Dr. Alexander Martin will represent the Stetson School of Music on the national stage this November at the Society for Music Theory Annual Meeting (https://societymusictheory.org/meeting2021). The conference will take place virtually.
Dr. Martin’s paper is titled “Dreamlike Ambiguities in Clara Schumann’s “Ihr Bildnis.”” According to the abstract:
“This paper explores Clara Schumann’s two versions of “Ihr Bildnis” with a view to exploring nineteenth-century tonal strategies for depicting dreamscapes in song. Schumann first set Heine’s famous poem to music as a Christmas gift to her husband in 1840; a second, revised version appears as the first song in Sechs Lieder, op. 13, published in 1843.
Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers (2020; 2016) has explored how ambiguity transcends Vierhebigkeit in Schumann with reference to formal function, but there is more to uncover from the perspective of harmony, voice leading, and prolongation. I argue that Schumann responds to the poetry with a dreamlike musical language characterized by ambiguous tonal processes that permeate different levels of structure. The prelude, for example, introduces ambiguities of harmonic syntax, the resolution of o7 sonorities, and line. Additionally, both versions are remarkable for their oneiric use of implicit tonality and enharmonic re-interpretation of o7 chords at important textual/formal boundaries.
At the middleground, several features in the music entice us to hear a return of tonic harmony with the text’s description of the beloved’s smile (Lächeln wunderbar). In my reading, however, this is a tonal verisimilitude—the apparent tonic here symbolizes the protagonist’s experience of the dream as reality. I demonstrate how the true tonic return is coordinated with the protagonist’s realization that he has lost his beloved (Ach! Ich kann’s nicht glauben).
Lastly, I highlight how two crucial differences—in declamation and structural closure—have implications for each version as a separate and distinct interpretation of the poem.”