UBC Theses and Dissertations
Unifying devices in Poulenc : a study of the cycles Banalités and Tel jour telle nuit Dawson, Terence Evan
Francis Poulenc has made a significant contribution to twentieth century repertoire for voice and piano. Many of his songs are published in collections under a single title. These collections are often referred to as cycles, but they do not always fall into the definition of a song cycle in the traditional sense. The goal of this paper is to disclose a cyclic nature on a structural level in the music of Banalités, using Tel jour telle nuit as a model for critical examination of both works. The introduction to the thesis addresses both the problem of defining a song cycle, and the implications such a definition has on categorizing the works Banalités and Tel jour telle nuit. Chapter One explores influences of composers, teachers and artistic movements on Poulenc's early life and outlines his significant compositional periods. In addition, this chapter cites specific works indicative of a maturation process in Poulenc's approach to vocal settings. Chapter Two investigates the poetic texts of Banalités and Tel jour telle nuit. Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Eluard were integral figures in the developments of Surrealism and its formation as an artistic movement. The chapter analyses the linkage between the poems within each work, offering interpretive solutions. Chapter Three, which constitutes the main body of the paper, provides a detailed analysis of the general architecture and shape of each cycle in terms of formal structure, harmonic and melodic language, and text-music relationships. The analysis reveals that both cycles are highly integrated and unified through various devices, such as literal restatement of materials, intervallic relationships and stylistic resemblances at the levels of texture, tempo and tonal structure. Moreover, metric aspects of both poetry and music are shown to also contribute to that integration. In light of this investigation, unifying devices of both a covert and overt nature testify to the cyclic nature of Banalités and Tel jour telle nuit, yet point to the different type of cycle each work outlines. This conclusion helps the performers to convey the unity of the song cycles, thus doing justice to the sense in which Poulenc conceived the works.
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