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.