'The Difference Between Us': Using Early Medieval Northern European Texts in the Creation of a Work for Instrumental Ensemble, Voices and Electronics

Hunt, Edmund (2017) 'The Difference Between Us': Using Early Medieval Northern European Texts in the Creation of a Work for Instrumental Ensemble, Voices and Electronics. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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The aim of this investigation was to explore ways of using untranslated early medieval texts in contemporary musical composition, drawing on literature in Old English, medieval Irish, Old Norse and Middle Welsh. The ultimate goal of this research was to compose a chamber opera for three singers, ensemble and electronics. Despite focusing on the use of text, this is not a literary or linguistic research project. While a knowledge of languages, form and metre has been crucial to my work, the texts have been treated as an element of the creative compositional process. The music has not been written to exemplify text, but to explore and extrapolate the ideas that might arise from it. Moreover, although the texts under consideration were from early medieval northern Europe, the project did not address issues of historical performance practice. Neither was there any attempt to recreate a historical or imagined form of early music. Instead, the texts were used for the literary and sonic content that they provided. The musical language with which these ideas were expressed is my own, which owes its development both to contemporary music and to the legacy of the twentieth century. The first chapter introduces the background to the project, with reference to contemporary composers whose works have informed and influenced the development of my ideas. This is followed by a brief description of the major piece, a chamber opera for three singers, ensemble and electronics entitled The Difference Between Us. In order to hone and explore the various approaches that had the potential to be used in the chamber opera, it was necessary to compose a variety of supporting works. The first supporting work, We Are Apart; Our Song Together, is discussed in detail in Chapter Two, since the composition was included in its entirety as part of the final work. Additional supporting works are discussed in Chapter Three, with sections of this chapter devoted to the vocal, instrumental and electronic compositions of the portfolio. The ideas that were !ii developed in these three compositional genres achieved synthesis in the final work, The Difference Between Us, which is discussed in Chapter Four. In writing The Difference Between Us, the supporting compositions provided invaluable preparatory research into the ways in which early medieval texts could shape the musical structure and content of the work at every level, from surface detail through to global structure. However, the use of untranslated texts in a chamber opera raised profound questions regarding communication and narrative. The form, structure and content of The Difference Between Us arose precisely as an attempt to answer these questions. Rather than limiting the scope of the chamber opera, the early medieval texts became the cornerstone of the musical structure and drama of the work. These conclusions are discussed and evaluated in Chapter Five.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: I wish to acknowledge my profound gratitude to my main supervisor, Edwin Roxburgh, for his continued advice, helpful criticism and support. I would also like to thank Richard Causton, whose insightful comments and analyses were an invaluable stimulus during monthly supervisions until 2012. I am grateful to Francis Firth and the staff at Birmingham Conservatoire library for obtaining books and scores which greatly facilitated my research. The research department of Birmingham Conservatoire provided travel bursaries to enable my attendance at overseas performances of my work, for which I owe particular thanks to Professor Ronald Woodley and to Liz Reeve. As my academic supervisor, Professor Woodley’s guidance and comments regarding my written work were invaluable. Towards the end of my doctoral studies, Professor Christopher Dingle gave me vital advice regarding the completion and submission of my PhD. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Joe Cutler, for his indispensable help in facilitating performances and workshops of my compositions, and for his advice and comments after hearing my music. My compositional research has been aided by the stimulating, practical environment of Birmingham Conservatoire, for which I am grateful to all the staff and students I have met. Finally, I am sincerely thankful to my director of studies, Dr. Simon Hall, for his advice and support during every stage of my PhD.
29 September 2017Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: composition, vocal, voice, medieval texts, Old Norse, Welsh, Old English, Irish, electroacoustic, orchestral, emsemmble
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-04 - languages and area studies > CAH19-04-09 - others in language and area studies
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-02 - performing arts > CAH25-02-02 - music
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2019 12:05
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:54
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7192

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