Sources of Nineteenth-Century Musical Orientalism, or, From "Oriental" Inspiration to Exotic Orchestration: The Extra-Musical Stimuli behind Composers' Attempts to Achieve "Exotic" Programmatic Effects in Orchestral Music, ca. 1840-1920 [565pp. (170,000 words, in 2 parts bound as one), illus., tbls., mus. exx., works lst., discog., bibliog.]

Little, Jonathan D. (1994) Sources of Nineteenth-Century Musical Orientalism, or, From "Oriental" Inspiration to Exotic Orchestration: The Extra-Musical Stimuli behind Composers' Attempts to Achieve "Exotic" Programmatic Effects in Orchestral Music, ca. 1840-1920 [565pp. (170,000 words, in 2 parts bound as one), illus., tbls., mus. exx., works lst., discog., bibliog.]. Doctoral thesis, Monash University.

[img] Text (Hardbound and Microfiche)
21925791_q&versionId=26419341 - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (35kB)

Abstract

This study examines the phenomenon of 'Orientalism' during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, focussing on its ramifications in musical terms. It discusses the aesthetic/philosophical, political/geographic, literary and historical forces at work during the period, and shows these factors to have influenced musicians and other creative artists in their choice of 'Oriental' subject matter. Considerable attention has been devoted to establishing the role and meaning of the 'Oriental' vogue within the context of the times. 'Oriental' inspiration is argued ultimately to have led to novel developments in the art of orchestration, a thesis which is established through reference to many large-scale orchestral and operatic works.

The European view of the 'Orient' is demonstrated as being largely an idealization – but an extremely fruitful one. Had not composers perceived the 'Orient' to be some kind of Paradise, their imaginations would never have risen to such extraordinary heights. Part of this process of idealization was a reaction against the imaginative restrictions felt to have been imposed on artists by the rise of the 'super-civilized' modern industrial society. In spite of material 'progress', a gnawing sense of spiritual loss throughout Western societies fostered a feeling of nostalgia for a departed 'Golden Age', and a desire to be 'elsewhere' than Western Europe – physically or imaginatively.

Expansion by the European powers and colonization of lands considered in the nineteenth century to be 'Oriental' stimulated an increasing interest in such regions. This interest in turn provided creative artists with a new type of aesthetic 'raw material' ripe for exploitation. The European imagination became intoxicated with the unusual and strangely attractive nature of the 'Orient'. A new 'geographic' perspective entered music as composers attempted to render in orchestral terms sounds suggesting travel by land or sea, 'bizarre' and 'remote' atmospheric qualities, and especially the instruments, dances and all kinds of natural environmental elements associated with the particular 'local colour' of an 'Oriental' region and its inhabitants. Composers increasingly began to treat the orchestra as a giant experimental 'paint box' in their efforts to conjure up the atmosphere of the 'East'. An unprecedented focus on music filled with 'colour and light' was engendered by the contemporary interest in the 'Orient', and it led to the creation of new types of orchestral figuration and timbres. Such descriptive orchestral writing was eminently suited to, and promoted the development of, 'programmatic' music.

Nineteenth-century Orientalism is shown to have been a more important and vital influence in the development of European creative and imaginative endeavour than has previously been appreciated. The art of orchestration affords a particularly fine technical manifestation of the phenomenon.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: musical orientalism, orchestration, literary orientalism, programme music, illustrative music, 19th-century cultural history
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Divisions: Departments > Music
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jonathan Little
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2016 16:07
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2017 10:37
URI: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/2212

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item