Poetic Images of Nightingale in the Art Song. On Some Aspects of Musical Meaning

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Sławomira Żerańska-Kominek


Birds are not only part of nature, but also an important element of culture. The life and behaviour of some bird species has been reflected in literary tradition in the form of poetic images and representations reflecting existential problems and stereotypically associated with specific states of the human psyche. These images and their poetics inspired composers of the Romantic era to create their musical, semantically charged counterparts. A special place in European poetry and music is occupied by the nightingale, which has wide symbolic connotations. My article discusses the musical replicas of the nightingale’s poetic representations in the songs of F. Liszt, J. Brahms, F. Schubert and K. Szymanowski. Each of the presented songs constructs meaning and relates to the poetic images in a different manner, despite the suggested or even expected repeatable nature of the emotional expression and experience symbolically associated with this bird.


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Sławomira Żerańska-Kominek, Institute of Musicology, Faculty of History, University of Warsaw

has a PhD in musicology from the University of Warsaw(1976). She became a full professor in 1992. Her research interests encompass the theory of analysisof traditional music, mythology and religion in relation to music, music iconography, the theory ofnon-European historiographies of music, word-music relationships in Polish art songs, Arab theoryof music, Central Asian music and theoretical issues in the anthropology of music. Her publicationsinclude Muzyka w kulturze. Wprowadzenie do etnomuzykologii [Music in Culture. Introduction toEthnomusicology] 1995; (with Arnold Lebeuf) Crazy Harman. The Concept of Music and Musicianin the Türkmen Epic Tale, Harman Däli 1998; Mit Orfeusza. Inspiracje i reinterpretacje w europejskiejtradycji artystycznej [The Orpheus Myth. Inspirations and Reinterpretations in European ArtisticTradition] 2003; Muzyka w ogrodzie-ogród w muzyce [Music in the Garden: Garden in music]2010; Musical Children of Venus and other Essays in Anthropology of Music 2014, and Narodowośći uniwersalizm. Historiografia muzyczna w Europie Środkowej i Wschodniej [Nationality vs Universality.Musical Historiographies in Central and Eastern Europe] 2016.


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