Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Silberman, Peter. “John Harbison’s Use of Music of the Past in Three Selected Compositions.” Gamut: The Online Journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic 6 (2013): 143-92.

John Harbison’s fascination with history manifests itself in his extensive use of borrowed musical material in his compositions, which can be grouped into the categories of misreading, pastiche, and quotation. Twilight Music for violin, horn, and piano, composed in 1984, is an example of misreading in Harbison’s music. In particular, the distinctive trio of instruments points to Brahms’s Trio, Op. 40, which uses the same set. The intervallic motives of a perfect fifth and minor second present in Brahms’s horn part (written for natural horn) appear in Harbison’s horn part as well. Harbison also adapts Brahms’s theme as an unordered verticality in a process called generalization, a common device for adapting tonal music into a post-tonal context. The three Gatsby Etudes, excerpts from Harbison’s 1999 opera The Great Gatsby, evoke the early 1920s through pastiche. Several stylistic markers of ragtime appear throughout the etudes, including the opening gesture of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer and cadential figures from Maple Leaf Rag. November 19, 1828 for piano and string trio, the title of which refers to Schubert’s death date, is a example of quotation in Harbison’s music. Harbison quotes Schubert’s Allegretto in C Major, D. 346 in its entirety in a rondo alternating with original passages. Each time the Allegretto returns, it is slightly altered, becoming increasingly uncanny as Harbison’s post-tonal style creeps in. Harbison’s use of musical borrowing is noteworthy for its breadth of source material as well as its sophisticated interaction between borrowed and original music.

Works: John Harbison: Twilight Music (147-159), Gatsby Etudes (166-72), November 19, 1828 (173-87).

Sources: Brahms: Trio, Op. 40 (147-59); Scott Joplin: The Entertainer (166-72), Maple Leaf Rag (169-72); Franz Schubert: Allegretto in C Major, D. 346 (173-87).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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