Lanes of Severn: Ivor Gurney, as illustrated by his war songs, 1915-1918.
AuthorHerendeen, David Warren.
Committee ChairMosher, Elizabeth
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIvor Gurney was born in Gloucester on August 28, 1890; he died on December 26, 1937, age 47, in a London asylum. Though he had a relatively short life, he lived during a most dynamic time in British history; he was a part of the rebirth of British song and the trauma of World War One. These events, by dint of his experiences, are given a unique voicing through his songs, for Gurney was in no way a normal composer. He was an unbalanced genius whose turbulent life and endearing personality touched many of the central figures of British music in this period. His 300 songs and song sketches fall into roughly four periods of composition and parallel this dramatic life from schooling, to war, to mental breakdown. This study examines his considerable song output through the investigation of his second and most intense period of composition: 1915-1918, the war years. Although the war period is nowhere near his most prolific, the songs composed during war's chaos provide a good departure point for ordered investigation; they are a microcosm and in many ways his best and most innovative work. Six songs from this period are investigated: 'By a Bierside', 'The Fiddler of Dooney', 'In Flanders', 'The Folly of Being Comforted', 'The Scribe', and 'Severn Meadows'. These songs, written "in the trenches" strongly reflect Gurney's stylistic tendencies, define his compositional importance and personal values. The analysis for each song will begin with the circumstance in which it was composed. Gurney's choice of text, approach to declamation, harmonic language, use of the piano, and aesthetic intent will then be related to his environment, as this significantly influenced his song composition. Since he was an avid writer and also considered one of Britain's best war poets, Gurney's war correspondence and poetry will be used to support and clarify these analytical and aesthetic observations.