A Narratological Analysis of 'Pnima...ins innere' by Chaya Czernowin

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Chaya Czernowin’s opera 'Pnima…ins innere' is about the encounter between a young Israeli boy and his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor so traumatized by his past that he cannot speak. Fittingly, the opera does not contain any words: the four singers in the work instead sing phonemes and other non-verbal sounds. This document provides an analysis of the opera from the perspective of musical narratology (the study of musical narrative), seeking to discover how Czernowin enacts the encounter between the child and the old man by means of music alone. In particular, narratological concepts from Byron Almen’s A Theory of Musical Narrative are adapted for application to 'Pnima.' Three primary musical agents are identified and analyzed in detail: two instrument groups that respectively embody the psyches of the old man and the child, and the string orchestra, which functions as a collective presence rather than enacting the psychology of an individual. Interactions among and changes to these musical agents over the course of the three scenes of the opera are analyzed and interpreted in light of Czernowin’s statements about the work and other contextualizing texts. Using 'Pnima' as a case study, this document comments on both the potential and the limitations of musical narratology with respect to the study of post-tonal music; it also suggests ways in which the analysis it contains might assist in the creation or criticism of productions of the opera.

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  • 02/02/2018
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