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Thursday, March 06, 2008

I'm sad I don't get to mention hair color in mine!

Fanny Hensel's "Bitte" looks to be a love poem at first glance, but when you read through it and listen to the mysterious chords of the piece, you realize that the "dark eyes," "power," and "magic darkness" the speaker discusses are actually those of deaths. The music illustrates the dark quality of the work, the mysterious workings of death, and the sweetness the narrator seems to feel about his or her fate. The poem does not complain about what is to come, but embraces it, asking death to take them.

I believe that the music is better understood once the poem is translated. Beginning in measure 9, the mysterious atmosphere begins right away on the word "night." Though it is described as "sweet," the music has a mystery behind it, enforced by the V65/IV chord. While it could be conceived as some form of I chord, it is better seens as a V of IV to emphasize the eternal nature of death, as it prolongs the pre-dominant before reaching the climax of V7 in measure 12. The piece then moves to iv, as the line "somber, mild, dream-like, unfathomably sweet night" is repeated again...further emphasizing the lasting nature of death with a pre-dominant.

At measure 11, there is a i64 chord, on the word dream-like...and, if you think about it, a i chord would fit nicely as a dream...for it is sweet, but not bright. It is more of a hazy sound.

The climax comes in measure 12 with a V7, emphasizing the "unfathomably sweet night" of the narrator. It is done with a bright V chord to let the listener know that the narrator does not regret his or her passage to another world. This statement is reiterated in the next few measures, adding even more emphasis to her wish to leave this world. For the final repeat of this lines, the piece goes into a minor mode with a i6 in measure 14 and a i64 in measure 15. This is done, again, as a hazy but comforting sound to her departure. Then, the music takes a turn as it finishes on a major I chord, creating a subtle picardy third, so that you know the "night" she is about to enter into, is a good, cheerful place, where she wishes to go.

Please note...I used the first verse of the poem for this analysis. However, the words coorespond, as well, with the second verse. The second verse is when it is revealed that the narrator is speaking about death, and the lines repeated are "so that above my life you alone will float for ever and ever." This line, too emphasizes the eternal nature of death, which works with the pre-dominants in the earlier measures, and then the final "ever" returns to major to again reiterate that the narrator wishes to depart.

Although a lovely piece, I'm still sad I didin't get to talk about the brunettes!

1 comment:

Scott said...

The i64 is hazy because of the unstable inversion, the mode mixture, and the confusion of tonal function (is it tonic, is it dominant?).

Good analysis. Don't forget performance ideas.