Tonality and texture in Arnold van Wyk’s Vier weemoedige liedjies: musical, poetic and personal considerations

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Peer-Reviewed Research


English: The four poems as set in Arnold van Wyk’s (1916-1983) Vier weemoedige liedjies (Four sad little songs [1934, published 1949]) present a continuum of consciousness that explores various aspects of a sense of loss shared by the poets and echoed by the composer; whether on a cultural or personal level, the underlying motive that inspires their creative impulse is one of engagement reaching out to the unattainable. Van Wyk’s unique portrayal of melancholy in these songs is the result of a remarkable interaction of tonal and textural elements that give sensitive expression to the content of the carefully selected poetic texts. Through this interaction, the nature of van Wyk’s tonal language, albeit in an early stage of development in this instance, can already be determined, pointing to very specific ways of fusing together elements of structure and expression. Particularly notable are the ways in which tonality and texture are used in the immediate sense to capture the mood of the poems of these songs. On a more profound level, these elements bring forth deeper dimensions of meaning both with regard to the content of the poems and Van Wyk’s personal life experiences.