Musical Borrowing and Irony

Musical Borrowing and Irony in Las cuatro estaciones porteñas: Piazzolla, Desyatnikov, Vivaldi

WayAnne Watson (Faculty Mentor: Trina Thompson, Music)

In 1999, Leonid Desyatnikov arranged Astor Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, originally a tango quintet, for solo violin and string orchestra. Desyatnikov added to his arrangement by interspersing quotations from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons—quotations that do not appear in Piazzolla’s original composition.
Previous studies on musical borrowing and mash-up techniques have suggested that possible meanings for such use of quotations include showcasing virtuosity, reflecting cultural information overload, displaying musical humor, and blurring lines of genre distinction.

My score-based analysis of the arrangement investigates Desyatnikov’s borrowing techniques by locating the Vivaldi quotations, examining Desyatnikov’s alterations to their original content and context, and determining whether the quotations’ identities are maintained or transformed. My research shows that, in general, Desyatnikov minimizes drastic alterations to the content of the quotations, that is, to their melodies, rhythms, and meter. But he usually makes changes to the context of the quotations, that is, to their formal locations, local dramatic effects, and textures.  His borrowing techniques both minimize and increase tension between the original and quoted material, but the overall effect is one in which the quotations’ identities are transformed. By examining his treatment of the quotations, my analysis provides a more nuanced exploration of Desyatnikov’s musical irony.