Britten's Parables

W. Anthony Sheppard

in Revealing Masks

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520223028
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924741 | DOI:
Britten's Parables

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The phenomenon of domesticating the exotic is common to many examples of cross-cultural appropriation or (more neutrally) of influence in the twentieth century. Modernist Euro-American composers repeatedly discovered what they had been looking for in their exotic models and tended to adopt only those prevalued elements. Such exotic features then took on a special fluid status: having been extracted from their specific native environment they became “exotic” in general and lost their particular meanings. Stripped of their original context, they were routinely cloaked with new meanings, and they were readily combined with traits from other exotic sources. Like Yeats, who had moved from three plays based on Japanese Noh models to an entirely Christian context with his final dance play Calvary, Britten moved progressively away from his exotic source both in the composition of Curlew River and in the evolution of the Church Parables. This departure from the exotic toward the security of a “comparable setting” was of paramount importance to Britten's creation of this genre.

Keywords: exotic sources; Benjamin Britten; Curlew River; Church Parables

Chapter.  9217 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Applied Music

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