Narratives of Innocence and Experience: Plot Archetypes in Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet and Piano Quartet
This dissertation explores the interaction between structure and narrative in Schumann's 1842 chamber music for strings and piano. This repertoire, while somewhat neglected in the current scholarly analytical literature, reveals Schumann's success at creating an identity of his own in the chamber music genre--an identity surely influenced by his love of Romantic literature, which I find makes his music especially suitable for narrative analysis. Using the narratological approach of Byron Almén as my primary methodology, I also draw upon the semiotic approaches of Robert Hatten and Kofi Agawu and the narratological approaches of Anthony Newcomb and Douglass Seaton in order to enrich the discussion. My analyses use structural support to trace musical oppositions--including oppositions in topic, style, markedness, motive, and texture--in order to support narrative readings. More importantly, I explore how oppositions in foreground voice leading can be mapped onto expressive oppositions, thus enhancing narrative interpretations. In the first chapter I discuss the relevant theoretical and analytical literature associated with music and meaning, focusing on the current trends in semiotic and narratological theory as applied to instrumental music. I provide critiques of the theories discussed as well as insights into how each theory is useful for the current study. In the last subsection of this chapter I recognize the problems that one-to-one mappings between structure and meaning can create and discuss the benefits and pitfalls of this type of analysis. Chapter 2 provides historical context for the year during which Schumann wrote the pieces studied in this dissertation (1842) and explores Schumann's chamber music models--Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn--and his compositional process. Chapters 3 through 6 provide comprehensive analyses of the four movements from Schumann's Piano Quintet, op. 44. Primarily using Byron Almén's adaptation of Northrop Frye's theoretical model of narrative archetypes, I show how the four movements of the Piano Quintet move in clockwise motion around the circular model: the first movement as a romance archetype at the top of the circle in the realm of innocence, the second movement as a fall to the tragic archetype at the bottom of the circle in the realm of experience and tragedy, the third movement as a move to the ironic archetype in the realm of experience, and the fourth movement as a move upward to the comic archetype with a return to innocence and happiness. Chapter 7 comprises two additional readings of romance narratives in Schumann's Piano Quartet, op. 47 that reveal new features of this archetype. The first movement not only presents a hero who is victorious over external transgressions, but a hero who is also victorious over his own internal transgressions as his character grows and matures throughout the movement, a process of Bildung. The third movement illustrates a romance archetype in the form of a duet between two characters: a male and a female that represent Robert and Clara Schumann. In the final chapter of this dissertation I suggest implications for further study, focusing on other chamber music repertoire by Robert Schumann. The research and analysis undertaken in this dissertation provides both comprehensive structural and narrative analyses of six movements from Schumann's Piano Quintet and Piano Quartet and illustrates how the existing theories of music and meaning (both narrative and semiotic) can be effectively correlated with oppositions in structural voice leading in ways that provide analytical interpretations that have a greater depth than many that currently exist.
Meaning, Narrative, Quartet, Quintet, Schumann, Semiotics
April 22, 2013.
A Dissertation submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Joseph Kraus, Professor Directing Dissertation; Douglass Seaton, University Representative; Michael Buchler, Committee Member; James Mathes, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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