Semiotic Analysis of Osvaldo Golijov’s Musical Setting of the Passion Narrative in La Pasión según San Marcos

by Clavere, Javier

Abstract (Summary)
In the year 2000, Helmuth Rilling, artistic director of the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, commissioned the Passion 2000. The project was a commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death by commissioning four musical settings of the Passion narrative. The narrative of the Gospel of Mark was commissioned of Argentina-born composer Osvaldo Golijov. This setting of the passion narrative represents a diversity and combination of musical idioms. La Pasión según San Marcos is a piece whose musical sources are rooted in the corpus of Latin American popular music, without a specific governing musical style, creating constant shifts in the levels of musical discourse. The concepts of musical collage, pastiche, or quotation are usually evoked when analyzing La Pasión según San Marcos. However, a semiotic analysis of Golijov’s Pasión reveals an interaction of musical and textual elements. This interaction gives rise to an ironic and satiric ethos, which in turn provides the foundation for my analysis of parody and existential irony in the work’s musical expression. In this thesis I attempt to explicate how the interaction of musical objects and text signify irony in music; my approach is grounded on theories developed by Robert Hatten, Yayoi Uno Everett, Juan Roque Chattah, and Erin Sheinberg. I consider trans-contextualization, inversion, and conceptual negation of meaning against background referents. I further identify the musical elements that act as signals negating the meaning of the text through structural appropriation, gender characterization, and stylistic transformation and ambiguity. Three movements will be treated to analytical scrutiny. First is “Judas y El Cordero Pascual” (Judas and the Paschal Lamb), which represents the Afro-Cuban musical genre son montuno. The Last Supper scene unfolds in this movement, including within it the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, and the apostolic question of culpability among Jesus’ disciples. The second movement analyzed includes an allusional or imitative portrayal of plainchant. The characters are placed conceptually in the opposite gender, inverting the hierarchical characteristics of the text. This inversion occurs within the context of an iconic representation of a Medieval Church through chant. The last movement analyzed is “Demos Gracias al Señor” (Let Us give Thanks to the Lord). This setting of the thanksgiving praise after the Jewish Passover meal is set to a theme and variations based on the protest song’s melody “Todavía Cantamos” (We Still Sing), composed and performed by Victor Heredia during the 1980s in Argentina.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:semiotics latin american music golijov existential irony parody passion narrative musical representation and meaning


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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