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Evolution du role de la musique dans l'oeuvre de Marcel Proust Michaud, Lucile Eliane

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to illustrate the evolution of the rôle of music in the works of Marcel Proust. Because of the autobiographical character of his two novels, we concluded that the importance given to music is related to the importance he gave to this art in his life. His rare sensitivity to sounds and his genuine musical temperament can be traced throughout his works, and mainly in the numerous notations of "musique naturelle" (sounds heard in nature such as the song of a bird, the hum of a fly, the sound of a bell, etc. ...) so meaningful in particular to the narrator of Jean Santeuil. In order to show exactly which factors contributed to his musical formation, this study outlines the musical climate in France at the turn of the century and demonstrates, thanks to hints and assertions of his own made in his correspondence and in his works, the influence his family, his friends and the high society he was associated with, had on his musical formation, and what his musical taste was. With these elements, one can approach the study of the function of music in Proust's works. If music does not have an important rôle in his early works, Les Plaisirs et les jours and Jean Santeuil, it is nevertheless essential to consider it closely since, in regard to music, these works contain in embryonic form some of the most important structural devices that will be used in A la Recherche du Temps perdu (e.g., the satire of musical snobbery, the relationship between music and the theme of remembrance, between music and the theme of love). Such an account of the musical features in Proust's early works enables us to measure what the later masterwork owes to these. In A la Recherche nature gradually disappears and makes room for society. In a parallel direction to this, natural music is replaced by written music heard in the "salons". The reactions of people to music differ greatly according to their culture and temperament. Therefore, regarding the personality of the characters, much is revealed to the reader through this music associated with society in A la Recherche. Among the parallels that can be established between the characters of A la Recherche who are connected with music, the one between Swann and the Narrator is the most significant. It is Vinteuil's music (imaginary music written with words by Proust) that has the essential structural function of bringing into relief those two different personalities and their different destinies; for the one, a failure, for the second, an artistic vocation. Beside having this structural rôle in A la Recherche, music is always present in the particular style that Proust develops in the work. His language is full of metaphors, many of which are borrowed from music. Some musical techniques are also apparent in his composition, such as the crescendo, the diminuendo, the ternary rhythm, the dissonances, etc. Proust, much influenced by Wagner, also shows in his long novel great stylistic and even structural affinities with the Wagnerian operas. The use of the leitmotiv, the length and the complexity of his sentences, the synthesis of the different arts, and the relationship between nature and music in his works are as many features that Proust has in common with the composer that he admired throughout his life.

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