Dialectical parallels in Alfred Schnittke's Seid Nuchtern und Wachet and Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus

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Issue Date
2012-12
Authors
Jarvis, Beau Thomas
Advisor
Roush, Dean
Citation
Abstract

Alfred Schnittke and Thomas Mann were both fascinated by the legend of Doctor Faustus, a Germanic myth based upon the life of a real man who lived in the early sixteenth century. Doctor Faustus was a transgressive figure from the perspective of the Lutheranism that swept Germany during the sixteenth century. His exploits were exaggerated to the point of fantasy and eventually became the basis for a 1587 chapbook by Johann Spies. The Spies chapbook functioned as a morality play censuring the acts of witchcraft and divination and exhorting would be-readers to consign themselves to the grace of God. The chapbook quickly spread throughout Europe and was translated into several languages within a few years. In the twentieth century Thomas Mann wrote the novel Doctor Faustus in which he employed biographical elements from such luminaries as Freidrich Nietzsche and Arnold Schoenberg and combined them with the musical knowledge of Theodore Adorno to create the fictional musician and composer Adrian Leverkühn. Leverkühn is the Doctor Faust for a new century and after reading the novel in 1947 Alfred Schnittke, a Russian composer of German descent, decided to compose a musical work based on the fictional descriptions of music. The resulting work Seid Nuchtern und Wachet became one of Schnittke's most well-known compositions. There is a complex web of interrelated material in these two works of art and this thesis document reveals the dialectical position of Thomas Mann's novel and Alfred Schnittke's work to previous versions of the legend specifically that of Wolfgang Von Goethe.

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Thesis (M.M.)--Wichita State University, College of Fine Arts, Dept. of Music
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