Dolce Stil Novo is a slightly unconventional kind of tone poem. As the title suggests, the main inspiration for the piece is the poetry of Dante Alighieri, especially that subset of it which belongs to his so-called "Sweet New Style." While the three successive intermezzi are tied only obliquely to this subject, the first and final movements make direct reference to Dante's Sweet New Style as found in the Vita Nuova, an autobiographical compilation of prose and verse. In this way, the piece is a reflection on Dante's writings from two perspectives: that of the author (in the first and final movements) and that of the reader (in the middle movements). The narrative of the piece alternates between these perspectives in its three sections:
Section 1 "Venus Tristior". A reader takes up the Vita Nuova and gets only about halfway through-not quite to Donne ch' avete intelletto d'amore, the first poem written in the dolce stil novo. Without it being any kind of comment on the quality of the book, the reader eventually falls asleep.
Section 2 "Piano Portrait," "Commuting on a Pileated Woodpecker with Mild Psychosis," and "The Surreal". The sleeping reader dreams of what has been read so far. In the dream, esoteric themes of the Vita Nuova play themselves out through an amalgam of eclectic memories and images taken from the reader's own life. Gradually, the dream devolves into a nightmare, symbolizing the fall of man (which may be one of the allegorical meanings of the story of lost love that Dante tells in the Vita Nuova) .
Section 3 "Beata Beatrix". Awaking to :finish the text, the reader is deeply moved by the account and especially by Dante's reaction to the death of Beatrice. This leaves the reader thoughtful and filled with the peace of God.
Composition | Music | Music Performance
McDunn, Timothy W., "Dolce stil novo" (2014). Compositions. 44.