Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Musical Metaphors

In comparing verbal language with the language of music, Leonard Bernstein postulated the existence of musical metaphor. One musical composition might be seen as a metaphor for an earlier composition.

In The Unanswered Question – Six Talks at Harvard by Leonard Bernstein (1976) Bernstein analogized  linguistics to music to try to discover how music conveys “meaning.”  In Lecture 3, Bernstein expounded musical “semantics.”   He explored the musical analog of figures of speech: metaphor, ambiguity, simile, antonym, anaphora, chiasmus, asyndeton, “this is like that.”

Perhaps Franz Liszt's late piano composition En Reve  (Dreaming) can be seen as a metaphor for Chopin's Berceuse, Op. 57.

Chopin's Berceuse, Op. 57:

In the late 1970s I used to play Liszt's En Reve on the piano.  A few nights ago I came across a performance of the piece on YouTube.  I hadn't played or heard the piece in all these intervening years.  I had a sense of uncanniness listening to it.  The piece is a wonderful and magically-nostalgic reverie.  Liszt wrote En Reve the year before he died.

Upon listening to the music, I was amazed at how I was still moved by it.  How little has changed in my emotional life!


Gary Freedman said...

Frédéric Chopin's Berceuse Op. 57 (1843-44) is a lullaby to be played on piano. It consists of variations in D-flat major. At first the composer titled the work Variations, but the title was altered for publication to the current Berceuse.

The music begins and ends in 6/8 time. 'Berceuse' literally means "cradle song."

One of Franz Liszt's late orchestral compositions is a tone poem titled: Vom Wiege bis zum Grabe -- From the Cradle to the Grave.

Gary Freedman said...

Franz Liszt's Wiegenlied (Cradle Song) or Lullaby: