ABSTRACT: Felix Mendelssohn and Paul Hindemith, composing about one hundred years apart, integrated visual elements, including drawings and illustrated notations, into musical manuscripts they designed as gifts for women they admired. This article examines the scores as reflecting, respectively, aspects of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century conceptions of musical composition and form, and their relation to visual media. Interpretation of these musical scores is enhanced by an understanding of the role played by the visual elements. Likewise, analysis of the illustrations should be coupled with a close examination of the music.
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ABSTRACT: Felix Mendelssohn and Paul Hindemith, composing about one hundred years apart, integrated visual elements, including drawings and illustrated notations, into musical manuscripts they designed as gifts for women they admired.
This article examines the scores as reflecting, respectively, aspects of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century conceptions of musical composition and form, and their relation to visual media.
Interpretation of these musical scores is enhanced by an understanding of the role played by the visual elements. Likewise, analysis of the illustrations should be coupled with a close examination of the music. The reeds in the watercolor, the stems of the notes, and the flowing cursive blend into each other and are reflected in the sinuous melody of the music; visual and aural elements of the work serve as metaphors for one another. Hindemith, on the other hand, makes a very different use of visual elements than Mendelssohn.
His manuscript, a gift for his wife Gertrud, features numerous cartoon sketches of lions in a variety of poses and colors. Instead, the lions operate as markers in a game and serve as guides to understanding the system behind the score. For Mendelssohn, art could be expected to achieve innate organic form when the constituent parts of the artwork were linked by similarities that were understood to be natural, and not artificial.
For Hindemith, it is convention and artifice that link the parts of a work together into an architectural, and therefore meaningful, construction. The work, composed in , was a setting of the fifth poem in a series entitled Schilflieder written in by the Austrian poet Nikolaus Lenau. Although Mendelssohn was, in his own words, kein gelehrter Maler no adept painter Todd , —he claimed to have trouble depicting the human figure—there is no question that his artistic skills were exceptional and worthy of high merit for an amateur.
A key element of art in this period was the glorification of nature and organicism, as opposed to more formalist aesthetics. Organic form, on the contrary, is innate; it unfolds itself from within, and reaches its determination simultaneously with the fullest development of the seed In the fine arts, just as in the province of nature—the supreme artist—all genuine forms are organic. The Lenau poem Mendelssohn chose echoes this celebration of Nature as the supreme artist, of the poetical as manifest in natural form.
Hence, in the first place, it will have to have multiple parts. This conception of the artistic process carries through to the nineteenth century, when Franz Liszt writes about uniting component parts: Art, like nature, is made up of gradual transitions, which link together the remotest classes and the most dissimilar species and which are necessary and natural, and hence also entitled to live In nature, in the human soul, and in art, the extremes, opposites, and high points are bound one to another by a continuous series of various varieties of beings.
He writes: They [signs] are natural if the combination of the sign with the subject matter signified is grounded in the very properties of what is designated Those signs, on the other hand, that by their very nature have nothing in common with the designated subject matter, but have nonetheless been arbitrarily assumed as signs for it [e.
The fine arts, he argues, make use of natural signs. Yet the combination of music with different artistic media, such as poetry, can create a noch sinnlicher more sensuous artistic expression by symbiotic collaboration Mendelssohn, M. Mendelssohn merges the Lenau poem into a manuscript that joins three other distinct types of artistic expression—the picturesque landscape, musical composition, and fine cursive handwriting, all of his own creation—and out of their unification creates a single artwork.
Each of these art forms dominates a specific part of the manuscript, yet they are synthesized by a series of connections that are made through contiguity and analogy. Example 1. Deneke Mendelssohn c. Example 3. In a masterfully painted scene, Mendelssohn portrays a nightscape with a full moon peeking out of dark grey clouds reflected brightly in the water below, beside a lake overgrown with slender reeds that bend elegantly in the wind see Example 1.
Moses Mendelssohn admired its use by William Hogarth, who deemed it to be the ideal form in his treatise The Analysis of Beauty , which featured the image on the title page of the first edition see Example 2. The right edge of the watercolor does not contain a definite border. Rather, the trees drape over the ends of the first measure, partly obscuring the time and key signatures, bar line, and tempo indication.
Although the watercolor bleeds into the score, complicating the borders and even slightly obscuring the key signature, the straightforward structure of the musical phrasing begins with a simple trajectory as if there were no complexity, reiterating perfectly the emotion of the watercolor. The tonic key, F , is instantly established by the first chord and affirmed by a repeated drone-like low F in the bass.
The melodic range of the vocal part is limited to between an E and the F a minor ninth above, and there are few leaps or disjunctions. With the modulation to the major at the conclusion of the piece, Mendelssohn conjures a nostalgic mood of melancholy that echoes the watercolor and ends with a sweet uplift.
In addition, as Grey observes, Mendelssohn wrote imagistic music, that is, music intended to invoke mental images, to be integrated with the tableaux vivants that were a popular form of drawing room entertainment Grey , Significantly, Mendelssohn emphasizes that these large-scale tableaux paired with music were not a public form of presentation, but were intended for the delight of a small group of sympathetic friends, as was the manuscript he presented to Henriette Keyl.
In Schilflied, Mendelssohn employs the somber key of F minor to evoke a dark night, with glimpses of the major mode in measures 13 and 22—23 to conjure the image of a brightly shining moon. The gently descending scale of measures 6—8 conjures the moon flechtend seine bleichen Rosen with descending moonbeams amongst the reeds.
This sense of movement is consistent with the concept of organic form that is an unfolding of innate characteristics, rather than an imposition of external meaning. Example 4.
Thus, the gently weaving melody and sinuous contours of the song directly recall the process of the handwriting itself. Although handwriting on the page is static, just like a watercolor, Mendelssohn vivifies these media by infusing them into music. Mendelssohn achieves the organic potential of these arts by integrating them, achieving a sense of animation that connects them all rather than leaving them static and separate.
The speed with which the steel nib enabled the author to write was considered empowering and liberating, allowing the expression of emotion as it unfolded on the page with a seemingly unbroken continuity. The steel nib also improved upon the quill or reed nibs by allowing the writer to control lines of varying diameter Cramer , This new feature quickly developed an important place in penmanship practice, connoting not only elegance and a high level of literacy, but also stylistic modernity.
As one theorist wrote at the turn of the century: When snakes crawl they never move in a straight line. Instead they move in a series of curves, so that, if one were to crawl across fine sand, it would leave behind a [curving] line Therefore we call a line that curves up and down a snake line.
Anyone who wants to learn to write well will have to master the drawing of such a line Rudolf Edler von Larisch, Unterricht in ornamentaler Schrift , quoted in Kittler , At the end of the manuscript, Mendelssohn combines handwriting and musical notation by replacing the traditional Fine symbol with the Schlangenlinie. He also evokes the contours of the watercolor and music through the key gestures of his cursive.
The long vertical strokes of some of the letters such as the f and the l , unmistakably invite association with the artistic gesture Mendelssohn uses to sketch the reeds in the watercolor see Example 5 and Example 6. The manuscript also links both handwriting and vocal melody through the notes themselves, whose stems resemble the reeds. This merging of handwriting into music at the end of the manuscript recalls how, at the beginning, he had blurred the physical boundaries between the watercolor and music.
Example 5. Example 6. Indeed, in any but an intimate performance of the song, perhaps with friends gathered around the parlor piano, the watercolor and the calligraphy could not be observed by any listener apart from the performer herself. Either manner of presentation obscures a key element of Schilflied ; yet, for the reasons discussed above, the expressive qualities of whichever media are concealed in performance or exhibition are still infused into the presentable element, performing a sort of silent accompaniment, at least for any performer who uses the original manuscript, such as Henriette Keyl.
Although the public may detect that there is something unusual about the dress, only an intimate few—the model, the designer, and perhaps others who have had the chance to examine the dress themselves—are conscious of the entire design and acquainted with its exclusive secrets. I Theory , in which he proposed a radically new theoretical system for musical analysis that allowed for everything from medieval chant to the twentieth-century innovations of atonality to be analyzed according to the same system, while emphasizing the importance of developing a new system of musical pedagogy to teach these methods.
One would expect every musician to have the desire to pass on to others what he had labored to acquire himself. Yet in the last century the teaching of composition was looked on as drudgery, as an obstacle in the way of creative activity. Only rarely did a composer integrate it as a component part of himself; the feeling of responsibility for future generations of musicians seemed to have become a thing of the past Hindemith , 3.
Hindemith , 5. The melding of the fugal compositional techniques of the Baroque period with modernist compositional language is not simply a neoclassical pairing of contemporary harmony with classical forms. Rather, Hindemith is giving musical expression to his belief in the utility of his ludus pedagogical school of theory as an interpretive guide to all types of Western Classical music. Indeed, Hindemith argues at the conclusion of Craft that the music of all styles and periods could be analyzed by the methods he proposes.
This approach, which considers as its premise a certain fundamental equality among historical musical styles, manifests itself as a compositional language that borrows from the entire trajectory of Western Classical musical history. As a gift for the fiftieth birthday of his wife Gertrud, who was born under the astrological sign Leo, the lion, Hindemith decorated a printed copy of the score with hundreds of lions in the margins.
Although certainly amusing, the images are not simply light-hearted marginalia. Thus, the illustrated lions serve as a sort of gloss to the original composition that delineates formal elements, reveals hidden musical and visual relationships, and suggests various performance techniques. The lions form a complex and nuanced semiological system, serving both as signs, arbitrarily chosen, that indicate key structural points and provide a sort of pedagogical theoretical analysis, and as symbols, images with some direct visual connection between the activities of the lions and the specific performance style to be evoked.
Hindemith presents each of the three different subjects independently, once in each of the three voices. The presentation of the first subject is similar to that of a conventional Baroque three-voice fugue, with the subject beginning in the middle voice, starting next a fourth above in the upper voice, and then repeated on the same beginning note as the first iteration in the lower voice.
Hindemith does not write a fully developed counter-subject to accompany the statements in the upper and lower voices, but instead composes an accompaniment derived from the interval relationships of the fugue subject. In measure 11, Hindemith introduces the second subject, which is closely modeled on the first: the descending fifth which begins the first subject is transformed to an ascending fifth, and the subsequent scalar descent by mostly whole steps of the first subject is contracted into a descending chromatic scale.
After a statement in each voice, followed by a two-measure episode from measures 19—20, Hindemith introduces the third and final subject in the upper voice, at the same time as a fourth statement of the second subject in the low bass.
This subject is developed from the same interval relationships of the previous two subjects: it begins with an ascending scale that combines whole-tone and semitone steps, containing at the peak of the melodic structure an ascending fourth, inverting the fifths which opened the first and second subjects.
The final measure of the third subject, furthermore, appropriates the rhythm and intervals from the second measure of the first subject dotted-half-note, followed by two descending eighth notes.
In measure 38, Hindemith rotates the simultaneous entrances of the subjects; the third subject moves up to the soprano, while the other two subjects shift down a voice. In measure 43, Hindemith preserves the same order of rotation, yet in measure 46, in the final simultaneous combination of all subjects, he uses the same arrangement as in measure After a final statement of all three subjects, the piece ends slowly and quietly with a coda that leads to a final C in three different octaves.
By manipulating and repeating these images at appropriate places in the score, Hindemith lays to rest any confusion or ambiguity about the compositional form, performing a detailed analysis on the manuscript itself for any theorist or musician who may seek to decipher the structure. The signs also reveal subtle or even opaque musical relationships. In this way, he emphasizes that the subjects are comprised of different permutations of the same musical elements.
The title and image are clearly allusions to the Processional Wall of the spectacular Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon, which was reconstructed and opened to the public with great fanfare at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin in , while Hindemith was living there see Example In a passage of The Craft of Musical Composition , Hindemith writes about the relationship between music and architecture more generally: Just as in architecture the big supporting and connecting members—piers, columns, girders, and arches—determine the form and size of a building, as well as its interior division into rooms, corridors, and floors, irrespective of the material of which they are built—so tonal relations introduce order into the tonal mass Of course one cannot separate one function from the other.
The supporting and connecting function of the columns cannot be separated from their place in space, and tonal relations must have definite rhythmic dimensions for their effect Hindemith , He uses images of lions only because of a particular personal resonance.
Often, however, Hindemith depicts the lion engaging in some activity, indicating that the illustrations act more directly as signifiers of specific musical expression that instruct the interpreter as to what sort of visual imagery should be evoked in performance. These types of symbols are located before each of the interludia, forming a humorous decoration at the opening of each work. For example, Hindemith depicts a lion herding a single blue sheep, which is, of course, potentially quite dangerous to the sheep.
The lion is dressed in a traditional Bavarian hat and clothing. The Alps are in the distance, but one of the trees in the foreground has been trimmed from its natural state into topiary, a gardening practice stemming from Ancient Roman times, and the lion-shepherd rests on a fluted Ionic column.
The inclusion of these classical formal elements in the pastoral landscape hints at the way the formalism and artificiality of the fugal structure are imposed on the pastoral musical topos.
Paul Hindemith: Ludus tonalis
I suspect that for Hindemith it meant an opportunity to occlude sentiment in the name of complexity of construction. Ludus tonalis was composed in America, in , and it may have been a response partly to Stravinsky, and perhaps also to early works by Babbitt and others. Hindemith was always capable of machine-gun fast marches, which have a sort of heavy wit the best here is Interludium no. But at other times, when he is working out a difficult fugue form, then the expression is properly in the form, as it was in The Art of Fugue. Hindemith is a puzzle for me: mainly stiff and brittle, but occasionally plaintive, playful, acidic, or even playful he cartooned lions in the original edition of his piece.
It was first performed in in Chicago by Willard MacGregor. The piece explores, "matters of technique, theory, inspiration, and communication. It is in effect, a veritable catalogue of the composer's mature style. In between, there are twelve three-part fugues separated by eleven interludes, beginning in the tonality of the previous fugue and ending in the tonality of the next fugue or in a different tonality very close to that.
Ludus Tonalis (Hindemith, Paul)