The third Vocal Set Work is by Vaughan Williams – On Wenlock Edge. I think the most important thing is to start with a clear line of argument, so lets dive into that first.
Lines of argument
I have made the point in previous blogs that you need a line of argument for your essay. It isn’t just about showing key features that are highlighted in the question. It is about showing that you understand the style. A lot of this contextual content can be given and laid out in the introduction and here are some potential ideas to focus on:
- 1909 Song Cycle – What is a song cycle designed to achieve – target audience?
- French Impression
- English Folk Music
- English Choral Tradition – Tudor Church music – Thomas Tallis & William Byrd
- Movement away from the German Romanic tradition of Lieder
- William Byrd – O Lord my God
- Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
- Debussy – Children’s Corner
- Debussy – La Mer (1905) – another piece that looks at the outdoors, this time The Sea.
- You could listen to other pieces that consider the outdoors or rural life – “Harold in Italy” is good because it uses an “Idee Fixe” which links to Symphonie Fantastique.
- German Lieder/Song Cycles – Schubert is a good place to start, there are lots of examples that you can go to.
Vaughan Williams was an English composer during the late 19th & early 20th century. On Wenlock Edge was a song-cycle composed in 1909. The cycle used 6 song-setting poems from “A Shropshire Lad”. The cycle attempts to depict rural life in Shropshire and uses a French-Impressionist style combined with a look back at English Choral & Folk Music. Vaughan Williams was keen to move away from the German Romantic “Lieder” style and used a range of influences in order to achieve this goal. This essay will consider how VW uses [INSERT ELEMENTS] to create a set of songs that are impressionist in style and heavily influenced by English music. It will also look at the different approaches to writing for piano, strings and the voice.
I think that a great way in to this piece is to look at the Piano, String, Vocal & Melodic styles. There are obviously lots of different features in this piece, but I would start by looking at what Vaughan Williams does with the forces at work in this piece.
- Shimmering, French Impressionist qualities – he studied with Ravel.
- Rapid Arpeggios
- Not Virtuosic, but also not easy to play
- Block Chords & Semi-Quaver Runs
- Una Corda
- Shimmering Demi-Semi-Quavers & Hemi-Demi-Semi-Quavers
- Large chords – wide spread
- Parallel Movement
- Ostinato accompaniment
- Sextuplet Ostinatos
- Pizzicato & Triple Stopped Pizzicato
- High Tessitura – Tenor Clef used
- Sul Ponticello – nearer to the bridge, changes the timbre
- Con Sordino – Muted
- Open Harmonics
- Tenor Soloist
- Standard range – nothing virtuosic
- Syllabic with minimal melismas
- Recitative Style in places – free rhythm
- Word Painting – Gale
- Uses the Iambic nature of the poem and emphasises certain syllables
- Modal & Folk Influenced – Dorian & Mixolydian
- Restricted range at times
- Pentatonic use & Chromatic use
- Recitative style melody
- Conjunct moments
- Word Painting using repeated notes