Thesis submission ID 785 | created | last updated

Sylvia O Brien, Implications of collaboration: the recreative artist and autoethnographic research in Seóirse Bodley's Never to have lived is best (1965)
DMusPerf, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2022

Volumes, pp.: 1 vol (x, 256 pp.)  
Supervisor(s): Denise Neary
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): Royal Irish Academy of Music Library

General specialism: Performance
Historical timeframe: 20th Century
Key terms, concepts: Composition; Collaboration; Autoethnography
Key terms, persons: Seóirse Bodley
Key terms, genres, instruments: Song cycles

Since 1953 Seóirse Bodley has been a prominent composer, lecturer, academic, conductor and pianist in Irish classical music. Much has been written about Seóirse Bodley and his compositions. Axel Klein, Gareth Cox, Lorraine Byrne Bodley and Hazel Farrell are the main contributors to the critical analysis on his works to date. Charles Acton regularly reviewed performances of Bodley’s works and is an integral part of the research data. Much of the critical writing has been of his instrumental compositional style. According to the present data from the Contemporary Music Centre, Bodley has composed a total of 129 works and 58 of those compositions incorporate solo voice. Never to Have Lived is Best (1965) is a work for soprano and orchestra with text by William Butler Yeats and is the closest to an operatic work that Bodley has written. Appearing between his Chamber Symphony No. 1 (1964) and Configurations (1967), this work for soprano and orchestra forms the centre of the investigation for this thesis. The thesis contextualises this work and explores the background that developed Bodley’s interest in writing for voice. It presents a clear overview of his vocal compositions and a categorisation of his compositional vocal style focusing on his works incorporating solo voice.

Since 2007, I have performed a total of 14 works by Bodley of varying styles including Never to Have Lived is Best with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in 2009. I have collaborated, rehearsed, and performed with Bodley and commissioned the song cycle The Hiding Places of Love (2011). From this unique perspective, this thesis examines Never to Have Lived is Best focusing on its vocal architecture, melodic curve and dramatic reaction to text. This research explores the effects of collaboration on both the creative artist (composer) and the recreative artist (performer). It examines the role of the performer Veronica Dunne as influential in the progression of not only this work but possibly the development of the composer's style. Through this close collaboration with Veronica Dunne, the performer brings the composer’s work to life. As the work is labelled ‘A song cycle for soprano and orchestra’, this thesis discusses the progression of melody, text and form of the orchestral song cycle and questions the definition of the genre in relation to Never to Have Lived is Best by comparing the evident dramatic response to the chosen text with other major orchestral song cycles. This thesis examines, through autoethnographic research, the performative aspects of this song cycle suggesting that Never to Have Lived is Best broadens the definition and scope of the orchestral song cycle, not only in compositional form but also in performance, by its response to the dramatic text involving persona and dramatic elements founded in theatrical forms and evolves its own genre living in the space between monodrama, one act opera and a performative version of orchestral song to emerge as the Dramatic Song Cycle.
Thesis submission ID 785