Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

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RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

..."Debussy's Nocturnes: Words fail me". Likewise, words failed Debussy!

By the way, Erbarme dich, for some musicians, professors and friends, was simply Bach's expression of his genuine love to his beloved wife. For me, it sounds quite plausible, judging from the passionate and very vibrant music, rather than what the actual text wishes to convey. However, if you do not see that, I will understand. That is the elusive power of Music.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Not really, Chris. I would celebrate if Bach really wrote this great passionate Aria for his wife. I would find it quite bold and tender at the same time.

On the other hand, Bist du bei mir is so poignantly beautiful that it seems like having been blessed by Bach. So, not that much spoiling...Music, sometimes, is so transcendental that can defy any emotion, let alone any words.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Tjh, it was a sort of "wordplay" (the Debussy one, based on what Chris said: "Words fail me"). On the other hand, it is interesting that composers, in some instances use the voices as pure instruments!..(By the way, I love the "Nocturnes" as they are. I cannot complain for anything in Debussy).

As for the "general" value, I meant the general artistic (beyond music) value of the work in question (Beethoven's Ninth, for instance). By the way, the Ninth was a very revolutionary work in "symphonic music" history.

Thanks again for your recurring, but always in a refreshing way, questions comments and observations.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I've been thinking about this and I suspect it is pretty unusual for "words" which are in themselves great works of art to be set to music.  (I'm leaving biblical texts out of this.)  It probably betrays my ignorance but I can't think of many, the Goethe Lieder come to mind of course and the English hymn "Jerusalem" which is a setting of Blake's poem.  I know that many would think that Leonard Cohen's poems are works of art and he has set many of them to music himself.

Are there others I don't know about?

Chris

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Despite I am not a "Shakespearean", I can agree that Verdi's music does not add any value to Macbeth or Othello. I do not think that was his intention either. However, thanks to the texts Piave and Boito prepared (based on the great English playwright's homonymous works), Verdi found the pretext to use them as a vehicle for some of his most memorable, if not monumental, masterpieces of his own.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I thought it would be interesting to borrow my own post from the ongoing Bach Cantatas thread, as it is indeed relevant to this one:

“..but the Siciliano from the concerto, made into the Alto aria “Stirb  in  mir  Welt” makes for one of the most heart-breaking pieces ever composed by Bach, IMO, and it would be a mistake to dismiss it as just a parody if you know the concerto already.

So there is the “pure” music composed by Bach, to which he later added the words. And I think here we have a very fine example of how the words add a new dimension, even if we don’t need to be fully reverential: the last verse “You depraved inclinations of the flesh!” is far too moralizing, and it kind of spoils it, but the first two “Die in me/World and all your love” intensifies the  beauty and sadness of the music”

So that would be a nice exercise: get a recording of the concerto, with harpsichord or piano (BWV 1053) and listen to the siciliano. Then listen to the aria (following the words). The same?

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Nothing can be the "same", Camaron, when the score is not the same (identical) and requires different forces. The actual issue is whether the "text" (the Aria) adds anything of musical value to the score. If it adds anything else, that can be another question...(Personally, I prefer the purity and the unity of the Concerto).

Parla

 

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Again this artificial distinction between 'musical' value and other!

Surely music itself (with or without text) has more than 'musical' value?

Anyway, the relevant point is the one made by Camaron, as to what happens to our perception of the music when Bach adds a text. This example (Cantata 169) is one of quite a few in Bach, and is surely worth pursuing further on its own merits.

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I'm afraid it is not an "artificial distinction", Chris. A work of Music is great because of its musical value. If this work of Music has also political, social, emotional or any other "value", it won't be a better work of Music. It can be a more (or less) "useful" work in some fields of interest.

In the case of BWV169, you and camaron find probably the respective movement with text more "enhanced" (maybe "richer" in some ways). I find the Concerto more pure and solid. However, we both appreciate the core score of the music used either in the Concerto or in the Aria. So, our common denominator is the Music, while the text may affect some but not all of us.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

On this arcane distinction I'm afraid we'll have to disagree as to whether the distinction is artificial or not Parla.  You are perfectly entitled to your opinion as to the music: I'm more than prepared to believe you find the concerto version more musically satisfying. Fine. Others including me, may find the opposite. We, each of us, including you I submit, listen to the whole music, whatever it is composed of (including the words). I don't thhink to myself 76.825% of my enjoyment comes from the musical value and 23.175% from the text: it is one experience either way. And it's the way music and words interact towards that whole experience that is the true subject of this thread, and indeed of the point made by Cameron. OK!

Chris

 

Chris A.Gnostic

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