The Oxford Song Network’s first meeting of the year will feature a talk by Frances Watson, followed by discussion over refreshments. We will meet on Monday 22 October at 5pm in St Catherine’s College (Bernard Sunley Building Room A). All welcome.
“Between Music and Poetry: Reading Between the Lines of Kósçak Yamada’s Nursemaid’s Songs”
The question that keeps on asking: how do music and poetry affect each other when combined in the form of a song? The Japanese composer Kósçak Yamada (1886-1965) was greatly preoccupied with the problem, particularly after his studies in Berlin introduced him to solutions by the likes of Wolf and Brahms. In this talk, I shall examine one of his song cycles, Nursemaid’s Songs (1922). I shall analyse how accurately the songs match Yamada’s compositional rules for combining music and poetry, and shall consider how the inevitable gaps between theory and practice that this analysis reveals allow us to reread a song’s original poetry in its composer’s voice. In this instance, to understand where the poetry prompted Yamada to deviate from his carefully constructed, rigorously defended theory of song composition, is to see through to the social and cultural questions with which at least one Japanese intellectual was concerned in the early 1920s.