Dante and Music
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PublicationCONVERSATIONS WITH FRANCESCA: TCHAIKOVSKY, LISZT, AND WAGNER (AND ZANDONAI AND GRANADOS AND RACHMANINOV) GO TO HELL(2018-12-10) Tyre, JessTchaikovsky completed his tone poem Francesca da Rimini in 1876, during the period he was attending the premiere of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth. Critics of the work drew comparisons with the Tetralogy and faulted what seemed to be Tchaikovsky’s derivative inspiration. Indeed, the composer him-self acknowledged Wagner’s influence. In this paper, I set aside influence to consider intertextual dialogues between Tchaikovsky’s work and others by Liszt, Zandonai, Rachmaninov, and not Wagner’s Ring, but Tristan und Isolde. Drawing upon theories by Klein and Peirce, I examine parallelisms of topic, melodic contour, tonal motion, and timbral signifiers to establish a “conversation” between Francesca’s tale and King Marke’s speech at the conclusion of Act 2 of Tristan. The results reveal an interactive field of narration and symbolization that projects both stories’ themes of desire, betrayal, guilt, and love. PublicationFROM CASELLA TO CACCIAGUIDA: A MUSICAL PROGRESSION TOWARD INNOCENCE(2018-12-10) Peterson, Thomas E.The essay draws an arc between the episodes of Casella and Cacciaguida under the sign of music. It explores the symmetry between the brief encounter with the minstrel who sings lines from Dante’s poetry, and the extended episode with Dante’s ancestor, who instructs him about his destiny. The symmetry is at once biographical, as the two scenes are among the most personal in the Commedia, theoretical, as they exemplify the relations between poetry and music expounded on in De vulgari eloquentia and Convivio, and theological, in a sense consistent with the writings of Augustine and Boethius. If Mars is a mimetic presence in the Casella scene, that heaven aligned with music is the realm where Dante will learn from Cacciaguida of the absolute relativity of earthly matters, a realization that frees him to progress toward the innocence of the final heavens. PublicationIRONIZING UGOLINO(2018-12-10) Heinsen, DavidThis article analyzes an adaptation of Canto 33 of the Inferno, a musical setting of Count Ugolino composed by Gaetano Donizetti (1828). The composition is first presented within the frame of its contemporaneous aesthetic, one that treats Ugolino as a pathos-inspired tale of human suffering. Donizetti’s composition, however, fails to align itself to this tragic reading due to structural contradictions that prevent the listener from sympathizing with the musical agent. To address this divergence, the article extends the most recent theories of musical narrative by Byron Almén and Michael Klein to propose an ironic reading of the work, essentially a subversion of the structural and ideological expectations of a nineteenth-century setting of the character. This strategy opens up an interpretative space for a richer understanding of the composition by placing extant Dantean criticism and musical analysis in dialogue—thereby, considering Ugolino through the lens of his insincerity and paternal failings. Publication“SCORES FOR A PARTICULAR CHEMICAL ORCHESTRA”: THE ‘COMMEDIA’ AND THE MATTER OF SOUND IN OSIP MANDELSTAM’S ‘CONVERSATION ABOUT DANTE’(2018-12-10) Gazzoni, AndreaThis paper discusses the implications of the wide-ranging use of sound in Osip Mandelstam’s 1933 essay “Conversation about Dante,” a landmark in the twentieth-century reception of Dante. With a special focus on the sound mo-tives incorporated in Mandelstam’s description of the Commedia, the Con-versation is analyzed as a study in the receptiveness of the reader, as it is acti-vated by the poetic speech of Dante in a call-and-response relation. At the same time, the paper explores issues of individuation, as reading through sound brings the reader back to his or her historicity and presentness, and of trans-formation, as the mutability of sounds brings about an experience of poetry as an ongoing metamorphosis. In this perspective, the vernacularization of poetry in the Commedia is conceived of by Mandelstam as the rediscovery of the aesthetical and ethical potential of our bodily, local, and contingent existence. PublicationMUSIC AND THE ACT OF SONG IN DANTE’S ‘PURGATORIO’ AND ‘PARADISO’(2018-12-10) Brownlee, KevinThe present paper explores the relation between the vernacular words used to designate the Act of Song, and the inscribed texts of the Sung Music itself, by considering a set of key cases first in Purgatory and then in Paradise. It focuses on important moments of structural and literary transition, at the same time as showing how sung sacred texts relate to each other (and to other kinds of passages) in important functional ways. I examine how song works in five key moments of the protagonist’s journey: the exit from the final terrace of the Purgatorial mountain, and the opening of the vision of the Procession of the Books of the Bible, as well as Carlo Martello’s famous citation of the first ode of the Convivio, which I link to the sacred “Osanna” sung by the souls of the third heaven. Finally, I analyze the (sung) relationship between the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, both in their descent to the eighth heaven and then in their “eternal home” in the Empyrean. PublicationDANTE DECRYPTED: MUSICA UNIVERSALIS IN THE TEXTUAL ARCHITECTURE OF THE ‘COMMEDIA’(2018-12-10) Adoyo, C.S.For seven centuries scholars have speculated about the structural design of Dante’s Commedia but remain perplexed by the poem’s comprehensive ar-chitecture. This study undertakes a strictly empirical quantitative analysis of Dante’s magnum opus to address this lacuna. The outcome of this analysis enumerates the correspondence between the foundational rationale of the Commedia’s textual architecture and both physical and metaphysical concepts of Ptolemaic cosmology and Pythagorean principles of harmony and propor-tion as described by Boethius. The poem manifests a musically and mathemat-ically meticulous design conceptualized as musica universalis and expressed as musica instrumentalis that echoes Paschal and Marian plainchant. With an an-alytical synthesis of three components—Beatrice’s mathematical identity, the Trinitary ontology of the terza rima, and the quantitative properties of the Commedia’s canto lengths and their frequency of occurrence—this study de-crypts Dante’s comprehensive architectural design of a poem whose structural harmony continues to be felt by readers today. PublicationNINETEENTH- AND TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSICAL ADAPTATIONS OF DANTE’S ‘COMMEDIA’: ‘DANTE’S GREATEST HITS’(2018-12-10) Roglieri, Maria AnnComposers through the centuries have tried to depict Dante’s Commedia in music, using Dante’s verses, characters, and design for Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and their compositions. This paper looks at some of the trends in musical adaptations of the Commedia and also some of the “greatest hits”—in the author’s opinion. Works by James Norton, Patric Standford, Jacob ter Veldhuis, David Denniston, Franz Liszt, Donald Martino, Tod Machover, Anita Saij, Allik and Mulder, and Theodore Wiprud are discussed. PublicationDANTE, LISZT, AND THE ALIENATED AGONY OF HELL(2018-12-10) Babyak, TeklaDante Alighieri’s Inferno portrays Hell as an alienated realm in which the doomed spirits must spend eternity in isolation and regret. The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811–1886) responded to this work with his Dante Symphony (1857) based on the Inferno and Purgatorio, in which he gave musical form to Dante’s textual expressions of agony. Throughout this two-movement work, Liszt offers a musical translation of the theological and emotional world portrayed in Dante’s Divina Commedia. This article examines Liszt’s evocations of silence, memory, regret, and redemption in the Dante Symphony. These evocations are enhanced by Liszt’s use of quotations from Dante’s Inferno, which are printed in the score but never heard in performance. The unsung lines of text portray the silence and isolation in Hell, in contrast to the redemptive singing enacted in the Purgatorio movement. Publication“CANZONE... T’HO ALLEVATO PER FIGLIUOLA D’AMORE”: THREE SONGS OF LOVE IN DANTE’S ‘VITA NUOVA’(2018-12-10) Crudale, Alfred R.This paper examines the poetics and musicality of three canzoni of Dante’s Vita Nuova and explores how four fundamental musical elements produce specific meanings while evoking a desired emotion in the reader. “Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore,” the first canzone of the Vita Nuova, initiates Dante’s poetry of praise as it contributes to the elation of the first third of the work. The two later canzoni, “Donna pietosa” and “Li occhi dolenti,” however, transition the Vita Nuova to a more somber and finally grief-stricken piece. Analysis of the musical elements of these three poems demonstrates how Dante effectively communicates his emotions through his poetry and creates fundamental links between himself and his reader. Publication“TEMPRANDO COL DOLCE L’ACERBO”: INSTRUMENTAL AND VOCAL POLYPHONY IN THE ‘COMMEDIA’(2018-12-10) Ciabattoni, FrancescoThis essay tracks the historical-musicological context of the lemma “organi” / “organo” as it appears in Purg. 9.144 and Par. 17.44. Drawing from medieval treatises and monks’ descriptions such as Raban Maur, Notkerus Balbulus, Baldric of Dol, Aelred of Rievaulx, and Wulstan, the author uses intertextual evidence to show that Purg. 9.144 (“quando a cantar con organi si stea”) evokes a great pipe organ as was found in some medieval churches. The essay also argues that Par. 17.43–44 (“come viene ad orecchia / dolce armonia da organo”) should be understood as a polyphonic organum that serves the two-fold purpose of lending authority to the Commedia’s longest prophecy and of musically representing the harmonious reconciliation of the highs and lows in human life.