"Parable-Art" Beyond the Auden Generation: An Examination of the Message-Bearing Aspects and Architecture of Two Twenty-First-Century Works for Chorus and Chamber Orchestra
AuthorMiller, Bradley Alan
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractEnglish writer and poet Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) introduced the term "parable-art" in his essay "Psychology and Art To-Day" (1935) as a means of describing works of art that are both message-bearing and moralistic in nature. Auden believed that art had the power to influence the affairs of the world, and felt it was the artist's obligation to work for the betterment of society. Though he ultimately rejected this conviction, Auden's influence on his English contemporaries in the 1930s was profound. Perhaps the most notable musician who embraced Auden's ideal was Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), who so often embedded moral, social, and humanitarian themes in his works. Britten was deeply influenced by Auden's philosophical views; therefore, it is logical that the term parable-art has been used to describe many of the composer's works. The expression, however, has never been applied to the works of other composers. I believe that many twentieth- and twenty-first-century works comprise similar parabolic characteristics and can be appropriately labeled parable-art. In this study, I attempt to demonstrate that Stephen Paulus's A Place of Hope (2001) and Ralph M. Johnson's This House of Peace (2008), two choral-orchestral compositions incorporating unconventional, non-literary texts, can be deemed twenty-first-century parable-art. These two compositions were chosen as the focus of this research due to three commonalities: 1) each work was commissioned by an organization dedicated to ethical and humanitarian ideals in healthcare; 2) humanitarian themes, such as gratitude, compassion, kindness, and love, are found in the texts of each composition; 3) each composer incorporated words of patients, family members, visitors, or caregivers at the medical facility for which the respective work was commissioned. Analyses include examinations of each composer's intent, the values of the organizations for which each work was commissioned, and the impact these values had on the selection of texts, the parabolic aspects of the texts, and the compositional techniques employed, which result in textual clarity and effective musical/dramatic affect, thus heightening the communicability of the message.
Degree ProgramGraduate College