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Analysis Guidelines

THE POINT OF ANALYSIS IS TO CONSTRUCT AN INTERPRETATION AND TO PREPARE TO REHEARSE. 1. Name of piece and composer; composers dates Sure On This Shining Night by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) 2. General information about composer, composition, context of the piece Samuel Barber was an American composer known for his choral, orchestra, and opera works. Although his most famous piece is Adagio for Strings, he was well known for his adaptation of poetry into choral music. The music is very humble and moving, a constant flow of parts emphasizing the beauty of the text and its simple, yet still complex meaning. 3. Information about the text (author/source, meaning, translation) Sure On This Shining Night, originally written by James Agee (1909-1955) in his first book Permit Me Voyage, was set to music in this Barber piece. Agee was a poet, an author, a journalist, and a screenwriter. This is a beautiful, complex text from the perspective of a man walking outside one summer night. He has seen the darkness of the world in his life, but says throughout all of the darkness he has seen the kindness of the world. He looks up at the stars, and everything is right. His heart is whole as he weeps in wonders and awe of the vastness of universe, causing him to feel somewhat alone. This text could also be interpreted as a reflection or end of a mans life. The late year lies down the north, All is healed, all is health is such a complex, cryptic phrase, but could be describing Heaven and all its glory. (Graphic representation attached) Consider the following: melody The melodic motive is a somewhat descending line in the sopranos, with a counter melody in the tenor during the A section. It moves with a mixture of jumps and skips, creating an effect of a sense of wonder and uneasiness in some passages. The melody is given in the soprano line in the B section where there is more homophonic movement.

rhythm The rhythmic motive is present in both the melody and counter melody in the A section, consisting of a fast moving line of quarter and eighth notes. The effect of this is to continuously move the piece, while providing a feeling of suspension on the quarter notes beginning the phrases. Mix meter is found at the intro and wrapup of the B section. The 4/4 measure also provide a sense of longer suspension in the melodic and harmonic lines. harmony The harmonic rhythm is fairly fast paced, changing chords every 1 or 2 measures. It is represented mostly in the accompaniment which is full of moving block chords. The piece modulates in the beginning of the B section to D minor. The way Barber creates tension is through his suspensions and anticipation, such as in measure 5-6 in the sopranos. It is also present within the harmonic underlay of the alto and bass lines through sustained notes over long periods, such as in ms. 10-11 in the bass part. timbre This piece is primarily a darker, full sound. The harmonies and accompaniment are the reason for the dark timbre, as well as the chordal progressions. It is a great representation of the meaningful text, with a mysterious, awe-inspiring effect throughout the piece. The majestic chords within the B section are also pictorial of the text, proclaiming all is healed, all is health. texture The A section is a polyphonic texture between the soprano and tenor sections, with the alto and bass accompanying with slower moving, softer lines. This helps to define a strong melody on top of the accompaniment. The texture changes to a more homophonic approach in voice in the B section. This brings all the voices together for the climax of this piece in ms. 13-16, creating a more powerful sound to represent the text. The piece ends with a homophonic texture as well for the effect of a soft, light resolution. expression This piece starts off with a soft introduction to the melody, eventually growing into the B section to the climax at 13-16. The piece then returns to the A section, stronger than before, then completing the dynamic arch or the piece with a soft spoken repetition of on this shining night. This is a legato driven piece, with very slight detachment to bring out the important text. The tempo, although a bit slow, helps to keep the piece moving, and provides a strong grounding throughout the B section with the block chords in the accompaniment.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: The composer had an idea as to what sort of effect he wanted when someone sang or listened to this piece. It is a perfect representation of the text and its complex implications, with strong dynamically contrasting sections to keep interest and raise the importance of the text for the listener. 4. What you could teach with this piece? This piece could teach students the issues of foreground/background in the A section, as well as how to blend within homophony in the B section. Also, this text is such a beautiful example of James Agees poetry. I would encourage students to read the text and help them find their own meaning in the words, and help them sing towards those ideas.