‘Dumped modernism’? The interplay of musical construction and spiritual affect in John Tavener and his To A Child Dancing In The Wind

Book chapter


Inglis, B. 2020. ‘Dumped modernism’? The interplay of musical construction and spiritual affect in John Tavener and his To A Child Dancing In The Wind. in: Boyce-Tillman, J. and Forbes, A. (ed.) Heart's ease: spirituality in the music of John Tavener Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Mein, New York, Wien Peter Lang.
Chapter title‘Dumped modernism’? The interplay of musical construction and spiritual affect in John Tavener and his To A Child Dancing In The Wind
AuthorsInglis, B.
Abstract

Since the 1990s, discourses around Tavener’s music – not least those promulgated by Sir John himself – have centred on its perceived spiritual qualities. These are linked explicitly with his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy in 1977, and relate the music wholeheartedly to traditional contexts, in contrast with the post-enlightenment Western view of musical expression (with which Tavener’s earlier compositions implicitly concur). As Geoffrey Haydon wrote in 1995, ‘Once he dumped modernism, his music came to inhabit a world made up largely of traditional models’.
This view has become almost axiomatic. But did Tavener really ‘dump’ modernism? And was his pre-conversion music exclusively concerned with self-expressive innovation? This chapter explores how techniques associated with musical modernism form structural foundations in pieces which exhibit the contemplative idiom (sometimes labelled spiritual minimalism) for which the composer is renowned. With passing reference to Fall and Resurrection (1997) and The Lamb (1982), it centres on a close analytical reading of the Yeats chamber song-cycle To A Child Dancing In The Wind (1983).
In some ways a transitional work, this piece facilitates a holistic understanding of Tavener’s achievement. While its potential for impacting spiritually on listeners is clearly present, it is shown to exemplify particularly well the composer’s distinctive postmodern intellectual craftsmanship. Spiritual affect is one mode of interpreting this and other Tavener pieces, which can be seen to possess a greater interpretive ambiguity and ‘inner life’ of musical construction than he – along with other composers of ‘spiritual minimalism’ – is sometimes given credit for (eg Fisk 1994). Through its ultimately enriching dichotomy of materials and technique, To a Child Dancing in the Wind could even be seen to reconcile two major strands of post-WWII compositional thought (often seen as antithetical): (post-)serialism and minimalism.

Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Research GroupMusic group
LanguageEnglish
Book titleHeart's ease: spirituality in the music of John Tavener
EditorsBoyce-Tillman, J. and Forbes, A.
PublisherPeter Lang
Place of publicationOxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Mein, New York, Wien
SeriesMusic and Spirituality
ISBN
Paperback9781788747486
Electronic9781788747509
Electronic9781788747493
Publication dates
Print05 Oct 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Sep 2018
Accepted01 Sep 2018
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Web address (URL)https://www.peterlang.com/view/9781788747509/html/ch17.xhtml
Permalink -

https://repository.mdx.ac.uk/item/87xqy

  • 39
    total views
  • 13
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 4
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Semiotics as a mode of popular music analysis and interpretation
Inglis, B. 2025. Semiotics as a mode of popular music analysis and interpretation. in: Handbook of Popular Music Methodologies Bristol Intellect.
Reappraising Peter Warlock's An Old Song
Inglis, B. 2024. Reappraising Peter Warlock's An Old Song. Peter Warlock Society Newsletter. (114 Spring).
Charles-Valentin Alkan
Inglis, B. 2022. Charles-Valentin Alkan. London, UK BBC.
Gabriel Prokofiev: Viola Concerto
Inglis, B. 2022. Gabriel Prokofiev: Viola Concerto. Cardiff BBC.
Hermetic Study
Inglis, B. 2021. Hermetic Study. Composers Edition.
Paix à la paix: Hymne, pour voix seule (Hymn for solo voice)
Alkan, C. and Inglis, B. 2023. Paix à la paix: Hymne, pour voix seule (Hymn for solo voice). Chipping Norton Composers Edition.
Engaging with religious history and theological concepts through music composition: Ave generosa and The Song of Margery Kempe
Inglis, B. 2023. Engaging with religious history and theological concepts through music composition: Ave generosa and The Song of Margery Kempe. Religions. 14 (5). https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050640
Verbum bonum et suave
Inglis, B. 2015. Verbum bonum et suave. Composers Edition.
The Break-Up
Inglis, B. 2020. The Break-Up. Composers Edition.
Tintinnalogia
Inglis, B. and Scobie, C. 2015. Tintinnalogia. Composers Edition.
4 Esquisses
Inglis, B. 2020. 4 Esquisses. The Alkan Society/Composers Edition.
Etudes de concert 1
Inglis, B. 2023. Etudes de concert 1. Composers Edition.
Air from Etudes de concert
Inglis, B. 2020. Air from Etudes de concert. The Recorder Magazine. 40 (2), pp. 62-65.
Suite ecossaise
Inglis, B. 2022. Suite ecossaise. Composers Edition.
Peter Warlock: An Old Song [Preface]
Inglis, B. 2023. Peter Warlock: An Old Song [Preface]. Muenchen, Germany mph Musikproduktion Hoeflich.
The cadenza of Malcolm Arnold's Second Clarinet Concerto
Inglis, B., Cigleris, P. and Harris, P. 2022. The cadenza of Malcolm Arnold's Second Clarinet Concerto. Maestro.
As jazzy and way out as you please
Inglis, B. 2021. As jazzy and way out as you please. Clarinet & Saxophone. 47 (1), p. 56.
Rehearing and rapprochement, or moustaches on the Mona Lisa?
Inglis, B. 2021. Rehearing and rapprochement, or moustaches on the Mona Lisa? The Recorder Magazine. 41 (3), pp. 95-98.
Serendipity, Poetry and Play in Toy Piano composition and Four Pieces for Toy Piano
Inglis, B. 2020. Serendipity, Poetry and Play in Toy Piano composition and Four Pieces for Toy Piano. Revista Vórtex. 8 (2), pp. 1-29. https://doi.org/10.33871/23179937.2020.8.2.5
Alkan's Esquisses - past, present and future
Inglis, B. 2019. Alkan's Esquisses - past, present and future. Alkan Society Bulletin.
Four pieces for toy piano as a form of practice-as-research: serendipity, poetry and play
Inglis, B. 2019. Four pieces for toy piano as a form of practice-as-research: serendipity, poetry and play. Music as play festival: the toy piano takes the stage. Istituto Giosue Carducci, Como, Italy 06 - 07 Jul 2019
Microtonal procedures in 'Sailing to Byzantium'
Inglis, B. and Barnes, R. 2005. Microtonal procedures in 'Sailing to Byzantium'. UK Microfest 1. Riverhouse Arts Centre, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, UK 14 - 15 Oct 2005
Towards an analytical framework for graphic scores, and a proposed typology
Inglis, B. 2015. Towards an analytical framework for graphic scores, and a proposed typology. Putting the Graphic in Music – Notation, Analaysis & Performance. Senate House Library, University of London 30 Nov 2015
Four pieces for toy piano
Inglis, B. 2018. Four pieces for toy piano. Composers Edition.
Piano Trio: for violin, cello and piano
Inglis, B. 2017. Piano Trio: for violin, cello and piano. Composers Edition.
Musical composition and mystical spirituality
Inglis, B. 2019. Musical composition and mystical spirituality. in: Boyce-Tillman, J., Roberts, S. and Erricker, J. (ed.) Enlivening Faith: Music, Spirituality and Christian Theology Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Mein, New York, Wien Peter Lang.
Kaikhosru Sorabji's letters to Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock)
Inglis, B. and Smith, B. 2019. Kaikhosru Sorabji's letters to Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock). London and New York Routledge.
Classical music, copyright and collecting societies
Inglis, B. 2018. Classical music, copyright and collecting societies. in: Dromey, C. and Haferkorn, J. (ed.) The Classical Music Industry Abingdon, Oxon Routledge. pp. 7-31
Alkan, the 'orchestral' piano and Concerto for Piano Solo (Homage to Alkan)
Inglis, B. 2017. Alkan, the 'orchestral' piano and Concerto for Piano Solo (Homage to Alkan). Alkan Society Bulletin.
Living Stones
Inglis, B., Keen, G. and Scobie, C. 2017. Living Stones.
A Christmas alleluia: for SATB choir and organ
Inglis, B. 2015. A Christmas alleluia: for SATB choir and organ. Composers Edition.
The liminal zone of opera: (unaccompanied) operatic monodrama and The Song Of Margery Kempe
Inglis, B. 2016. The liminal zone of opera: (unaccompanied) operatic monodrama and The Song Of Margery Kempe. in: Campos, L. and Schopf, F. (ed.) Music On Stage: Volume 2 Cambridge Scholars.
Highbury Fields
Inglis, B. 2015. Highbury Fields. Composers Edition.
Concerto for piano solo (homage to Alkan)
Inglis, B. 2015. Concerto for piano solo (homage to Alkan). Composers Edition.
Wedding
Inglis, B. 2015. Wedding. Composers Edition.
Symphony no. 2
Inglis, B., Shiel, D. and Evans, F. 2009. Symphony no. 2.
Burmese pictures
Inglis, B. 2010. Burmese pictures. Composers Edition.
The song of Margery Kempe
Inglis, B. 2009. The song of Margery Kempe.
Fruits of Sorabji's Indian summer: ‘Il tessuto d'arabeschi’ and ‘Fantasiettina atematica’
Inglis, B. 2010. Fruits of Sorabji's Indian summer: ‘Il tessuto d'arabeschi’ and ‘Fantasiettina atematica’. Tempo. 64 (254), pp. 41-49. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0040298210000410