Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Document Type



Madrigali: Six “Fire-Songs” on Italian Renaissance Poems, by Morten Lauridsen, was written for the University of Southern California Chamber Singers and published in 1987. The cycle has enjoyed much success. It has been recorded commercially six times and has been heard at the prestigious American Choral Directors Association Conventions. However, until now, sixteen years after the cycle’s composition, a much-deserved, comprehensive assessment of the cycle has not been attempted. The cycle is a set of six Italian Renaissance poems that involve the image of fire as an element of Romantic love. This metaphor was often used by the highly emotional poets in the late sixteenth-century. Upon initially communicating with Lauridsen, I learned that there is much to discuss about the “Fire-Songs.” A thorough study of the cycle has confirmed the composer’s sentiments. This cycle, with its careful attention to text, sophisticated construction, emulation and synthesis of Renaissance and contemporary compositional techniques, and performance implications, provides much material for exploration. Essential elements in the discussion are pertinent facts in Lauridsen’s biography and a thorough study of each piece in the cycle, including text consideration; conductor’s analyses; Renaissance elements; and performance considerations. After offering items in Lauridsen’s biography, the document addresses commonalities among pieces in the cycle, to include the four main discussion elements, text, analysis, Renaissance elements, and performance considerations. Frequently used terms are defined, such as Mannerism and augenmusik. Then, a detailed account of each discussion element as it pertains to each piece ensues, complete with musical examples, analysis tables, and tables outlining ranges and tessituras. The cycle has proven to be worthy of such an involved study. The result of Lauridsen’s efforts is a complex, but not fussy, Renaissance-inspired, but not derivative, setting of the dramatic, emotional poetry. As a result, Madrigali may well prove to be a staple in the choral repertoire for many years to come.



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Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sara Lynn Baird



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