Performing “C. P. Cavafy” through the fragment: seven seminal music renditions
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Building upon C. P. Cavafy’s overall poetics with which the existing scholarship has dealt, this dissertation attempts to further define the Alexandrian poet’s art of making poetry by locating its ever-increasing global appeal in the notion of the “fragment” as a performance genre. The concept of the fragment repositions and redefines Cavafy’s poetry as a text that “does things” and as a result, it opens the gateway to performativity. Thus, through fragmentation Cavafy’s poems cease to be proper texts and are endowed with the potential of political acts. The interaction of poetry with music is indeed the key to understanding the fluidity of the Cavafean poetry and its subsequent undeniable appeal worldwide, which the interaction of poetry with music makes visible. Viewed as a sonorous envelope, a fantasy space, a psychotextual discourse or an activity based upon musico-textual mechanisms, music opens the way to being viewed as a socio-cultural site of subjectivity formation that ignores all kinds of boundaries, both temporal and spatial. This dissertation thus argues for a sui generis Cavafean poetics of fragmentation in both thematic and stylistic terms that allows for ample experimentation and freedom not only on the poet’s behalf, but also in terms of its reception. Moreover, this project further tests the validity of such an argument at the intersection of poetry and music when one fuses into another in the form of the art song. By scrutinizing how Cavafy’s poetry has been put into music by various composers by means of a variety of approaches, including music analysis (e.g., melodic, harmonic, textural, semiotic, music psychology), psychoanalysis, and cultural theory, it aims to shape a “map” of various musical receptions of such a highly fragmented oeuvre as the Cavafean. To this end, it focuses on several case studies of music renditions ranging from that of the composer Dimitri Mitropoulos during the days of High Modernism (publicly presented in 1927 in Athens, Greece) through Peter Schat’s For Lenny at 70 (for tenor and piano, 1988), Lou Harrison’s Scenes from Cavafy (a work composed for gamelan orchestra, 1992), Yannis Papaioannou’s The Funeral of Sarpedon (2000), Ned Rorem’s Another Sleep: Waiting for the Barbarians (2002) and John Tavener’s Tribute to Cavafy (first performed in 2005 at Birmingham, UK), to the contemporary composer Kostas Rekleitis’ Cavafy Cycle (2012). By entering the deep, almost invisible territories where one art fuses with another, this thesis aspires to contribute to a better understanding of such a complex poetry as the Cavafean one, by offering a fresh perspective and mode of investigation onto an overlooked dimension of Cavafy’s work. It thus ultimately calls for a renewed interest for further interdisciplinary explorations, not only in the reception of Cavafy in music, but also of Cavafy in more complex artistic settings and forms, especially, that of performance.