Setting Music to a Text Essay

Setting Music to a Text Essay

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In setting a piece to music the composer has to take into account the feelings and emotions that he desires to create and then figure out how to produce that. In the case of Friedrich Rückert’s poem “I Am Lost to the World,” there are a wide variety of ways it can be set to music, which can be composed of unchanging elements, aspects that can change throughout, and word-painting – all of which will be compared to the setting by Gustav Mahler.
With any setting of a text to music, there are unchanging elements such as the ensemble to be used and the form. With “I Am Lost to the World,” a combination of winds, strings, and a few brass instruments would be a desirable ensemble to use along with a choir of females. This combination would allow for a full range of colors to be utilized. While the poem is dark and solemn, there are many ways for such a feeling to be expressed by instruments. With such a mixture, all those feelings can be touched on – from strings playing a slow legato to winds playing a solemn, deep tune. A through-composed form would allow for more variance as this poem is more of a narrative than a themed, repeating poem. The female choir would consist of equal numbers of sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, and altos. The high voices would be capable of expressing a longing, desperate, and almost hopeless feel that is characteristic in the poem. The music would be in simple triple meter and would generally be very slow in tempo. Being “lost to the world” is a very dark idea and the poem invokes a sense of loneliness. Such feelings can only be emphasized with a funeral like quality, requiring slow, somber music.
With every setting, there are dynamics and things that change from place to place. With “I Am Lost to the World,” t...


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... instead of a choir because it brings out the feelings of loneliness more. The experience with Mahler’s version is very gloomy and has some feelings of isolation.
The development of a piece of music set to a text involves many considerations. Such considerations include taking into account what emotions will be invoked where and how to get those feelings from the audience. Also, form, instruments, and singers, among a variety of other factors need to be taken into account. With Rückert’s text, I opted for slow-moving, sad sounding music based on the qualities of the poem – mainly the themes of loneliness and being lost. Mahler’s setting of the text had similarities to that, but also shared some differences such as only having one singer rather than a choir. The setting of the text to the music is based primarily on how the person composing it sees it fit.





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