Music and text: interpretation, melodic motive, and the narrative path in Edvard Grieg's Haugtussa, Op. 67

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Christensen, Cheryl Ann

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Edvard Grieg’s song cycle, Haugtussa, Op. 67, is a late work that contains some of the composer’s best songs and exemplifies his synthesis of nineteenthcentury art music style with Norwegian folk-music idioms. Grieg gave high priority to the poetry in his songs, and because of this, his vocal compositions are especially suited to analyses that focus on text-music relationships. I present a motivic analysis of the song cycle with particular reference to the narrative structure of poetic text and musical motive. I also consider Grieg’s reading of the verse novel, Haugtussa by Arne Garborg, from which the composer selected his texts for the songs. The dissertation includes an English summary of the Norwegian novel and a comparison of the storylines in the verse novel and the song cycle. Grieg’s musical adaptation of Garborg’s novel focuses on a single aspect of the poetic narrative—a love story—and is, therefore, incomplete. The songs, however, capture the moods of Garborg’s individual poems, and the narrative of the song cycle is tightly organized. Grieg’s treatment of motive in the song cycle creates a musical narrative that mirrors the poetic. He employs two motives, an ascending triad and a threenote, descending figure, throughout the song cycle. The first motive, referred to herein as the “Veslemøy motive,” is consistently associated with the protagonist. The second motive, which I call the “love motive,” has different connotations from one song to the next. Initially the love motive connotes joy, but it is gradually transformed into a symbol of sorrow, mirroring the text in which love is tarnished by betrayal. The evolution of the love motive and the interaction of the two motives with one another reflect the poetic narrative of the song cycle. I draw on Joseph Campbell’s model of the hero’s journey and on the writings of Norwegian scholars, including Christian Rynning, Arild Linneberg, and Torstein Volden, in my discussion. I also use the “semiotic square,” adapted from A.J. Greimas’s model, to map the various feelings expressed in the songs and to trace the narrative path of the protagonist’s emotions as represented in the song cycle.