Posted in Research for Assignment 4

Assignment 4 Research: The Dualities of Fantasia

Along with the fact that my fourth assignment piece is based on an excerpt from the Little Mermaid with fantastical elements of the fairy tale sea world, I have added the fantasy to its title because of the free form I utilized. However I realized that beside the free nature, I knew nothing about the term fantasia in general. As such, I wanted to write a research where I explore its history and use in music.

Today, fantasia is used in a generic sense, denoting a genre of compositions which is free and departs from the standard musical conventions and norms of form, style, etc – a meaning which I used for my assignment composition. However, as the term originally signified imagination or product of the imagination in the Middle Ages, its earliest musical appearances denoted a imaginative musical idea or theme – something that is newly composed, rather than being based on pre-composed cantus firmus, which was the usual basis for polyphonic pieces. In this regard, near the end of 15th century, one of the first to use the word is Josquin De Prez, who named his textless polyphonic composition ‘Ile fantazies de Joskin’, because he based it on his own freely invented motivic material, rather than borrowing the melody of cantus firmus. (Field, 2001) Another example is the composer Heinrich Isaac, who was said to have written ‘a motet based on a fantasia called la mi la so la si la mi la’ (Field, 2001), the fantasia being a newly-invented subject of solmization syllables. (Randel, 2003: 307S) As such, the term fantasia in this sense describes a novel thematic content of music, treated in the old polyphonic conventions and techniques of the time.

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