Music as the Preferred Narrative Device
Siev, Jason S.
Yeshiva University, degree granting institution.
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This essay, in conjunction with an original piano fantasy entitled “Scenes from a Life” that I composed in fall 2019, will comprise my Honors Thesis. While my composition can be enjoyed unaccompanied, for the purpose of this thesis it should be listened to with this essay close at hand. This essay is crucial to understanding the composition through the eyes of its composer as well as discerning the main point of this thesis – that being why I decided to choose music as the preferred device with which to tell a story and recount personal experiences. In Part I, I examine each section of my composition and offer an in-depth analysis of the various devices used to impart the scenes’ narratives to the listener. The fantasy comprises three scenes, with the first titled “Birth,” the second titled “Musical Education,” and the third titled “Heartbreak.” Within each scene, multiple devices impart the story, some easily apparent by following the score and listening to the piece itself, others requiring more explanation and analysis on my part as composer. As such, this essay will define and elaborate upon the gestures and representational devices I used to tell my story; the end result will reveal to both reader and listener the music’s intrinsic and extra-musical narratives. === In Part II, I explain my decision to use music as a narrative device. I begin by discussing music’s unlimited capacity to express. Through the ideas of notable thinkers such as Vladimir Jankélévitch, Igor Stravinsky, and Immanuel Kant, I explore music’s noumenal identity. Its essential nature is not extrinsically known; using subjective identities, rules, and limitations, we use music to express or do anything we want, and we are limited only by personal and social restraints. Music, thus, simultaneously rejects and catalyzes narrative. I also address and defend the notion of music as a universal language by turning to such scholarship as Kathleen Higgins’s book, The Music Between Us, and the ideas Leonard Bernstein expressed in his 1973 Norton lectures at Harvard, entitled The Unanswered Question. These lectures examine the relationship between music and linguistics, and compare their grammatical competences. Finally, in an effort to examine music’s unique and powerful capacity for expression, I explore additional scholarship on music’s ability to reveal the innate qualities and characteristics shared among people, and to engage in multimodal sensory reception. (from Introduction)
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