Structural Analysis

         As a student of music, especially music composition, I have always been taught to view art, in all forms, from the broadest spectrum to the smallest detail. I find this to be quite a handy skill for the Film and Literature course. As I would view a piece of music from beginning to end, looking at the larger forms all the way down to the smallest motive, I view movies in large sections of plot construction all the way down to key phrases that make these cinematic adventures so fascinating.

         The most interesting aspect of this comparison comes up when the listener/viewer is unknowingly given tons of information about the work in the first few minutes. Those who call themselves "movie buffs" should automatically know what I am talking about.

         The example I can use from this course would be from Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, later adapted to film in 1951 by Elia Kazan, A Streetcar Named Desire. Early on in the story Blanche (Vivien Leigh) has a very intriguing line that could be overlooked by any casual reader/viewer. -- "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields." As you know this line reveals everything that will happen to her in this story. Her desires lead to her demise, and later to her rebirth.

         This kind of foreshadowing also occurs in music. And no, it is not as simple as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony's "bum, bum, bum, buuum." There are many works out there that can travel through the entire piece harmonically, melodically, and formally within the first five or six measures. The best example I can muster at this point is Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. Automatically you will notice that the first movement acts as a prelude to the double fugue of the second. However, there is a lot more to it than that. In the first six measures of this movement we see the ostinato bass and woodwind accompaniment to the choir that develops quickly through about four different keys, depending on the theorists point of view. This accompaniment is also the basis of another fugue that occurs in later movements.

         It is a far-fetched comparison, but I believe that Williams knew what would become of Blanche when he wrote those words for her to speak. Likewise, Stravinsky's genius enabled him to construct such a complex prelude that would hold all of the characteristics of this masterwork of twentieth-century music literature.

Brant Veal

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