Dido’s Lament

    Throughout the centuries,  many advanced civilizations, ethnic groups and certain individuals have embellished the way we live today.  This has been most evident through the performing arts, paintings and musical pieces that have greatly enriched our culture.  The performing arts utilize the body as a medium to relate to the audience in an artistic manner.  Paintings portray ideas and feelings through the imitation and distortion of human life.  However, music is the universal language of the world and expresses its ideas in various ways from its mechanics to the response that it leaves the audience to fathom.  One piece of music, specifically an opera named Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas, composed by Henry Purcell, illustrates the ability for music to portray a story while leaving the audience with an emotional response.  
    Henry Purcell composed Dido’s Lament in 1689, categorizing it in the baroque era.  The word lament is defined as a feeling of mourning.  This is most evident in the piece Dido’s Lament as it tells the story of a woman named Dido who mourns over the fact that a man named Aeneas decides to leave her, ultimately having her kill herself in the end.  The tempo of the piece is grave, leaving it to be the slowest tempo of all.   Most of the notes are chromatic, which creates much tension; symbolizing death.  The technique called word painting is most displayed since it is a direct link from the writing of music to the meaning of the song.  When looking at the score of the music one can see that there are repeating motives and phrases.  The texture of Dido’s Lament is homophonic as the voice is accompanied by the orchestra.  Dido’s Lament is written in the key of G minor.  Throughout the whole piece there are no dynamics noted, leaving it to be at a constant level.  The words, “remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate” are repeated several times to emphasize the fact that Dido is crying out and is mourning.  
    Purcell’s piece truly is a distinguished form of art and portrays not only emotions and allows us to listen to beautiful sounds, but the piece uses all its elements to guide us throughout a story.  Through its dominant themes that reappear through the piece, the audience can surely familiarize themselves with them and organize the story.  In conclusion, these elements serve as the basis of the organization in portraying the story attempted by the piece.

Source: Brettany Tu, Sound Structures – Professor Ben Steege, 2011 

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