Double-Tonic Complexes and the Afterlife in Sibelius’s “Sydämeni Laulu” (SotonMAC)

Society for Music Analysis Conference 2019, University of Southampton (31 Jul 2019)


Historically,  depictions  of  Finnish  landscape  in  Sibelius’s  music  have  been  attributed  to Klangflächen,  ‘sound-sheets’, or  other  processes  that  involve  harmonic  stasis  and  expansive ostinato patterns. Through  detailed  analysis, this paper will reveal  that Sibelius sometimes instead employs techniques of tonal distance to evoke spatially remote landscapes. ‘Sydämeni Laulu’, which lies in almost total musicological obscurity, is one such example, and it thus warrants analytical attention as a counterpoint to established critical approaches within Sibelius scholarship. Sibelius’s song associates tonal relatives and static Kopftons with the spatial subject positions expressed  by  Alexis  Kivi’s  lyrics.  The  lullaby-like  poem  is  sung  at  the  end  of  Kivi’s  novel, Seisemän Veljestä,  by a mother to her baby as he dies, to reassure him that the afterlife – Tuonela of Finnish mythology – will be peaceful.

Sibelius sets the lullaby as a miniature ternary form of  five  strophes  (ABABA),  which  end  in  C  minor  or  E♭  major  according  to  the  alternating poetic content of the stanzas. The relative major is associated with a desired, but ultimately  unobtainable  landscape  of  Tuonela,  while  the  minor  is  associated  with  the  sorrowful  tonal
‘reality’ of the mother’s position in the realm of the living. My paper foregrounds these tonally and  poetically  distant  positions  within  a  voice-leading  analysis  to  understand  Sibelius’s syncretic dialogues with Finnish-Karelian and Central-European nineteenth-century musical traditions.