The lullaby, a timeless and universal genre of music, has been a source of comfort and solace for generations of children and adults alike. With its soothing melodies and gentle rhythms, the lullaby has a unique ability to calm and soothe, making it a perfect choice for those seeking to relax or fall asleep.
This paper aims to analyze the musical considerations of approaching a lullaby in various compositions. The main focus will be on Benjamin Britten’s song cycle, A charm of lullabies. This paper will also introduce the musical treatment in other selected lullabies, such as Gabriel Fauré’s “Les berceaux,” Giacomo Puccini’s “E l’uccellino,” Xavier Montsalvatge’s “Canción de cuna para dormir un negrito”, Leonard Bernstein’s “Greeting” from “Arias and Barcarolles,” Manuel de Falla’s “Nana,” Francis Poulenc’s “Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu.” This will include a discussion of the different approaches taken by each composer and how these differences contribute to the overall aesthetic of the lullabies. The focus of this paper will be on the ways in which these lullabies approach their subject matter and how they differ in their musical treatment of the theme.
The paper will begin with an introduction to the concept of lullabies and their historical significance as a form of music designed to soothe and calm infants. The introduction will also provide some background information on the selected lullabies, including their composers and the context in which they were written. The main body of the paper will then delve into a detailed analysis of Britten’s A charm of lullabies. This song cycle is a collection of vocal works composed for mezzo-soprano and piano. The piece comprises five lullabies, the texts taken from various poems by William Blake, Robert Burns, Robert Greene, Thomas Randolph, and John Phillip. The cycle explores the moods and emotions associated with lullabies, ranging from comforting and soothing to eerie and unsettling. In the first piece, “A cradle song,” the piano plays a repetitive, rocking figure while the voice sings a gentle melody, creating a sense of security and tranquility. In contrast, the fourth song, “A charm,” has a more ominous quality, with the piano’s irregular rhythms and the voice’s haunting melody depicting the fear and uncertainty of scaring the child that if they don’t go to sleep, a lot of terrible things will happen at night. One notable aspect of Britten’s composition is his use of folk-like melodies and rhythms. In the second song, “The Highland Balou,” the piano plays a bouncy, Scottish-inspired melody while the voice sings a simple, folk-like tune. This melody and rhythm create a sense of nostalgia and familiarity, evoking childhood memories and the comforting presence of a loving caregiver. This paper will explore the musical elements of these songs, such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and form, and how they contribute to the overall effect of the lullabies. Other lullabies by different composers also incorporate similar musical elements. Fauré’s “Les berceaux” (Cradles) features a gentle, rocking piano accompaniment and a soothing melody. At the same time, Puccini’s “E l’uccellino” (The little bird) has a playful, bird-like melody in the voice part. Montsalvatge’s “Canción de cuna para dormir un negrito” (Lullaby to sleep a little black boy) uses a repeated rhythmic figure in the piano and a lulling melody in the voice. Bernstein’s “Greeting” (No. 5 from Arias and Barcarolles) also incorporates a playful, bouncy rhythm in the piano and a simple, folk-like melody in the voice. In addition to these musical elements, many of these lullabies also incorporate textural and harmonic techniques to create a sense of tranquility and peacefulness. Fauré’s “Les berceaux” uses a slow, flowing tempo and a rich, layered texture in the piano accompaniment. At the same time, Puccini’s “E l’uccellino” has a lulling, legato melody in the voice and a gentle, consonant harmonic language. Montsalvatge’s “Canción de cuna para dormir un negrito” incorporates a repeated, rhythmic figure in the piano and a simple, repetitive melody in the voice, creating a sense of calm and familiarity.
In conclusion, the approach to a lullaby in musical composition involves various considerations, such as folk-like melodies and rhythms, textural and harmonic techniques, and the exploration of different moods and emotions associated with lullabies. Through the analysis of Britten’s, A charm of lullabies and other lullabies by various composers, this paper will delve into the musical considerations of approaching a lullaby in composition.
Overall, this paper will provide a detailed and in-depth analysis of the musical considerations of lullabies, with a particular focus on Britten’s A charm of lullabies and a selection of other well-known examples. By examining the structure, techniques, and meanings of these compositions, it will offer a rich and nuanced understanding of the lullaby genre and its significance in musical culture.