Song cycle

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A song cycle or song circle is a cycle of songs put together by the composer himself , from which individual songs cannot be extracted without loss. It is not uncommon for the texts to come from cycles of poetry .

The internal context in terms of content is already established by the text template and is deepened by open or covert musical design means. A connection can be established through melodic and motivic means, with motifs from other parts of the cycle being quoted or taken up again. There are also often connections on a harmonic level, for example through the key sequence of the individual parts; the closeness of the cycle is often indicated by a return to the original key at the end of the work. These characteristics are not mandatory for a song cycle. However, the lack of any of these features can itself be significant. So you can see the fact that Schubert's Schöne Müllerinand Winterreise end far from the respective original key, as a sign that there is no way back for the protagonist.

Well-known examples of song cycles are:

The form of the song cycle is not limited to serious music and the art song . A well-known example of a song cycle in the field of pop music is the album The Juliet Letters (1993) by Elvis Costello . The boundaries to the concept album are fluid. The album Mein Herz brennt (2003), in which the film composer Torsten Rasch set Rammstein's lyrics to music , also belongs in this category.


  • Elmar Budde: Schubert's song cycles. A musical factory guide . Munich 2003.
  • Cyrus Hamlin: The Romantic Song Cycle as Literary Genre . In: Walter Bernhart / Steven Paul Scher / Werner Wolf (eds.): Word and Music Studies. Defining the field . Amsterdam / Atlanta 1999, pp. 113-134.
  • Clemens Kühn: Theory of Forms in Music. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1987, ISBN 3-7618-1392-9 .
  • Ingo Müller: "One in all and all in one": On the aesthetics of the cycle of poems and songs in the light of romantic universal poetry . In: Günter Schnitzler and Achim Aurnhammer (eds.): Word and tone . Freiburg i. Br. 2011, pp. 243-274 ( Rombach Sciences: Litterae Series . Vol. 173).
  • Ingo Müller: Mask play and soul language. On the aesthetics of Heinrich Heine's book of songs and Robert Schumann's Heine settings (= Rombach Wissenschaft), 2 volumes, Baden-Baden 2020. Volume 1: Heinrich Heine's poetry aesthetics and Robert Schumann's song aesthetics , ISBN 978-3-96821-006-3 . Volume 2: Heinrich Heine's book of songs and Robert Schumann's Heine settings , Baden-Baden 2020, ISBN 978-3-96821-009-4 .
  • Günter Schnitzler: Cyclical principles in poetry and music using the example of Heine's "Lyrical Intermezzo" and Schumann's "Dichterliebe" . In: Henriette Herwig u. a. (Ed.): Transitions. Between arts and cultures. International congress on the 150th year of the death of Heinrich Heine and Robert Schumann. Stuttgart 2007, pp. 321-336.
  • Ewald Zimmermann: The song cycle - musical form or arrangement principle? . In: Klaus-Gotthard Fischer u. Christiane Schumann (Ed.): Schubert Yearbook 1996: Report from the conference »Schubert Aspects« . Duisburg, 1996, pp. 31-40.

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