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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Season songs : a song cycle for voice and orchestra Mitchell, Mark Howard


Season Songs is a song cycle for mezzo-soprano (or tenor) and medium sized orchestra (a perfoming version for voice and piano is appended). There are four songs and an orchestral prelude. The poems are by various authors and provide the programmatic elements of the cycle in that each poem is set in a different season of the year and time of day: winter/morning, spring/afternoon, summer/evening, and autumn/night respectively. The title of the prelude sets it just before dawn. The music of the prelude and the last song is closely related both motivically and tonally, thus reinforcing the cyclical nature of the work. The accompanying commentary seeks to explain the compositional processes and aesthetic principles which guided the creation of Season Songs. The music explores nonfunctional tonality, in that means other than traditional tonic-dominant (i.e., V-I) relationships are sought by which to create a sense of forward propelled harmonic motion. This sense of harmonic "trajectory", in conjunction with appropriate rhythmic proportions, is held to be one of the most important factors contributing toward the sense of departure and return, tension and resolution in the music. The main means used toward this end is a four-note source cell which governs much of the harmonic and motivic activity in the work, from the most local level of leading motives of individual songs to the broadest level of key relationships among songs. The harmonic manifestation of the source cell promotes root movement by major thirds and minor seconds on the local as well as broad levels. Sonorities associated with traditional tonality, such as open fifths in the bass and major or minor triads, are common, although the contexts in which they are heard are usually non-traditional. The metric pulse is usually distinctly articulated and readily intelligible, although changes in metre are frequent in most of the songs. The text setting aspires to a directness of expression. The words will be intelligible in performance and the music reflects and magnifies the emotional content of the the text. While there are several levels on which the music can be appreciated, over-obscurity is avoided, as a rule, especially in the composition of the musical surface.

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