Presented at the Grieg Conference in Bergen May 30, 2007
Helena Kopchick, USA
Master student, University of Oregon
ENCOUNTERING THE SUPERNATURAL “OTHER” IN THREE MUSICAL SETTINGS OF HENRIK IBSEN’S SPILLEMÆND
Henrik Ibsen’s poem Spillemænd (written in 1851 under the name Brynjolf Bjarme as part of the larger poem En løverdagsaften i Hardanger; published on its own in Digte, 1871) is based on the Norwegian folktale of the fossegrim, a male water spirit who could teach the art of violin-playing, but often at the price of personal happiness. As an allegory for the alienated Romantic artist, the legend of the fossegrim attracted composers Edvard Grieg, Frederick Delius, and Alban Berg, all of whom set Ibsen’s poem to music. Analysis of these settings – Grieg’s Spillemænd (1876), Delius’s Spielmann (1890), and Berg’s Spielleute (1902) – reveals the use of similar techniques to evoke the fossegrim’s supernatural “otherness.” Yet each composer created his own distinct musical portrait of the fossegrim, and these three strikingly different characterizations illustrate the different aspects of the supernatural “other” that inspire fear.
Download the whole paper here
Helena Kopchick paper 2007