This fall, English major Lindsay Saienni brought her musical and interpretive talents to bear on a fourteenth-century poet and humanist, Francesco Petrarch. After studying Petrarch's love sonnets in Dr. Miranda Wilson's ENGL 205: British Literature to 1660, Saienni decided to devote her final project to making these sonnets resonate for her twenty-first century peers.
She wrote music for one of these sonnets, filmed herself playing her composition, and posted her work to YouTube. In creating this music, Saienni worked to bring out the confusion, pain, and artistic control of Petrarch's poetry. Saienni writes, "The suffering for Petrarch is never-ending, and the woman he loves causes it all. He is not awake nor asleep, alive nor dead, and he is not certain if he want to live or die in the name of love. The composition I created seeks to make that confusion apparent, along with adding a touch of bitter sweetness in sound. The constant strum cycle in the background represents this state of unrest, and the higher-pitched progression of chords represents the contrast of love against the background of a constant and repetitive suffering… The words themselves are exquisite, and they blend and twist into the chords, just as the suffering binds into Petrarch's words."
Translation of Petrarch's Rima, Sonnet 134 by Mark Musa:
I find no peace, and I am not at war,
I fear and hope, and burn and I am ice,
I fly above the heavens, and lie on earth,
and I grasp nothing, and embrace the world.
One keeps me jailed who neither locks nor opens,
nor keeps me for her own nor frees the noose;
Love does not kill, nor does he loose my chains;
he wants me lifeless but won't loosen me.
I see with no eyes, shout without a tongue;
I yearn to perish, and I beg for help;
I hate myself and love somebody else.
I thrive on pain and laugh with all my tears;
I dislike death as much as I do life:
because of you, lady, I am this way.