Songs of Tennyson (1982), "Life Cycles" (1988) and The Serenade Op. 31 (1943). A comparative analysis of compositional style and performance considerations

Crystal Swepson Britton


Chamber music for the combination of horn and voice has been heavily influenced by the contributions of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). The Serenade, Op.31 (1943) is regarded as one of Britten's best and most accessible works. Along with the later Canticle (1954), it has served as a model for many other composers to write for the combination of horn and voice with a variety of accompaniments. This study examines two song cycles by American composers: Life Cycles by David N. Baker (b. 1931), and Songs of Tennyson by John Corina (b. 1928). Each work directly references the Serenade as the source of their inspiration. In the 21st century, there is a greater awareness of the need for music literature from diverse backgrounds and styles. Music educators have long recognized the use of multi-faceted programming as a means of attracting wider audiences. In a similar manner, a performers growth as a musician is expanded through the experience of performing challenging compositions from various styles. Despite their impressive careers, David Baker and John Corina's chamber works for horn and voice are infrequently studied and suffer from underexposure. The purposes of this study are to provide musicians and educators with a pedagogical and performance aid, and to make them aware of Life Cycles and Songs of Tennyson , two chamber works by American composers that feature the horn. Through comparative analysis, this study will reveal the relationship that these compositions have to the Britten Serenade . The two elements that are shared in each of the three song cycles are the horn and voice. This study will focus on how Baker and Corina write for the horn and will draw analytical comparisons to the piece which inspired their composition, the Serenade . Structural and stylistic comparisons will be made in regards to the music and texts of Life Cycles, Songs of Tennyson , and the Serenade . Musical analysis of melodic themes, metrical choices, harmonic language text painting and setting of mood will be discussed.