Rimsky-Korsakov’s Frame Story

Although I lack the proper vocabulary to discuss classical music on a professional level, I can say I picked up on the frame story motif when listening to “Scheherazade: Orchestral suite after A Thousand and One Nights.” Considering the Nights origins in oral storytelling, Korsakov’s musical representation is a novel mirror of that tradition. Just as different translators have distinct interpretations (and thus, distinct publications) of the Nights, Korsakov uses an orchestra to illustrate his own take on the tales.

Putting together the meaning of Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” seems similar to putting together a puzzle. Before you can analyze what is actively happening, you have to determine who or what those actions belong to. For example, visualizing the frame story through this piece would be challenging if you didn’t discern the voices of Scheherazade and the King. What stood out to me while listening to different sections of the piece were repetitive measures, which would overlay or underlay different sections of the piece. This conflation is what seems to underscore the tales occurring in their relation to the frame story. It’s a distinct reminder that the stories are constantly linked to their frame, and encourages the listeners to stay engaged with both the outer and inner frames simultaneously.

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