Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)




The piano has performed various functions in song literature from the simple givning of a pitch to the evocation of the sonorities of an orchestra. It has provided harmonic support, rhythmic interest, and contrapuntal material for interaction with the voice. The piano has also been used to create mood and illustrate the text. Certain nineteenth-century composers, such as Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Robert Schumann (1810-56), Johannes Brahms (1833-97), and Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), helped establish the piano as an equal partner with the voice. A number of twentieth-century American composers have continued this tradition of partnership. Among them, Samuel Barber (1910-81) is outstanding because, like most of his nineteenth-century predecessors, he has contributed significantly to the literature of both the voice and the piano, and his songs and song cycles stand as a continuation of the tradition of equality between voice and piano. This study is an examination and discussion of the role of the piano in Barber's cycle Despite and Still; also included is a brief discussion of Barber's vocal style. The examination pinpoints those precise musical elements used by the piano to suggest the meaning of the text and to assist the voice in the presentation of that meaning. By way of summary, the entire cycle is viewed as a whole, and unifying features are discussed and illustrated.