Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Enacting the canon: The dramatization of composers on the American stage and screen, 1910–1938
by Yamami, Wynn T., Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 275; 3342372
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the depiction of canonic composers on the American stage and screen, 1910-1938. Within these biographical productions (bio-productions), the composer reenacts the compositional process within a specific context and imbues the resulting musical work with biographical meaning (imagined authorial intent and bio-musical meaning ). Benefiting from the canonic status of the composer (residual canonicity), the bio-production could bill itself as an entertaining and popular narrative of high culture.

In the first chapter, I introduce the earliest bio-production presented on the American stage in the twentieth century, the play with musical accompaniment Beethoven by René Fauchois (1910). This production was supplemented with a display of Beethoven relics and culminated in a vision scene with anthropomorphized symphonies. The second chapter discusses the depiction of Franz Schubert in Blossom Time (1921), by Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Donnelly. Produced by the Shubert Brothers, this musical dramatization was an immediate hit on Broadway and set the precedent for future musical bio-productions. The third chapter tracks the Shuberts’ attempt to replicate the success of Blossom Time through The Love Song with Jacques Offenbach (1925) and White Lilacs with Frédéric Chopin (1928). The fourth chapter describes the depiction of Johann Strauss II in the musical The Great Waltz (1934) and the M-G-M film version (1938). With the transition from Broadway to Hollywood, I conclude with a film short Heavenly Music (1943), which presents the canonic composers in Heaven, casting their judgment upon a young American songwriter and bandleader.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cusick, Suzanne
Commitee: Beckerman, Michael, Boorman, Stanley, Maus, Fred, Raykoff, Ivan
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Theater, Film studies
Keywords: Beethoven, Ludwig van, Bio-musical meaning, Bio-pic, Bio-production, Blossom Time, Composers, Dramatization, Great Waltz
Publication Number: 3342372
ISBN: 978-1-109-90173-3
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