From The Diary Of Virginia Woolf

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The eight movement song cycle “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf” is a musical setting of excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s famed diary by American composer Dominick Argento. Each of the eight diary excerpts is presented chronologically as its own musical movement. The selected entires range from Woolf’s first entry (April 1919) to Woolf’s last entry (March 1941). The diary text is brought to life through Argento’s highly annotated musical setting. The score is written using a twelve-tone row which is repeated throughout the cycle in both the piano and vocal part. In addition to the twelve-tone row, dramatic motivic themes and contrasting create an emotional journey for the listener experiencing Woolf’s diary. I. THE DIARY The first movement…show more content…
Something...so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk...in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life... The first song, like many of the songs in the cycle, is written in Rondo form with repetitive thematic material reflective in Woolf’s contrasting text. Given the appropriate title of “contemplation theme” by Holly Wrensch , the opening melody in the piano (which serves as an introduction to the Rondo form of the song) begins with a haunting anacrusis of a minor second (see Figure 1). Both the use of the interval of a minor second and the sequential “contemplation theme” are reused through the song cycle in a variety of variations. FIGURE 1: “The Diary”, measure…show more content…
This theme is made up of four sustained bell-like tones that create a pair of major sixth intervals. The major sixth intervals are separated by a whole step and are first ascending following by descending. Argento subtly quotes the haunting minor second anacrusis figure from the opening of the movement down an octave in the alto part. The bass of the piano calmly arpeggiates a G Major triad. FIGURE 3: “The Diary”, measures thirteen to fourteen At measure thirty-one, the C section of the rondo begins with a calming and reoccurring E Major chord pedal point. The vocal line quotes the interval of a major sixth from the “arching half note theme”, unifying the B and C section. A brief rhythmic quoting of the opening anacrusis also occurs, but for the first time as a major second (see Figure 4). After a final appearance of the twelve-tone row, the piano coda concludes the song quoting both the “contemplation theme” and the “arching half note
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