Author Topic: The Composer as the Subject  (Read 364 times)

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Offline TheGSMoeller

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The Composer as the Subject
« on: March 18, 2017, 03:21:02 AM »
I was listening to Strauss' Sinfonia Domestica earlier and began to think about other composers that used themselves as the subject, or inspiration, of a composition. Strauss inserted movements, themes and melodies into this piece that represented himself, his wife, and their son. I've always been fascinated by this kaleidoscopic, and deeply personal tone poem.

I've been trying to think of other music composed in a similar manner to that of Domestica. Does anyone have a piece of music in mind? And if so, what is the structure of the piece, and what part does the composer's own life and /or experiences play into the music?

Thanks in advance for any replies.  :)

Offline Jo498

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2017, 03:25:56 AM »
Smetana's string quartet "From my life" supposedly depicts several phases from his life, including the onset of tinnitus/deafness in the finale. Although the earlier movements are not as clearly programmatic as e.g. Strauss or Smetana's "Vltava".
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2017, 06:04:42 AM »
I think Mahler’s works pretty much attest to being autobiographical even though there’s no explicit ‘program’. Music doesn’t get any more personal than Mahler’s.
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2017, 06:54:11 AM »
I think Mahler’s works pretty much attest to being autobiographical even though there’s no explicit ‘program’. Music doesn’t get any more personal than Mahler’s.

They're not autobiographical, although he drew upon his experience in them.  Mahler came to disdain programs and program music and never took the programs he wrote for his own works seriously, despite the endless reprinting of them in liner notes.

On the other hand, Schoenberg's String Trio and Berg's Lyric Suite are both directly programmatic and autobiographical.  The former recounts the experience of a heart attack and the subsequent recovery, while the latter charts the course of a doomed affair.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2017, 06:57:51 AM »
They're not autobiographical, although he drew upon his experience in them.  Mahler came to disdain programs and program music and never took the programs he wrote for his own works seriously, despite the endless reprinting of them in liner notes.

On the other hand, Schoenberg's String Trio and Berg's Lyric Suite are both directly programmatic and autobiographical.  The former recounts the experience of a heart attack and the subsequent recovery, while the latter charts the course of a doomed affair.

Mahler’s music may not be ‘autobiographical', but they’re deeply personal and his music says more about him, then it says about anyone else. I feel the same way about Ives’ music.
“Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music.” - Sergei Rachmaninov

Offline jessop

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2017, 12:24:32 PM »
They're not autobiographical, although he drew upon his experience in them.  Mahler came to disdain programs and program music and never took the programs he wrote for his own works seriously, despite the endless reprinting of them in liner notes.

On the other hand, Schoenberg's String Trio and Berg's Lyric Suite are both directly programmatic and autobiographical.  The former recounts the experience of a heart attack and the subsequent recovery, while the latter charts the course of a doomed affair.

I didn't know that about the String Trio......very interesting indeed!

Offline DaveF

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2017, 03:00:57 PM »
The E.D.U. variation at the end of the Enigma Variations - which bloated, pompous tripe Elgar apparently intended as a self-portrait (or was his tongue in his cheek?)  The first variation is Alice Elgar, of course, which is lovely - as is the rest of the piece.  Just that finale...
"Just because I like something, it doesn't mean it's any good."

Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2017, 07:14:27 PM »
The program of program music has
1.) rarely ever made any real sense to me in connection to what I am hearing. 
2.) rarely ever seemed to 'stick' to the piece upon repeated listening.
This does not include those very clear and blazing flashes where program and music do seem more completely welded, ex. Rimsky-Korsakov ~ Scheherazade.

I think the concept of the OP, as much as some folk do love them programs and programmatic works, puts the listener in peril of not recognizing that no matter what, whether a work strikes them as cerebral and emotionally distant or highly emotive / personal / passionate -- and regardless of the style of [any] era -- every piece that exists is in one way or another a very accurate and full portrait of the composer.


Best regards.
~ I'm all for personal expression; it just has to express something to me. ~

Offline α | ì Æ ñ

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2017, 07:16:34 PM »
Would Frank Zappa's 200 Motels count? or is that too literal?  :D
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2017, 05:27:55 AM »
Would Frank Zappa's 200 Motels count? or is that too literal?  :D

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Offline Cato

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Re: The Composer as the Subject
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2017, 05:44:38 AM »

I think the concept of the OP, as much as some folk do love them programs and programmatic works, puts the listener in peril of not recognizing that no matter what, whether a work strikes them as cerebral and emotionally distant or highly emotive / personal / passionate -- and regardless of the style of [any] era -- every piece that exists is in one way or another a very accurate and full portrait of the composer.


Which is what drove me away from composing...
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