AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Les Chansons de Bilitis: A Symbiotic Collaboration between Two Artists Claude Debussy and Pierre Louys with an Annotated Performance Guide and Original Translations

by Carmella Tian Cao

Institution: University of Nevada – Las Vegas
Year: 2015
Keywords: Chansons de Bilitis; Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918; Louÿs, Pierre, 1870-1925; Musical analysis; Music; Musicology
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2135262
Full text PDF: http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/thesesdissertations/2336


This document examines Claude Debussy’s Les Chansons de Bilitis to understand how Debussy, in his musical settings reflects the literary texts of Bilitis written by Pierre Louÿs. The purpose is to gain insight into the interdisciplinary collaborations among artists in fin-de-siècle France. Many of Debussy’s most famous pieces, such as Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, were inspired by poetry. In this document I contend that Les Chansons de Bilitis could play a more meaningful role within the repertoire of the flute canon. This piece was composed in 1901 with a unique instrumentation of two flutes, two harps, celesta, and female narrator and is structured in such a way that the music and poetry do not overlap in sequence of the performance. This allows complete emphasis and understanding of Louÿs’s words with a direct reflection in the music. Chapter one of this document discusses background information about Debussy, Louÿs, the poetry collection, and circumstances of the musical work. Chapter two of this document provides a musical and literary analysis of the work as published in 1971 by Jobert. I have translated the twelve poems from French to English, as I believe it is extremely important to understand the text in order to capture Debussy’s musical intentions. This document is different from previous publications because it takes into great consideration the importance of the text in relation to the music. Advisors/Committee Members: Jennifer Grim, Cheryl Taranto, Marina Sturm, Kenneth Hanlon, Margaret Harp.