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Anton Webern first attempted dodecaphonic composition in the summer of 1922 when he wrote twelve-tone sketches for the poetic text "Mein Weg geht jetzt vorueber." Although he completed the song as an atonal work, Webern continued experimenting with serial writing from 1923-24, composing a series of sketches which led to his exclusive adoption of the technique in fall 1924. After completing two serial works, Kinderstueck for piano (M. 267) and Drei Volkstexte, Op. 17 from 1924-25, Webern composed Drei Lieder, Op. 18 in 1925, his first multimovement work written exclusively within a twelve-tone idiom. Despite this stylistic achievement, Op. 18 has been rarely studied, cited merely as a transitional work leading to Webern's fuller realization of the technique in his "mature" twelve-tone works. In addition, scholars have erroneously described the intricate musical texture as being chaotic in nature, noting its discrepancy with that of the folkloristic texts on which Op. 18 is based. The following study establishes an intimate link between the poetic texts and texture of Drei Lieder, Op. 18. The rows imbue the songs with a limited number of interval and set formations that draw associations between words of the individual texts. In addition, recurring contours recall both the mood and the narrative events depicted in each poem. These repeated sonorities are interwoven into a texture in which shifting meters, rapidly-changing dynamics, extreme registral shifts, articulation markings, and rhythmic figures enhance their aural presence. Op. 18 represents a musical realization of Goethe's Urpflanze concept, a notion Webern looked to in defining his twelve-tone technique. Just as the Urpflanze, or primeval plant, represents an underlying sameness among differing plant parts, the rows and contours establish perceptible aural unity throughout the Op. 18 songs.
Lieder, Drei Lieder, Urpflanze, Goethe, Anton Webern, Webern, Op. 18
Date of Defense
November 1, 2004.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Music in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Music..
Includes bibliographical references.
Jane Piper Clendinning, Professor Directing Thesis; James R. Mathes, Committee Member; Denise Von Glahn, Committee Member; Matthew Shaftel, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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