Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Committee Chair

Maryann Kyle

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Taylor Hightower

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Susan Ruggiero

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Chris Goertzen

Committee Member 4 Department


Committee Member 5

Daniel Beard

Committee Member 5 Department



Musorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death presents a set of unique portrayals of death in art song literature. Aside from the obvious challenge of the Russian language and Cyrillic alphabet which are unfamiliar to most Western performers, the unique musical style, historical context, and complex psychological implications of Songs and Dances of Death require a good deal of study before one can fully grasp the profundity and importance of this cycle.

Musorgsky’s views on music and life, the Zeitgeist in which these songs were composed, a historical analysis of the medieval Dance of Death tradition and its influence on the poet and composer, as well as an analysis of the psychological phenomenon of death personifications are provided to engender a holistic approach to interpreting these songs. A musical analysis illustrates the musical manifestations of the aforementioned elements. A guide to the various editions and their inherent merits and/or flaws gives the performer the necessary information to find a suitable version of the cycle. A word-for-word translation, IPA transliteration, and pronunciation guide are also included to facilitate the learning of the text by non-Russian speakers.