Intertextuality in R. Murray Schafer’s Adieu Robert Schumann
an essay in honour of the composer’s 70th birthday

by Robin Elliott
[Note: this article appears on pages 3-12 of the print edition of vol. 1, no. 3 (September 2003) of this newsletter]
[In the text of this article, the musical symbol for the flat sign will appear in Netscape 7 but not Internet Explorer 6]

Intertextuality collage

It is March of 1978. I am sitting in the audience at a performance in Grant Hall on the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston by the National Arts Centre Orchestra under its resident conductor, Mario Bernardi. The NACO is on one of its regular tours, this time with Maureen Forrester as vocal soloist to perform Adieu Robert Schumann, which Schafer has written for her and which she and the orchestra have premiered just days before in Ottawa. Preceeding Schafer’s work is a performance by Forrester, with Bernardi at the piano, of Frauenliebe und -leben by Schumann. The choice of programming strikes me as odd; I have never witnessed a vocal recital as part of an orchestral concert, but am vaguely aware that this was normal procedure in the 19th century.

The orchestra reassembles on the stage, Bernardi resumes his position at the podium, and the Schafer work begins. The rational for the inclusion of Frauenliebe und -leben immediately becomes clear, for Adieu Robert Schumann begins with a verbatim quotation of the opening bars of a Schumann song – ‘Dein Angesicht’ – accompanied only by piano (Monica Gaylord, the orchestral pianist for the tour, is accompanying now). The orchestra enters, the song breaks off in media res, the text switches from the Heinrich Heine poem to Schafer’s collage drawn from the diary entries of Schumann’s wife, Clara, and we are taken back via the time-travelling magic of music to the disconcerting events of 1854-56: Schumann’s surreal hallucinations and wild descent into madness, and Clara’s heart-rending reactions to it. Fifteen minutes later, at the stirring climax to the work, ‘Dein Angesicht’ returns, but this time the quotation is more nearly complete, and the song is beautifully orchestrated, with a dizzy halo in the upper strings reflecting the confusion in Clara’s mind at the sight of her now dead husband, while the descending glissandi in the cellos dramatically convey the sense of the ground slipping out from under her feet. Forrester as Clara sings the final words – ‘I am all alone’ – unaccompanied, ppp.

At the end of the work I, and to judge by their reaction a good part of the audience, am overcome with emotion. The music has reached us on levels that we do not immediately understand, but feel very deeply. My personal reaction was bound up with my great interest in the life and music of both Robert and Clara Schumann, my admiration for Schafer and his achievement in this work, my respect for the talented performers that evening, general excitement about the prospect of musical collage and quotation (I did not yet know of the concept of intertextuality) as a creative way forward for concert music, and dozens of other factors which I cannot articulate clearly, and which may not be immediately relevant to Adieu Robert Schumann, but which certainly coloured my own reception of the work. That evening was one of perhaps half a dozen transcendent moments in my concert-going career. Schafer’s composition has changed my life in ways that I could hardly have predicted and that, though subtle, are nevertheless both persistent and demonstrable. This essay is my attempt to understand Adieu Robert Schumann as completely as possible and to relive and to share the experience it provided for me on that March evening 25 years ago.

The three portraits in the illustration at the head of this essay are of Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck Schumann, and R. Murray Schafer. From left to right the portraits are placed in chronological order by date of birth. Only Clara Wieck Schumann gazes at the viewer, and in Schafer’s work she is the narrator who communicates with the audience. Robert Schumann gazes at his wife but also looks ahead (in time) to Schafer. Schafer looks back at the heroine of his composition, and through her to Robert Schumann, whose music he quotes from at length (see Table One for details). The musical quotation beneath the three portraits links them together. It is the opening of ‘Dein Angesicht,’ which was written by Robert Schumann for Clara during their marriage year and was first intended for the song cycle Dichterliebe, but was removed from that cycle and published later. ‘Dein Angesicht’ means ‘your visage,’ and in this context it could refer to the each of these three portraits. Robert Schumann wrote the song for Clara, at whom he gazes (we can imagine him figuratively or literally singing ‘Dein Angesicht’ to her); Schafer in turn ‘sings’ it to (or ‘recomposes’ it for) Clara, who in Adieu Robert Schumann then sings it to the viewer/listener/audience.

This illustration and the brief explanation of it provided here is an exercise in intertextuality. The term intertextuality was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s.1 In the intervening 40 years, the word has become so common that it has virtually lost any concrete meaning. In Harold Bloom’s words, the term intertextuality is ‘underdetermined in meaning and overdetermined in figuration,’2 which is another way of saying that it means virtually anything to anybody. The origins of intertextuality can be found in 20th-century linguistics, which has challenged the idea that texts have a meaning which is extracted by readers. Instead, the act of reading plunges us into a network of textual relations and cross-references; to interpret a text is to trace those relations, and thus becomes a process of moving between texts. The closed system of a text, which could be subjected to close reading and understood, has been replaced by an endless chain of open-ended relations from one text to another that is the intertext.

Roland Barthes, in a much-quoted excerpt, put the matter as follows: ‘We know that a text is not a line of words releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.’3 The idea of intertextuality arose in literary theory, but the concept has been applied to art, film, music, the Internet – indeed, it is applicable to any socially organized and constructed code of signs or symbols. Robert Hatten, in applying the term to music, distinguished between stylistic intertextuality (reference to the conventions of an earlier style or musical tradition without evoking a particular work) and strategic intertextuality (in which reference is made to specific earlier works).4 Schafer’s Adieu Robert Schumann is an example of the latter; Schafer quotes from at least 10 different works by Schumann.

The article on intertextuality in the New Grove Dictionary of Music is by J. Peter Burkholder, who also wrote the related articles on ‘borrowing’ and ‘collage’ (Schafer is mentioned in passing in the latter two articles).5 The three terms refer to slightly different processes. Intertextuality is a broader term than borrowing, for it includes references to style or language as well as borrowed melody, harmony, and/or structure. Collage is a term from the visual arts (rather than literary theory) and emphasises the disconnectedness between the sources, which are typically from different, rather than common, origins; aside from various works by Ives, who more or less invented the procedure in music, a famous example is the third movement of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, a palimpsest in which the third movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony is overlayed with snippets of over 100 musical works and a text drawn from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable. Intertexturality and intermusicality are other terms which have been used in the musicological literature, and literary theory has added architextuality, hypotextuality, hypertextuality, intratextuality, metatextuality, paratextuality, and transtextuality, all with different shades of meaning that need not concern us here. For Adieu Robert Schumann I will use only the term intertextuality, which is particularly useful because Schafer uses not only pre-existing music but also pre-existing text.

Schafer and Schumann as intertextual artists

Schafer himself in an early article admitted that Romain Rolland and Thomas Mann had influenced his own work as a writer.6 Further influences on Schafer’s work as a writer would certainly include Ezra Pound and E.T.A. Hoffmann, both of whose writings Schafer has edited.7 And in an article for the Canada Music Book, John Rea cleverly pointed out Schafer’s indebtedness to Richard Wagner by intertextually citing from the writings of the two men in parallel columns.8

From his earliest compositions Schafer has been an intertextual composer, finding influences and inspirations in the older concert repertoire: baroque music via Les Six in the Harpsichord Concerto (his first large-scale work, 1954); Mahler in In Memoriam Alberto Guerrero (1959); Richard Strauss in Son of Heldenleben (1968); and Wagner in Dream Rainbow Dream Thunder (1986) to cite some of the more obvious examples. For this last piece, Schafer even provided a story about having conceived the work in a dream-like reverie of improvisation; this story is likely based (consciously or unconsciously) on Wagner’s famous account of how the prelude to Das Rheingold came to him in a dream-like trance.9 Schafer, with characteristic studied nonchalance, writes ‘Wagner is detectable in my improvisation, but so are the styles of other composers. I don’t think it matters much.’

Schumann in his compositions has quoted directly or indirectly from himself, his wife, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Paganini, and a host of others. He suffered from what Bloom has famously termed ‘anxiety of influence’ and he was deeply concerned that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven had set standards that could not be attained by the more recent generation.10 Nevertheless Schumann also had a highly developed aesthetic of originality: as the late Schumann scholar John Daverio wrote, ‘The mere imitation of an earlier thematic idea, for Schumann the critic and practicing composer, was a sure symptom of weakness in invention.’11 Further comments on intertextuality in Schumann’s works will be reserved until the specific works from which Schafer borrows are examined.

Adieu Robert Schumann: genesis, influences

The programme note in the published score (which is presumably by Schafer, though not signed), reads as follows:

The composition is concerned with the last days of Robert Schumann, from the time of his first hallucination until his death in the Endenich asylum in 1856. The narrator is Clara Schumann, and the text consists of selections from her diaries, freely adapted. Passages of many of Schumann’s own compositions are incorporated into the total work, in particular, sections of several of his Lieder, as well as fragments from the piano pieces, Carnival [sic] and Kreisleriana. As is well known, Schumann delighted in evoking specific moods and characters in his music, and the quotations have been introduced to suggest the conflicts in his mind during the days of his final collapse. There are also signature motives: C A for Clara and B♭ E for Robert – another device of which Schumann was especially fond. The backstage piano piece in the middle of the work is the melody Schumann wrote down the night of his first dramatic hallucination – the melody he claimed was dictated to him by the angels. The song which opens and closes the composition, Die [sic] Angesicht, was one of Schumann’s last.12
‘Dein Angesicht’ was originally intended to be the fifth song in Dichterliebe. It was removed from that cycle and not published until 1854, when it appeared as part of Op. 127 (the second of five songs in the set). As a result of the late publication date, many writers have been under the mistaken impression that ‘Dein Angesicht’ was one of Schumann’s last songs.

The theme ‘dictated by angels’ was composed during the night of 17 February 1854; one week later Schumann told a friend that Franz Schubert had sent the theme to him. It is similar to the first theme of the Second Symphony by Norbert Burgmüller, (this work was incomplete at the time of Burgmüller’s death in 1836 and was completed by Schumann in 1851), and it also resembles the main theme in the second movement of Schumann’s Violin Concerto (1853). A set of five variations for piano on this theme was the last composition that Schumann completed before going to the asylum at Endenich (he wrote out a fair copy of the variations after his suicide attempt). The other Schumann piano pieces and songs quoted by Schafer are outlined in Table One, and some examples will be discussed in more detail later.

Adieu Robert Schumann was composed in 1976 for Maureen Forrester, who premiered many works by Canadian composers but is not noted for her performances of the avant garde repertoire. As Stephen Adams has written, ‘Schafer’s problem was to write without compromising his own style a piece that Maureen Forrester not only would sing, but might want to continue singing.’13 Forrester’s affinity for the Lieder repertoire and especially for Schumann thus may have provided one impetus for the use of Schumann quotations in Adieu Robert Schumann.14

Schafer was not the first composer to write a work based on Schumann quotations. The British composer Robin Holloway’s Scenes from Schumann (1970) for orchestra consists of seven paraphrases on Schumann songs. In response to a question from Paul Griffiths about writing this work, Holloway replied that he felt ‘Anxious, guilty and confused. I felt as if I’d committed some kind of crime. I think my feeling in the face of life at large was one of total embarrassment. Before the first rehearsal I was absolutely terrified, and thought all the players would mock me because of the well-loved tunes coming on solo trumpets and so on.’15 Despite Holloway’s apprehensions, the work was a success and the composer went on to write two more Schumann-based pieces in the early 1970s: Fantasy-Pieces (1971) for piano and 12 instruments, based on the Liederkreis, Op. 24 to poems of Heine, and Domination of Black (1974), for orchestra, based on the Kerner Lieder. There is no evidence that Schafer was aware of Holloway’s Schumann-based works when he wrote Adieu Robert Schumann, but if he was it would add another layer of intertextual reference to Adieu Robert Schumann.

Schafer, Schumann, Bloom, Ballet

The work of the literary theorist Harold Bloom has been applied to music by various authors, including Kevin Korsyn and Joseph Straus.16 Richard Taruskin, though, vigorously denies the usefulness of Bloom’s theories in general, and more specifically as they have been applied to music.17 While not wishing to address this issue in great detail here, I note that one aspect of Bloom’s theory of literary influence does closely reflect the situation between Schafer and Schumann in Adieu Robert Schumann. In relation to Schumann, Schafer stands as ephebe (son) to pre-cursor (father), to borrow Bloom’s terms. Bloom posits six possible relationships (which he calls revisionary ratios) that can exist between ephebe and precursor, of which the sixth fits Schafer’s case very closely: to paraphrase Bloom, the specific case is that of ‘Apophrades or The Return of the Dead: Schafer, already burdened by an imaginative solitude that is almost a solipsism, holds his own music so open to Schumann’s works that at first we might believe that Schafer has returned to his apprenticeship, before he had achieved his own style. But Schafer’s music is now held open to Schumann, where once it was open, and the uncanny effect is that it seems to us, not as though Schumann’s music is being quoted, but as though Schafer himself had written Schumann’s music.’18 This provides a possible rationale for the exact quotation of ‘Dein Angesicht’ at the beginning of Adieu Robert Schumann: Schafer musically brings Schumann back to life (apophrades) and then merges Schumann’s (musical) personality with his own, to tell the story of Schumann’s illness in Schumann’s own musical style, but with that style soon becoming distorted to reflect Schumann’s mental deterioration. Perhaps Schafer’s goal is not just to portray Robert and Clara Schumann, then, but rather to bring them back to life, musically speaking.

Adieu Robert Schumann is a monodrama. This genre was invented in the 18th century but was little cultivated in the 19th century (Schumann, for instance, wrote none). The monodrama was revived in the 20th century by Schoenberg in Erwartung; Schafer had already added to the repertoire with his Brébeuf (1960) and Requiems for the Party Girl (1966). Adieu Robert Schumann crossed genres to become ballet music when it was choreographed by Brian Macdonald for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. The resulting ballet, which is also titled Adieu Robert Schumann, was televised by the CBC in 1980. In the ballet version, three songs by Schumann precede the Schafer work: ‘Nicht so schnelle,’ Op. 77, no. 5; ‘Mondnacht,’ Op. 39, no. 5; and ‘Frühlingsnacht,’ Op. 39, no. 12 (the two songs from Op. 39 are quoted in Schafer’s work). In the CBC production, the role of Robert Schumann was danced by Vincent Warren, and Clara Schumann was portrayed by three artists: the dancer Annette av Paul as Young Clara, Maureen Forrester (in costume and performing on stage with movement but not dance) as the Widow Clara, and Denise Massé (also on stage and in costume, playing the piano) as Clara at the piano.19

Adieu Robert Schumann: the text

Schafer, as an intertextual artist, constructs the text of Adieu Robert Schumann by reading and quoting, rather than original creative writing. (Barthes’s essay ‘The death of the author’ ends ‘the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.’20) Clara Schumann’s diaries had not yet been published when Schafer wrote Adieu Robert Schumann (and are still unpublished as of this writing).21 The source for Schafer’s text (presuming that he did not consult the original diaries, which are in the Robert-Schumann-Haus, Zwickau) must have been the biography by Berthold Litzmann. Schafer seems to have consulted this work both in the original German edition22 and the abridged English translation by Grace Hadow.23 Table Two details the source of Schafer’s text (the Heine poem ‘Dein Angesicht,’ which opens and closes Schafer’s work, is omitted). The diary entry from 20 February 1854, which Schafer quotes in the middle of the work, is not in the English version of the Litzmann biography, and so it must have been taken from the German text. On the whole, though, the translation follows Hadow quite closely.

Schafer arranged the diary entries so as to plunge immediately into the crisis in order to provide a dramatic opening to the work. He then backtracks two years to the onset of madness, and after that carries forward to Schumann’s death. Some of the text has been made up by Schafer: e.g. 27 July 1856 ‘It is nearly three years since Robert came to the asylum. Asylum! How bitter the word! Three long lonely years …’ – this is in part a fabrication by Schafer to backtrack from the crisis point to the onset of insanity in 1854. The diary entry reads ‘Two and a half years ago you were torn from me without any farewell...’ (p. 138). Schafer changed ‘two and a half’ to ‘nearly three’ and then to ‘three’ and finally added the adjective ‘lonely.’ In fact, these years were busy and filled with the loving companionship of Brahms, rather than lonely. Similarly, the final words, ‘I am all alone,’ are Schafer’s. The beginning of the diary entry of 29 July 1856 (‘“I know you.” Those were the last words he spoke.’) has been altered by Schafer, to refer back to the 27 July entry at the start of the work (‘I know you’). These were not, in fact, Schumann’s last words, though they were his last words to Clara.

Schafer could be accused of appropriation of voice in creating this text; a critic might argue that he has ‘stolen’ Clara’s words to create his own text. This raises a pressing issue in feminist criticism of inter-textuality. Barthes’s blasé assertion that the author is dead denies the site upon which discussion of gender can be produced, i.e. the author. Feminists hold that gender is important because ‘writing and reading are experienced and produced very differently depending on the gender of the subject who writes or reads.’24

Clara, for Schafer, is a manifestation of the mythic figure of Ariadne, who plays a major role in his Patria cycle. Ariadne, though, is read by feminist critics as a negative symbol, for she passively helps male protagonists find their way through the (textual) labyrinth. In Adieu Robert Schumann, Clara’s diary entries are the thread which guides Schafer into the labyrinth of Robert’s madness. Opposed to Ariadne’s passivity is the figure of the defiant woman artist Arachne, who in a weaving competition or agon with Athena, a ‘phallic mother,’ actually wins (and she is punished for this by being turned into a spider). It is not a clear-cut issue, though; one must distinguish between female (a biological given), feminine (a cultural construct), and feminist (a social/political position). Clara herself, though female and in 19th-century terms feminine, was certainly not feminist; indeed, in many ways she took up masculine subject positions and was a solid defender of the patriarchal status quo. It could be argued that Schafer, in Adieu Robert Schumann, turns the 19th-century literary and operatic trope of the ‘madwoman in the attic’25 on its head, by presenting Robert Schumann as the ‘mad’ artist and Clara as the rational author.

One could also write about Adieu Robert Schumann in terms of postcolonial theory. Schafer, as the colonialist composer26 wrests power away from the colonizing Schumanns by appropriating their textual and musical voice; he is so successful in this that his product is in turn legitimized by the colonizers (by being published by Universal Edition of London) and achieves canonic status through this publication, and also through multiple performances (by Forrester, Judith Forst, and Jean Stilwell, among others), and two recordings.27

Adieu Robert Schumann: music and more

Citing all the works from which Schafer quotes (see Table One) does not begin to exhaust the intertextual references to Robert Schumann in Shafer’s piece.28 There is also the important use of a signature motif: the pitches B♭ - E appear nearly every time ‘Robert’ is mentioned or referred to in the text, and similarly the pitches C - A are used to refer to Clara. This is an intertextual reference to Schumann’s own use of the sogetto cavato, especially in Carnaval; most of the 21 movements in this work are based on the pitches ‘ASCH,’ the name of the town from which Ernestine von Fricken, his girlfriend at the time, hailed; these are also the musical letters of Schumann’s name. Secondly, the pitch ‘A,’ which rang constantly in Schumann’s head with the onset of tinnitus shortly before his madness (as referred to in Clara’s diary entry for 10 February 1854) often sounds in Schafer’s work in a dissonant context, most notably at the end of the work, in the context of the D♭-major quotation and orchestration of ‘Dein Angesicht’; A is also the final pitch in the work, to which Clara sings ‘I am all alone.’ The pitch A thus undermines the closed D♭-major tonal structure of the work, just as it undermined Schumann’s mental stability. A third reference to Robert Schumann is more subtle. Clara, in a diary entry for 13 February 1854 (not quoted by Schafer) noted ‘His auditory disturbance had escalated to such a degree that he heard entire pieces from beginning to end, as if played by a full orchestra, and the sound would remain on the final chord until Robert directed his thoughts to another composition.’29 Schafer brings this torment to life in certain passages in Adieu Robert Schumann (e.g. b. 125ff, b. 204ff) in which the final chord of a quotation is held, then ‘madly’ distorted by the addition of a glissando (b. 125) or by microtonal inflections (b. 204).

Turning to the question of hermeneutics, the discussion here must be confined to a few examples. To begin with, in the opening 12 bars, as mentioned above, Schafer quotes ‘Dein Angesicht’ exactly and thus summons Schumann back from the dead. Why does Schafer begin the work so? Is it to plunge us immediately into Schumann’s world without an ironic frame? Or is it an ironic frame? The idea of the song as a frame is strengthened by its return at the end of the work. But on hearing the piece for the first time, the listener at first knows only that it is a work by Schafer, but begins with Schumann. This brings to mind Jorge Luis Borges’s story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote’ – Menard writes ‘with his own resources a new version of Don Quixote, which was rigorously and literally identical with Cervantes’s text but which two intervening centuries of history had invested with new complexity and depth and with an entirely different meaning.’30 Schafer’s ‘Dein Angesicht’ is indeed the same as Schumann’s, but the intervening century and also the position of the song at the beginning of a work for voice and orchestra certainly invest it with new meaning. The listener is kept on edge, waiting for the unexpected Schumann intrusion to give way to Schafer’s own voice.31

Many, perhaps even most, of the quoted pieces have a specific intertextual reference that goes beyond the music to refer either to the relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann, or else to the relationship between the Schumanns and Schafer. Three examples may help clarify these relationships:

1) The quotation from Kreisleriana (b. 127) accompanies the text ‘the angels turned into demons.’ Roland Barthes wrote of this very Schumann work that there is ‘an underlying panic in the incessant rhythmic drive.’32 The music certainly suits the text at that point, as the text describes Robert and Clara’s panic at the onset of Robert’s madness. Schumann’s Kreisleriana is permeated by a musical theme that is associated with Clara: as Robert wrote to Clara on 13 April 1838, ‘You and one of your ideas play the main role in it [Kreisleriana], and I want to dedicate it to you – yes, to you and nobody else – and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it …’33 (Robert revised the work in 1850 and decided to dedicate it to Chopin, as Clara did not particularly like it.) Kreisleriana, then, is one of many works by Robert in which he links himself together musically with Clara. But it also connects the Schumanns with Schafer, for in the year before he composed Adieu Robert Schumann, Schafer had published a book on E.T.A. Hoffmann in which he discusses Hoffmann’s fictional musician Johannes Kreisler and translates two short stories in which he appears.34 Thus Schafer and the Schumanns are intertextually united through the literary figure of Johannes Kreisler. It is also worth noting that Schafer presented Kreisleriana in a Ten Centuries concert in Toronto in 1963, on which occasion a performance of the work by candlelight was interspersed with readings from Hoffman stories in which Johannes Kreisler appears.35

Schafer musical quotation

2) In this clarinet passage from bar 21 (which follows the sung text ‘the sight of him is horrifying’), the first sextuplet is taken from the first six notes of the ‘Florestan’ movement of Carnaval. This is one of Schumann’s musical self-portraits, based on one of the ‘Sphinxes’ that he draws from the ASCH sogetto cavatto, arranged as SCHA = E♭ C B A. These are not only the musical letters of Schumann’s name, but also the first four letters of Schafer’s surname; the continuation of the motif in Adieu Robert Schumann is grafted on by Schafer, and contains the two further musical pitches in Schafer’s surname, namely F E(♭), followed by a quarter-note rest with a fermata sign over it, i.e. R [Rest]; Schafer thereby intricately links his and Schumann’s musical motifs together.36

3) The quotation of Kinderscenen no. 6 ‘Wichtige Begebenheit’ [‘Important Event’] in bars 212-20 is from an orchestral interlude in which Schafer depicts Schumann’s fevered brain after the onset of madness. As John Daverio has noted, the Kinderscenen pieces

reflect an adult’s ability to place himself or herself into a child’s state of mind. Viewed in this light, the Kinder in the title are none other than Robert and Clara themselves ... Clara’s power to bring Schumann’s childlike streak to the surface must have answered to a deeply felt need: the need to recover lost innocence.37
In Kinderscenen the rhythm is first introduced in No. 2 ‘Curiose Geschichte’ in a naive, understated way; the rhythm becomes overblown and dramatic when it reappears in No. 6 ‘Important Event.’ Uniting these two ideas, Schumann’s madness, as represented by this rhythm, was just a ‘Curious Story’ initially, but suddenly in 1854 became an ‘Important Event,’ and returned Schumann to the world of childhood, i.e. he became infantile, that is, mad.

Adieu Robert Schumann is a highpoint in the use of intertextuality by Schafer. The work marks a continuation of his interest in the Romantic period in German music and letters, as evinced earlier in such works as In Memoriam: Alberto Guerrero (1959), Son of Heldenleben (1968) and Hymn to Night (1976; text by Novalis); his Wagnerian theoretical writings on music and drama; and his book E.T.A. Hoffmann and Music. The work has been canonized (in terms of Canadian music, at least) and it has been very well received on the whole; Adams calls it ‘one of his most deeply moving compositions.’38 Together with the three earlier Robin Holloway Schumann pieces and Dieter Schnebel’s later Schumann-Moment (1989), Adieu Robert Schumann gives evidence of the ongoing interest in Schumann’s music as a compositional influence in the 20th century. The importance of Schafer’s contribution is that his use of intertextuality gives Adieu Robert Schumann a richness of reference and significance, the implications of which have only been touched upon in this article.

More recently, Harald Krebs wrote a book on the music of Robert Schumann that bears certain uncanny similarities to Adieu Robert Schumann.39 Just as Schafer ‘revives’ Schumann the composer, Krebs ‘revives’ Schumann the writer, by using two of his noms de plume, Florestan and Eusebius. His book is set during the same time period as Adieu Robert Schumann (1854-56), and chapter seven takes the form of a (fictional) letter from Clara Schumann to one of her former piano students. The epilogue to the book ‘attempts to suggest, with “dissonant” layers of prose and poetry, Schumann’s mental state in the asylum at Endenich,’40 which is exactly what Schafer portrays in sections of Adieu Robert Schumann. The question of intertextual influence from Schafer to Krebs is left hanging, however, as Krebs makes no reference to Adieu Robert Schumann in his book.

It is November of 2001. I have been living in Dublin for over five years, and now I am a candidate for the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music. As part of my interview I am to present a seminar on some aspect of my Canadian music research. My thoughts turn to that moment nearly a quarter of a century ago when I heard Adieu Robert Schumann for the first time. I telephone Universal Edition in London and after a somewhat tortured conversation (‘Oh yes, Schafer – odd chap, he visited the office here once and told us all how much he hates London. Lives in a cave in the wilderness somewhere now, doesn’t he? Yes, I think we can dredge up a copy of that score if you insist.’), I manage to have the score sent to me. As I listen to the work in my office at University College Dublin, it awakens within me ‘just that infinite longing which is the essence of romanticism.’ D-flat major chord (pianissimo): music from the realm of dreams … my whole being trembles … I am transfixed … a disembodied voice calls out to me, ‘I am Sch…’

Table One: Quotations of Schumann's Music in Schafer's Adieu Robert Schumann
Table Two: Clara Schmann's Diary Entries, as Arranged by Schafer


1. Kevin Korsyn, ‘Beyond privileged contexts: intertextuality, influence, and dialogue,’ Rethinking Music, eds. Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999): 56 explains that Kristeva coined the term in two articles discussing the work of Mikhail Bakhtin.
2. Harold Bloom, as quoted in Graham Allen, Intertextuality (London: Routledge, 2000): 2.
3. Roland Barthes, ‘The death of the author (1968),’ Image/Music/Text, transl. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977): 146.
4. Robert Hatten, ‘The place of intertextuality in music studies,’ American Journal of Semiotics 3.4 (1985): 69-82.
5. J. Peter Burkholder, ‘Borrowing,’ ‘Collage,’ ‘Intertextuality,’ The New Grove Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition.
6. R. Murray Schafer, ‘Two musicians in fiction,’ Canadian Music Journal 4.3 (1960): 23-34.
7. R. Murray Schafer, ed. Ezra Pound and Music: The Complete Criticism (New York: New Directions, 1977); idem, ed. E.T.A. Hoffmann and Music (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1975). Robert Everett Green, ‘Polemics and poetry,’ The Globe and Mail (Toronto, 16 Feb. 1991): C8 discusses Schafer’s work as an editor of Ezra Pound.
8. John Rea, ‘Richard Wagner and R. Murray Schafer: two revolutionary and religious poets,’ Canada Music Book 8 (1974): 37-51.
9. On Schafer’s dream-like state while creating Dream Rainbow Dream Thunder (in Switzerland, after visiting Neuschwanstein castle) see his ‘Program note’ on p. 1 of the score (Arcana Editions, ca 1986). Wagner provides the account of how the prelude to Das Rheingold came to him in a dream-like state in Mein Leben (English transl. as My Life [New York: Dodd, Mead, 1911]: vol. 2, p. 603). Some scholars cast doubt on this account, but Warren Darcy in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, (New York: Oxford UP, 1993): 62-68 says that the documentary evidence neither supports nor contradicts Wagner’s account.
10. Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford UP, 1973) was published three years before Schafer wrote Adieu Robert Schumann.
11. John Daverio, Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age” (New York: Oxford UP, 1997): 265.
12. ‘Programme note,’ R. Murray Schafer, Adieu Robert Schumann (London: Universal Edition, 1980): [iv].
13. Stephen Adams, R. Murray Schafer (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1983): 158.
14. David Cope in his very negative review of the published score [Notes 41.1 (Sep. 1984): 165-66] suggests that the work’s dedication (‘to my parents’) may explain why Schafer ‘deviated from his inventive and often daring orchestral explorations’ (p. 166).
15. Paul Griffiths, New Sounds, New Personalities: British Composers of the 1980s (London: Faber, 1985): 118.
16. Kevin Korsyn, ‘Towards a new poetics of musical influence,’ Music Analysis 10 (1991): 3-72 and the article cited in n. 1; and Joseph N. Straus, Remaking the Past: Musical Modernism and the Influence of the Tonal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1990). See also Adam P. Krims, ‘Bloom, post-structuralism(s), and music theory,’ Music Theory Online 0.11 (Nov. 1994) (accessed 27 May 2004).
17. Richard Taruskin, ‘Review: Korsyn and Straus,’ Journal of the American Musicological Society 46 (1993): 114-38.
18. Paraphrased from Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (as n. 10): 23. For a lively discussion of apophrades in a literary context (though she does not use the term), see Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002), especially chapter 6, ‘Descent: Negotiating with the dead’ (pp. 153-80).
19. This production is available on Video (Video 3013) from House of Opera.
20. Barthes (as n. 3): 148.
21. Nancy B. Reich, Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1985): 10 notes that Clara Schumann’s diaries are slated for publication ‘many years hence.’
22. Berthold Litzmann, Clara Schumann: Ein Künstlerleben nach Tagebüchern und Briefen, 3 vols. (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1902-08).
23. Berthold Litzmann, Clara Schumann: An Artist’s Life, Based on Material Found in Diaries and Letters, 2 vols., transl. and abridged by Grace E. Hadow (London: Macmillan, 1913).
24. Allen (as n. 2): 155-6.
25. See Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979).
26. R. Murray Schafer, ‘Canadian culture: colonial culture,’ On Canadian Music (Bancroft: Arcana, 1984): 75-94.
27. CBC SM 364 (LP; Forrester, NACO, Bernardi; 1978); CBC SMCD 5173 (CD; Forst, NACO, Bernardi, 1997).
28. For further information about the Schumann quotations in this work, see Julia H. Graddy, ‘The style portrait in solo vocal literature: interrogating romanticism in Adieu, Robert Schumann by R. Murray Schafer,’ Journal of Singing 57.5 (May/June 2001): 5-14.
29. Litzmann vol. 2, p. 296; Litzmann/Hadow, vol. 2, p. 56.
30. Gérard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree, transl. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky (Lincoln and London: U of Nebraska P, 1997): 393-4; Genette admits that his theory of intertextuality (or more narrowly hypertextuality, as he terms it) was inspired by the love of this Borges short story.
31. This is like beginning a work for string quartet with an extended unison passage; the listener is kept in suspense as to when ‘normal’ string quartet texture will assert itself.
32. Roland Barthes, The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation, transl. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1985): 302.
33. Eva Weissweiler, ed. The Complete Correspondence of Clara and Robert Schumann, transl. Hildegard Fritsch and Ronald L. Crawford (New York: Peter Lang, 1994): vol. 1, p. 141.
34. Schafer, as n. 7.
35. Schafer On Canadian Music (as n. 24): 29-30; I thank John Beckwith for bringing this fact to my attention.
36. The pitch E♭, which represents ‘S’ (Es) in German nomenclature, can be taken as ‘E’ in English usage.
37. Daverio (as n. 11): 166.
38. Adams (as n. 13): 160.
39. Harald Krebs, Fantasy Pieces: Metrical Dissonance in the Music of Robert Schumann (New York: Oxford UP, 1999). Krebs is the head of theory in the School of Music at the University of Victoria. He credits his colleague, the pianist Bruce Vogt, with the idea of including Schumannesque dialogues in his book (p. vii).
40. Ibid, p. viii.

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