Musical Interpretations of Modernist Literature

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This essay examines the ways in which modernist musical works exhibit patterns analogous to (or distinct from) the literary texts of which they are settings. Elliott Carter's "Anaphora" accurately interprets Elizabeth Bishop's poem by matching its dynamically shifting rhetoric with similarly shifting intervals and vocal styles. Jean Barraqué and Gyorgy Kurtág, however, musically misinterpret the texts, respectively, of Hermann Broch and Samuel Beckett, but nevertheless produce powerful works of music. Barraqué and Kurtág, like Carter, use musical devices to create dynamic musical analogues of the literary works as they imagine them. Thus it is the idea of the text in the composer's mind that is manifest in the work of music, which then becomes a powerful vehicle through which the listener-reader has access to an interpretation of the text.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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