Idealized Love in Music

This is an essay I wrote for a class I took in the spring of 2017 titled “Art Song.” Since I’ve now got a bit of a tradition of posting my essays once the courses are over, I figured I may as well.
Love is an integral part of the human experience and a source of inspiration for a vast portion of all the music created by mankind. Love is almost always treated with positivity, but at times this positivity goes too far, and the loved one becomes less a person than an ideal, a concept that cannot exist in reality. The exact nature of this idealization, however, has changed over time, from the Renaissance poetry of Petrarch in which the beloved is perfect and untouchable to the Romantic poems of Heine and Hugo, when that perfection is acknowledged as fragile, ready to break with the lightest touch, and beyond that to a point when the idealized love has broken and twisted, as in Viardot’s “Hai Luli.”
Our examination begins in the 1300s, with Francesco Petrarca (anglicized as “Petrarch”), the most famous poet of the Italian Renaissance. A priest, Petrarch became famous, basically, for seeing a woman – Laura – attending church and falling deeply in love. His was a courtly love, a distant affair: she was married, and he was ordained to remain celibate. The poems that resulted from his infatuation have been set to music many times, but the most famous setting of them is Liszt’s song cycle, “Tre sonetti di Petrarca.” The poetry around which the first song is based describes the pain of separation that Petrarch felt;1 the second and third, however, focus on the positive side of that love.
In the second – “Benedetto sia ‘l giorno” (“Blessed be the day”) – Petrarch devoted the entirety of the first stanza to a gushing thankfulness, asking blessings for the ‘day, month, year, season, time, hour, and moment’ when he first saw his love, and beyond that, ‘the beautiful country and place where I first saw her eyes’ (paraphrasing from the Kline translation of the text). In keeping with this gushing feel, Liszt’s setting of the text moves through this portion quickly, leaving the singer only eighth-note-rest in which to take a fittingly quick breath. The third stanza, however, comes only after a long pause in the vocal line, and moves slower than the earlier portions of the song; Petrarch remembering once again that his love is a distant one, a saddened recall of “the sighs, and the tears.” In the fourth and final stanza, though, the pace picks up once again, sad thoughts replaced once more by adoration.
The third song in the cycle, however, is the most characteristic of this period of courtly love. The poetry sets the stage: “I saw angelic virtue on earth/ and heavenly beauty on terrestrial soil,” it begins, and continues to describe “two lovely eyes that . . . made the sun a thousand times jealous.” Petrarch describes his love not as a woman but as an angel, a work of art delivered from Heaven. She is no more real to him than a beautiful sunset is to any of us: something that can be seen from afar, but never reached, never touched.
As time went on, however, this ideal changed: the Renaissance ended, and, eventually, the Romantics rose to prominence. Some of this idea remained: the objects of their love were still just that – objects – but the distance, once insurmountable, had closed to something in a way too small. Take, for example, Liszt’s setting of Heine’s poem, “Du bist wie eine Blume” (“Thou art like a flower”).2 The text begins in a manner similar to the Petrarchian style, describing the unnamed beloved as ‘pure, fair, and kind.’3 The twist is quick to begin, with the ‘sorrow in my heart,’ but the true point of interest is in what form that sorrow takes: ‘I must then pray that God may preserve thee/ as pure and fair as now,’ the poem ends. In Liszt’s setting of the text, the instrumentation serves to emphasize this moment: as the singer says “Gott erhalte” (“God keep/preserve (thee)”) the piano, for the first time in the piece, falls silent. That earlier perfection of the beloved, though still there, is no longer held as an immutable fact; it is something that must be protected, by both the beholder and by God himself.
And yet, we are not done. The Romantics had changed this idea further still, evidenced in Hugo’s “Oh, quand je doers, viens auprés de ma..” (“Oh! when I sleep”).4 Of interest to us here is the third stanza, in which the text reads “Then on my lips . . . place a kiss, and transform from angel into woman” (Ezust). This idea is a French addition to the concept of the distant romantic love, and would go on to define ‘courtly love’ as a new subcategory of that concept. In the transformation from angel to women, triggered by the kiss, we see the true twist of the concept of courtly love: not only is the beloved’s heavenly status fragile, it is the deed of acting upon the love that does the damage.
Again, Liszt’s setting follows the poem well: the first stanza is underlaid by a calm, rolling piano line, portraying the dreaming state of the speaker. In the second stanza, however, the music accelerates, the piano and vocal lines both bringing more excitement to match the dream as it “become[s] radiant”. For the third stanza, the peaceful quality of the first stanza is brought back, but the chords are arpeggiated more clearly, granting a purity of sound to match the “flash of love” that the poet describes as “pure”. Once again, Liszt makes use of a silence in the piano line to highlight the words of the poem: as the vocalist goes through the phrase “et d’ange de viens femme” – “from angel into woman” they are, for that moment, alone: Liszt’s recognition of the importance of this single moment. It is the kiss, the moment of contact between the love and the lover, that marks that most important change.
To truly love their distant ideal,5 then, is to deliberately maintain that distance; to protect the perfection by refusing to sully it with their own mortality.
There is, however, an interesting twist on this concept, made quite visible in Xavier de Maistre’s untitled poem, set to music by Pauline Viardot as Hai Luli: the ‘heavenly perfection’ is expected, required, only of the female love. Rather than an aspect of heaven, the (male) love in the text has failed the speaker, “Perhaps he betrays his oath to me/ Beside a new lover” (Bamberger). Though, of course, the lover has not, in actuality, betrayed the speaker: instead, the poem is more of a plan for “If one day he should abandon me” than it is a response to actual events. Nonetheless, the fact that the love is treated as even capable of such horrible deeds is a sharp contrast to the (feminine) descended angels of the other poetry.
The concept of the idealized love was so integral to the Romantic era of art that the term ‘romance’ has come, in colloquial usage, to refer to a moment of ideal love. That we need a specific term for that sort of love then implies that such an idea has fallen out of popular use; and, as the current state of popular music can attest, it has.6
The manner in which humanity has idealized their distant loves has changed over time. At the beginning, there was an innocence to it: the beloved is something pure and holy, a stand-in for the most holy of women, the Virgin Mary. As time went on, though, the idealism shifted, and the perfection became something fragile, an eggshell-thin veneer of holiness which would be tarnished and broken by the slightest contact from the beholder. And then, finally, the concept broke entirely, and a poem that boils down to “he might leave me for another, and if he does, everybody burns” was penned: the love is utterly human, utterly fallible.

Sources

Anonymous translation of “Du bist wie eine Blume”
Bamberger
Ezust
Kline
Paton


  1. “I feed on sadness, laughing weep:/ death and life displease me equally:/ and I am in this state, lady, because of you.” (Kline) 
  2. In my discussion of this poem, I’m using both an unattributed translation and my own knowledge of the German language as reference. 
  3. And, of course, this is done at an implied distance: “I gaze on thee,” states the text. 
  4. There’s a nice bit of self-reference in this poem thanks to the presence, in the first stanza, of the line “approach my bed,/ as Laura appeared to Petrarch.” (Ezust) 
  5. And of course, there is a self-awareness to this concept: Errico’s “Ideale” (“Ideal”), set to music by Tosti, has the poet, in a waking dream, speak directly to the imagined version of the beloved. In the poem, she is referred to as the titular “dear ideal.” (Paton) 
  6. For my citation, I’m going to point out the fact that a song whose chorus consisted of “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun” spent eight weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard “Hot 100” list. 

“Phänomen”

This is an essay I wrote for a class I took in the spring of 2017 titled “Art Song.” Since I’ve now got a bit of a tradition of posting my essays once the courses are over, I figured I may as well.
“Phänomen” was written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and published in 1819 in the first book of his West-Östlicher Divan, Buch des Sängers. The Divan as a whole was inspired both by Goethe’s written conversations with Marianne von Willemer (1784-1860) and Joseph von Hammer’s (1774-1856) translations of the works of Hafez, a 14th-century Persian poet. The title of the book, and its contents, are inspired by the combination of Western and Eastern philosophies, the coming together of Germany and the Middle East. This was more than just two regions meeting, though: it was also the meeting of two faiths, Islam and Christianity, and of two very different imperial histories – the Roman and Persian empires. The text of “Phänomen” opens with a description of a rainbow appearing from the rain, establishing the idea of hope through what was overwhelming shadow. This appearance of hope is replicated and passed on to the “cheerful old man,” reassuring him that, in spite of his age, he will “still love,” or “love again.” The poem was set to music by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) in 1874, and then by Hugo Wolf (1860 – 1903) in 1888-9, being published in 1891. Though the two settings share the same text, overall they are very different pieces.
The two settings are incredibly different, vividly demonstrating the difference in writing style between the two composers. The melody in Brahms’ setting is fairly constrained; the voices throughout move in a stepwise pattern, occasionally leaping – but only to outline the underlying chord. The use of a second voice is an interesting addition, but in terms of melodic contour it doesn’t add all too much: the second voice is, throughout the piece, either echoing or harmonizing with the first; in moments where the lower line moves ahead of the higher, the higher then takes the role of echoing the lower.
Contrary to Brahms’ constraint, Wolf – a member of the Wagnerian school of music – made liberal use of chromaticism in his melodies. His setting of the text has the singer performing acrobatics, making use of frequent leaps from high to low notes in the first half of the song, and then switching to leaps from low to high towards the end. Measures 12-14 utilize these upwards leaps, F#-D, F#-C#, E-C#, both rhythmically and melodically highlighting certain words. The first rise ascends to the word “nicht” before descending again on “betrüben”; a descending line for the verb in ‘do not sadden yourself,’ with the high point on ‘not,’ an excellent use of text paining. The second rise is a mimic of the first, with the high point on “gleich” – ‘similarly.’ The third of these leaps is the most notable, emphasizing as “doch wirst du lieben” – ‘but you will (again) love.’ It is the only one of the three ascending patterns to continue upwards after, a movement that is echoed by the piano moments later, emphasizing the overall sense of happiness in the text.
Some of the most interesting moments in Brahms’ settings are in his use of rhythmic contrast between the two voices. This motive first appears in measure 7: as the higher voice moves in even quarter notes from “Phö-bus” to “sich,” the lower line pauses on “Phö-” holding it out for a full two beats before moving quickly through the “bus sich” as if trying to catch up. The moment lasts only that single measure, but appears again elsewhere: both voices simultaneously use the hold-then-catch-up rhythm in measure 14; the tension between the two is brought back in measure 41, and the rhythm makes a final appearance in measure 48. The version in 48 is different, however: the text is used differently, with only two words across the measure, (“wirst du”) thus leaving the measure lacking in the slight tension created by the need to ‘catch up’ with the beat that the other instances use.
Rhythmically speaking, however, there is only one other point of interest in the piece: measures 19-33, where the voices play an extended game of catch-up. The higher voice starts two full bars ahead of the lower, pauses in mm.22-23 to allow a bit of catch-up, takes off again in m.24, and the two finally meet in m.27 after another pause on the part of the higher. Then it’s the lower voice’s turn to start ahead, though not by as much, and the two finally come together again for good in measure 32 as the lower, rather than pausing, repeats the words “der Bogen.” This is, however, the only place of rhythmic interest in the vocal line; the rest is either even quarter notes, a half note and a quarter note, or the occasional dotted-quarter-eighth-quarter measure. The piano plays a near-constant stream of eighth notes throughout, pausing only in measures 21 and 23 when the job of filling the space with eighth notes is taken up by higher and the lower voice, respectively.
Wolf’s setting does a better job of varying the rhythm throughout, taking advantage of the “sehr langsam” pace he wrote for and giving it an almost recitative feeling at times. There are two rhythmic ideas that he uses multiple times throughout the piece to great effect: the dotted-eighth-sixteenth pattern used at the end of every duplet, and the shifting of certain points off the expected beats by a half-beat. The repetition of the dotted-quarter-eighth rhythm is a subtle way of drawing the entire piece together; in certain spots, such as measure 9 or measures 14-15, its presence is masked by the repetition of a note or the carrying over of a longer note into the idea. The second of these ideas is less obvious: the two best examples are the stretching of the word “farbig” from measure 3 into measure 4, and the right-hand lines of the piano in measures 5 and 10. Rather than allow the melody to move on the strong beat, Wolf gives them a slight twist, making the motion occur on the off-beats.
The two composers have differing ideas about how the structure of the poem should be used: Brahms’ version follows a rounded binary structure, with the division between the different portions of the song being the stanza breaks in the original poem. Wolf acknowledges the stanzas with a bar of rest in the voice at the end of each stanza, but doesn’t return to his original material, instead opting for a through-composed structure that allows for his soaring portrayal of a rainbow in the final measures.
In Brahms’ setting, the piano has two basic ideas the entire time: ascending eighth notes in the left hand with chords in the right, or chords in the left hand with rocking high-low eighth notes in the right; the second of these two is also sometimes modified with chords above the eight-note pattern. Contrast this to he final two measures of Wolf’s setting of the poem: an excellent use of the piano, a piece of text painting that fits the piece while being an entirely new idea. The other moments of solo piano, in measures 5 and 10, also make great use of the instrument’s capabilities, mimicking the effect of a continuing upper voice while continuing the existing piano line. In the moments when the piano is supporting the voice, it still does so in an interesting manner: only rarely is the rhythm in the piano the same as that of the vocal line. In both settings, the piano is subordinate to the singer or singers, but Wolf’s piano solo moments are more musically interesting than Brahms’, indicating that the piano receives higher billing in his version than in Brahms.
The tonal scheme of the two settings is where their differences are most visible. Brahms begins fairly calmly, in the stated key of B, and largely remains in that key for the entirety of the ‘A’ section of the rounded binary structure of the piece. The ‘B’ section, however, is far more interesting: it’s a gleeful exploration of the harmonic spaces around that original key of B major that begins by transforming B major into the V of e minor, returns to b minor instead of B major, makes a pit stop in G (as VI of b minor) and finally, through an extended V7-I cadence in measures 34-38, returns to B major just in time for the returning ‘A’ section to sound at home once again. Wolf, ever the Wagnerian, makes no such concessions to a home key: he begins, briefly, in the stated key of A major, and the piece ends in E major, but in between is a land of glorious uncertainty. As if predicting the atonal music that would arise in the next century, the piece makes a gleeful game of avoiding any true tonal center, instead opting to move almost constantly from place to place. The result is fiendishly difficult to analyze, but, as a true show of his skill as a composer, never sounds out of place.
Brahms’ setting of “Phänomen” is a wonderful piece: the harmonic playfulness in the central portion of the song, as well as the subtle rhythmic variations, give it a distinctive, and enjoyable, feel. Wolf’s, however, feels more closely fit to the actual text: the slower tempo feels more fitting for a conversation with a ‘white-haired’ man, and the ending piano line is a beautiful bit of text painting, a gentle ascension that feels like the sound a rainbow would make as it appears. Though a close match, I must conclude that Wolf’s setting of the poem is the more successful of the two.

The United States and the European Union

This is an essay I wrote for a class I took in the fall of 2016 titled “Austrian Politics and Society in a European Context.” I’ve decided to publish it here because… why not?
In the wake of the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the world was left massively changed. The era of two superpowers had ended; for a while, the world lived under the hegemony of the United States of America. That era, too, has come to an end, though a much quieter one: new superpowers have begun to develop. China is coming into its own as a world power; India has high aspirations that have yet to be realized; the Russian Federation has, under the control of Vladimir Putin, used the legacy of the Soviet Union to re-emerge as a military superpower, if not an economic one. The most interesting emergent superpower, however, is the European Union: rebuilt in the wake of the Second World War by the United States as a colony-esque bulwark against the spread of Communism, it has become an economic powerhouse to rival the United States. The European Union, thanks to its history of US-backed construction, has the most in common with the reigning hegemon; it does, however, have some key differences. It is these similarities and differences that will be examined in this paper.
The core institutions of the European Union (E.U.) are, in writing at least, more complex a structure than those of the United States (U.S.A.): while the E.U. has seven key institutions, the government of the U.S.A. is split into three.12 What is, in the U.S.A., the Executive Branch of the government is in the E.U. distributed across several institutions: the European Council, combining the heads of state of all the member nations into a President-by-committee; the European Commission, to handle the day-to-day functionality of the E.U. in all its aspects; the European Central Bank, coordinating the monetary policy of the E.U.; and the Court of Auditors, ensuring that the monetary policy and budgetary strictures of the E.U. are actually being followed. The Legislative Branch is, similarly to the U.S.A., a bicameral structure, though split into the Council of the European Union and the Parliament, rather than into a Senate and House as in the United States. The Judicial Branch in the U.S.A. is closely matched in structure by the European Court of Justice in the E.U.: the Court of Justice itself at the top, in answer to the Supreme Court of the U.S.A., with a network of lower courts beneath it.
Within these structures are further differences. One of the most visible differences is in the party systems of the two unions. In the U.S.A., two parties have nigh-on absolute control of the political system: the liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans. Smaller parties exist, but none are large enough even to have ballot access in every state, making them largely irrelevant on the national playing field.3 In the E.U., the political system allows for representation of more parties: in the current European Parliament, seven different parties are represented amongst the 762 Members of the European Parliament (M.E.P.s), and 31 M.E.P.s are listed as “unattached” – generally referring to an affiliation with a party that exists only within their member state, and not across the E.U. as a whole.4 A point of similarity across both, however, is the existence of partisan politics – the vitriolic nature of the recent election in the U.S.A. demonstrates the prevalence of blind party loyalty. The E.U., as well, is to some degree guilty: take, for example, the actions of the European People’s Party to shield Hungary’s Orban government from criticisms in the European Parliament.5
The varying parties are not the only way in which the two superpowers differ. The U.S.A. has always had a common foreign policy; it is one of the rights granted to the President and the Congress by the Constitution. In the E.U., this is not so – though the Treaty of Lisbon created the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the powers of that seat are still limited largely to defense and security policy.6 The other core difference between the two is in their sources of revenue: the U.S.A. is able to levy taxes directly, while the E.U. income is a mix of direct contributions from member nations, a very small percentage of the E.U.-wide Value Added Tax, and import duties on non-E.U. goods.7 This creates a sharp difference between the amount of monetary force the organizations are able to throw behind their various initiatives. For example, the United States federal research and development budget for 2017 is almost the same as the entirety of the E.U. budget for the same time period.89 The budgetary differences alone are enough to guarantee that the federal government of the U.S.A. is much more powerful, relatively, than the E.U. is in relation to its member states.
Economic differences, however, are not the only reason that the federal government of the U.S.A. holds more power than the institutions of the E.U.: the largest part of this difference is due to the set of powers given directly to the organizations. In the E.U., this list of powers (or rather, competences, as they are termed by the organization) is fairly concise: the creation of a customs union, the ability to create competition rules to maintain the internal market, Eurozone monetary policy, the common commercial policy, a limited ability to conclude international agreements, and the common fisheries policy for the conservation of marine biological resources.10 In the United States, that same list of fiscal powers is given to the national government, but has several additions on top of that. These additions include the full spectrum of foreign policy, notably the declaration of war; the creation of the armed forces, as an extension of foreign policy; the creation of post offices; and the ability to create any law that is “necessary and proper” to carry out those other powers.11 And, of course, the fact remains that the E.U. does not have the capability to levy taxes, while the federal government of the U.S.A. shares that ability with the states. At their root, the two superpowers have a very different stance on the centralization of power; as a result of this, the governance of the U.S.A. is much more cohesive than that of the E.U.
Economically, the two have quite a bit in common: they are the two most powerful economies in the world, and sit comfortably at the top of the “developed” economies list.12 The top ten companies worldwide, by revenue, includes three U.S. corporations and three E.U. corporations, in a mixed order.13 The picture changes a bit when sorted by profitability: the three Chinese state-owned and the Japanese contender all vanish… as do the three E.U. corporations. Instead, the list becomes entirely U.S. companies, mostly financial services firms but made incredibly top-heavy by the presence of Apple.14 In both finance and information technology, the U.S.A. has a strong lead over the E.U., a gap that may grow larger with the pending Brexit talks: not only will Britain take BP (the 10th-largest company in the world) with her when she goes, but with her goes London, the “financial capital of the world.”15
At the governmental level, more similarities and differences are evident: the U.S. Dollar remains one of the world’s strongest currencies, and serves as the official currency of the entirety of the U.S.A., as well as a remarkably long list of other countries. The Euro, though nearly as strong, lacks the historical backing of the dollar, and theoretically only applies to those member states that meet the requirements to join the Eurozone – though, one should note, that a few non-Eurozone member states use it as their official or de facto currency, and the membership requirements for the Eurozone have not always been met by its members.16 The central banks of the two superpowers have similar levels of power, though their response to the global financial slump in the 2000s was quite different: the European Central Bank focused on containing inflation, while the Federal Reserve System in the U.S.A. was much more active in restoring the U.S. economy.17 There is also a notable weakness in the European banking system, thanks in no small part to the different division of power: the lack of a strong pan-European banking union.18 In the U.S.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Company provides deposit insurance to member banks, providing a strong signal of trustworthiness for member banks to show to their customers; the E.U. does not yet have anything of a similar scale.19
By far the largest difference between the two powers, however, is defense spending. The U.S.A. famously spends more than $500 billion per year on defense, while the E.U. as a whole spends less than half what the U.S.A. does. Per capita, the difference is even larger: the U.S.A. comes in as the third-largest per-capita spender at just under $2,000 per person per year, while across the E.U. the spending averages just under $350 per person per year.20 This disparity likely arises from the history between the two: during the Cold War, the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union seemed poised, at all times, to turn Europe into a battlefield once more. As a result, the U.S.-backed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) poured more and more military resources into Europe. When the Soviet Union fell, NATO did not, and has left Europe with a strong military defense that is, by and large, funded by the U.S. taxpayer. The continued presence of U.S. personnel and matériel in Europe, then, helps to reduce the need for either European states or the European Union as a whole to seriously invest in their own military.
The ongoing presence of NATO is not the sole reason for less military spending in Europe than in the U.S.A.: another significant contributing factor is the cultural differences between the two. Taken as a whole, the U.S.A. is significantly more in favor of violence than the E.U., in a variety of ways. The most visible, of course, is their policies on guns: the Second Amendment has ensconced the right to ownership of weapons in U.S. law for centuries; the E.U. makes no such constitutional provision, and, in fact, has been working to limit gun access across the entire E.U.21 As a people, Europeans like guns less than Americans: there are three guns in private hands for every ten Europeans, while the figure in the U.S.A. is nine guns to every ten people.22 Even their response to gun violence differs massively, with a requirement for E.U. membership being a ban on the death penalty; compare this to the U.S.A., where in the 2016 election three states passed ballot measures that implemented or re-implemented capital punishment.2324 On punishment in general, the U.S.A. is harsher than the E.U., with nearly six times as many prisoners per 100,000 people. Even the most punishment-happy E.U. country – Lithuania, with 254 of every 100,000 people incarcerated – only imprisons people at a third of the rate of the U.S.A.25
This stands out as an area of heavy government involvement for a nation that generally prefers their leadership to have a light touch. As a whole, the people of the U.S.A. tend to be very individualistic, and regard their own work ethic and abilities as the primary, if not only, driving force behind their success or lack thereof in life.26 This stands in contrast to the peoples of the E.U., who generally see success in life as being determined by forces outside their control; in Germany, the strongest economy within the E.U., less than a third of the population agreed with the individualistic mindset of the U.S.A.27 In a similar vein, the origins of the European welfare state are fairly visible in the ideals of the E.U. population – Americans largely want to be left to achieve their goals alone, while Europeans would rather their governments “guarantee that no one is in need.”28
This is not to say that Americans and Europeans disagree on everything – the U.S.A. and the E.U. form the core of what is regarded as “the West,” pitted against the forces of the East – the former Soviet Union, and now, the growing power of China. For the people of the West, democracy is a core ideal, and the freedoms that come with it and help to ensure it are of great importance to the peoples of the U.S.A. and the E.U. both.29 Religious freedom is fairly important to both superpowers, but they differ significantly in where they come from that stance: Europe, long the bulwark of Christianity, has fallen from that position as their increasing wealth brings decreasing belief in god.30 The U.S.A., meanwhile, is considered “the great exception” – a country that is both wealthy and deeply religious; the bastion of Christianity, maintaining belief when the original stronghold fell.31
The U.S.A. is unified by more than just belief in the Bible. Perhaps the most important unifying factor for the country is the fact that the entire population shares a single language – only seven percent of the population does not speak English to some degree or another.32 Within the E.U., no such universal language exists – English is the most broadly-spoken language within the E.U., and only a third of the population can speak it.33 This, obviously, can make communication difficult across the E.U.: Europeans regard translation as an important part of life, if not an every-day component of it.34 For the average U.S. citizen, though, such a thought is unlikely to enter their mind – there are a variety of jokes told that riff on the concept of U.S. citizens telling tourists or immigrants to “speak American” when they hear a language other than English being used. Jingoism aside, having a single common language allows for other commonalities – like the existence of a single news network to cover the entire country. Though the U.S.A. does not have a single news network covering the country, it does have networks that provide nationwide coverage – CNN, ABC, and Fox all jockeying for ratings across the entire country. There is no pan-European news network, however; the closest analogue would be broadcast news that cycles through coverage in multiple languages.
The E.U. has more problems with unity than just the lack of a common language across the E.U.: it also lacks a cohesive culture. Within the U.S.A. there are different subcultures: each state has their own identity, and different regions also have theirs. But some things are universal: the nation comes together to watch the Super Bowl, to light off fireworks on the 4th of July, and to never forget 9/11.35 Europe has an answer to the first in the World Cup, but there is no European Independence Day, and no shared day of mourning.36 The U.S.A. has their share of heroes – Abraham Lincoln may be a bit controversial in the South, and Stonewall Jackson similarly so in the North, but George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Hamilton are fairly universal in their appeal. Though the Commission has tried to create a list of founding fathers of the E.U., for one reason or another they have not picked up the same amount of dramatic flair.37 Looking further back into history, each country has their own heroes, from Empress Maria Theresia for the Austrians to Napoleon for the French. But each of these heroes is a villain in another place: Maria Theresia was a religiously oppressive empress, and Napoleon did so much damage to Europe in his wars that he was sent to exile multiple times. There are no universal European heroes, as of yet, and with neither heroes nor language in common, the citizens of the E.U. can find it difficult, at times, to see anything truly keeping them together. This lack of a coherent identity is an ongoing problem faced by the leadership of the E.U., though hopefully they will find a way to address it before it pulls the E.U. apart at the seams.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world has gone through a series of major changes. Fortunately, the age of unilateral rule by the U.S.A. was a short one, and new superpowers rose to counterbalance U.S. power. The E.U., as one of these counterbalancing powers, has the most in common with the U.S.A., but they are certainly not the same. Politically, the two have strong structural differences, from the further division of high-level power present in the E.U. to the relatively lesser powers of the states within the U.S.A.. The relationship between the two is interesting due to the split in power present in the E.U. – some foreign relations are handled at the E.U. level and others at the per-state level. Nonetheless, both are democratic organizations and are unified by their devotion to those ideals.
The U.S.A. has remained the dominant world superpower thanks to having a blend of both hard and soft power – the U.S. military is second to none, and the country remains the most powerful single economies in the world. The E.U., though lacking in any real amount of hard power, is a strong contender for the coveted spot of top global economy. The development of the Euro has brought the countries of the Eurozone closer together, though not without some bumps along the way.
Finally, the two superpowers are culturally very similar – both are, almost by definition, Western civilizations. Both value democracy highly, though the manners in which they do this vary – the people of the United States tend to be more individualistic than their counterparts in the European Union. More than just that divides them – the United States has a strong identity as a country, while the European Union is still struggling to establish such a concept of itself as a coherent whole. This is not expressed solely in the opinions of the people that make up the two superpowers: it is also eminently visible in the different degrees to which the two have centralized power. In sum, though the European Union and the United States of America have some key differences, they also have a great deal in common.

Bibliography

 European Commission: “Special Eurobarometer 386: Europeans and Their Languages“ http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf Published 2012-06, accessed 2016-11-20
 FIFA: “2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Television Audience Report” http://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/tv/01/47/31/11/additionalkeyresults.pdf Accessed 2016-11-20
 Matthias Matthjis and R. Daniel Kelemen: “Europe Reborn: How to Save the European Union from Irrelevance” from January/February 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs
 Statistica: “TV viewership of the Super Bowl in the United States from 1990 to 2016 (in millions)” https://www.statista.com/statistics/216526/super-bowl-us-tv-viewership/ Accessed 2016-11-20
 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: “SIPRI Military Expenditure Database” https://www.sipri.org/databases/milex Accessed 2016-11-20
 Tom Dyson and Theodore Konstadinides: “Understanding the Limitations of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy” http://www.e-ir.info/2013/09/26/understanding-the-limitations-of-the-eus-common-security-and-defence-policy-a-legal-perspective/ Published 2013-09-26, accessed 2016-11-15
Ballotpedia: “List of Political Parties in the United States.” https://ballotpedia.org/List_of_political_parties_in_the_United_States Accessed 2016-11-15
BBC News In Depth: “World Prison Populations” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm Accessed 2016-11-20
BBC News: “Greece admits fudging euro entry” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4012869.stm Published 2004-11-15, accessed 2016-11-20
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf Accessed 2016-11-20
CNN Money: “Europe’s gun laws are about to get even tougher” http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/05/news/gun-control-europe-new-laws/ Published 2016-01-05, accessed 2016-11-20
Dae Woong Kang, Nick Ligthart, and Ashoka Mody:“The ECB and the Fed: A comparative narrative” http://voxeu.org/article/ecb-and-fed-comparative-narrative Published 2016-01-19, accessed 2016-11-20
EUR-Lex: “Directive 94/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 1994 on deposit-guarantee schemes” http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:31994L0019 Accessed 2016-11-23
EUR-Lex: “Division of competences within the European Union” http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3Aai0020 Accessed 2016-11-20
Europa: “Budget” https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/budget_en Accessed 2016-11-15
Europa: “How is the E.U. funded?” https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/money/revenue-income_en Accessed 2016-11-15
Europa: “The Founding Fathers of the EU” https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history/founding-fathers_en Accessed 2016-11-20
Fortune: “Global 500” http://beta.fortune.com/global500/ Accessed 2016-11-20
Fortune: “Top 10 Most Profitable Fortune 500 Companies in 2015” http://fortune.com/2016/06/08/fortune-500-most-profitable-companies-2016/ Accessed 2016-11-20
infoplease: “Powers of the Government” http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0877699.html Accessed 2016-11-20
International Monetary Fund: World Economic Outlook: “Statistical Appendix” http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2016/02/pdf/statapp.pdf Published October 2016, Accessed 2016-11-20
It’s Your Parliament .eu: “Groups.” http://www.itsyourparliament.eu/groups/ Accessed 2016-11-15
KennedyPearce Consulting: “London vs New York: Which is the world’s financial capital?” http://www.kennedypearce.com/worlds-financial-capital/ Accessed 2016-11-20
Pew Research: “5 ways Americans and Europeans are different” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/19/5-ways-americans-and-europeans-are-different/ Published 2016-04-19, accessed 2016-11-20
Pew Research: “Support for Democratic Principles” http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/11/18/1-support-for-democratic-principles/ Published 2015-11-08, accessed 2016-11-20
Reuters: “Death penalty gains new support from voters in several U.S. states” http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-execution-idUSKBN1343C7 Published 2016-11-09, accessed 2016-11-20
Strasbourg l’européene: “Detailed explanations about the Institutions of the European Union.” http://en.strasbourg-europe.eu/detailed-explanations-about-the-institutions-of-the-european-union,3214,en.html Accessed 2016-11-15.
Timothy Garton Ash: “Europe as Not-America” from Free World
U.S. Census Bureau: “ Language Use in the United States: 2011” https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf Published 2013-08, accessed 2016-11-20
USA.gov: “Branches of Government.” https://www.usa.gov/branches-of-government Accessed 2016-11-15
White House Office of Management and Budget: “The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017” https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget Accessed 2016-11-15


  1. Strasbourg l’européene: Detailed explanations about the Institutions of the European Union 
  2. USA.gov: Branches of Government 
  3. Ballotpedia: List of Political Parties in the United States 
  4. It’s Your Parliament .eu: Groups 
  5. Matthjis and Kelemen, page 107 
  6. Dyson and Konstadinides, “Understanding the Limitations of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy” 
  7. Europa: How is the E.U. funded? 
  8. White House Office of Management and Budget: “The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017” 
  9. Europa: “Budget” 
  10. EUR-Lex: Division of competences within the European Union 
  11. infoplease: Powers of the Government 
  12. International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook: Statistical Appendix 
  13. Fortune: Global 500 
  14. Fortune: Top 10 Most Profitable Fortune 500 Companies in 2015 
  15. KennedyPearce Consulting: London vs New York: Which is the world’s financial capital? 
  16. BBC News: Greece admits fudging euro entry 
  17. Kang, Ligthart, and Mody: “The ECB and the Fed: A comparative narrative” 
  18. Matthjis and Kelemen, page 104 
  19. EUR-Lex: Directive 94/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 1994 on deposit-guarantee schemes 
  20. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database 
  21. CNN Money: Europe’s gun laws are about to get even tougher 
  22. Ash, page 74 
  23. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 
  24. Reuters: Death penalty gains new support from voters in several U.S. states 
  25. BBC News In Depth: World Prison Populations 
  26. Pew Research: 5 ways Americans and Europeans are different 
  27. Ibid. 
  28. Ash, page 74 
  29. Pew Research: Support for Democratic Principles 
  30. Pew Research: Generally, poorer nations tend to be religious; wealthy less so, except for U.S. 
  31. Ash, page 74 
  32. U.S. Census Bureau: Language Use in the United States: 2011 
  33. European Commission: Special Eurobarometer 386: Europeans and Their Languages, 19 
  34. Ibid., 9 
  35. Statistica: TV viewership of the Super Bowl in the United States from 1990 to 2016 (in millions) 
  36. FIFA: 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Television Audience Report 
  37. Europa: The Founding Fathers of the EU 

The Reforms of Maria Theresia and Joseph II: The Enlightenment in Austria

This is an essay I wrote for a class I took in the fall of 2016, titled “Austrian Cultural History.” I’ve decided to publish it here because… why not?
The Enlightenment took longer to arrive in the Holy Roman Empire than it did for the other superpowers of the time, but arrive it did. Thanks to the lack of a strong bourgeois class within the population of the Empire, however, Enlightenment did not spring up from below as it did in France. Instead, it was applied from the top down, by the reigning monarchs of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine: Maria Theresia and, later, Joseph II. Under those two rulers (arguably three, because Leopold II, the Emperor following Joseph II, seemed to have plans to continue the works of his predecessors before he died) the Holy Roman Empire felt numerous changes to bring it more in line with the Enlightened thinking of the day.
The Enlightenment brought numerous changes to Europe as a whole, but undoubtedly the furthest-reaching area in which those changes were made was the realm of civil rights. Under the Habsburgs, these changes were limited, as “Enlightened monarchs saw it as their duty to think for their subjects.”1 The largest change implemented in the Habsburg empire was the abolition of serfdom, a slow and complex process that occupied Maria Theresia and her son Joseph II during their respective reigns. Maria Theresia began the process, granting her peasant subjects many of the rights previously afforded only to free tenants. The peasantry was endowed with freedom of movement, the ability to marry without the explicit approval of their liege lord, and freedom to choose their own occupation – though what was granted on paper and what was granted in effect were different. Also notably absent from the list of rights granted to the peasants was freedom from personal service to their liege lord – it was Maria Theresia’s opinion that doing so would lead to the complete dissolution of the lord/subject relationship, eventually causing a complete slide into anarchy.2
Under Joseph II, the expansion of the rights of the peasantry continued – though, in his characteristic fashion, it was done too rapidly and wound up causing more problems than it solved. With the tax and urbanarial regulation of 1789, Joseph II converted the requirement of personal service to their liege lord into a monetary burden, a 30% tax intended to replicate the work accomplished by the traditional system under which two of every five working days were filled with working the lands of the liege lord.3 What he failed to account for was the fact that the agrarian areas in which this was to take effect did not work on a monetary economy like Vienna and the other cities of the empire, but almost entirely on barter. Prepared for argument from the liege lords, Joseph was surprised by the vehemence of the resistance offered by the peasants themselves – the very people his reform had been intended to help.4 Joseph II also brought about other civil rights reforms, beginning with decreasing the amount of censorship in public – though, it should be noted, he replaced it with strong disincentives for those producing works that didn’t match the utilitarian party line. He also enacted legal reform that meant the laws treated all, from the peasantry to the nobility, equally. Unlike his mother, he even opted to halt the use of capital punishment. In this regard he was once again more utilitarian than humanitarian: his Code of Substantive Criminal Law of 1787 replaced capital punishment with life sentences of hard labor, in order “to give the government the benefit of a wretched criminal’s toil.”5
The Enlightenment also brought with it an increasing concern for public health. While Joseph II focused on the construction of public hospitals, Maria Theresia focused more on altering the policies of her empire in order to effect change. Under her reign, vaccination came to the Holy Roman Empire – thanks in no small part to her willingness to have her own children vaccinated. Having used her own flesh and blood to prove the efficacy of the then-unpopular concept, she began to expand the use of vaccination further, going so far as to host a dinner at her Schönbrunn Palace for the first group of children to be vaccinated. She also made provisions for the increasing of medical knowledge, creating a law that made autopsies mandatory for all hospital deaths in the city of Graz – a mandate that produced one of the most thorough records in all of Europe.
For Joseph II, public health reform was an easy decision – not only was it the humanitarian thing to do, but it also met his utilitarian goals: “healthy subjects meant a healthy state.”6 Foremost of his projects was the construction of the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, and the accompanying  Guglhupf (née  Narrenturm), the first such construction the Empire had ever seen.7 Rather than regarding the poor, the ill, and the insane as a single group that should be avoided at all costs, he saw that their problems were distinct and should be treated separately. This focus on public health went further: he opened both the Parter and the Augarten to the public, ignoring the complaints of nobles regarding the lower class invasion of their formerly private rectums. were being invaded by the lower classes.8 He also ordered the cobbling of all the streets within the Viennese city proper, and instituted both a law requiring those new streets by wetted twice a day to prevent dust and a system of prisoner labor to provide such maintenance as the city needed.9
But once again, Joseph had his failings: in the regard of public health, it was his overzealous attempt to regulate the ways in which the Viennese could bury their dead. For the sake of efficiency, he created a system by which the bodies of the dead were put in mass graves, rather than taking the amount of space and effort that individual graves required. What was universally regarded as a step too far, however, was the reusable coffin – a wooden construct into which the body would be laid. The funeral (also regulated down from a miniature Baroque pageant, in the true Viennese style, to something as time-efficient as reasonably possible) would be carried out, and then the priest would release a mechanism, opening the bottom of the coffin and unceremoniously dropping the body therein into the grave below. This affront to the sensibilities of his subjects could not be borne, and after only four months he was forced to retract the decree that created the system of reusable coffins in the first place.10
Though Joseph II is rather famous for having attempted far grander reforms than his mother, there was one area in which he left her changes largely untouched: education. This is perhaps because education was the one area in which Maria Theresia’s reforms were on the same grand scale that Joseph himself preferred to work. Education was also the area that likely would have caused her the most personal anguish, being a large break from the way she herself was raised. Under Maria Theresia, the absolute control of the Austrian education system was finally wrested from the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church and instead placed firmly under the auspices of the state. While the educational system as a whole was not secularized – Maria Theresia was a steadfast believer in the tenets of the Catholic Church, while Joseph II at least recognized the utility of religion in the daily lives of his subjects – the colleges were allowed to expand from the realm of theology, and the long-standing requirement that the students be Catholics themselves was removed. For the lower levels of education, Maria Theresia acted the caring grandmother, creating a school system based on the one used in Prussia that was mandatory from the age of 6 up until the students were 12 years old. She was quite vehement in ensuring that it would take effect, as well: those who resisted the new system were arrested. Perhaps she could have stewed less dissent if she had provided for the costs of the education, but the education was not free; though the seizure of the assets of the Jesuit Order had provided some income that was put towards the new system, this was not able to meet the full cost of the education system.11 Between the cost of textbooks and the cost of tuition itself, the newly implemented schools were none too popular with the parents of the freshly-minted students.
For Joseph, this system was apparently satisfactory. He left it almost entirely untouched, though he did reduce the stature of some of the smaller universities of the realm, judging those in Prague and Vienna to be sufficient to meet the needs of his grand bureaucracy.12 As in all things, he was a utilitarian, and intervened with the university programs to ensure that all their work was for practical purposes: “[Joseph] supported general education only to the extent that the material benefits for society were demonstrable.”13 The only large change he made came as part of a larger edict, by which the institutions of the imperial government as a whole changed their formal language from Latin (or, in some cases, the local language) to German, helping to consolidate the governance of the Empire.
Unlike in the field of education, in the realm of religion Joseph II was far more willing to create change than his mother. Under Maria Theresia, religious reform was so limited as to be nearly nonexistent. She argued that religious freedom was something that “no Catholic prince can permit without heavy responsibility,” and, by and large, wanted little to do with the regulation of the church.14 Her sole aim, with regard to the Church, was to ensure the “primacy of government control in Church-state relations.”15
Joseph II stands in contrast to her restraint towards ecclesiastical affairs. As his reign began, he issued the Patent of Tolerance, granting permission for Jews and Protestants to practice whichever religion they so chose.16 Barring certain architectural limitations, they were also permitted to construct places of worship for their religions. He was not, however, in favor of unbridled religion: even as he was allowing other to practice theirs, he began to limit the ways in which faith could be displayed. The regulations he produced, spanning everything from how long a sermon could last to how many candles were permitted at the altar, “occasionally assumed the character of pettiness.”1718 The aforementioned burial changes were a part of this crusade of efficiency, one of the most visibly unsuccessful aspects of it. But by far the largest of his religious reforms was his nationalization of roughly half of the 2,000 monasteries in Austria and the collection of some 60 million Gulden in taxes and seized assets.19 The resulting funds were placed in a Religious Fund (Religionsfond) that was used to fund the construction and maintenance of a wave of parish churches, striving for an ideal by which “no one should be more than an hour’s walk from his local church.”20
The core of Joseph’s religious reforms was the idea that Catholicism, and religion in general, was a tool of the state. There is even some evidence that he considered the foundation of a Church of Austria, taking religion from an area where it was regulated by the state to a realm in which it was directly controlled.21 As part of these efforts, he made numerous other changes to bring the Church to heel: marriage was made from an ecclesiastical into a civil procedure; the number of religious holidays recognized by the state was reduced; and joining monasteries was discouraged, in no small part by banning the taking of monastic vows before the age of 24.2223 His concept of ‘modernized Catholicism’ was not only a Catholicism obedient to the state, it was one that did as little as possible to interfere with the productivity of the populace, instead encouraging the subjects of the empire to work for the collective betterment of the state and her people.
There were other reforms, of course, though none quite so far-reaching as those mentioned above. No discussion of Maria Theresia’s changes would be complete without a mention of the “comprehensive reforms” of the Empire’s military that she was forced to make in her struggle to hold the throne.24 In order to support her new military machine, she also became responsible for the construction of a new centralized bureaucracy, “adapting ancient institutions to modern needs.”25 Many of the new institutions she created are still functional today, including “the Officers’ Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt and the ‘Theresianum’ Diplomatic College in Vienna.”26 In doing so, she increased the status of Vienna as a whole, making it even more than before the heart of the Empire.27
Of Joseph II’s reforms, many have been left unmentioned – he was rather prolific in that regard. Unlike his predecessors, who left the Baroque palaces of Vienna and Austria, he focused on the construction of public goods – hospitals, orphanages, barracks, and so on.28 He continued his mother’s expansions of the city of Vienna, not only cleaning the streets but also lighting them, and enforcing the clear labelling of streets and houses.29
Maria Theresia, known as the ‘daughter of one age and mother of another,’ marked the beginning of the Enlightenment in the Holy Roman Empire. Though she herself wasn’t fully in favor of the ideals of the era, she nonetheless made numerous changes to help modernize her realm, starting with the requisite military and bureaucratic reforms needed for her to remain on the throne, but then expanding to some civil rights reforms and the educational system for which she is still known today. Her son, Joseph II, was truly an Enlightened emperor – though one who was far less effective, in the long run, than she was, thanks to the overzealous nature of his numerous reforms. Nonetheless, between the two of them they were able to make a great deal of progress towards bringing Enlightened ideals to the Holy Roman Empire.

Bibliography

Kann, Robert A.: “A History of the Habsburg Empire: 1526-1918”
Lehne, Inge and Johnson, Lonnie: “Vienna- The Past in the Present: A Historical Survey”
Parsons, Nicholas: “Vienna: A Cultural History”
Rickett, Richard: “A Brief Survey of Austrian History”


  1. Lehne-Johnson, 70 
  2. Kann, 196 
  3. Kann, 198 
  4. Kann, 199 
  5. Kann, 180 
  6. Lehne-Johnson, 64 
  7. Parsons, 186-187 
  8. Lehne-Johnson, 64-66 
  9. Lehne-Johnson, 66-67 
  10. Lehne-Johnson, 67 
  11. Kann, 193 
  12. Kann, 194 
  13. Kann, 192 
  14. Parsons, 176 
  15. Kann, 187 
  16. Lehne-Johnson, 61 
  17. Rickett, 65 
  18. Lehne-Johnson, 63 
  19. Parsons, 185-186 
  20. Parsons, 186 
  21. Kann, 184 
  22. Kann, 180 
  23. Kann, 189 
  24. Kann, 160 
  25. Rickett, 63-64 
  26. Rickett, 63-64 
  27. Lehne-Johnson, 58 
  28. Lehne-Johnson, 67 
  29. Lehne-Johnson, 70 

“Cara Mia Addio”

This was a short paper I wrote about the titular song for a class on music technology, which I said at one point I might post. Here it is!
I’ve made two changes: the transitioning of my citations from a “available in my notes but not visible otherwise” to “accessible by all,” and the addition of this note.

I chose to partially ignore the “no YouTube videos” part of this assignment, because I felt that the video was an important part of the song. They were created together, after all, as part of an even larger multimedia project: Portal 2, one of the top-selling games made by one of the world’s most famous video game companies. The compositional arc of the game as a whole is fascinating: Valve’s in-house composer, Mike Morasky, wrote almost the entire soundtrack for the game1 while working closely with their programming teams. Though the soundtrack was eventually rendered down to a still form for the release of Songs to Test By, within the game they’re procedurally-generated MIDI, with pre-set starting points that are then algorithmically developed to match the gameplay in a way that’s almost guaranteed to be unique to the player. (Morasky once stated that one of the pieces only repeats itself every 76,911.3 years, roughly.)
“Cara Mia Addio” was not a procedurally generated song, though the exact method by which it was made did rely on MIDI audio. In the studio, Morasky gave McClain2 the music he’d written for the turrets to sing and a melodic line for her, and asked her to improvise the words. The resulting melody, based on what she referred to as “my terrible Italian” became the Turret Opera. Morasky edited that recording to ensure that it didn’t sound too human – the ‘singer’ within the game being a robotic gun-turret – and then fed the backing sounds into the game engine itself.
That’s what I found most interesting about this – though the scene was rendered as a video file, not running live on the game engine,3 it was built within the same game engine that ran Portal 2, Source. Valve’s in-house animating tool, now released to the public as Source Filmmaker,4 provides deep control of every aspect of the game engine. Morasky (and, presumably, some of Valve’s animators) used sounds that had already been implemented in the game engine to provide all the voices save the melodic line. If I had to guess, I’d say that the system running animation queues was based on MIDI, as that’d be the easiest way to sync the visuals with the triggered sounds.
And a final note on those triggered sounds: all of the ‘turret voice’ effects were based on McClain’s voice, meaning that she sang the full chorus and solo of the song. Quite an impressive range.


  1. A single song, “Want You Gone” was composed by Jonathan Coulton as a call-back to the piece he wrote for the first Portal, “Still Alive”.
    “Exile Vilify” was written and recorded by The National, though based on early materials given to the band by Valve, in order to match the scene in which the song would be played. 
  2. The game has very few voice actors involved – the main character, in a manner characteristic of Valve games, never speaks. Off the top of my head, there are only two other characters with repeat appearances, GLADoS and Wheatley. (A few other minor characters have lines, but nothing more than a couple of words at a time.)
    McClain, by contrast, voices GLADoS, a character who moves from ‘narrator’ to ‘ally’ to ‘antagonist’ and back fluidly, as well as providing the sounds that would be edited into the audio for all of the turrets throughout. 
  3. Citation 
  4. Citation