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Exoticism Panel

Saturday, January 16, 3:00pm
Music Room 1145
Linda Shaver-Gleason, chair

Exoticism Panel: Emily Richmond Pollock, Sidney Shih-Ni Sun, Heather Fisher, and Linda Shaver-Gleason

Exoticism Panel: Emily Richmond Pollock, Sidney Shih-Ni Sun, Heather Fisher, and Linda Shaver-Gleason (chair)


"Schumann's Das Paradies Und die Peri as an Example of Dual Exoticism"

Heather Fisher, Musicology
Bowling Green State University

Robert Schumann (1810-56) spent most of the year 1843 crafting his secular oratorio Das Paradies Und die Peri (The Paradise and Peri) based on the epic poem Lalla Rookh by Thomas Moore (1779-1852). Moore's text describes the journey of a princess, Lalla Rookh, who is travelling to meet her future groom. Accompanying the princess on this trip is the minstrel Feramorz, who is actually the groom in disguise. Originally published in 1817, Moore's poem is capitalizing on the growing trend to satisfy the appetite of the British, which was consuming all things "Oriental" at the time. One question that arises when examining this work is whether or not Schumann reflected the exoticism voiced in the text in his musical setting. If he did, how exactly did he accomplish this?

By examining the text, score, and compositional process, I will show how exoticism grew in Lalla Rookh and how Schumann continued these ideas in Das Paradies Und die Peri using Ralph Locke's "Exotic-Style-Only" paradigm as well as the "All-in-full-Context" paradigm as outlined in his article "A Broader View of Musical Exoticism" published in the Journal of Musicology in 2007 and his new book Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections (2009).


"Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde: An Intellectual Journey Across Cultures and Beyond Life and Death"

Sidney Shih-Ni Sun, Historical Musicology
University of Iowa

In his final vocal-orchestral masterpiece Das Lied von der Erde (1908), Gustav Mahler's settings of seven of the poems from Hans Bethge's Die chinesische Flöte present the intellectual voyage of a speaker, whose voice is heard throughout the work. Although these seven Chinese poems were neither originally related to one another, nor by the same poet, Mahler's musical settings shape them into an ongoing journey. This paper reconnects the composer's work with the original poetry to examine the meaning of his cycle with the knowledge of the Chinese texts, as well as with that of the German lyrics.

The revelations of the original texts illuminate the musical journey's text-painting gestures, peculiar use of genre, and exoticizing orchestration. The speaker's disappointment in life is reflected in the descending melodic contours and static musical gestures in the first two movements. The third movement depicts a joyful party in a Chinese setting through the use of pentatonic scales. The exotic sounds provide the speaker a foreign environment in which to search for the deeper meaning of life. The musical structure of the next movement demonstrates the powerful effect of having obsessions through its calculated emphasis on one specific section. In the fifth movement, the presence of birds in the music makes it clear that nature plays an important role in the speaker's contemplation. In the last movement, both the orchestral setting and the use of recitative state the speaker's farewell; he recognizes the meaninglessness of material pursuits and thus decides to retreat from the world, look beyond life and death, and live a life detached from material concerns. In Das Lied von der Erde the historical significance of the texts and Mahler's idiosyncratic setting reveal an intellectual journey across two cultures.


"Language and the Operatic in Kaija Saariaho's L'amour de loin"

Emily Richmond Pollock, Musicology
University of California, Berkeley

The opera L'amour de loin (2000), composed by Kaija Saariaho to a libretto by Amin Maalouf, retells the legend of a12th-century troubadour who falls in love (via the reports of a pilgrim) with a countess in the East. Intoxicated with passion, the troubadour ultimately resolves to make the pilgrimage across the ocean to meet the countess face to face. The climactic penultimate scene of the opera, wherein the distant lovers meet in person for the first and only time, is heavily dependent on the traditional symbolic order of operatic love affairs: recognition, jouissance, and death. As the moment of fulfilled purpose for the opera's entire trajectory, this scene relies on the tensions between pairs of binaries such as homeland and exile, self and other, Occidental and Oriental, man and woman.

These tensions are explicitly built into the language and poetics of the libretto. With such an archetypal dramatic system in effect, the interesting problematic is how Saariaho responds to the demands of the libretto's linguistic and poetic system while working within a post-tonal musical idiom. By careful delineation of her characters through orchestration and mode, Saariaho crafts a musical system to mirror and interpret the libretto's symbolic system. During the scene of the lovers' mutual reconnaissance, the characters' modes shift by small degrees until unity is achieved, with the countess's more rhapsodic melodies transforming into the recognizable simplicity of the troubadour's songs: two distinct entities are fused into one. This metamorphosis is the crucial point that reveals and resolves the binaries underlying the whole of the opera. Saariaho's strategies purposefully delimit and then manipulate the musical territory particular to each character, thus facilitating dramatic meaning and comprehensibility. It is this interlocking system of poetic and musical polarizations that allows the reconciliation its final cathartic power.


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