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'"Elective Affinities": Found objects, musical repurposing and concealed meanings in music by Judith Weir'

Beard, David ORCID: 2024. '"Elective Affinities": Found objects, musical repurposing and concealed meanings in music by Judith Weir'. Presented at: John Bird Seminar, School of Music, Cardiff University, 11 October 2023.

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The music of Judith Weir (b. 1954) requires us to think carefully and deeply about her relationship with historical and other subject matter, including allusions to various musical genres, periods, styles and cultural traditions. Her sources, moreover, extend beyond music to all kinds of ‘found objects’, including literary texts and practices from different cultures and historical eras. How do we make sense of this pluralist approach? Why have these objects been chosen? And what happens to the sources when they are repurposed in Weir’s music? My answer to these questions takes an eighteenth-century concept, popularised by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as a starting point. The notion of ‘elective affinities’ concerns the conjoining of two chemical matters to produce a third, in the process of which a part of one of the original substances is lost. My focus in this paper is on the elements of Weir’s sources that are apparently lost – concealed, subverted, sublimated or overlooked – and with the question: how might our aesthetic appreciation of Weir’s music be enhanced by a consideration of these ‘lost’ properties? I draw on a range of examples, including withdrawn works, which draw on sources as diverse as early German Romanticism, and African-American, Bosnian, Chinese and Scottish folk traditions. A recurring theme among these examples is the occlusion of information relating to gender – a provocative omission, since it effectively hides the elective affinities that underpin Weir’s choices.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2024 10:22

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