McGill Music Graduate Virtual Symposium (March 2021)

Schulich School of Music, McGill University

16 Feb, 2021

In 1904, Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor set six poems from the œuvre of white British poet Christina Georgina Rossetti to music. The songs, which he titled Six Sorrow Songs, Op. 57, and dedicated to his wife as love songs include themes of love, death and spirituality, often through gendered perspectives. This cycle has a fascinating dynamic of elements at its heart. In addition to analytic questions surrounding the above mentioned themes, the composer grouped these art-songs in a collection that he entitled “sorrow songs” — a genre of slave songs. The context of this 1904 setting thus opens up room for questions of cross-genre, cross-racial, and cross-social class examination.

Serge Lacasse’s (2018) model for intertextuality offers a framework for considering the cross relations that emerge in this song cycle. Drawing on genre theory (Frow 2006) and writings on sorrow songs and spirituals (Ramsey 2003; Floyd 1995; Du Bois 1903), this paper will explore the intertext of Western classical and slave songs in “Too Late for Love”, the very last song in this cycle. Through analysis of the text, the musical setting, and the context in which this song and its poem were written, I also aim to explore the ways in which textual meaning changes when the poem is set to music and performed in this song.

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