The history of Western Classical Music (that is, art music from the Western European Tradition) since 1600 is often divided into the stylistic periods Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, and Modern. While the details of these periods is well beyond the scope of this class, I do want to address some specifics of the Romantic period.
This music was heard during most of the 19th century. Its characteristics include an emphasizing of self expression, almost to the level, in some cases of exhibitionism. The Berlioz Fantastic Symphony, discussed in lecture 2, is an excellent example of this style.
Franz Schubert, the composer of the Erlkoing, was another composer who worked in the romantic style. He helped to develop a new type of composition, the art song, or German Lieder. This was simply a setting of a poem to music with piano accompaniment. The Erlkoing is a setting of Goethe’s classic poem that serves to bring out the meaning in a vivid and dramatic way.
There is little to us that is more troubling then the death of a child. We accept and understand (at least as a people, even if we don’t individually) that adults eventually pass on – however it at odds with our core beliefs to have to bury our children. Killers of children – our “bogeymen” – are among the most reviled members of our societies.
Even though, for the purposes of this class, we are using the Erlkoing as a general purpose bogeyman, the “historical” Erlkoing” has been assigned a number of characteristics, from a scary elf, to a child molester, to a kind of grim reaper. Here is who one website that deals with Norse mythology describes him:
Land of Origin: Germany.
Other Origins: Denmark.
Other Names: The Danish name is Ellerkonge.
Appearance and Temperament:
Erlkonig means "Elf King," and that is how he appears, as an Elf with a huge golden crown and expensively tailored clothing. He is seen only by someone just before death.
Time Most Active: All year.
The Erlkonig (Earl-koe-neeg) is like a Beansidhe in that he warns of the approach of death. But instead of warning everyone within hearing range, he appears only to the one about to die.
The Erlkonig has long been a part of Germanic folklore; his origins go far back into the dark years of history.
In 1815, Austrian composer Franz Schubert immortalized the Elf King legend when