Singing of Sound and Silence: Symbolism, Mélodie, and Francophone Identity in the Fin-de-siècle Open Access

McGhee, Cana (Spring 2019)

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Framed by linguistic nationalist contexts during the fin-de-siècle, this project explores the relationship between the francophone Symbolist movement and vocal settings of Symbolist works. The opening chapter describes the French and Belgian linguistic nationalist climates throughout the nineteenth century, and the way literature contributes to dialogues about language use. The second chapter analyzes the Symbolist movement’s emergence during a time of shifting linguistic ideologies. Ultimately positing that art song responds to similar language-minded concerns as Symbolist poetry, this chapter firstly discusses music’s role in shaping Symbolist aesthetics, and then addresses the role of Symbolism in the development of French art song known as mélodie. In the third chapter, Frenchman Gabriel Fauré – admired salon composer, director of the Paris Conservatoire, and composer of mélodie – moves to the forefront. The chapter compares two of his song cycles, La Bonne Chanson (1894) and La Chanson d’Eve (1906), to highlight musical portrayals of sound and silence, and what these contrasts reveal about the role of singing and the human voice in personal and communal developments. Fauré’s use of irony in these mélodies supports earlier assumptions about Symbolists’ concerns about linguistic identity and language use. The concluding chapter steps into an international arena by employing archival materials from the Contemporary Art Archives in Brussels to elucidate Fauré’s role in annual avant-garde expositions held from 1886-1914, expositions that he attended, and which regularly featured his music. In addition to addressing Fauré’s positionality in the expositions, the chapter presents Belgian responses to displays of such artistic Frenchness and explores the artistic relationship between two francophone European counterparts. This chapter considers Fauré as a supporter of artistic communities outside of Paris, which demonstrates his participation in broader transnational discourse. Broadly, this thesis contributes to understanding the field of encounters between Symbolism, French-language vocal music, and linguistic nationalist politics. Analyzing the literary movement alongside the music of one of mélodie’s leading composers renews understandings of the ways in which linguistic values translate and transcribe themselves into other cultural artefacts.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Linguistic Nationalism chez les Francophones p. 1

Chapter Two: Vibristes of Words and Music p. 23

Chapter Three: Fauré’s Silent Song Cycles p. 50

Chapter Four: Manifesting Symbolism p. 105

Conclusion p. 132

Works Cited p. 137

Appendix 1: Score Excerpts p. 140

Appendix 2: Images from the Archives p. 174

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