various hardships, eventually ends up in a concentration camp. Fitch14 has commented that this work has ‘no plot as such’, but rather consists of a series
The chorus is also significant in this work, regarding the depiction of the themes of intolerance, incorporating devices such as chanting and screaming. As a contrast to the despair throughout, the one chant portrays hope and freedom from the oppression they are fighting for. This mantra (‘Beat in the streets the tattoo of revolt!’) is homophonic and rises melodically creating a stark contrast to the chants of the prisoners, miners and country people which are unstable and almost contrapuntal. The realm of socio-realism and the concurrent use of the public as protagonist was not restricted to the Germanic sphere of influence, nor did it only emerge for a short length of time. Although it seems to have arisen fairly rapidly at the turn of the century, with composers and authors revolting against the idealism of the Romantics, it certainly did not dissipate as quickly. Endnotes 1 ‘Mahler’s Untimely Modernism’, Perspectives on Gustav Mahler 2005, p.154. 2 A dance associated with England, Scotland and Ireland that eventually made it into Bach’s
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baroque suites as the gigue, usually as the final movement. 3 Lori Heikkila, www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/waltz.htm 4 Heikkila, www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/jazz.htm 5 Heikkila. 6 Heikkila. 7 Heikkila. 8 This is a working title that the author has provided for a topic that is currently under research. There is also ongoing research into the proposal that it may appear in many other works by this composer and his contemporaries. 9 Sammons, Aidan, www.psychlotron.org.uk 10 A vocal technique created by Schoenberg and used extensively in his composition Pierrot Lunaire in 1912. The task of the performer is to transform it into a speech-melody, taking into account the given pitch. This is achieved by maintaining the rhythm as accurately as if one were singing, ie. with no more freedom than would be allowed with singing melody and also by becoming acutely aware of the difference between singing tone and speaking tone: singing tone unalterably stays on the pitch, whereas speaking tone sounds the pitch but immediately leaves it again by falling or rising. To indicate this technique a cross should be applied to the tail of the note, see figure 3. 11 Reynolds, www.asu.edu/cfa/classnotes/music/reynolds/MHL342/20th/schoenberg.html 12 For instance in Beethoven’s 6th Symphony the device is used to represent Bacchus and in Stravinsky’s 3 Pieces for String Quartet the second movement ‘Eccentric’, it is employed for the Russian clown ‘Little Tick’. 13 This device is also used by Bartok in his ballet ‘The Miraculous Mandarin’. In this ballet Bartok tells the story of a group of tramps that force a girl to lure men up to their room so they can rob them. They force the girl to the window and she dances, enticing her first victim – a shabby old rake – up the stairs. The trombone part is suddenly full of glissandi letting the listener know the character’s personality immediately. 14 Fitch, ‘Reviews: Luigi Nono’ (CD reviews) (1995) The Musical Times, 136 (1829) p.366. 15 Translated by Hugh Graham, by permission of Ars Viva Verlag, Mainz.
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