Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)

Degree Level





Martin Nedbal

Committee Member

Jennifer Hoyer

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Markham


German Lieder, Johannes Brahms, Musical Exoticism


Though scholars, performers, and classical enthusiasts alike recognized and praised the many facets of his compositional craft, Johannes Brahms's treatment of poetry in his Lieder has led to much conflicting assessments. The negative critiques exist partially because the majority of scholars do discuss an interpretation of the poems but seldom explain precisely how Brahms conveys the texts' meanings through his music, leaving the more specific details of text-to-music relationship and what it shows about Brahms's own understanding of the texts unexplored.

Brahms's Lieder have also been criticized because of the supposed lack of exotic qualities in those works that portray non-Western characters or music, especially those dealing with Persian, Turkish, and Hungarian themes. Previous scholars have approached them with the attitude that they are musically not at all exotic, and as a result most of Brahms's Lieder with exotic subjects received little detailed attention in musicological research. Many of the dismissive critiques reflect a common misunderstanding of exotic works in musicological literature. As Ralph P. Locke has shown in his book Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections, musicologists tend to focus on what he calls the "Exotic Style Only Paradigm," an approach referring only to music which explicitly evokes an exotic "other." As a result, many studies of musical exoticism overlook important clues in works that do not sound overtly exotic.

To solve the problem, Locke proposed a new, more inclusive approach to musical exoticism--the "All the Music in Full Context Paradigm." According to the "Full Context" view, scholars should not only look at the explicit musical markers of exoticism but also the extra-musical elements. This approach helps to identify not only exotic-sounding musical tropes, but also specific and previously overlooked points of view about exotic "Others." In this thesis, I will explore three song collections using Locke's "Full Context" view in order to challenge existing scholarship as well as explain how Brahms used exotic subtleties to bring out the various meanings of the texts in a highly refined way.