Title

Ghosts: The Haunting Role of Literature in Tchaikovsky’s Musical Compositions

Lead Author Major

Music and English

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Jeffrey Hole

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Abstract/Artist Statement

This project examines the reappearance of classic literary works in the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It questions his rationale for illustrating text-based literature using purely instrumental music, as well as his desire to return to European classics rather than pursue the then current trend of composition toward a new Russian nationalism. Through the study of Tchaikovsky’s historical background, cultural surroundings, and musical influences, a deeper understanding of the composer’s biases comes into play. A study of his compositions and the original works of literature which inspired them, combined with secondary reading of musicologists and literary critics, yields further insight into the interdependent relationship of literature and music. Ultimately, it poses the question: what is the power in music which cannot be satisfied by written text alone? The presentation will focus specifically on the relationship between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet Overture. The elements of the supernatural which surface throughout Hamlet will be examined in relationship to Tchaikovsky’s portrayal of the text in his overture, including his attempt to revive this text from the past, bringing it to life in a similar-yetchanged form much like that of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Tchaikovsky’s motives for resurrecting the classic will be examined, expounding on his belief that music has a power in its performance that cannot be matched by any written text. Through writings of Tchaikovsky himself, as well as more modern-day critics, we will explore exactly what constitutes the power contained in music which extends beyond that which is found in the text alone.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

20-4-2013 10:50 AM

End Date

20-4-2013 11:05 AM

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Apr 20th, 10:50 AM Apr 20th, 11:05 AM

Ghosts: The Haunting Role of Literature in Tchaikovsky’s Musical Compositions

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

This project examines the reappearance of classic literary works in the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It questions his rationale for illustrating text-based literature using purely instrumental music, as well as his desire to return to European classics rather than pursue the then current trend of composition toward a new Russian nationalism. Through the study of Tchaikovsky’s historical background, cultural surroundings, and musical influences, a deeper understanding of the composer’s biases comes into play. A study of his compositions and the original works of literature which inspired them, combined with secondary reading of musicologists and literary critics, yields further insight into the interdependent relationship of literature and music. Ultimately, it poses the question: what is the power in music which cannot be satisfied by written text alone? The presentation will focus specifically on the relationship between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet Overture. The elements of the supernatural which surface throughout Hamlet will be examined in relationship to Tchaikovsky’s portrayal of the text in his overture, including his attempt to revive this text from the past, bringing it to life in a similar-yetchanged form much like that of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Tchaikovsky’s motives for resurrecting the classic will be examined, expounding on his belief that music has a power in its performance that cannot be matched by any written text. Through writings of Tchaikovsky himself, as well as more modern-day critics, we will explore exactly what constitutes the power contained in music which extends beyond that which is found in the text alone.