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Thursday, February 14, 2008

I know you waited until grad school, but...

The Valkyries, of Norse mythology in origin, are minor female deities who served Odin. Their purpose was to choose the most heroic of those who died in battle and to carry them off to help fight aside Odin. According to the Porse Edda, “Odin sends the valkyries to every battle. They allot death to men and govern victory.”[1] Wilhelm Richard Wagner takes use of this mythological infamy in his massive work, Der Ring des Nibelungen. In the third part of his mammoth cycle, Die Walk├╝re, Wagner introduces the valkyries in his prelude “Ride of the Valkyries.” This work features a dotted eighth, sixteenth, eighth rhythm that is repeated again and again by the low brass, creating a foreboding chant of death for which the valkyries are known. The beginning of the piece the rhythm is repeated as a b minor arpeggio and continues until measure 35 where the culmination of brass begins with a B major arpeggio. For the performers this is a huge change of pace – the trumpets accentuate the major chord and hold it for some time, the longest duration the brass has played thus far. The tuba then enters with the trombones and reverts back to the valkyries’ rattle o’ death. For an audience member this sound is vastly different, changing from evil to brilliant, defeat to victory. Wagner’s use of mixture chords change the key from minor to major and create an ever-changing emotions that flare from bad to good and back again, but wait…victory is prevalent! It’s this feeling of “I don’t know what to expect from these creatures” that draws the audience, and performers, into the storyline and keeps them captivated to find out more as the music drama unfolds.


1 comment:

Scott said...

Good analysis. You could suggest ways to balance the B major chord, whether you think the D# should be emphasized or not.