2014 Student Research Conference:
27th Annual Student Research Conference

Britten’s War Requiem: Queering the Mass to Speak Against War
Conor J. Gearin
Dr. Brent Orton, Faculty Mentor

Benjamin Britten’s 1962 War Reqiuem queered the Requiem Mass in order to protest the violence of the nuclear age. Looking back to the work of a revered English World War I poet, Wilfred Owen, he mixed Owen’s secular poetry with the sacred words of the Mass, upsetting the audience’s expectations for the genre and revealing subversive and queer themes in the famous poetry. Britten’s musical setting breaks from the tradition of past Requiem settings by sounding the discordant tritone alongside music that alludes to Verdi and Mozart. The first performances in Coventry Cathedral were set in such a way to maximize the size of the audience and emphasize its ironic treatment of a solemn subject. This paper will analyze the musical language of the work and unpack its themes using Queer Theory in order to understand the complex sources of its nonviolent, anti-patriarchal power.

Keywords: Benjamin Britten, Classical Music, Queer Theory, Nonviolence, British History, British Literature, Musical Formal Analysis, Wilfred Owen

Topic(s):Phi Kappa Phi Interdisciplinary

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 108-1
Location: MG 1000
Time: 8:00

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