Contextual readings of analysis and compositional process in selected works by Arnold van Wyk (1916-1983)

Thom Wium, Magtild Johanna (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this project, contextual readings of four works by Arnold van Wyk are developed. They are the Symphony No. 1 in A Minor, the First String Quartet, the Duo Concertante and the Missa in illo tempore. These readings are grounded in richly detailed descriptions of the compositional processes, drawing on material such as sketches, autographs, diaries, correspondence and reception documents, as well as in structural analyses of Van Wyk’s music and of certain peer compositions. Each reading is set in a separate theoretical frame, resulting in a multi-perspectival consideration of Arnold van Wyk’s music that partakes in a range of current disciplinary discourses. The First Symphony is discussed in the discursive context of English Sibelianism, and Arnold van Wyk’s dialogue with Sibelius’s symphonic works is investigated through comparisons of Van Wyk’s and Sibelius’s applications of two-dimensional sonata form and tragic reversed sonata form. The reading so developed sheds new musical light on the difficulties of Van Wyk’s position as a colonial composer residing in the centre of a crumbling Empire. The compositional process of Van Wyk’s First String Quartet is described in juxtaposition with the compositional process of Bartók’s Sixth String Quartet, and the similarities and differences of the two narratives and the two compositions highlight a second aspect of Van Wyk’s colonial identity, namely the ambiguity of his return to South Africa from England, neither of which place could signify “home”. The reading of the Duo Concertante focuses on the Elegia from that work, interpreting the piece as part of a network of intertextual connections, including Van Wyk’s model for this piece, Martin Peerson’s (1580-1650) The Fall of the Leafe, Gerald Finzi’s Elegy for Orchestra Op. 20, entitled The Fall of the Leaf, as well as Van Wyk’s own theme for the Rondo of the Duo, to which he made various musical references in the Elegia which are associated with the concept of “prophecy”. This intertextual reading considers Van Wyk’s continuing problematic identification with the English musical culture and tradition, compounded by his uncomfortable place in the stifling cultural establishment of apartheid South Africa. Van Wyk’s Missa in illo tempore is interpreted in a post-apartheid context. The work purports to react to the conditions in London in 1945 at the end of the Second World War (when Van Wyk first started to work on it) as well as the conditions in apartheid South Africa in 1977-1979 (when he completed the work as a commission for the Stellenbosch Tercentenary Festival). The reading considers the ethics of art that intends to respond to situations of suffering, drawing on post-Holocaust art scholarship as a theoretical frame. In developing interpretations of compositions that have never been studied in such detail or with such theoretical rigour before, the thesis makes a significant contribution to Arnold van Wyk studies, and in its application of a range of methodological tools in order to construct poetic hermeneutic readings that are grounded in musical and contextual materials, it also represents a meaningful methodological innovation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie projek word kontekstuele lesings van vier werke deur Arnold van Wyk ontwikkel. Hulle is die Simfonie Nr. 1 in A Mineur, die Eerste Strykkwartet, die Duo Concertante en die Missa in illo tempore. Hierdie lesings is gegrond in ryk-gedetailleerde beskrywings van die komposisieproses, waarby materiaal soos sketse, outograwe, dagboeke, korrespondensie en resepsiedokumente gebruik word, asook in strukturele analises van Van Wyk se musiek en van sekere eweknie-komposisies. Elke lesing word in ʼn afsonderlike teoretiese raamwerk gestel, sodat ʼn veelperspektiewelike oorweging van Arnold van Wyk se musiek resulteer wat deelneem aan ʼn verskeidenheid hedendaagse dissiplinêre diskoerse. Die Eerste Simfonie word bespreek in die diskursiewe konteks van Sibelianisme in Engeland, en Arnold van Wyk se dialoog met Sibelius se simfoniese werke word ondersoek deur vergelykings van Van Wyk en Sibelius se toepassings van twee-dimensionele sonatevorm en tragies-omgekeerde sonatevorm. Die lesing wat sodoende ontwikkel word, werp nuwe musikale lig op die moeilikhede van Van Wyk se posisie as koloniale komponis woonagtig in die sentrum van ʼn verkrummelende Ryk. Die komposisieproses van Van Wyk se Eerste Strykkwartet word beskryf in jukstaposisie met die komposisieproses van Bartók se Sesde Strykkwartet, en die ooreenkomste en verskille van die twee narratiewe en die twee komposisies belig ʼn tweede aspek van Van Wyk se koloniale identiteit, naamlik die dubbelsinnigheid van sy terugkeer na Suid-Afrika uit Engeland, twee plekke waarvan geeneen die betekenis van sy “tuiste” kon dra nie. Die lesing van die Duo Concertante fokus op die Elegia uit daardie werk, en dit interpreteer die stuk as deel van ʼn netwerk van intertekstuele verbindings, insluitende Van Wyk se model vir hierdie stuk, Martin Peerson (1580-1650) se The Fall of the Leafe, Gerald Finzi se Elegie vir Orkes Op. 20, getiteld The Fall of the Leaf, asook Van Wyk se eie tema vir die Rondo van die Duo, waarna hy verskeie musikale verwysings in die Elegia gemaak het wat geassosieer word met die konsep van “profesie”. Hierdie intertekstuele lesing beskou Van Wyk se aangaande problematiese identifisering met Engelse musiekkultuur en –tradisie, vererger deur sy ongemaklike plek in die verstikkende kulturele establishment van apartheid Suid-Afrika. Van Wyk se Missa in illo tempore word in ʼn post-apartheid konteks geïnterpreteer. Die werk stel sigself voor as reaksie op die toestande in Londen in 1945 teen die einde van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog (toe Van Wyk die eerste keer daaraan begin werk het) asook die toestande in apartheid Suid-Afrika in 1977-1979 (toe hy die werk voltooi het as ʼn opdrag vir die Stellenbosch Drie-Eeue Fees). Die lesing oorweeg die etiek van kuns wat ten doel het om te reageer op situasies van lyding en gebruik post-Holocaust kunsstudies as teoretiese raam. In sy ontwikkeling van interpretasies van komposisies wat nog nooit in soveel besonderhede of só teoreties nougeset bestudeer is nie, maak die tesis ʼn beduidende bydrae tot Arnold van Wyk studies, en in sy toepassing van ʼn verskeidenheid metodologiese hulpmiddels om poëtiese hermeneutiese lesings te konstrueer wat gegrond is in musikale en kontekstuele materiale, verteenwoordig dit ook ʼn betekenisvolle metodologiese vernuwing.

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