Vaughan williams national music and other essays

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  2. Vaughan Williams, Ralph 1872-1958
  3. National Music, And Other Essays by Ralph Vaughan Williams
  4. National Music, And Other Essays

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Edited By Robin Wells. Edition 1st Edition. First Published Imprint Routledge.

Pages pages. Subjects Arts. An early aptitude for music was encouraged by his parents, and he studied at the Royal College of Music in London as well as in Paris and Berlin.


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Vaughan William's music is essentially English in character, making him the first truly national composer since the sixteenth century. He is especially in touch with the English choral tradition. His first major success was Sea Symphony , a choral piece set to words by Walt Whitman.

Vaughan Williams, Ralph 1872-1958

His interest in choral music contributed to his becoming a leader in the English folk-song movement, and he was an enthusiastic collector of traditional folk songs. They also showcase how enamored he was with the English countryside of his youth and how impacted he was by his homeland during his formational years as a man and a musician.

The war left him grieving over the loss of his close friend and fellow composer, the young George Butterworth, among many other talented young men of his acquaintance. With the profound experience of the loss of many of his friends to the war, he began to find solace less in the poetry of Walt Whitman and A.

Housman, whose texts he loved to set, and more through Christian symbolism, particularly through images from Christian eschatology, which depict the final judgment at the end of the world. When he returned from the war, he found that, in his absence, his compositions had made him a budding national icon, particularly due to the popularity of his London Symphony.

He was now a much sought-after composer and mentor. Due to his volunteerism, he did not compose much during this period but, in the aftermath of the war, it became clear that he believed in music as an antidote to a war-torn world. In a message written by Vaughan Williams in , just before his seventieth birthday, he said:. After having surgery for prostate cancer in August of , a procedure he kept from the public and even from his close friends, Ralph Vaughan Williams died in August of after experiencing a heart attack in his sleep.

He was just shy of reaching his eighty-sixth birthday, but his successful career, in addition to the friendships he had cultivated through the years, left behind a rich legacy of a man committed to beauty, peace, and love. A man of natural virtue, Vaughan Williams was not guided by organized religion, although he lived a life that was largely selfless, just, and courageous.

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National Music, And Other Essays by Ralph Vaughan Williams

He was a patriot, a model friend, and generally a humble and simple man despite his privileged background and national fame. This set of nine short pieces is called a song cycle, which is a grouping of poems with a common theme all by the same author and set to music by a composer. They are meant to be listened to as a whole, much in the way records are—or at least used to be—recorded: to tell a whole story, or to present a narrative arc. Typically there are three stages in these narratives.

First, the hero must be separated from the normal way of life, which usually involves being called into a new kind of existence.

‘The land where good foreign music comes to die’?

To prepare for this, the hero is often guided by a mentor or guardian figure. The second stage is that of initiation or transformation In order to achieve the fullness of this stage, the hero must first overcome a number of obstacles and challenges, perhaps even falling into the abyss before managing to get back on the right path.

Lastly, the protagonist returns home in order to bring back the knowledge learned along the way, or to share what has been gained. All of these are necessary for the full development of a literary hero undertaking a journey. This theme that is universally experienced as a part of human life appeals particularly to composers because the structure of beginning with a melodic theme, developing it—which symbolically connotes the overcoming of obstacles—and then returning to the original theme at a heightened level, as in a recapitulation, is innately part of creating beautiful pieces of music.

National Music, And Other Essays

Vaughan Williams frequently portrayed journeying as a transcendent experience in his music. In the piece, the first in the song-cycle and one of the most popular, the title character, a quasi-ascetic wanderer of the roads, has renounced riches, women, and the esteem of men, and has taken to the highway, seeking to experience life as it comes to him with its pleasures and pains. He seeks to connect with both earth and spirit. First, one needs determination to begin.