UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Representations of witches in nineteenth century music Dore, Kelly Lyn


Portrayals of witches appear frequently in nineteenth-century music, either as supernatural characters as in folk tales, or as real persons (especially women) who are viewed by society as possessing the stereotype features of the witch. This thesis examines the musical characterizations of these witches, suggesting that their portrayals share a common vocabulary of musical features, and thus constitute what scholars such as Leonard Ratner, Kofi Agawu, or Robert Hatten call musical “topics.” The topics I have discerned include “noises and sounds ostensibly made by witches,” “the dance,” “sinister atmosphere” and an aesthetic of extremes which I have termed “aesthetic inversion.” Definitions and terminology related to witches in relevant European languages are reviewed in Chapter One. There follows a history of witches and witchcraft in Europe with the hope that it will provide an historical context which will enhance the reader’s understanding of the character of the witch. Chapter Two provides musical analyses of the musical “topics” which the composers drew upon to communicate to the audiences their representations of witches. In Chapter Three I examine the implications of these depictions from ideological, political and gender standpoints. The thesis concludes with a summation of the “topics” and their uses.

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