Going Up to God by Musical Process: A Structural Analysis of David Lang's the little match girl passion (2007)



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David Lang (b. 1957) is a contemporary American composer with a distinctive musical voice. His Pulitzer Prize winning vocal work the little match girl passion (2007) has received accolades from critics, audiences, performers, and scholars. This document examines Lang’s music using a multimodal analytical technique and compares Lang’s Passion to its model, Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (1727/36). Separate chapters are devoted to the little match girl passion’s large-scale formal arrangement, melodic materials, rhythmic organization, harmonic structure, text painting, and textural variety. The analytical methodology of these chapters relies on a blend of linear tools adapted from Schenkerian analysis, harmonic observations from Neo-Riemannian and Set Theory analysis, and a new method, following the ideas of Thomas Robinson, of looking at how text drives Lang’s musical processes. Findings of this multimodal analysis include Lang’s carefully controlled processes for structuring melodic and rhythmic material, his nuanced approach to setting and painting the text, and his large-scale plan for formal, melodic, and harmonic structures. Observing how these individual musical elements and processes evolve aids in understanding the overall structure of the work. The analytical findings are interpreted in relationship to the text and its meanings. A final chapter offers numerous ways that Lang’s large-scale structures, musical materials, and musical functions might relate to Bach’s work. This section of the document draws upon traditional Schenkerian analysis as well as published analyses of Bach by other scholars. The analyses, interpretations, and connections illuminated by this document will aid conductors and singers who wish to perform the piece in the future.



Lang, David, Schenkerian analysis, minimalism, process music, the little match girl passion, Bach, Johann Sebastian, St. Matthew Passion