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20th Century Music Panel

Saturday, January 16, 10:00am
Music Room 1207
Michael Vitalino, chair

20th Century Music Panel: Vincent Rone, Daniel Huey, Julianne Lindberg, and Michael Vitalino

20th Century Music Panel: Vincent Rone, Daniel Huey, Julianne Lindberg, and Michael Vitalino (chair)

"Pedagogy, Play, and 'the pianist's reward': Erik Satie's Piano Albums for Children"

Julianne Lindberg, Musicology
University of California, Los Angeles

Satie's three piano albums for children—collectively titled Enfantines—were written in 1913, a particularly auspicious year for modern music, as well as one of Satie's most prolific. These small pieces address Satie's interest in the childlike, a preoccupation that marks much of his work. Like all of the humorous piano works he wrote between the years 1912 and 1917, Satie's children's pieces include fanciful phrases, similar in spirit to nonsense poetry, sprinkled throughout the staves. And, if we are to take Satie seriously (an admittedly dubious prospect), they are not to be read aloud during performance. They are, as Satie is claimed to have said, "the pianists reward."

In this paper I will analyze the relationship between unspoken text and musical performance in Satie's Enfantines. Given that Satie designed these pieces to be played by children, I will explore the ways that Satie uses the written (albeit silent) word to help children recall musical passages, using color, gesture, and humor to mnemonic effect. In doing so, Satie organizes his music alongside an internalized, fanciful narrative, and gives his pupils the freedom to engage in the music through play. In a decidedly Rousseauian fashion, Satie hoped to have children learn without knowing they were doing so. Indeed, these pieces were designed—visually, musically, textually, and physically—with the delight of the child in mind. Satie's educational philosophy dovetails nicely with modernist attitudes of the early 20th century, uniting Enfantines with a body of works—written by Cocteau, Apollinaire, Stein, Les Six, and others—which play with the slippery relationship between text and act.

"Reading, Writing, and Regership: The Musical Prose of Max Reger"

Vincent E. Rone, Musicology
University of California, Santa Barbara

The German-Modernist composer, Max Reger (1873-1916), presents a fascinating study with respect to music and its larger communicative counterpart, the word. Because the composer's music resists stylistic categorization it is often dismissed as anachronistic: an overly bloated musical score of archaic forms laced with Bachian and Brahmsian counterpoint that are added to his own unique, jarring textures and harmonies. Reger's music has also been labeled as unclear, too dense, and at worst a product of epigonism. It has consequently led many critics, performers, and scholars alike to ask the question "What is Reger trying to say in his music?" His written discourse poses virtually the same question.

In his professional and personal writings, Reger frequently lapses into self deprecation; repeats ideas; and he emphatically uses punctuation markings such as multiple exclamation points and underlines. Thus, this paper argues that Max Reger's compositional style is analogous to that of his writing style. This essay is also an attempt to have those new to and familiar with Reger's music appreciate its seeming incomprehensibility, and foster sustained engagement with this strangely alluring personality. As further illustrated by scholars Christopher Anderson and Antonius Bittmann, the composer's idiosyncratic styles of writing and composing reveal a personality that was, perhaps above all else, plagued by paradox and doubt. So, before asking what Reger is trying to communicate, the better question may just be to ask how he communicates in the first place.

"Textual, Chordal, and Tintinnabular Analysis of Arvo Pärt's The Beatitudes"

Daniel Huey, Music Theory
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Arvo Pärt's The Beatitudes, written in 1990, utilizes a novel technique of tintinnabulation applied to the rhythmic and dissonance treatment of the text and its chordal sequence. I will address these textual and chordal matters and put this choral and organ piece into context of minimalist composition, a style that Pärt's music is often (though perhaps not always justifiably) categorized.

Pärt chose the text for The Beatitudes from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5:3-12. The repetitive nature of each verse allows for some fascinating text-painting possibilities. Verses 3-10 provide the same sentence construction—a blessing toward a certain virtue followed by a clause stating the reward of those possessing it. The treatment of dissonances within the phrases is particularly worth noting. For example, "Blessed" receives a harmonic dissonance, and each statement of the recurring word is long in duration. Other key words are treated in the same manner.

The piece's chord progression is a patterned process of New-Riemannian transformations. Each phrase centers around a single chord in the progression, which continues to spin itself out to the climactic word "Amen," where the arpeggiated organ solo concludes the piece by playing the progression in reverse order.

In addition to analyzing the textual and chordal relations, this analysis will also describe Pärt's tintinnabular technique and how he applied it in this piece. The adjacent triadic members of each phrase's chord frame the melodic lines that resemble Gregorian chant.

This paper will also ponder the possibility of this piece's being a minimalist composition through the spinning out of a process throughout and its relative simplicity of triadic-centered music.

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