This is an edited extract from the book The Song Remains the Same: 800 Years of Love Songs, Laments and Lullabies by Andrew Ford and Anni Heino, an illuminating history of the song that traces connections from different cultures and times: love songs, anthems, protest songs, lullabies, folk songs, jazz standards, lieder and pop. Out on December 2 through La Trobe University Press.

Limelight has 25 copies to share with gift givers this Christmas. Click here or see the end of this article for more information.

In the century that invented the song cycle, in the very city in which it was invented, Franz Schubert was Vienna’s preeminent composer of songs. One of the best known, Ständchen (Serenade), comes from his final song cycle, Schwanengesang (Swansong), assembled posthumously by his publisher, Tobias Haslinger. Unlike its predecessors, Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill) and Winterreise (The Winter’s Journey), it has no narrative arc and is really just a collection of songs. The words aren’t even all by the same poet.

Andrew FordAndrew Ford

Schubert’s songs in general are notable for the way in which they not only present the poetry of the...