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Beneath the Laurel Tree

Jaakkola Inkeri

This study deals with Paavo Heininen’s opera Silkkirumpu (The Damask Drum) op. 45 (1983) and examines the narrative aspects of its text-music relationships. The research combines approaches of music analysis and literary theory. The central methods for the music analysis are Robert Morris’s reductive method for showing contour similarity between musical entities, Peter Stacey’s suggestions for observing the relations between text and music as well as Stacey’s view of text fragmentation in contemporary vocal music. The discussion of musical narrative follows the principles introduced by such scholars as Byron Almén and Robert Hatten. The literary narrative is described using concepts developed by Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan. Silkkirumpu is interpreted primarily in the context of Western art music. The opera’s text-music relationships are interpreted from four analytical perspectives, with emphasis on the narrative processes and their compositional strategies and descriptions of the work-specific and intertextual references. An analytical model of vocal style, in which the vocal part is observed as a combination of its components, is developed for the purpose of this study. The characters’ musical portrayals are expressed through their vocal styles which transform as the drama proceeds. The analysis focuses on the soloists’ parts, but the orchestra’s narrative role is also examined. Silkkirumpu’s text and music work together in the organization of form and in the symbolism of the work in which associations are evoked by recurring musical shapes and textures. However, the opera’s overall trajectory also includes ironic and tragic layers, which are based on conflicts or incongruities between text and music. Intermediality permeates the opera’s semantic and structural layers: in the processes of text fragmentation language and music converge in places, adapting features from one another’s sign systems. The frequent textural interruptions in Silkkirumpu’s music, in turn, are analogous to cinematic montage and flashback. This study is the first to focus on Heininen’s music and specifically on the music of Silkkirumpu. It shows that the opera’s text-music relationships are largely based on the centuries-old tradition of the Western vocal music, yet the composer has also utilized neonarrative, intermedial strategies.

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