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The Romantic Pilgrim: Narrative Structure in Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs
Kimbell, Sara E.

2010, Master of Music, Youngstown State University, Dana School of Music.

Samuel Barber's professional career covered the majority of the twentieth century, spanning from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. An honored and frequently performed American composer, many of Barber's compositions have gained a place in the standard repertoire. Despite his success, scholarly sources have a tendency to treat Barber as a twentieth-century afterthought. This thesis takes the question of Barber's historical reception as a point of departure to study his song cycle the Hermit Songs (1952-53).

The Hermit Songs, written during the peak of Barber's career, demonstrate many of the compositional features associated with his mature style. Alone, the texts constitute a collection of poetry related through a number of contrasting themes: solitude and community, faith and doubt, and piety and promiscuity. More corporeal relations among the texts include the repeated appearance of birds and bells. Barber's treatment of the texts enhances these thematic connections and unites the poetry through a number of musical devices.


In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of this representative work, this thesis will examine the personal and educational experiences that helped shape Barber's predilection for Romantic and post-romantic techniques. The subsequent analysis of the Hermit Songs will address the history, composition, and premiere of the cycle, followed by an examination of the songs' harmonic language and analysis of narrative structure as articulated through textual and musical cross-references, time-determined events, and abstract patterning and symmetry.


Randall Goldberg (Advisor)
Jena Root, PhD (Committee Member)
William Slocum, MM (Committee Member)
Allan Mosher, DMA (Committee Member)
85 p.

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Kimbell, S. (2010). The Romantic Pilgrim: Narrative Structure in Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Kimbell, Sara. "The Romantic Pilgrim: Narrative Structure in Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Youngstown State University, 2010. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 15 Oct 2018.

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Kimbell, Sara "The Romantic Pilgrim: Narrative Structure in Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Youngstown State University, 2010. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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