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'One for all and all for one': voicing in Stravinsky's music theatre

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 14:30 authored by Nicholas McKay
This paper explores the metaphor of ‘voice’ as an interpretative phenomenon for reading musical utterances in Stravinsky music theatre. It builds on Taruskin and Harvey’s comments on authorial absence (i.e. the apparent annihilation of the composer’s ‘voice’ from the musical text) and surrogacy (i.e. the recourse to borrowed voices of other composers and styles). These differing modes of suppressing authorial voice are shown to be operative in the musical text through signs of referential semiosis. These signs are read through Cone’s musicological theory of the musical persona and Bakhtin’s literary-theory concept of double-voiced discourse. This theoretical framework is applied to the contrasting music theatre of Stravinsky's so-called ‘Turanian’ (Les noces) and ‘neoclassic’ (Oedipus Rex) works, supported by illustrative analyses from The Rite of Spring, Symphony of Psalms and The Rake’s Progress. A distinction is drawn between the multiple disembodied physical voicing strategies of the Turanian works (the application of many singers to ‘voice’ one character) and an analogous neoclassic concept of multiple disembodied hermeneutic voicing (generated by allusive references to other voices in the double-voiced musical personas of characters ‘voiced’ through conventional, unitary embodied physical voicing). The resulting interpretations are grounded in the context of Meyerhold’s ‘theatre of illustration’ and Stravinsky's constructivist fascination with the disembodied musical machine of the pianola.


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  • Published


Journal of Music and Meaning







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  • Music Publications

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