Chapter

Kaija Saariaho, “The claw of the magnolia … ,” From the Grammar of Dreams (1988)

John Roeder

in Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music from 1960-2000

Published in print May 2016 | ISBN: 9780190236861
Published online June 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780190236892 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190236861.003.0007
Kaija Saariaho, “The claw of the magnolia … ,” From the Grammar of Dreams (1988)

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Kaija Saariaho’s From the Grammar of Dreams, for two solo female singers, elegantly articulates the poetic structure of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Paralytic” by variations of rhythmic density and register; changes of pitch, intervals, and rhythmic behavior; and an arch-shaped tessitura. Its most striking feature, though, is its “polyvocality,” in which the voices simultaneously sing the same words to very different rhythms and pitches. This essay examines the multiple senses of musical time and space created by the shifting metrical and tonal relationships between the voices. As they imitate, synchronize, and diverge, two distinct concurrent points of reference—two equally present tonalities, and the coexistence of multiple meters—emerge that artfully portray the poem’s symbolic superposition of life and death.

Keywords: Kaija Saariaho; From the Grammar of Dreams; analysis; meter; tonality; Sylvia Plath; polyvocal; superposition

Chapter.  8150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History ; Music Theory and Analysis

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