Hafiz between nations: song settings by Daumer/Brahms and Peacock/Beamish

Loges, N. (2021) Hafiz between nations: song settings by Daumer/Brahms and Peacock/Beamish. In: Song Beyond the Nation: Translation, Transnationalism, Performance. Proceedings of the British Academy . Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780197267196 (hardback)


Consciously ‘othered’ cultural practices have long allowed musicians and poets to express different national identities to varying extents, without having to relinquish a geographically rooted sense of home. As Steven Vertovec put it, ‘Practices and meanings derived from specific geographical and historical points of origin have always been transferred and regrounded.’ More specifically, Michael Howard has argued: 'The arts are an important component of transnational relations. They may serve as a reminder of links across borders, as symbols of ties to another place or society, and as a means of promoting a feeling of being part of a transnational community. In addition to such symbolic aspects of the arts, artists themselves may lead transnational lives as they move between locales where their art is appreciated or in demand.' My aim is to examine such transnational links, symbols, and ties through a consideration of the songs ‘Wie bist du, meine Königin’ by Johannes Brahms (1833–97) and ‘Fish’ by Sally Beamish (b. 1956). Both are settings of translations of poetry by the Persian poet Hafiz (variously ‘Hafis’, or ‘Hafez’), made respectively by Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800–72) and Jila Peacock (b. 1948). I hope to offer insights into changing attitudes to Hafiz over time (the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries) and place (Germany, Persia/Iran, and Great Britain). I employ text- and score-based analysis, supplemented by interviews with Peacock and Beamish carried out in early 2019. In these interviews, I probed approaches to translation, text setting, and music, as well as issues of biography and national identity.

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