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Musical reading of free-verse poetry: The compositional approach in Songs after Love

Koufoudakis, Ioannis


Ioannis Koufoudakis


This thesis consists of the first part of my song cycle Songs after Love: a group of four songs for soprano and ensemble, plus an epilogue piece for solo violin. In these songs, I have explored different pieces of poetry, coming from the following 20th century poets: e.e. cummings (1894-1962), Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970), Paul Celan (1920-1970) and Sidney Keyes (1922-1943). The songs set both extracts and complete poems in their original language. My central interest in this work has been the concentration on the texts and the development of an approach to non-tonal composition as a process which revolves around a close reading of the poetry. The aim of the commentary is then also, to manifest a territory of potential that a creative interaction between non-tonal composition and free-verse poetry has to offer. Moreover, while viewing the topic from a composer’s perspective, I will explore the creative potential of such a musical reading approach, in the three main levels of a poem’s anatomy: 1) the verse, 2) the strophe and 3) a complete poem. This method gives me the opportunity to discuss some important elements of the free-verse poetic style, which the specific poems exhibit, and contribute with examples on how these could potentially inspire and guide aspects of compositional technique. Thus, with my own songs as points of reference, a number of different themes arise, such as the experience of temporality in music and speech, line enjambement and musical form; and aspects of free-verse prosody and their musical exploration. Finally, in the conclusion, while drawing from Henri Bergson’s (1859-1941) work, I discuss certain ontological traits that this approach effectuates in its creative process. These observations demonstrate a craft-oriented, non-tonal practice that is driven by a non-deterministic interaction of language and musical material.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 4, 2022
Public URL
Award Date Jul 6, 2022


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