Executive Director, Ted Latham, has been nominated by the International Alliance for Women in Music ( https://iawm.org/ ) for the 2020 Pauline Alderman Award for his recent chapter on Amy Beach’s music, published by Oxford University Press.
Amy Beach, “Phantoms,” Op. 15, No. 2 (1892): Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Secular & Sacred Music to 1900
With “Phantoms,” the second solo piano piece from her Four Sketches op. 15 (1892), American composer Amy Beach adopts a “strategic” approach to tonality that manipulates formal, harmonic, and linear closure. The analysis presented in this chapter demonstrates, through a close reading of the phrase structure, harmonic vocabulary, textures, motivic design, and voice leading of the piece, Beach’s aptitude for tonal obfuscation, which she employs to convey a sense of the epigraph she borrowed from Victor Hugo: “Toutes fragiles fleurs, sitôt que nées” (“Such fragile flowers, as soon as they are born”). The melody she constructs is indeed fragile, floating as it does over various “misharmonizations,” and including not one but two gaps in its descent from ‸5 to the tonic. By avoiding explicit melodic reference to ‸4 and ‸2 and making abundant use of registral coupling, Beach compellingly captures the ethereal quality of the flowers described by Hugo.