Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle; Università di Torino
Musical choice and poetic expression: the negotiation of meaning in Debussy’s Clair de lune
The mélodie française, as is the case for other forms of song, can be understood as the outcome of an interaction between composer and poet, which results in turn in an original artistic expression. My intention is to analyze a particular problematization of the esthetic relationship between the instance that produces meaning and the instance that receives it. This problematization is caused by a complication entailed by the musical transposition itself, as regards the means by which the artistic object in question proves to be remarkable, not only esthetically, but also semantically.
Therefore, I will propose a conceptual apparatus that can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between text and music in a given piece. This will be developed on the basis of three heterogeneous theoretical references: the theory of reception according to the formulations of Hans Robert Jauß and Wolfgang Iser; the notion of “hermeneutic window” proposed by Lawrence Kramer; and the concept of “network of possible texts” put forward by Michel Charles.
Secondly, I will present an example: Debussy’s mélodie Clair de lune (1903). I will discuss it in relation to the analytical possibilities opened by the conceptual framework that I have briefly sketched above. I will also consider the consequences of the process of musical setting on the poet’s subjective expression, surreptitiously established in the poem by subtle metrical irregularities and semantical ambiguities. The way Debussy resolves or does not resolve these issues in the mélodie is revealing of a dynamic negotiation between the constraints of poetic form and those of the musical one, which, ultimately, comes down to a negotiation of meaning.
Lucia Pasini is a graduate student at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and the University of Turin, where she is working on a dissertation about the musical reception of contemporary French poetry during the period between 1870 and 1914.
She has recently published the following article: “Des formes sonores en mouvement: le langage poétique de Stéphane Mallarmé” in Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio (vol. 14, n. 1: 143-54, 2020). She also gave the following talk: “The Sound of Robert Frost: Listening to Poetry” at the 16th International Conference on Music Analysis and Theory – Dichotomous Paths and Clashes: Complexities and Multiplicities in Music Analysis and Theory, held at the ISSM “G. Lettimi” in Rimini (10-13 October 2019) and organized by the Gruppo di Analisi e Teoria Musicale (GATM).
Her research is supported by De Sono Associazione per la Musica.