Observing the use of landscape as a category of reception, whether in nineteenth-century debates about artistic realism or Soviet-era criticism, this article examines the uses of landscape in several songs by Rimsky-Korsakov and replaces a persistent emphasis in criticism on questions of representation with a focus on how music generates a sense of subjectivity. Three approaches facilitate a more subtle and variegated understanding of Rimsky-Korsakov's “soundscapes” than has been proposed so far. First, landscape is interpreted as a facet of Russian national identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. Second, the evocation of the sounds of the natural world is seen as a metapoetic commentary on the creative act, providing an “internal” commentary on landscape to match the “external” one of the nation. Intertwined with these two themes is a series of parallels between music, literature, and the visual arts, which together show that Rimsky-Korsakov's songs are indicative of a tension between dynamism and stasis that is characteristic of musical representation of landscapes, and that has often been seen as characteristic of Russian music more generally.
Lyric and Landscape in Rimsky-Korsakov's Songs
Philip Ross Bullock is Professor of Russian Literature and Music at the University of Oxford, and Fellow and Tutor in Russian at Wadham College, Oxford. In 2007 he was Edward T. Cone Member in Music Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and in 2009 he received the Philip Brett Award of the American Musicological Society. He is currently a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Paris.
This article is based on a paper delivered at the “Hearing Landscape Critically” conference, Harvard, January 2015; my thanks are due to audience members at this conference for questions and comments, and to the Music & Letters Trust for facilitating my attendance. Earlier iterations of some of the ideas developed here were first heard at seminars held at Leeds, Oxford, Stanford, and University College London. The article was finally written during a period of research leave supported by the award of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship and a EURIAS fellowship at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study (France), cofunded by Marie Skpodowska-Curie Actions, under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, and from funding from the French State managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, programme “Investissements d'avenir” (ANR-11-LABX- 0027-01 Labex RFIEA+).
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Philip Ross Bullock; Lyric and Landscape in Rimsky-Korsakov's Songs. 19th-Century Music 1 March 2017; 40 (3): 223–238. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2017.40.3.223
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