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Collaboration as Communication in the Works of W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten, 1935–1941

Collaboration as Communication in the Works of W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten, 1935–1941 W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten's 1941 opera Paul Bunyan marked the most public production of their almost decade-long collaborative relationship. Like the song settings that preceded it, the opera highlights the influence of Britten on Auden's aesthetic regarding musical and literary collaborations. This article argues that the poems Auden dedicated to Britten, and that Britten subsequently set to music, establish collaboration as a form of communication through which Auden challenges Britten to respond to public statements he has made about Britten's sexuality – trying to coerce him to bring private sentiments into the open. Without the Britten material, much of what would be known of Auden's engagement with music would come from the essays he wrote about music in the 1960s, thirty years after this first major musical collaboration. Despite the fact that Auden's own account of the relation between words and music later shifted toward an aesthetic in which words must be subordinate to music, particularly in operatic works, in his work with Britten, Auden explored more fluid and indirect forms of collaboration. In fact, their direct collaborative relationship evolved out of mutual admiration for the products of their initial, indirect collaborations. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

Collaboration as Communication in the Works of W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten, 1935–1941

Modernist Cultures , Volume 14 (1): 18 – Feb 1, 2019

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2019.0241
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten's 1941 opera Paul Bunyan marked the most public production of their almost decade-long collaborative relationship. Like the song settings that preceded it, the opera highlights the influence of Britten on Auden's aesthetic regarding musical and literary collaborations. This article argues that the poems Auden dedicated to Britten, and that Britten subsequently set to music, establish collaboration as a form of communication through which Auden challenges Britten to respond to public statements he has made about Britten's sexuality – trying to coerce him to bring private sentiments into the open. Without the Britten material, much of what would be known of Auden's engagement with music would come from the essays he wrote about music in the 1960s, thirty years after this first major musical collaboration. Despite the fact that Auden's own account of the relation between words and music later shifted toward an aesthetic in which words must be subordinate to music, particularly in operatic works, in his work with Britten, Auden explored more fluid and indirect forms of collaboration. In fact, their direct collaborative relationship evolved out of mutual admiration for the products of their initial, indirect collaborations.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2019

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