The masculine and feminine encounter in song : an analysis of six poems as set by both male and female composers

That fusion of poetry and music which we call song has provoked controversy, evoked ecstasy, and has tempted nearly every composer sometime during his musical career. What is it that drives a man to take immortal words and endeavor to transcend them in music? Indeed few composers have ever been truly successful, but even the idea of "perfect song" stimulates argument. The well-worn controversy of the importance of music above the words, and vice versa, has never been resolved, nor is it likely to be. The greatest problem lies in the fact that a poem existed as an independent work of art before any music was added to it. The sensation of a particular poem depends a great deal on the individual interpretation of the reader--his experiences, his sensitivity. One acts not unlike a performer of music when he reads a poem; the words are there but there are no guidelines to interpretation and often no knowledge of the writer's impetus for the poetry. There are no dynamic markings, no metronomic indications, and no conductor to beat time. Hardly any art form can be called more personal or subjective.