Gender and Compositional Choice: Four Songs on a Poem of Heinrich Heine by Female and Male Composers
Citron, Marcia J.
Doctor of Musical Arts
As an accepted genre of female composition, song lies in a unique position among musical genres. This allows it to stand largely outside the area of Claude Steele’s notion of “stereotype threat,” and being absent such weighty pressures, it could then furnish an arena in which female composers can do their best work. As a genre that combines the arts of music and poetry, song is based upon a given set of symbols that provide the composer with inspiration. The study of these symbols and their possible metaphorical meanings can offer a guide to that inspiration. By studying two settings by male composers and two settings of female composers, we can compare their individual and gendered approach to those symbols for elements of a masculine or feminine style. Heinrich Heine’s 23rd poem in Die Heimkehr, analyzed thoroughly in Chapter 2, is the focal text in this study. In Chapters 3 through 6 each of the settings is examined at length using both a standard formal analysis and the “Grundgestalt” concept of Schoenberg. The settings examined are “Ihr Bild” by Franz Schubert, “Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen” and “Ihr Bildniss” (two versions of the same work) by Clara Schumann, “Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen” by Hugo Wolf, and a setting of the same name by Ingeborg von Bronsart. Each discussion focuses on the individual reactions to the specific symbols identified in Chapter 2, as well as the global approach to some well-known literary aspects of paternalistic literary culture of the time. The thesis concludes with a summary of the similarities and differences in the preceding four examinations. Chapter 7 also draws conclusions based on those contrasts, which yields an evaluation of gendered reactions and the possibility of a feminine style in the nineteenth century.