Dr Margaret McAllister (Fulbright-Scotland Visiting Professor, Berklee College of Music): Music, Words and Meaning: An Exploration in Synergistic Composition
PLEASE NOTE: This talk has been postponed due to logistical issues. When it is rescheduled it will be listed again on these pages. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.
Historically, composers of classical music in the Western art music tradition, have absorbed, harvested and/or transformed musical ideas from past and present, from disparate styles and genres, to inspire musical expressions, and as pathways to strike their musical imagination into form. In like manner, the role of words generated by forms such as: poetry, prose, sacred texts and dramatic narratives, are inextricably inter-twined with the history of human musical expression. While listening to music without words, so called “absolute music,” we sense meaning and collective experience to be there, but it cannot be rationally defined since the music consists of purely sonic events. When the music includes the setting of a text, the imagination of the listener is directed toward more tangible meanings. Composers, when setting text, work in unique ways with the various elements in the architecture of the formal structures, and sonic vocabulary of the text they have chosen. While the variables involved in setting words to music are truly vast, I will attempt to guide the non-specialist into the world of how a composer might choose a text and some of the varied processes that could be used to set it to music. My Fulbright project is to collaborate synergistically with Scottish poet Aonghas MacNeacail in creating a work for chorus and orchestra and I will also touch on this collaboration as one having complex cultural and linguistic challenges. email@example.com