Re-Creation: Musical Reception of Classical Antiquity

2011 Abstracts

MacCarthyBetaOosterhuisJenkinsMcKinneyRagnoLoweDcampBurian & MunteanuCrofton-SleighGibbonsGoldhillHellerLanfossiFormentStrohmGamelShawMotaDahmBrillMatteoSolomonKoglerEckertUmurhanPeraltaBakogianni

FRIDAY MORNING October 28

SESSION I

8:30-10:30 Musical Theater/Music in Theater

Evan MacCarthy (Harvard University): “Translating Oedipus Tyrannus: John Knowles Paine and America’s First Greek Tragedy.”

In May of 1881, the first-ever American performance of any Greek tragedy in the original language took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The play was Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles and the cast members were all Harvard students save the lead role of Oedipus, who was played by George Riddle, Harvard’s professor of elocution. Inspired by a celebrated 1880 performance at Oxford of Agamemnon in the original ancient Greek, the student and faculty collaborators across the Atlantic sought to produce what the press would hail as “the most finished copy of the original which the world has ever seen,” and the resulting profits were immediately directed toward the foundation of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, whose founders were the play’s producers. Early on in the production’s planning, the composer and professor of music John Knowles Paine (1839-1906) was invited by professor of Greek John Williams White to compose the play’s incidental music (Op. 35). Although Paine was well-versed in the harmonies and instruments of ancient Greece, he feared that the “dulness and monotony” of ancient-sounding music would not be “suited to the tastes of a modern audience.” Instead, as one of the student cast members described it, Paine applied “all the wealth of modern harmony and instrumentation to the expression, to a modern mind, of the varied and profound emotions which the Oedipus would rouse in a Greek breast.” Examining Paine’s score and its setting of ancient Greek, as well as the work’s performance history, I will show how this modern musical translation of Greek music and tragedy embodied a never-before-seen spirit of ancient Greece in late nineteenth-century New England.  Top

Simone Beta (University of Siena): “It’s the Same Old Story: Oath of Greek Women in Musical Versions of Lysistrata.”

The pivotal scene of the prologue of Lysistrata is the oath Athenian and Spartan women take after having been persuaded that the only way to induce their men to make peace is to refrain from having any sexual relationship with them. In the Greek original, Lysistrata does not make her proposal to a chorus of indistinct women, but addresses some well-definite characters (Kalonike, Myrrhine, and the Spartan Lampitò), since, according the rules of ancient Greek theatre, no more than four actors were allowed to act in the same scene. But most of the writers who, since the editio princeps of the bluntest of the eleven Aristophanes' comedies, have adapted its clever plot so that it could be the libretto of a successful musical version, have chosen to give that scene a much more spectacular dimension.

The paper will analyse how some poets (and, working together with them, some musicians) have built up that celebrated scene, according to the peculiar demands of the music genres. In the Singspiel Die Verschworenen (1824), Ignaz Castelli and Franz Schubert have given the scene (a fully structured ensemble) a strongly melodramatic mood; in the German Operette Lysistrata (1898), Heinrich Bolten-Bäckers and Paul Lincke have confronted both the two protagonists (Lysistrata and her husband Themistokles) and the two choruses; in the English musical Wild wild women (1981), a Western mixture between the Aristophanic comedy and Romeo and Juliet written by Michael Richmond and set to music by Nola York, Alice Tibbs, the manager of the Peaceable Saloon, turns the naughty oath into a solemn vow.

The musical samples will also show how very different kinds of music have been used to accompany the same scene: dramatic (Schubert), light (Lincke), old-fashioned (the tunes of The happiest girl in the world, a 1961 musical, are borrowed from the most popular operettas by Jacques Offenbach), country (Richmond & York), and even reggae (as in the song “The pledge” from Beaus & Eros, 2002, the last success of Galt MacDermot, the composer of Hair).  Top

David Oosterhuis (Gonzaga University): “Orpheus, the Original Penniless Poet: Plutus/Pluto in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown.”

In 2010 Anaïs Mitchell released Hadestown, a reimagining of the Orpheus myth, to great critical acclaim. Mitchell recasts the myth as a folk opera; the music and libretto conjure an atmosphere suggestive of 1930s Dustbowl America. Wealth is therefore a key theme in Hadestown and it is the injection of this theme that is Mitchell’s greatest contribution to the Orpheus myth. Mitchell builds on the longstanding conflation of the Greek god of wealth, Plutus, and Hades, the ruler of the underworld (often referred to as Pluton or Pluto). The god Hades, as Mitchell presents him, is a charismatic man, happy to compare the riches at his disposal with the contents of Orpheus’s empty pockets. Therefore Orpheus, far from the all-powerful musical master and sage that we find in antiquity, is instead the original penniless poet, with nothing to offer but his song. This re-created hero is nonetheless still a hero and a particularly contemporary one.  Top

Thomas Jenkins (Trinity University, San Antonio): “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Whitehouse.”

While the incorporation of Plautus in a recent In Performance at the White House seems to be slyly political, other modern musical theater receptions of antiquity are more overtly agitating and political: this includes the indie rock group Athens v. Sparta’s “History of the Peloponnesian War” (recorded 2008, and written as a timely response to the invasion of Iraq) as well as Sater/Tankian’s new production of Prometheus Bound (2011), explicitly composed as a paean to global “prisoners of conscience. (It’s even co-sponsored by Amnesty International.) Especially daring is Waterwell’s The Persians: A Comedy About War with Five Songs (2005), an ironic appropriation of Aeschylus. Thus even as mainstays of the American theatrical tradition—like David Mamet—produce versions of the ancient world simply for laughs (e.g., Keep Your Pantheon, 2008), the American musical theater tradition just as often goes for the jugular, including the gay-rights adaptation of Plato, All About Love (1997), and the hard-rocking Hedwig and the Ancient Inch (1998/2001). This paper thus explores how musical theatre adaptations of the ancient world—often viewed as escapist entertainment—can be just as pointed and politically provocative as their ‘straight’ brethren on stage and screen.  Top

SESSION II

10:45-12:45 Theoretical and Philosophical Issues

Timothy McKinney (Baylor University): “Ancient Musical Theory and Musical Affect in the prima prattica.”

Sixteenth-century writers on music often retold the famous tales of the marvelous effects of ancient music, of its ability to heal various ailments, to render changes in the natural world, or to alter human behavior or states of being. Though they do not claim similar miracles for music of their time, they do marvel at the expressive power of their own music. In terms of explaining this power in technical detail, however, they seldom progress far beyond providing more-or-less traditional lists, often traceable to antiquity, of alleged affective characteristics of the modes or making generalizations concerning speed of motion. A seminal exception occurs in the novel approach to musical affect developed by Venice-based composer Adrian Willaert in the 1530s and 40s, transmitted initially through his compositions and his teaching, and subsequently codified and disseminated in varied versions in the treatises of his pupils Nicola Vicentino and Gioseffo Zarlino, two of the most significant music theorists of the century. In Vicentino’s L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica of 1555 and Zarlino’s Le istitutioni harmoniche of 1558, we find for the first time systematic means of explaining music’s expressive power based upon the musical intervals from which it is constructed. The paper examines the classical and coeval impetuses behind Willaert’s intervallic theory of musical affect, considers its application by Vicentino to his revival of the ancient chromatic and enharmonic genera and by Zarlino to his revamping of traditions of modal ethos, and concludes with a brief look at its subsequent transformation into the modern affective dichotomy between the major and minor modes.  Top

Tiziana Ragno (University of Foggia): "Hero and Leander as 'cantata': From ancient literature to accompanied monody, from England to Italy."

This paper focuses on some cantatas produced in the 17th and 18th centuries about the ancient Hero and Leander myth. In these compositions, it is possible to identify, at the level of text, clear Ovidian influences and, at the level of music, composers’ inclination to adapt this classical subject to a typical form of the Baroque opera: the ‘scena-lamento’.  Top

James Lowe (John Burroughs School, St. Louis): “From Plato’s Athens to the Holy City—Inspiration, Spirituality and Ralph Vaughan Williams.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams (hereafter “VW”), a leading figure in the English musical renaissance at the turn of the nineteenth-to-twentieth century, had deep roots in the ancient world, thanks largely to the years he spent at that bellwether among English public schools, Charterhouse. Among his masters there would have been distinguished classicists--J.H. Merryweather, A.H. Tod, and, most notably, Thomas Ethelbert Page, who went on to become one of the first editors of the Loeb Classical Library. Under the aegis of these classically-disposed ‘eminent Victorians,’ VW gained a background both broad and deep in the language, literature, and culture of the Greco-Roman world. That training continued to percolate to the surface throughout VW’s long life, manifesting itself in diverse ways.

In this paper I shall focus our attention on VW’s oratorio Sancta Civitas (composed 1923-25), which the composer prefaced, on the flyleaf of the score, with an excerpt from Plato’s dialogue Phaedo—in Greek, without translation. Why Plato? Why the Phaedo? I shall argue that the section quoted, as well as the entire dialogue, are entirely apposite. Socrates’ words, as quoted in the excerpt, befit the sacred text that VW set, namely the Apocalypse of St. John; even as that book closes the Bible on a mystical note, so too does the dialogue end with a typically mystical Platonic “myth.” The Greek quotation therefore both looks back to the myth just related and also acts as a preface to St. John’s own vision. In addition, some of the salient ideas broached in the Phaedo, particularly the theory of recollection, had a deep resonance for VW; this I shall demonstrate with reference to the composer’s published essays. Indeed I shall go so far as to suggest that Plato’s thought, particularly in the Phaedo, provided VW with a framework for articulating his own ideas about the nature of music and inspiration. Moreover, I believe that VW found Plato congenial to his own religious sensibility; by considering the remarkable juxtaposition of Plato’s Greek with the Authorized Version of the Bible, we may illuminate, though not solve, the well-known conundrum of VW’s relation to conventional religious belief. VW never studied the classics after he left the halls of Charterhouse, so far as we know; yet in this paper I shall contend that deep foundations were laid there, upon which he continued to build throughout a vibrantly Protean creative life.  Top

Richard Dcamp (UW Oshkosh): “Carl Orff and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Desmotes.”

In 1963 German composer Carl Orff began working on his musical setting of Prometheus, which he had selected to follow his operatic-music theater compositions of Antigonae and Oedipus der Tyrann. Although his Sophocles compositions were set to German translations of the Greek plays, what sets Prometheus apart from Orff’s earlier works is his use of the original ancient Greek text for the libretto, taking extracts from Aeschylus’s Prometheus Desmotes to complete his Teatrum Mundi trilogy. Carl Orff had resolved from the beginning to adhere as closely as possible to the ancient Greek language regarding Prometheus. Consultation with philologists and Greek actors and directors produced widely diverging versions of text declamation which ultimately led Orff to an individual interpretation which was exclusively shaped by the musical-gestural flow of the language. Orff’s preoccupation with Greek tragedy did not happen by chance; rather it developed organically out of his previous works. His compositions continue in a progression indicating that he considers rhythm to be the basic element of music and its basic root. To him, rhythm is the permanent constant which links all musical cultures, since it is their very beginning. Orff’s model seems to have been the original performances of the Greek plays where the choruses were sung and music played a large part. Though the solo parts are played by singers, they declaim the text more than they sing; the result is not so much opera as music theatre. The resulting sound-world has a remarkably modern feel. Orff states that it is indeed the Greek language which combines both music and gesture like no other language.  Top

 

FRIDAY AFTERNOON

SESSION III

2:15-4:15 19th and 20th Century Opera

Peter Burian (Duke University): “Death and Transfiguration: Orpheus’ Fate on the Operatic Stage.”

Dana Munteanu (Ohio State University): “Parody of Greco-Myth in Jacques Offenbach’s Orfée aux enfers and La Belle Hélène.”

Critics have often discussed musical parody in Offenbach’s operettas (for example, the comic rendition of Gluck's famous aria Che faro senza Euridice, the Gallop, and the composer’s own Barcarolle in the Orfée) as well as emphasized the humorous allusions to contemporary politics and society. However, less examined from a classicist’s perspective are the elements of parody of classical myth and literary sources, particularly in Orfée aux enfers (1858) and La belle Hélène (1864), which I intend to survey. For the Orfée, a couple of features are of interest: (1) Opinion Publique, a self-proclaimed dea ex machina, appears to be a playful impersonation of ancient prologue characters and of the abstract characters in the previous musical tradition; (2) the pastoral setting is transformed from a charming mythical place of doom for Eurydice into one of marital boredom. La belle Hélène comically reworks key passages from the Homeric epic, Euripides’ Helen, and Ovid’s Heroides, to present a seductive Paris – a veritable male correspondent to Helen. For example, Paris appears dream-like to Helen and thus seduces her, reversing the tradition of Helen as eidolon.  Top

Lissa Crofton-Sleigh (University of Washington): “Helen with a Blue Dress on: Strauss’ Aegyptische Helen.”

Hugo von Hofmannsthal had a vision of creating an opera about the return of Helen and Menelaus to Sparta after the Trojan War, hoping to provide the missing link between the extant ancient sources, Homer and Euripides. Having convinced his partner, composer Richard Strauss, to join the project, Die Ägyptische Helena premiered in Dresden on June 6, 1928 to mixed reviews. The major themes involved in this opera are remembrance and forgetting, particularly for the character of Menelaus, and I shall argue that Strauss and Hofmannsthal nurture the concept of “selective sentimentality,” that is, remembering the best memories of the past and letting go of the worst. They apply this concept, however, not only to the confines of the opera, but also more broadly to their German audience’s perception of Germany at this time. Strauss and Hofmannsthal hope to inspire a renewed sense of pride and nationalism in the Germans for their homeland, as well as rekindle the love and pride in Menelaus for Helen. In order to make this argument, I will look at occasional ancient reference points in Homer and Euripides, but the bulk of the discussion will be an examination of the opera and its title character. I will demonstrate how Helen’s physical and vocal representation influences the fluctuation of remembrance and forgetfulness for Menelaus. I will follow this discussion with an analysis of the contemporary historical, political, and musical contexts surrounding the opera. Though Strauss was not a Nazi sympathizer in regard to the party’s racial views, he did appreciate their sense of longing to instill a renewed nationalism and preserve the glories of Germany’s past. In Die Ägyptische Helena, Helen is a representation of Germany—older, more experienced (in both good and bad ways), but nonetheless still glorious.  Top

William Gibbons (Texas Christian University): “Reweaving Penelope: Faure’s Penelope, Symbolism and Morality.”

Gabriel Fauré’s opera Pénélope (1913, libretto by René Fauchois), is a retelling of the final books of Homer’s Odyssey, focusing on the plight of the title character as she awaits Odysseus’s return to Ithaca. The opera was a product of Fauré’s fascination with ancient Greece, which he viewed, like many composers of his time, as a foil for the failings of modern society. Pénélope also reveals a deep, albeit ambivalent, engagement with the French Symbolist movement in opera and with the figure that had sparked Symbolist thought: Richard Wagner. The title character, however, stands in stark contrast to the dangerously transgressive heroines of “Symbolist” operas, becoming a model of fin-de-siècle bourgeois femininity: fiercely loyal, endlessly faithful, and totally deferent to her husband’s authority. In this paper I bring together two threads—the adaptation of the Odyssey into a Symbolist work, and the alteration of Penelope into a paragon of middle-class morality. By doing so, I suggest that Fauré sought to create a new type of Symbolist opera, reconciling the musical avant-garde with the conservative mainstream.  Top

4:30 Public Lecture by Simon Goldhill (King’s College, Cambridge): “The Ideal Chorus: Opera, Philosophy and Tragedy.”

German Idealist Philosophy was obsessed with Greek tragedy. Within this obsession the chorus took on a special role -- a way of thinking about politics, the collective, and the people, on the one hand, and about the truly musical and the lyric, on the other. The tradition of grand opera in the nineteenth century was equally obsessed both with Greek tragedy and with German idealist philosophy -- especially a figure such as Richard Wagner, who read Schopenhauer with particular avidity. The performance tradition of theatre and opera are intertwined. How, then, can we understand the development of the operatic chorus and the theatrical chorus in relation to one another? This paper looks at how performance and philosophy, opera and theatre, antiquity and modernity, worked together to create a specific aesthetic concern with the chorus as a sign of what modern music and theatre should be.  Top

SATURDAY MORNING October 29

SESSION IV

8:30-11:00 Early Opera

Wendy Heller (Princeton University): “Rescuing Ariadne.”

In Ars Amatoria (1.15), Ovid provides his readers with a compelling lesson on the value of boldness for the aspiring lover. His exemplum is none other than Bacchus, the god of wine, who proves his prowess as a lover in his audacious arrival and courtship of the abandoned Ariadne Ovid recalls Arianna’s lament—the shouts, cries and tears that did nothing to lessen her beauty—but his primary emphasis in the passage is on the sound and sights that mark the arrival of Bacchus—the cymbals, the drums, the clamor and the chaos created by the crowds of satyrs, bacchantes, and the tiger that accompany the god. In this passage that has gone largely unnoticed in the numerous studies of Rinuccini and Monteverdi’s Arianna, Ovid provides us with a vivid description of a bold and vigorous seduction, in terms that are both visually and aurally compelling. Moreover, it is this particular vision of Ariadne in the arms of Bacchus—rather than the lone lamenting woman—that was the focus for the majority of artistic representations of the myth in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century, variously expressing notions about marriage, dynastic power, freedom, and sensual pleasure.

While scholars have long been fascinated with Arianna’s lament, the only surviving music from this opera, this paper reconsiders Monteverdi's Arianna from the perspective of the Bacchic ending as a celebration of sensual pleasure. This paper draws upon both literary and artistic sources—paintings and frescoes by such artists as Carracci, Titian, Reni, and Poussin, seventeenth-century art criticism by such writers as Carlo Ridolfi, as well as contemporary treatments of Ovid—to demonstrate the often ironic, playful, and erotic way in which this myth was understood in the Seicento. I explore as well the sonic realm implicit in most artists’ rendering of the myth, and its implication for our speculation about the ending of the opera that we are otherwise constrained to imagine. This allows us to understand Arianna’s lament not only as the impassioned outpourings of an abandoned woman, but as a central part of an erotic wakening that opera—with its ability to combine music and movement—was uniquely able to express.  Top

Carlo Lanfossi (Università degli Studi di Pavia): “Crafting Drama, rethinking history: Agrippina between 17th-Century Venice and Milan.”

The conflict between a ‘yet-to-be emperor’ Nero and his mother Agrippina is told by Roman historians such as Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio, among others: still, when Matteo Noris wrote his libretto for a new Venetian drama per musica called Nerone fatto Cesare (1693) he drew inspiration not only from historical sources, but also from coeval prose comedies (Pallavicino, Malipiero, Zaguri) that led to an intriguing plot, where Nero’s sentimental incursions are the background for a more complex psychological game between him and his mother, Agrippina, guilty of having usurped the Roman throne in his stead. The same libretto was then reworked in 1703 for the Milanese stage, with a more explicit title, Agrippina: the music was composed by Pietro Magni, a local composer, and the libretto was deeply revised by Pietro D’Averara. This new version presents a completely new finale in which Agrippina (now with a heavily amplified tragic stature) deals with a mad scene sustained by schizophrenic, continuously evolving music: with the help of an anonymous sonnet, entitled All’ombra d’Agrippina (“To Agrippina’s shadow”) and dedicated to the singer of the premiere, this paper will try to highlight the highly symbolic and meta-theatrical value of Agrippina’s last verses («Non sono che un’ombra», “I’m nothing but a shadow.”).  Top

Bruno Forment (Universiteit Gent / Vrije Universiteit Brussel): “‘Sono in Roma? ò in Aulide?’: Classical Templates as Musical Cues in Jommelli’s Cajo Mario.”

Contrary to what could be expected from its title, Niccolò Jommelli’s Cajo Mario (Rome, 1746) displaces Greek myth to Roman (pseudo-)history, having the republican characters re-enact the Iphigenia in Aulis. Add to this a Delphic oracle interfering at any given time, winks at Orestes’ madness, plus a number of slapstick gimmicks, and antiquity can be said to play a merely capricious role in this theatrical product from Piranesian Rome. And yet, Cajo Mario would hold the stage throughout the eighteenth century. This striking success can be explained through juxtaposition of Gaetano Roccaforte’s libretto, its sources, the defining episodes in Jommelli’s score, and passages from the same composer’s works on subjects Roccaforte derived from. Emerging from this intertextual analysis is the idea that the mythological templates cue musical analogies and thus generate a topical interplay of both multimedial and diachronic nature. The latter phenomenon exemplifies the classicistic ‘memory machine’ propelling opera seria production.  Top

Reinhard Strohm (Wadham College, Oxford): “Noblesse Oblige: The privileges of rulers in opera.”

In his book on Ancient Rome in Early Opera, Robert C. Ketterer devotes a significant chapter to Apostolo Zeno’s dramma per musica Scipione nelle Spagne (1710) and its role in mediating Stoic principles to the political ideology of the Habsburgs. The story of Scipio’s “continence” or “generosity” is not only a political one: it also belongs to a narrative tradition of sexual morality and behaviour among rulers and nobles, which it shares with many other dramas and opera librettos on ancient subjects. Philippe Quinault’s Alceste, ou the triomphe d’Alcide (1674),Pietro Metastasio’s Adriano in Siria (1732) and Paolo Rolli’s Scipione (as set by Handel, 1726), treat this same narrative. If my suggestion is correct, however, that these texts develop the theme of male sexual morality in the common tradition of a “mirror of princes”, it must be important to contrast them with the questions raised by contemporaneous dramas and operas on sexual desire and continence among royal or noble heroines. The Euripidean and Senecan Phaedra appeared in operatic settings around this time (Domenico Lalli, Ippolito, Munich 1731), focusing on the difficult equilibrium between female passion, crime and punishment, which Jean Racine’s Phèdre (1677) had reformulated in Christian terms. The latter may also have inspired operatic treatments of the biblical and medieval legends of Queens/Empresses (Potiphar, Fausta, Engelberta, Kunigunde) in forbidden love with a lower-ranking man. It will be observed how not only the intrigue and outcome of those “female” plots is invariably different from that shown for male heroes, but also how the poetic and musical detail serves very different social agendas and preoccupations.  Top

SESSION V

11:15 A.M.-1:15 P.M. Stage Practice

Mary Kay Gamel (UC Santa Cruz): “’Singing and dancing’s our role in this show’: Putting Greek Drama to Music.”

As an adaptor, rather than translator, of Greek drama for the contemporary stage, I embrace the concept of "inductive" rather than "historical" authenticity. This involves trying to create experiences for our audiences which will arouse intellectual and emotional effects similar to those experienced by ancient audiences. In the last fifteen years live original music has been central to my adaptations, and together with my composers I have explored using various genres of music (and dance). At times, believing in the importance of finding "emergent meaning" in the ancient scripts, we have added new music and songs. My presentation will include video clips from productions including Prometheus 1.1 (1998), The Julie Thesmo Show (2000), Helen of Egypt (2008) and Orestes Terrorist (2011).  Top

Jane Shaw (Brooklyn, NY): “Many are the shapes of things divine: music and sound design in staging Greek drama.”

Sound and music can breathe life into the creatures of our imagination on the stage. According to Heiner Müller, theater also has the task of burying the dead. As a sound designer for theater I must make sense of what is happening from the world of the living to that of the dead in each production. I must develop a unique cohesive aural structure within which text, actors, and all other design elements make sense. I’ll be discussing my own process on works including Big Dance Theater’s Supernatural Wife (from Ann Carson’s translation of Alkestis, part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2011 Fall Season) and Target Margin’s Suppliant Women (entitled As Yet Thou Art Young and Rash), as well as works of others, including Robert Wilson’s Alcestis at the American Repertory Theater (1986) and Yael Farber’s MoLoRa after the Oresteia (2010-11). Images, sound and video will be used to illustrate choices on these productions and others. Important questions which may or may not be answered during this lecture include:
1. Why is static a choice?
2. When would one use Michael Jackson?
3. Which crickets are the best crickets?  Top

Marcus Mota (Universidade de Brasília): “Hearing and Dancing Beats An Interartistic Appropriation of Meters in Greek tragedy.”  Top

 

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

SESSION VI

2:15-3:45 Film

Murray Dahm (Opera Australia): “ ‘You may have the Universe.’ Reimagining the Scourge of God in Verdi’s Attila.”

This paper will examine the re-imagining of Attila the Hun and his world in Verdi’s 1846 opera, Attila. Verdi’s operatic imagining will also be placed within the wider audio-visual sound world of imaginings of Attila which range from Fritz Lang’s 1924 film Die Nibelungen (with an original score by Gottfried Huppertz although later accompanied by a score cobbled from Wagner’s operatic tetralogy) through Anthony Quinn, Jack Palance and Gerard Butler to Disney’s 2010 Rapunzel film, Tangled, and the loveable singing thug Attila Cupcake. In all of these filmic representations Attila has a sound world which tells us a great deal about how he is being presented to us. The history of interpretations and interpreters of Verdi's opera and role also bear fruit to explore what Attila the Hun has looked and sounded like; indeed what he ‘should’ look and sound like. The image of Attila, both sonic and visual, which emerges from these sources presents a far more wide ranging and challenging character than the stereotype we all think we know would have us believe was possible.  Top

Mark Brill (University of Texas-San Antonio): “Music and Myth in Orfeu Negro.”

This paper will examine the role of music and myth in Marcel Camus’ Franco-Brazilian film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) from 1959. Music in the film serves as an expression of racial identity. Significantly, the title of the film deliberately signals from its inception its exploration of black identity, and emphasizes the racial elements of the culture. To this end, the filmmakers make use of various Afro-Brazilian signifiers, including Candomblé, capoeira, carnival, and the poverty of the favela slums in Rio de Janeiro. By the same token, the composers (Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá) use prominent Afro-Brazilian musical styles to establish a black cultural identity: samba, bossa-nova and fossa. Much of the film’s music is anempathetic, purveying a sense of giddy and joyful celebration in the midst of Greek tragedy.

This paper also explores the film’s attitudes towards the universality of myth. Does the quintessentially European myth of Orpheus transfer to a decidedly non–European culture? The opening of the film suggests a negative answer to this question: a classical statue of Orpheus and Eurydice—an image of staid, calm, enduring nobility (with, significantly, white Greek characters)—is shattered by a startling explosion that transports the viewer to a chaotic, noisy, dynamic and “foreign” world. This juxtaposition of the calmness of European classicism with the chaos of Brazilian Carnival speaks to the stereotypical view of the two cultures, and implies that the Afro-Brazilian setting shatters and breaks from the ancient myth.

The central themes of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth—that of lost love and the inevitability of death—do indeed transcend their Greek origins and acquire a universal vision in the film. Carnival becomes a vehicle for the characters to assume mythological identities, for example allowing Orfeu to dress in a stylized Orphic costume. Appropriating Greek myths to represent contemporary culture is nothing new, of course. Much as Peri and Caccnini purported to claim authenticity by invoking the practices of Greek drama in the creation of their first operas, their works in fact represented the ideal Italian music of the late 16th century, steeped in the Renaissance madrigal tradition. The same processes were true of Glück, Beethoven, Offenbach, Cocteau and countless others. Orfeu Negro is merely a continuation of that tradition.  Top

Chris Ann Matteo (Stone Bridge High School, VA): “Dissecting Orpheus in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!”

I argue that in Moulin Rouge! The director Baz Luhrmann wanted not only to combine plot and character in order to create a new story, but that he used the idea of love emerging from music as an aesthetic theory in itself, as a process for his original, cinematic production. This aesthetic philosophy and process creates a creative architecture for the rebirth of the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I believe that Luhrmann was contemplating the Dionysiac ritual of sparagmos, central to the theory of drama and musical drama as the aesthetic of this film. This presentation will focus on musical composition of the film (rather than the static visual hybrids or the cinematic editing techniques), and in particular on duets sung between the Orpheus character Christian and the Eurydice character Satine. So doubling of image, song and episodes structure the film just as it structures the twin deaths of Eurydice in the ancient myth. The first sequence I will analyze is titled “Elephant Love Medley.” When researching the sources for the soundtrack, it is very remarkable that the majority of the songs are either covers of well-known, popular songs, or their medleys of songs. To my knowledge the only original piece for the soundtrack is “Come What May,” the quintessential love song of Christian and Satine. By isolating these two episodes from the film, it will be apparent how Baz Luhrmann is using the idea of dismembering a body of artistic work and either leaving those pieces randomly scattered, or, for some viewers, creating unity by imposing aesthetic order on the disorderly process of creative production.  Top

4:00-5:00 Public lecture by Jon Solomon (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana) with Andrew Simpson, keyboard and James Thompson, tenor: “The Music of Ben Hur.”

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, published in 1880, became a best-seller in 1886 and established many beachheads in the field of popular art and commercial synergy. As literary juggernaut, pantomime, spoken drama, stereopticon presentation, film, and commercial product, no property surpassed Ben-Hur in its broad popularity or influence. In the field of music, Ben-Hur inspired a number of art-songs. This presentation will focus on "The Lament," set by G. W. Chadwick. It also inspired John Philip Sousa's first "descriptive piece" (symphonic poem), "Ben-Hur's Chariot Race," as well as E. T. Paull's first hit, "The Chariot Race or Ben Hur March." Paull's march hit the mainstream just as mechanical reproduction became popular as well, so it proliferated on player pianos, amberola rolls, 78 rpm disks, and, in turn, was performed by Sousa's band. In addition, The Tribe of Ben-Hur, a fraternal organization that would become a large insurance company, boasted a "Tribe of Ben-Hur March" as well as a book of "Odes." The music for the very successful Klaw & Erlanger Broadway production that played from 1899 until 1920, was composed by Edgar Stillman Kelley. Examples of all will be played, sung, or performed.  Top

 

SUNDAY MORNING, October 30 (2520D UCC)

SESSION VII

10:00-12:30 The 20th Century

Susanne Kogler (Kunstuniversität Graz): “Prometheus and the Muses: Myth, Gender and Creativity in 20th Century Music.”

Amongst the ancient paradigms that have continually influenced musical practice and aesthetics from the beginning to the present, the myths and ideas connected with the notion of creativity figure prominently. Plato characterized the poet as a herald of the gods and the work of art as a product of divine origin. From a socio-critical perspective as provided by gender studies these ideas are extremely problematic for they contribute to an enduring exclusion of female creativity from the cultural sphere. Plato discusses poetry in terms of gender in Phaidros, but Socrates’ reference to the female Muses creates a paradox, in that creativity is regarded as an immaterial, inner force only. Whereas the soul is regarded as the privileged object of divine possession, the body is totally excluded from the perspective. As a result, artistic creativity is mainly associated with men. The typical position attributed to women in the arts is that of the muse. Consequently, the voice speaking in a work is often gendered as a purely male one, whereas the inspiring female voice is silenced. Furthermore the heroic tradition praised and established by the arts is an exclusively male one. A similar conception of creativity can be found in the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus who by stealing fire from the Gods enabled men to become godlike autonomous creators. In this paper I will explore the ways in which this myth is still present in 20th century music by analyzing Luigi Nono’s opera Prometeo premiered in 1984. Taking this prominent piece as an example, I will show that even in times when the notion of the author has undergone important changes, the idea of the woman as the silent Muse is still an omnipresent, though often hidden, figure. By comparing Nono’s composition with Vivienne Olive’s Prometheus meets Purcell I will briefly discuss if female approaches complement, contradict or affirm the traditional male view.  Top

Michael Eckert (The University of Iowa): “Luigi Dallapiccola's Song Cycle ‘Liriche Greche’ (1942-45).”

Salvatore Quasimodo’s innovative Italian translations of ancient Greek poetry published in Lirici Greci (Milan, 1940) provoked extensive debate in Italian literary circles at the time. But from 1941 to 1960 Italian composers created some forty musical settings of Quasimodo’s translations. The best-known of these are Luigi Dallapiccola’s cycles for soprano and chamber ensembles: Cinque frammenti di Saffo (1942), Due liriche di Anacreonte (1944-45), and Sex Carmina Alcaei (1943). The Alcaeus songs are Dallapiccola’s first work based on a single twelve-note row, and constitute a cycle of canons. The score is dedicated to Anton Webern, whom Dallapiccola had met personally in March 1942. The Latin title and subtitles in the score allude to the canonic tradition of Renaissance polyphony, and to J. S. Bach’s Musical Offering.

Several Dallapiccola letters, and a letter from the composer Ildebrando Pizzetti, show that the musical language of Sex Carmina Alcaei constituted a stumbling-block for an older generation of conservative composers, but an important model for the emerging younger “post-Webern” composers Luigi Nono and Bruno Maderna, whose early works include settings of Quasimodo’s translations.  Top

Osman Umurhan (Rutgers University): “Heavy Metal and the Classics.”

There has been a recent surge of comic book and cinematic interest in antiquity and the Classics characterized, for example, by Frank Miller’s 300 and Hollywood’s Gladiator (et al.). For some time, however, heavy metal music since the 1970s has drawn on classical material, both historical and mythological, for subject matter. Heavy metal has inspired bands worldwide, like Ex Deo, whose musical compositions and videos focus solely on classical topics such as Romulus, Remus and the foundation of Rome.

This paper demonstrates via an aural and visual medium how heavy metal serves as a vehicle for male aggression and the celebration of Greek and Roman military prowess. I offer two examples as a springboard for the discussion of classical reception in this genre: England’s Iron Maiden and its final track “Alexander the Great” from the 1986 album Somewhere in Time and Canada’s Ex Deo and their track and music video “The Final War (Battle of Actium)” released on the Ides of March in 2009.

Both bands devote their longer and most musically diverse compositions to their classically inspired topic and employ a variety of time and key signatures, complex rhythms and multi-movement song structures to illuminate the perception of war as emotionally violent and psychologically traumatic. The music’s expression of aggression, violence and military conflict appeal predominantly, but not exclusively, to a male audience. Ultimately, heavy metal’s appropriation of Greek and Roman antiquity in terms of war and empire both mirrors and justifies its own aggressive musical aesthetic.  Top

Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Stanford University): “Bringing Swords of Damocles: Classical Legend in Contemporary Rap.”

This paper will explore the dynamic and very finely textured appropriation of the classical tradition that is taking place in American hip-hop—and argue that appreciation and discussion of this practice is long overdue. My paper will focus on one specific marker of this appropriation: the adaptation and figurative re-enactment of the sword of Damocles legend. In the opening section of my paper, I examine two references to the sword of Damocles in modern rap: Wyclef Jean’s verbal allusion in the opening verses of The Fugees’ “Zealots” (released in 1996 on the multi-platinum album The Score) and Kanye West’s visual evocation in the opening seconds of the music video for his chart-topping single “Power” (2010). After situating the allusions within the context of the verse and visual artworks they respectively headline, I make two interconnected arguments. First, taking Wyclef’s reworking as my point of departure, I contend that the story of Damocles has been provocatively mapped onto a post-commercialized regime of rap where rappers harp on the wealth and consumption prowess that enable them to style themselves as royalty. In this specific context, the legend of the sword of Damocles has been appropriated to signal a emergent feature of the agonistics of hip-hop. Second, I argue that we can detect a shift in hip-hop’s positioning vis-à-vis an imagined—and repeatedly challenged—white Euro-American cultural koine by reading the Damoclean legend’s appropriation by the Fugees and Kanye against references to classical history and myth in the work of other hip-hop artists. From the genre’s beginnings in the late 1970s to its mainstreaming in the early to mid-90s, hip-hop artists and groups such as Boogie Down Productions articulated a Bernal-esque resistance to the notion of European cultural superiority by pitting ancient Egypt against ancient Greece. With the Fugees and then Kanye’s manipulation of the Damoclean story, I suggest that we enter a somewhat different realm, a zone of hybridity where the Graeco-Roman tradition is self-consciously seized upon, co-opted, and re-framed. My paper concludes by emphasizing that attention to rap’s multivalent engagements with the classical tradition is crucial for a better understanding of 21st-century music’s evolving   relationship with the Classics.  Top

Anastasia Bakogianni (The Open University, UK): “Haunting melodies of an ancient past: classical themes in the works of the modern Greek composer Eugenia Manolidou.”

This paper explores the musical appropriation of the classical past in the oeuvre of the Modern Greek composer Eugenia Manolidou (1975- ). It examines her output as a rising star on the classical musical scene of modern Greece and her impact on audiences both in her native country and abroad. Both the creativity of the artist herself and the uses to which it is put in the wider cultural field are addressed. Manolidou’s approach to the classical material is examined closely as well as her personal positioning within the wider debate between past and present and its political implications. This case study adds to the debate about the ways in which this relationship is re-imagined and communicated by an artist who is not only actively pursuing this dialogue, but who has also made it an integral part of her music. This paper analyses the relationship between ancient and modern themes and modalities in the practitioner’s oeuvre. It is illustrated by an in-depth analysis of key musical examples of Manolidou’s creative re-working of the classical past in her recordings.  Top