Panel: Formenlehre in Context (Music Research Forum)

Music Research Forum 9 (28 April 2022) Semester 2, Department of Music, University of Manchester

This Forum brings together three contributors to the forthcoming edited collection Formenlehre in Context (ed. Kelvin Lee), to be submitted to Peeter’s ‘Analysis in Context’ series. Each panel member will give a position paper outlining the ways in which fin-de-siècle sociocultural contexts not only inform the music that was composed within them, but the theories of those musical forms too.

Kelvin Lee, KU Leuven

This talk explores the idea of landscape as a foundation for a Czech Formenlehre via a tour through the first movement of Zdeněk Fibich’s First Symphony. It considers the peculiar formal behaviour in the work as an expression of the Czech landscape, and from there, develops novel concepts to account for such a topography drawing on the recent advances in Formenlehre, topic theory and neo-Riemannian theory. The use of landscape as an underlying formal principle in turn points to a desire to recover a lost golden past, in which, I posit, lies the essence of Czechness.

Sarah Moynihan, University of Manchester 

Jean Sibelius’s early compositional output occured against the backdrop of an intensified cultural interest in forging national unity by promoting the Finnish language, its folksongs (Runolaulu) and mythology. This presentation focuses analytically on Sibelius’ Op. 17 songs (1891 – 1904), as case studies to reconsider the intersection of his fin de siècle formal approaches and the historical circumstances that informed them to move towards a formal theory of musical identity and text setting in Sibelius’s Seven Songs, Op. 17, during Finland’s national awakening.

Christopher Tarrant, Newcastle University 

This talk explores the tension between the genre of the tone poem and its close association with romanticism, Carl Nielsen’s contested status as a modernist, and the ability of the New Formenlehre to enhance our understanding of music which seems to resist formal taxonomy. Nielsen uses the dreams of Gunnar of Hlíðarendi, drawn from the Icelandic text Njál’s Saga, as the stimulus for his tone poem Saga-Drøm (1908). The result is a work which sits awkwardly with a straightforward understanding of the symphonic poem and disrupts the conventional experience of musical temporality.