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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A schenkerian approach to text-music relations in selected lieder by Robert Schumann Martin, Alexander


This is an analytical and interpretive study of selected songs by Robert Schumann. In it, I showcase some of the possible ways that concepts in Schenkerian analysis can reveal interesting, hidden, or new text-music relations. These relations, in turn, allow for new and imaginative interpretative possibilities. I demonstrate how specific Schenkerian analytical findings resonate with structures, imagery, and meaning in the poetic text of seven songs. Three songs are presented as individual case studies and each exemplify how a musical structure can take on the status of musical metaphor for a feature in the text. In “Sängers Trost” (Op. 127, no. 1), I show how tension and release in the poetry correspond to rising and falling linear progressions and that a motive introduced in the accompaniment is transformed at the vocal highpoint. In “Frühlingslust” (Op. 125, no. 2), I show how the binary opposition between freedom and imprisonment—respectively represented by a butterfly and love in the text—is dramatized in the song’s tonic-dominant polarity, and how voice-leading techniques (superposition, cover tone, and register transfer) characterize the butterfly’s carefree flight. In “Die Meerfee” (Op. 15, no. 3), I investigate how an exotic chromatic voice-exchange, within what is revealed to be a dramatic elaboration of a middleground neighbour note figure, captures the wonder and confusion experienced by a young boy who witnesses a sea fairy. In a chapter on the Vier Husarenlieder Op. 117, I discuss how the four songs in the collection cohere poetically and musically. A reaching-down gesture (Untergreifung) in “Der Husar!” provides access to a solemn facet of the Hussar’s personality and contrasts with his cultivated bravura. In “Der leidige Frieden,” an octave transfer of 2 ̂/V embodies the role-reversal between the Hussar and his saber. I discuss how the Hussar’s conflation of civilian and military life relates to the song’s formal organization in “Den grünen Zeigern.” Lastly, I show how the transference of the Urlinie from the voice to the accompaniment resonates with the image in the text of the Hussar galloping away on horseback.

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