Title

Todesfuge

Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Music

Advisor

Stephen Blum

Advisor

Jeff Nichols

Subject Categories

Composition

Keywords

Celan, Paul, Gershwin, George, Johnson, James P., Mayfield, Curtis, Parker, William, Roberts, Marcus

Abstract

Todesfuge (2008-2010) is a setting, for tenor and chamber orchestra, of Paul Celan's poem of the same name. Celan wrote his landmark work on the Holocaust in the years after he himself was freed from internment in a Romanian forced labor camp in 1944, though its imagery is drawn from accounts of the death camps in Poland. From the outset, I was ambivalent about setting this text to music, but felt compelled, and my response was to frame it with idiomatic references to German music from Wagner to Weill, exploring the discomfort of using aesthetic artifice to represent unspeakable atrocities. In this sense, my setting aspires to enter into a dialogue with the spare lyricism of Celan's German text, itself so hauntingly beautiful yet witness to such desolation.

Comments

This composition and the essay, "Different Placements of Spirit: African American Musicians Historicizing in Sound," together constitute the author's dissertation but are otherwise unrelated.

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