Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Project Advisor 1
As a vocal performance major, I sought to curate and perform two recitals approximately an hour long. For my performances, I included music from a wide span of time. The earliest piece was an aria from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and the newest was an original piece composed for my voice titled Continuities. I included all the major languages for classical singing: Italian, German, French, and English. On top of this, I featured an array of styles of voice including bel canto, coloratura, and cabaret.
For my first concert, I explored the concept of death and its influence on music. The concert was dubbed Mortality Music. The program featured J.S. Bach, Benjamin Britten, Nadia and Lili Boulanger, Hector Berlioz, among others. This included composers plagued by illness and the angst of mortality, composers’ grief, and death in opera. In addition, the concert featured art songs highlighting death - particularly the German poetry of Heinrich Heine. A set of songs contrasted different interpretations of identical texts and how vast the mood differs to an audience. One text, Die Lorelei, was set by Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt. Schumann set the text to an almost violent tempo and passionate vocal line, whereas Liszt’s song had sections based on the narrative while overall expressing a serene quality. Containing a a program selection based around the interpretation of text was important to me as a double major with Written Arts.
Overall, I was too ambitious in my first concert and needed to cut two pieces from my intended program. My critiques from my board encouraged me to be more comfortable with my music and expression, as well as to project a confidence I lacked in my first concert. Taking these into consideration, I cut back on the content for my second recital and focused on refining the music. In terms of content, I also realized I tried to be a “serious artist” and picked a selection of “glum, sad, and sadder” in my first concert, which did not allow me to display and complexity in acting or affectation. Thus, I wanted to cover a magnitude of human experience in my second concert, from the silly to the profound.
I initially desired for the second concert to focus on perpetuity and rejuvenation to contrast with death, but realized I leaned into a sense of modernity instead and how unoriginal concepts, the banal, can be renewed through music. Thus, the amalgamation of these ideas became Banalities and Continuities. The program featured the modern music of Francis Poulenc, André Previn, and Bard College alumnus Luke Koenig. The Previn song cycle featured two fellow students on piano and cello as part of my collaborative work. Together, we adapted the music for an interpretation that suited our balance needs. The concert involved more staging and diversity in content, and fared much better during faculty feedback than Mortality Music. My only regret is that I could not feature more Italian pieces, and a Lili Boulanger song I was forced to cut out for the sake of preparation. Overall, I delivered two recitals making statements about the importance of music and how it reflects the themes of life, both in modern and historical contexts.
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Gunning, Rachael C., "The Musical Voices of Death and Modernity" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 275.