A critique of process and context in composing the cantata 'Song for the end of time'

Stevens, Philip William (2003) A critique of process and context in composing the cantata 'Song for the end of time'. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, uk.bl.ethos.273704.


The present thesis, forming Volume 1 of this submission, consists of a critical examination of the process and context concerning a new cantata for solo voices, chorus and orchestra: ‘Song for the End of Time’. The musical score of the cantata forms Volume 2 of this submission. Aims and objectives of this research project are introduced, followed by an outline of the context and basic decisions regarding choice of medium, title, duration, and libretto. Aspects of the cultural context of ‘Song for the End of Time’ are then discussed, including the choral tradition in Great Britain; the impact of cultural changes on the reception of music from the middle of the 20th century until its conclusion; 20th-century trends in musical style; and a glimpse is taken at music, drama and literature concerning the Last Judgement and the End of Time. The corpus of relevant literature is reviewed as potential libretto material. Criteria are then developed for a scenario and a libretto. Biblical and cognate ancient sources were used to form the basis of the eventual libretto, which is cast in seven ‘Tableaux’. Libretto and scenario formation, a major activity in this research project, is detailed and criteria used to refine and fashion the draft text into the final libretto are identified. The aesthetic basis of the musical setting of the libretto for ‘Song for the End of Time’ is discussed briefly, and reference is made in this context to several recent compositions. The objectives and other aspects of the pre-compositional planning (such as selection of instruments and scoring) are surveyed, and the ‘modi operandi’ detailed for composition and revision of all drafts of this substantial choral work. Finally, the seven musical ‘Tableaux’ are discussed in turn, reasons are given for musical decisions, and refinements to the score are explained.

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