Gabriel Fauré and l’organisation du mouvement: Poetic prosody and rhythmic continuity in the songs (1861–1921)

Bilodeau, Darquise (2017) Gabriel Fauré and l’organisation du mouvement: Poetic prosody and rhythmic continuity in the songs (1861–1921). Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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The songs of Gabriel Fauré form a significant part of the recitalist’s repertoire and have been the subject of in-depth musical analysis, particularly from the middle of the twentieth century to this day. However, relatively little has been written about the relationship between poetic and musical rhythm in Fauré’s romances and mélodies. This is especially important in light of Fauré’s very personal compositional style in the songs, namely forward motion based on the musical pulse. This thesis investigates the origins of this motion from the angle of French poetics, drawing upon the work of Henri Meschonnic and Gérard Dessons as they consider l’organisation du mouvement (the organisation of motion) in poetry. In applying a similar approach to consider the way in which Fauré creates, controls and sustains musical motion and intensity in his songs, this thesis sheds new light on the role of French speech rhythms and versification in the mélodie.

Through analysis of text, musical excerpts and discussion of select sound recordings, this thesis highlights the means by which Fauré achieves expressive prosody in his songs as his settings reflect the changing poetic practice of the second half of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century through the Romantic, Parnassian and Symbolist poetic styles. Whilst forward motion on the pulse remains central to his concept of musical motion, analysis reveals that Fauré responds to poetic innovations by moving away from vocal lyricism to an expressive recitation of the poetic text using a limited number of processes; chief among them is the near neutralisation of musical metre and accentuation in order to prioritise the durational stresses in French language.

By integrating speech rhythms and poetic prosody into his songs, Fauré attests to his lifelong aim of accurately expressing the poet’s voice and mind into musical recitation. However, Fauré’s musical organisation du mouvement bears important implications for the performance of his mélodies and of French song in general, since metre and regular accentuation are replaced by irregular note values and the reduced tessitura of a declamationbased mélodie. More specifically, Fauré achieves a complete transformation of the genre: through his understanding of poetic processes and stylistic transformations, he contributes to changing the role of the singer from that of a vocalist to a récitant, that is, one who recites.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
9 February 2017Completed
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-04 - languages and area studies > CAH19-04-01 - French studies
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-02 - performing arts > CAH25-02-02 - music
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2019 16:11
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:54

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