“The Shadow of Night” by Harrison Birtwistle: Poetics of the Composition

Tatiana V. Tsaregradskaya


The article is devoted to one of the most notable music pieces written by the British composer Harrison Birtwistle; it belongs to the late period of his activity as a composer (written in 2001). The composer decided to write a preface to this piece where he explained his main ideas and this fact served as a starting point for research on the techniques used by the composer in this composition.

The key idea of the piece is the multiple interpretation of the melancholy phenomenon which is shown in different aspects such as “Melencolia” by Albrecht Durer, interpreted by a number of outstanding philosophers. British Barock tradition is represented by the poetic “School of Night” and one of its members, George Chapman who has written a poem “Shadow of night” which has given its name to the composition by Birtwistle. Another Barock author, composer John Dowland composed a song“In darkness let me dwell” which became a source of melodic element in Birtwistle`s composition. This element is developed in different ways and is included in such phenomenae as “processional” form, melodic “line”, preference of different ostinato figures, drones, orchestration as a means of articulating the development of form, rhythmic variations, post-serial twelve-tone technique.

Analysis of Birtwistle`s “Shadow of night” appears for the first time in Russian music theory and it reveals the main features of late Birtwistle`s style: the deep interest to melancholy as a multifaceted phenomenon designating not only sorrowful images and dark mood but also revealing its link to the inner source of creative power, “the humor of the night”.

Keywords: Harrison Birtwistle, “The Shadow Of Night”, melancholy, A. Durer, G. Chapman, J. Dowland

For citation: Tsaregradskaya T. V. “The Shadow of Night” by Harrison Birtwistle: Poetics of the Composition [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2020, no. 2, pp. 94–132. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2020-2-094-132


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.56620/2587-9731-2020-2-094-132

Copyright (c) 2020 Tatiana V. Tsaregradskaya

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