The Music Of Peter Maxwell Davies Based On The Writings Of George Mackay Brown

Warnaby, John Surtees (1991). The Music Of Peter Maxwell Davies Based On The Writings Of George Mackay Brown. PhD thesis The Open University.



The primary objective has been to demonstrate the stylistic changes in Maxwell Davies's music which have resulted from his settings of Mackay Browqn texts. This has involved a comparison with some of the composer's earlier works, particularly those with literary associations, and includes a discussion of the problems encountered when responding to 'expressionist' poetry. The differences between 'modernism' in music and in 1iterature have also been considered with reference to some aspects of literary theory.

After a survey of Maxwell Davies's Mackay Brown settings in several genres, illustrating the extent to which the composer has been influenced by Mackay Brown's approach to narrative, especially with regard to his use of the multiple viewpoint, attention is focused on Maxwell Davies's Black Pentecost and Second Symphony. This comparison shows that the technique employed for a Mackay Brown setting and that for a large-scalke symphony are essentially the same, and that the differences are a matter of style, rather than compositional method.

The thesis then develops the argument that because of the variety of styles employed by Maxwell Davies, conventional analysis has failed to deal adequately with all aspects of his music, most notably when texts are involved. Thus it is suggested that literary concepts can provide valuable illumination, particularly as regards the composer's use of 'defamiliarization' to creative a subversive effect. This device has frequently been employed in scores reflecting Maxwell Davies's attitude to cultural, political, or social issues - again developing aspects of Mackay Brown's influence - and in the light of recent trends in music analysis and literary theory, it forms the basis of a discussion of Resurrection, which was conceived partly in response to the principal themes of Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus. However, while Mackay Brown indirectly influenced the structure of the opera, the stylistic changes

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