Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Metzer, David. “Repeated Borrowing: The Case of ‘Es Ist Genug.’” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71 (Fall 2018): 703-48.

Repeated borrowing, or the use of one piece of music in several other pieces that often are in dialogue with one another, is a practice that is best understood by drawing from several approaches to analyzing the use of music from one work in another. Burkholder’s field of musical borrowing, theories of allusion, conceptions of intertextuality, and topic theory all contribute different meanings to repeated borrowing, as demonstrated by the case of borrowings of the chorale Es ist genug in several nontonal works. Borrowing tends to proliferate; the more prolific it becomes, the more referential it becomes; and the more a piece of music is referenced by other works, the broader the meanings attached to it become. For instance, the chorale Es ist genug, written by Johann Rudolph Ahle, first appeared in a 1662 collection of sacred music. Bach’s setting of the chorale in his 1723 cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort adds the religious meaning of overcoming the fear of death. Berg quotes Bach’s setting of Ahle’s melody in his Violin Concerto, both in the row (part of the work’s internal structure) and as a quotation of the chorale itself. Berg develops a tension between the row-derived Klagegesang and the tonal chorale and, like Bach’s cantata, depicts anxiety and consolation relating to death. Adorno reads the chorale quotation as appealing to an extramusical force: the historical weight of a Bach chorale. In only looking at extramusical meaning, he misses the chorale’s presence in the internal structure of the concerto. Zimmermann’s Ich wandte mich und sah an alles Unrecht, das geschah unter der Sonne: Ekklesiastiche Aktion is a much more explicitly intertextual work than Berg’s concerto, and the quotation of Es ist genug acts as a quotation of Berg’s quotation, keeping the “death” meaning but dropping the consolation of the chorale setting. Even though Del Tredici’s quotation of Es ist genug in Pop-Pourri most directly calls to mind Bach, it continues Berg and Zimmermann’s tradition of using the chorale to contemplate death—in Del Tredici’s case, the Lewis Carrollian absurdity of death. Rouse’s Iscariot is more enigmatic in its musical borrowing, but the history of Es ist genug quotations suggests a reading centered on death. When viewed as a case of repeated borrowing, the musical tension between Bach’s tonal chorale setting and Berg’s (or Zimmermann’s, Del Tredici’s, or Rouse’s) nontonal system is not a feature of each work on its own, but a running theme in Es ist genug borrowing. By tracing repeated borrowing through these pieces, we can uncover larger stylistic and historical developments that may otherwise be hidden.

Works: Johann Sebastian Bach: O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60 (714-15); Alban Berg: Violin Concerto (715-25); Bernd Alois Zimmermann: Ich wandte mich und sah an alles Unrecht, das geschah unter der Sonne: Ekklesiastiche Aktion (725-30); David Del Tredici: Pop-Pourri (730-36); Christopher Rouse: Iscariot (736-39)

Sources: Johann Rudolph Ahle: Es ist genug (713); Johann Sebastian Bach: O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60 (715-25, 730-36, 736-39); Alban Berg: Violin Concerto (725-30)

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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