Music of Transcendent Experience

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Lecture, Open—Spring

Composers of all eras have attempted to convey through sound the experience of transcendence, of a deeper sense of life and death than we ordinarily attain. They wanted to express musically the feeling of heightened awareness that can be found in religious belief, communion with nature, erotic experience, and in art itself.  Some composers found direct musical analogies for this experience; others found ways of expressing the metaphysical through hidden, quasi-mathematical designs. We will study a broad range of important works from all eras of music history and genres: symphonic works, songs, piano pieces, operas, and both secular and sacred works. Works to be studied will include Bach’s B Minor Mass, Beethoven’s Pastoral and Ninth Symphonies, Mahler’s Second Symphony, as well as representative works from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Richard Wagner, we will include an overview of several of his operas that illuminate these issues: Die Meistersinger, Parsifal, Tristan and the Ring Cycle.