Musical brokenness, intentionality, and the singer-actor: A view from the stage


Background in music theory and analysis. Recent examinations of the intentionality of musical structure (Almén, 2006), the relationship between analysis and performance (Latham, 2006), and the use of interdisciplinary methods for the analysis of opera (Abbate, 2001) provide a basis for the present study. From a 'New Schenkerian' perspective that incorporates recent contributions on the meaning of musical structure (Burstein, 2006; Brown, 2005; Everett, 2004; Schachter, 1999), this paper will propose two alternative models of background structure—the permanent interruption and the multi-movement Ursatz (Latham, 2005)—that are better able to represent the musico-dramatic structures of opera and, by extension, other large-scale or fractured works. Examples will be given from the operas of Joplin and Weill, and particular emphasis will be placed on the potential impact of the new analytical models for performance. Background in performance. This paper will use Constantin Stanislavsky's concept of the dramatic objective as a starting point for its discussion of performance, particularly as it relates to the Schenkerian concept of interruption, or failure to achieve linear closure. The ongoing publication by Routledge Press of a new English translation of the complete works of Stanislavsky (Carnicke, 1993) indicates the continued relevance of his theories for present-day actors and directors. Historically neglected by students of "the Method," Stanislavsky's system of objectives (Stanislavsky, 1961; Hagen, 1991; Levin, 1992 and 2002) can lend valuable insights into dramatic structure and re-open the question of intentionality for texted musical works. A particular character's failure to achieve his or her dramatic objective will be considered a dramatic interruption and will be discussed with regard to its potential correlation with music-structural interruptions. The status of Stanislavsky's system as a practical tool intended for use by performers will be discussed and compared with Schenkerian theory, which, though still far from attaining it, aspires to a similar status. Aims. We aim to expand Schenkerian theory by opening it to other disciplines, particularly dramatic theory, and to re-examine the question of intentionality in light of our findings on the correlations between musical and dramatic structure. Through our synthesis of two different fields of inquiry (music theory and dramatic theory), we hope to reinvigorate analysis and performance studies, particularly of vocal music.

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