Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Echoes of the gothic in early twentieth-century spanish music
    Hanna, Jennifer Lillian ( 2020)
    This thesis explores traces of the Gothic in music and related artforms concerning Spain in the early twentieth century, drawing together a number of case studies with varied proximity to Manuel de Falla and his artistic milieu. A range of Gothic perspectives are applied to a series of musical works, repertories, constructions of race, modes of performance and stage personae, and this examination is preceded by an overview of Gothic elements in their nineteenth-century precursors. The connection between Granada’s Alhambra and the Gothic is based not only on architectural style, but also nocturnal and supernatural themes that can be traced back to the writings of Washington Irving. The idea of Alhambrism and Romantic impressions of the Spanish Gypsy, both of which are associated with the magical, primitive, mystic and nocturnal elements of the Gothic, are also related to constructions of flamenco and cante jondo. The Romantic idea of the Spanish gypsy evolved into primitivism, and attitudes that considered their culture archaic can be placed in a Gothic frame. Flamenco and the notion of duende can also be placed in this frame, and this idea is explored through the poetry and writings of Federico Garcia Lorca and in his interaction with Falla in conceiving the Cante jondo competition of 1922. The rediscovery of Spanish painters Francisco de Goya and El Greco around 1900 was also in part linked with Gothic attributes. The performer Raquel Meller adopted a Goyesque visual style in her singing career, but was characterised as a ‘vamp’ when she became a movie star, notably in the 1926 silent film Carmen, in which she develops the idea of the Romantic gypsy; both phases are interpreted through the Gothic lens. Post-World War I ballets such as The Three-Cornered Hat and El Greco ballet were inspired by these artists respectively, and their Gothic elements were heightened in their modernist recasting and evocation by Pablo Picasso, Falla and other musicians, choreographers and artists. The thesis returns to the idea of Granada and concludes with a consideration of two compositions rich in Gothic allusions, from the arabesque and the nocturnal in Claude Debussy’s ‘La soiree dans Grenade’ to medieval architecture and religious practices in Falla’s Concerto for Harpsichord, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Violin and Cello.