Analysis Of “If Music Be The Food Of Love” By Henry Purcell

The composer, Purcell had actually created three settings of “If music be the food of love”. The very first version was published in June 1692, which can be found in “The Gentleman’s Journal”. However, it was somewhat changed or altered and then was reproduced in the next year in Heptinstall’s “Comes Amoris”. The second version that Purcell created was published in 1693, which was completely different. Colonel Henry Heveningham had taken the first line of Shakespeare’s poem, “Twelfth Night” and had further enhanced and developed it, to further portray love. It is exactly this second version which is most commonly heard and requested. Lastly, the third version of the piece which was published in 1695. The difference between the first two versions and the last one is the fact that the third one has more ornamentation. The version that I have and will be using for my IS assessment is the 1692 version of this piece. The melody of this composition highlights the accented passing notes, which beautifully compliments the main melodic line which is sung by the singer. From the piece, or more specifically from the text, we can observe how the words like “sing on, fair nymph, enchant me still” is being repeated many times throughout the piece. All the repeated text was to actually emphasize on how love is being portrayed.

This repetition is the main highlight that we can see through this piece as there is not much change in the melody line. To link this with what I have learnt, during performance class with Mr Lai, by accenting or pronouncing the consonants clearer, really speaking it and singing clearly, will allow the singer to express the meaning by having more emphasis to the words. This would also engage the audience more as well, capturing their attention. In addition, the use of the crescendo was also used to bring out or highlight the point about love being emotional and so on through music.

I personally feel that Purcell does this to enlighten the audience, to allow them to hear what the piece is truly about, the message. As mentioned above, the audience would be able to hear and identify many repeats from the lyrics and the same melodic line that is being played throughout the piece. I feel that this piece’s form is strophic form. The characteristics of strophic form is that the same melody is played, meaning there is repetition, but with different text, which is clearly shown in “If music be the food of love”, especially the second stanza which has different text. In the composition, this piece has a homophonic texture, where we can hear the main melody sung by the singer being accompanied by the piano part. Homophonic texture refers to the there is a main melodic line which draws the audience’s attention and there is another part which accompanies it.

In the piece, From what I have researched and found out as a singer from this piece has allowed and inspire me to do the same for the other IS pieces that I will be doing for my IS assessment. How this project has influenced me as a singer is to actually take the time to learn about it, to find out more about the background and also see how the composer or the lyricist were influence, or got their inspiration from others. I feel that this really important as a singer, it is crucial that we know the history of the piece, so that when we sing, we can express it accordingly.

13 January 2020
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