Musical modernism and the search for second-person lyric

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Why and how did lyric persist in the seemingly hostile conditions of musical modernism? Although modernist music is often accused of turning its back on human relationality, certain canonical works hinge on lyric moments in which one senses a voice trying to initiate second-person address. By putting lyric in the mouths of those who lack agency and voice, these moments simultaneously respond to anxieties about lyric's viability in modernity that had already begun in Schubert's time and express a hope that lyric, in its very thinglike gratuitousness, might be able to open communicative space when other modes fail. Contextualizing the modernist lyric of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire (1912), Berg's Wozzeck (1914--22), and Britten's Peter Grimes (1942--45) in the shifts in lyric reception around the turn of the century, I show how these works pleaded for a revision—not only of lyric form or style, but of the ethical ideals that underpinned contemporary lyric reception. Modernist lyric sought to escape the idealization of the integrated self, I argue, instead seek-ing to understand the self as always already given over to second-person relation. Yet this idea, which is latent in the rhetorical figure of apostrophe that Jonathan Culler places at the core of Romantic lyric, was in a certain sense nothing new. By mediating between schools of thought that view Schoenberg as either the last gasp of Romanticism or the pioneer of a New Music divorced from its past, my approach offers a new angle from which we might see the ethical significance of Schoenberg's legacy. While Adorno perhaps felt only despair about lyric's ethical or redemptive powers in modernity, a despair encapsulated in his famous statement that "to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, " the works I study invite some-thing like hope—not in the sense of an expectation of a divinely mediated redemption, but an awakening to the un-idealized truth that lyric always retains: that I am not you, and yet I must relate to you. They show how, by opening a momentary, fragile, but real common space, lyric can create the preconditions of repair for those suffering from trauma and moral injury—precisely because it accomplishes and means nothing but is devoted only to the possibility of relationality itself.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2019; ©2019
Publication date 2019; 2019
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Chang, Victoria Wei-Tseng
Degree supervisor Hinton, Stephen
Thesis advisor Hinton, Stephen
Thesis advisor Daub, Adrian
Thesis advisor Kronengold, Charles (Charles Stewart)
Degree committee member Daub, Adrian
Degree committee member Kronengold, Charles (Charles Stewart)
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Music.


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Victoria Wei-Tseng Chang.
Note Submitted to the Department of Music.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2019 by Victoria Wei-Tseng Chang
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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