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Voice LessonsFrench Mélodie in the Belle Epoque$
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Katherine Bergeron

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337051

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337051.001.0001

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Free Speech, Free Verse, and “Music before All Things”

Free Speech, Free Verse, and “Music before All Things”

(p.121) Chapter Three Free Speech, Free Verse, and “Music before All Things”
Voice Lessons

Katherine Bergeron

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes up French poets in the years around 1900, to reconsider their relationship to music and musicians. Through close readings of works by Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and testimonies by younger poets such as Camille Mauclair, Robert de Souza, and others, it proposes an alternative reading of the literary movement conventionally known as “symbolism” in light of the linguistic history presented in the previous chapter. The connection between poetic and scientific experimentation is especially evident in the rhetoric surrounding vers libre, which revealed how poets of the period were aware of the material properties of language, especially timbre and rhythm. The chapter goes on to observe how French composers echoed this awareness in their new approaches to French prosody, an awareness that becomes clear through a close analysis of two sets of songs by Fauré and Debussy.

Keywords:   Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, symbolism, vers libre, prosody, timbre, Fauré, Debussy

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