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Pierce Connell Professor Shannon Rauwerda English 1102 15 November 2013 Art Songs are Music and Literature Vocal art songs, though a bit antiquated in the more modern words, are still a quintessential representation of music as an art form. This is not only because of the beautiful compositions, but the beautiful lyrics that speak their message through the connection they have created, using the vocalist as a conduit, with the audience. For this reason I am proposing that the lyrics of most vocal art songs are a form of literature. The definition of an art song can sometimes be as objective as the definition of literature, but there are some key qualities, like the fact that they are composed for a concert or that the only instruments are a piano and solo voice, that distinguish them from the rest of the vocal literature in the world. These qualities will be described in detail in the paper along with examples of what qualifies as an art song and what types of vocal literature do not. Vocal art songs come in many different languages. The most common of these being German, Italian, French, Spanish, and English. Although art songs come from so many different languages, time periods, and parts of the world, the one thing most of them share, excluding what sets them apart as art songs, is there use of allegory, metaphor allusions, and other literary devices to communicate a higher meaning to simple and short stories set to music. Literature is the only form of art that uses only words as its medium. It creates said art using literary devices such as allusions, allegories, metaphors, symbols, and many others to allow the composition to be up for interpretation yet to keep its essence the same no matter who reads it. Literature uses


language as its medium, but also transcend the barriers language puts up. For something to be literature its essential meaning must be the same no matter what language it is translated into. Most art songs easily fit this definition. For example a favorite of mine "Die Forelle" (The Trout) by Franz Shubert is, on the surface, a song written in German about a little trout, whom the narrator sees in a brook, who toys with a fisherman and is then caught when the fisherman muddies the water, but when explicated it is shown to be a song-length allegory for a German version of a pied piper who ensnares a child who toyed with him instead of running away. Another example would be a song cycle called "Winterrise" (winters journey) again by Franz Schubert that consists of 20 separate art songs that detail the narrator journey in the winter time. This cycle though is actually symbolic for what is happening at the end of the narrators life and his experiences, the essence of which translates to future generations because aging is part of the human condition which ties us all together. These two examples show how the lyrics of most art songs fit the definition of literature, but they are not the only examples and in my paper will be looking at a few more and how they specifically show literary qualities. Though a majority of art songs do qualify under my definition of literature there are some, which are mainly Italian, that do not qualify as literature and in my paper I will also be researching and providing examples of art songs whose lyrics are not literature. These pieces while still being art songs do not use literary devices to augment the meaning of their text and are very straightforward in their topic that only pertains to that certain situation. These pieces have survived not because of their literary quality, since their meaning is not transferrable to each new generation, but because of their musical beauty. This is an admirable quality but it sadly does not relate to literary art so they cannot be considered literary.