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Jean-Louis Cupers

Illustrations

10. From Bede’s Ecclesiastical History to Britten’s Peter Grimes

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Et si l’on doute de la puissance de telles confrontations à les avancer dans la connaissance profonde chacun de leur propre activité, qu’on relise l’inoubliable entretien de Chopin et d’Eugène Delacroix, au Journal de celui-ci (samedi 7 avril 1843).
Étienne Souriau, La correspondance des arts, Paris, Flammarion, 1969, 2e ed., p. 22

Strictly literary and strictly musical criticism tend to examine the opera libretto and its musical setting exclusively from their own points of view, without taking into account that the libretto is a literary text written specifically to be set to music, and that the score is a musical composition written specifically to accompany a verbal text.

Carolyn Roberts Finlay, “Structural Paradigms. A Semiotic Approach to the Opera Text”, Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, XXXV, 1986, p. 25

  • 1 Louis Marin, “On Reading Pictures: Poussin’s Letter on Manna”, Comparative Criticism, IV, 1982, (sp (...)

1We read a letter, a poem, a book. What does it mean to read a drawing, a painting, a fresco? For, if the term” reading” is clearly appropriate to a book, is it also applicable to a painting? If, by extension, we talk about “a reading” with regard to a painting, the question of the validity and legitimacy of this extension of meaning emerges. However, whether it be as a simple figure of speech or as an abuse of language, the fact remains that in the expression “reading a painting” a meaning persists; or if not a meaning, at least a place where we find a commonly held territory, a partial and uncertain overlapping between the legible and the visible, between the written page and its reading on the one hand and the painting and its viewing on the other1.

  • 2 See Calvin S. Brown, “The Writing and Reading of Language and Music”, Yearbook of Comparative and G (...)

2 These opening lines of the paper on Poussin delivered by Louis Marin at the University of Canterbury, shortly after the Innsbruck Congress, spotlight a number of perspectives opening onto the problems for which musico-poetics, in particular librettology, a discipline invented by Ulrich Weisstein, is a suitable term. If there is an “implicit comparison” in the reading or decoding cited by Marin, the link between the two arts of music and literature is practically inevitable. One of the first documents by which the beginnings of English literature proper are at all known to us is there to remind us of the fact. Whereas, when reading a painting, the reader may go from left to right, he may also, needless to say, go from right to left, from top to bottom, from bottom to top or diagonally. This is not the case, at least in an initial literal sense, where music and literature are concerned, as the reading follows the temporal direction. In other words, if the problem is inverted, it may likewise be said, according to the celebrated phrase, that words paint by metaphor but ring, in some ways, by definition: the tertium comparationis is therefore, at least from this standpoint, strictly identical2. There is virtually no difference between musical and literary reading, except in the case of certain cultural contexts. As Munro writes:

  • 3 Thomas Munro, The Arts and Their Interrelations, New York, The Liberal Arts Press, 1951, p. 403.

A printed text or musical score is a visible set of directions for performance, audible or imaginary. Aesthetic theory should frankly recognize these variations, and the fact that literature as a whole cannot be forced into any one category on the present basis. This extreme variability of the sensory symbols through which literary forms are conveyed is still further augmented by language differences, and provides the art with great flexibility in presentation3.

  • 4 See Louis Marin, op. cit., p. 3-5. See also Jean-Pierre Barricelli, Melopoeiesis, New York, New Yor (...)

3The relevance of inter-art scholarship is therefore immediately apparent. Ideally, the aim is to throw light reciprocally on the different arts, to formulate theoretical levels of interpretation in which disparities and similarities prove relevant, and finally to pinpoint those historical and cultural dimensions in which such disparities and similarities are set in action, and in which the legible, visible and audible hinge together according to highly variable diagrammes, which unite and contrast them in turn4.

*

  • 5 Among recent contributions to the field see, e.g., “Musique et littérature de Guillaume de Machaut (...)

4My paper will try to illustrate, by means of the opera libretto, which has come of late into an unprecedented wealth of detailed studies,5 both the potentialities and the pitfalls of the musico-literary field, by first setting it in its initial context, chosen intentionally from amongst those of modern literatures with the longest history, and then to examine the field of investigation opened up by the comparison of music and literature within the context of some recent articles on vocal music.

5The interdependent origins of musical and literary practice provide a glimpse of a world as marvellous as it is undivided. If we go back in time, the first narratives bear witness to the inseparability of the two arts. In his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum – the basic document (completed in 731) providing us with something of an insight into the English early Middle Ages – Bede reports the – from our present point of view particularly interesting – circumstances in which the first English poet is brought to sing his divine vision:

As a matter of fact, he had lived in the secular estate until he was well advanced in age without learning any songs. Therefore, at feasts, when it was decided to have a good time by taking turns singing, whenever he would see the harp getting close to his place, he got up in the middle of the meal and went home.

  • 6 See Albert B. Lord, The Singer of Tales, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960. See also Calvin (...)

6Contemporary commentators must elucidate the exact constituents of an oral poetry close to that of those homeric bards recently rediscovered in the Balkans of the xxth century6. The musical instrument passes from hand to hand, and each guest proposes in turn to give his own interpretation of the poem. The harp is tangible evidence of this inevitable interrelationship between the two arts.

7Enamoured with theory, Greek antiquity took pleasure in underlining, and even exaggerating the musical aspects of a dual practice: the indissolubility of the union is particularly apparent in the division of the arts which it proposed at one time.

  • 7 See James A. Winn, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music, Lond (...)
  • 8 See Wladislaw Tatarkiewicz, History of Aesthetics, Paris, Mouton, 1970, Vol. 1 (“Ancient Aesthetics (...)
  • 9 See Jean-Louis Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique, Bruxelles, Public (...)

8Music is vocal as poetry is sung7. This acoustic base which contrasts music and poetry with the visual arts led the Greeks to see music as an integral part of poetry and vice versa8. As a result, there is no term which designated a non-dramatic literary art as distinct from musical art9.

  • 10 The phrase is borrowed from Solange Corbin, L’Eglise à la conquête de sa musique, Paris, Gallimard, (...)

9 If, at the other end of the evolutionary spectrum, Christoph Bernhard could propose in the seventeenth century a henceforward traditional analysis of what has progressively appeared as the three possible “mariages du son et du verbe10”, it is because the alliance has become problematic. We are no longer far from the concept of the unicity and autonomy of the different arts which Lessing was shortly to put forward in his famous Laocoon, initially published in 1766.

  • 11 See Hans Heinz Dräger, “The Relations of Music to Words during the German Baroque Era”, in George S (...)

10Vocal music further raises the basic problem of expression in the arts. The question posed is the following: is it not the fundamental ambiguity of the material which makes possible the functioning of the musical rhetoric, which Schütz’s disciple helps us to understand in his remarkable treatises11?

  • 12 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 39-55 (« Un préalable spécifique: les aspects musicaux du langa (...)

11But if music is not, in the strict sense, parole, all parole is music12. The real problem is therefore relatively well illustrated by the famous parody of Charles Lalo when he says, basing himself upon the undifferentiated origin of expression and communication,

  • 13 Charles Lalo, « L’esthétique musicale », in Norbert Dufourcq, ed., La musique, des origines à nos j (...)

En adaptant à la musique un mot célèbre que Locke et Leibniz ont écrit pour la sensation et l’intelligence, on pourrait dire qu’il n’y a rien dans la musique qui n’ait été d’abord dans le langage, le rythme, la magie et la religion, si ce n’est la musique même13.

12The question therefore is how to formulate correctly this theory of expression in music, of which aesthetics so forcefully feels the need.

  • 14 Ibid., p. 508-510.
  • 15 See Raymond Court, Le musical, Paris, Klincksieck, 1976, p. 250-261 (« Qu’est-ce qu’une musique pur (...)
  • 16 See Marcel Beaufils, Musique du son, musique du verbe, Paris, PUF, 1954, p. 61-93 (« L’androgyne in (...)
  • 17 See Calvin S. Brown, Music and Literature, op. cit., p. 268-271 (“Conclusion”).
  • 18 See Étienne Souriau, op. cit., p. 126 and following.

13If music were simply reduced to the numerus, even in the more elaborate form proposed by Leibniz (“musica est exercitium arithmaticae occultum nescientis se numerare animi14”), we would still be unable to get out of the difficulty, because it would then suffice to return to the traditional dichotomy of discourse and rhythm in order to characterize what is language in language and music in music. Does the surplus of meaning not lie precisely in the hybrid character of the material? Should the contradictions of formalist and expressionist aesthetics not be solved by the discovery of a dual articulation, not only at the level of language and therefore of literary art, which goes more or less without saying, but also of the different arts, including those which do not pass via the mediation of words15? But the very privilege of music is that it can both dispense sovereignly with this mediation, and seek it passionately as its hermaphrodite16. The history of music and the history of literature may thus appear, from a certain point of view, as haunted by the seizure of the objectives of this other self, which is the other art17. The basic problem is, however, as Souriau has so eloquently shown, that it is impossible – unless liberties are taken with the facts – to get one to match perfectly with the other18.

14Whereas, in music, it is a question of trying to elucidate what all the arts have in common, i.e., the generating principle of any form that is autonomous and yet institutive of a communication that is no longer discourse but presence, this cannot be reduced to any list of atomised items. It is not because the cinema can be reduced to what it owes to a certain number of other arts which have preceded it that it cannot play the role of a fresh reality.

  • 19 See respectively Guy Scarpetta, L’impureté, Paris, Grasset, 1985 and James A Winn, op. cit., passim(...)
  • 20 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 118-119.
  • 21 See Steven P. Scher, “Beethoven and the Word: Literary Affinity or Artistic Necessity?”, Jahrbuch d (...)
  • 22 See John Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986.

15Here, as elsewhere, the whole is obviously greater than the sum of its parts. The problems of genesis and identification have to be raised – and these problems both complicate (realities being mingled) and simplify the debate (it being easier to identify the elements involved and the comparisons to be drawn). Yet each of the arts acts as a separate entity. Whether it be a question of their creative interaction or of their separation seen as a form of progress in aesthetics19, inter-artistic scholarship applies itself to all the levels and variants of mutual interpenetration and considers that neither abundance or economy need to be regarded – a priori – as virtues20. Although the allocation of a place of honour to one or other art still appears to be the major danger, the particular hierarchy of an era or of an author may prove revealing. If Zelter replies to Goethe that musicians do not basically know what is really musical in music21, this is also, as we have seen, because music has freed itself, progressively, from language, in which it already existed22.

*

16The complexity of the first example that I would like to expose here is immediately revealed: the symbiosis of music and literature in vocal music, in those relationships between speech and music to which Raymond Court, in one of the most remarkable disquisitions on the art of music to have been published in recent years, assigns such an eminent place with regard to the elucidation of the radical and exemplary opposition between the Hegelian and Nietzschean philosophies of art.

  • 23 See Steven P. Scher, letter to Jean-Louis Cupers, 28 December 1988: « Ursula Mathis of Innsbruck ha (...)

17 Schematically, there are three basic options open to the composer of texted music23, and Bernhard (1627-1692) had already grouped these options into two distinct styles in his theoretical formulation of the motet in the seventeenth century. Indeed, according to Bernhard, there are two styli between the respective poles of music and text, namely the stylus gravis and the stylus luxurians, which can be divided in turn into stylus luxurians communis and stylus luxurians comicus vel theatralis. Each of the three solutions may be represented by a Latin phrase:

stylus gravis: “harmonia orationis domina” (the text is subordinate to the music);
stylus luxurians communis: “oratio ac harmonia domina” (the text and the music are equally important);
stylus luxurians comicus vel theatralis: “oratio harmoniae domina absolutissima” (the music is subordinate to the text).

18The predominance of the music is therefore contrasted, in turn, with a balance of music and text or a predominance of the text, and the three solutions correspond to three types of musical declamation: the “indifferente Deklamation”, the “beseelte Deklamation”, and the “sinngemässe Deklamation”. However, if the textual pole is progressively taken into account, there is ipso facto a minimal degree of linguistic consideration even in the so-called indifferent declamation.

  • 24 See in particular Hans Heinz Dräger, op. cit., and Anna Amalie Abert, op. cit., passim.

19This provides us with three different ways of classifying the organized world of texted music: the musical, the musico-linguistic and the linguistic, in which (a) the music successively imposes its law on the text (the text is more or less simply the medium for the music); (b) the interpretation of the linguistic content determines the musical form (the music is more or less determined by the melody and rhythm of the language); (c) the music follows the linguistic model24.

  • 25 The word is Arnold Schmitz’. See for example Carl de Nys, « Pour la plus grande gloire de Dieu », i (...)
  • 26 See W. Gillies Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach, Sacred and Secular, London, Oxford (...)

20When Bach’s vocal music is described as “wortgebunden25”, the very complexity of the problem immediately comes to light when one remembers that Bach himself links the vocal to the instrumental. There is for instance no knowing whether parts 1 and 5 of the cantata BWV 35 are a “parody,” or re-utilisation, of the concerto for harpsichord BWV 1059 or, on the contrary, as some claim, the concerto is an amplification of the cantata. Indices indeed show that the concerto seems to follow the cantata. One of the best commentators on Bach’s cantata work points out on various occasions – while describing an opus classified among those of the composer’s cantatas that draw upon pre-existing instrumental material – how closely its music is linked to the text, whereas, at first sight, one would expect the link to have been less obvious in this instance26. Has it not been often pointed out that the composer repeatedly treats voices as if they were instruments, so much so that it is sometimes contended that he entrusted the latter with his best melodic inventions? Whenever voices and instruments are mixed it is always rewarding to pay special attention to the instrumental part; it is often the more interesting of the two, however relegated to the background it may be. In his comments on Bach’s art Georgiades notes: “[...] [Now] that music had become completely infused with language, it was possible to develop an instrumental way of thinking as well”.

21And he adds:

  • 27 Thrasybulos Georgiades, Music and Language: The Rise of Western Music as Exemplified in Settings of (...)

There thus began a process of mutual interpenetration between these heterogenous approaches to music (i.e. the “sonorous-instrumental conception of music” and the conception of “music as the realization of language”)… When… music as the representation of man, and thus the infusion of music with language on the one hand and of language with music on the other, was singled out as the goal of Western music, this meant in a stricter sense the infusion of the instrumental element with language and the instrumentalization of the language27.

  • 28 See for example Ivo Supicic, “Expression and Meaning in Music”, International Review of the Aesthet (...)

22The complexity of the relation becomes apparent when all of this is considered from the point of view of the basic problem of musical aesthetics. When confronting the expressionistic tenet, according to which music is a language, with the positivistic one, according to which it is not, one can only conclude that music as the art of thinking with sounds is indeed a language sui generis28!

  • 29 E.g., Ann C. Fehn and Jürgen Thym, “Repetition as Structure in the German Lied”, Comparative Litera (...)

23This first, exceedingly summary, exposition of the problems of texted music shows how fascinating this facet of musico-literary research may be, both from the very general standpoint of the philosophical relations between the arts, and from the standpoint of the many particular symbioses of vocal (or texted) music. It is well known that Scher has proposed calling this first aspect of musico-literary research “music and literature,” to contrast with what he terms “music in literature” (influence of music on literature) and “literature in music” (influence of literature on music). This first sector ranges from traditional research on opera to the most recent articles on texted music published in comparative reviews29.

  • 30 See second epigraph of this paper.

24 We are now in a position to turn to the specific problems posed by the opera libretto and the new vistas it opens up as to the handling of time in music and literature. The film script has also come of late into a good many detailed studies of its own. From a genetic point of view it seems of course feasible to deconstruct the scenario’s constituents into pre-existing modes of existence in other arts. This hardly does justice, however, to the inner coherence of a new – though possibly a minor – art form. The same holds for the opera libretto, ancient though this is. But let me first summarize – mainly in the author’s own terms – the argument as put forward by Carolyn Roberts Finlay in her recent “Structural Paradigms: A Semiotic Approach to the Opera Text30”.

  • 31 See Raymond Court, op. cit., p. 105-108 and p. 227-237 for the relation with Jakopbon’s terminology (...)

25In both language and music, units of sound may be arranged along the axis of successivity and that of simultaneity. This common feature of the two systems corresponds to the distinction made in linguistics between relations of sequentiality, or syntagms, and relations of similarity, or paradigms31. Now language, argues Finlay, has an amazing capacity for sequencing information. In music, however, the musical “sequence” is not primarily a syntagmatic structure. In other words, it can be contended that communication in language occurs more intensely along the syntagmatic axis, whereas in music what may on the surface appear to be a purely syntagmatic linkage of two musical “ideas” will upon closer examination be seen to involve paradigmatic relationships.

26Consider for instance, Finlay suggests, the account a character gives of her life in Act Two of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. It takes less than two minutes to relate but can be said to contain roughly twenty-six distinct ideas:

  • 32 Carolyn Roberts Finlay, op. cit., p. 25-26.

While admittedly “idea” is a very loose concept in verbal language and it is even more difficult to establish an equivalence between a verbal idea and what one could call a musical idea, it may still be possible to suggest that a ninety-second musical composition containing twenty-six distinct musical ideas would be anomalous, to say the least. Even Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” Op. 64 N° 1 (which takes considerably more than a minute to perform), contains only three major musical ideas32.

  • 33 Ibid., p. 27-28.

27This has important consequences, Finlay concludes, for the study of the opera libretto. Indeed, whereas a simplification of elements on the syntagmatic plane is generally exhibited when compared to its literary source, there is a corresponding increase in complexity of elements in the paradigmatic analysis. In other words, the establishment of “equivalence relationships of all kinds” (Ruwet-Nattiez) in the musical part of opera is a prerequisite for understanding its effect on text. So if we use the term “unit”, meaning “a musical segment having a beginning and an end” (Nattiez), to represent anything which can be isolated and compared to something else, then in a literary or musical work any two units may be connected by identity or by related difference, or they may be unrelated. The opera’s composite units, made up of a verbal part and a simultaneous musical part, are evidence of a multiplicity of theoretically possible paradigmatic relationships, exponentially greater in the text and score of an opera than the number possible in a verbal or musical text alone33.

28What are Finlay’s conclusions after a short series of examples from Britten’s Peter Grimes? The proposed analytical method may help us, she says, to identify operatically important musical motifs, relating them to the specific textual motifs which lend them the conceptual meaning they cannot possess independently; it can also determine the significance of the reappearance of a textual or musical motif and of the differences between one appearance and another. In other words, the essentially paradigmatic structure of the libretto – previously ignored or credited to the score – belies the charge that the libretto is a literary nullity. Thus far for a summary paraphrase of Finlay’s article.

29Its overall relevance for the elucidation of inter-art comparisons in particular will become apparent when we consider that memory and the perception of time, which are so important in grasping musical structures, play a capital role both in the process of anticipation of the narrative, which makes re-reading a pleasure, and in the perception of the work’s aesthetic impact:

  • 34 Alain, Les arts et les dieux, Paris, Gallimard, 1958, p. 88 (« En lisant Dickens »).

Et à présent je me demande si les romans ne sont pas faits pour être relus. Pour ma part, j’ai relu des dizaines de fois mes romans favoris, et bien loin d’être gêné par ce que j’en prévois, au contraire, je tire de ces lectures répétées un plaisir très particulier. Je sais où je vais. Le roman s’ouvre devant moi et souvent je trouve encore bien court le récit qui m’est si connu34.

30Nobody doubts that these notions will gain in finesse when studied both in literary and musical works. To come back to the opening remarks of this paper, i.e., the ultimate identity of reading in both literature and music as contrasted with the semi-metaphorical content of the reading of a painting, what is puzzling at first sight is how wrong the naïve observer’s attitude can be with regard to the reception of painting as opposed to that of music. Indeed the common view is that precious little can be said about music whereas a wealth of comments is likely to be aroused by a painting. This may no doubt be due to the fact that music does not necessarily or even naturally tend towards representation whilst you can talk about that which is represented by the painting. Now it is also obvious that via the technical vocabulary of musical theory – particularly rich possibly because music, not representing anything, has developed an accurate and abundant terminology of its own – it is possible to give an extremely detailed account of every word, of every note from the score of any texted music both along the axis of the text and along the axis of music. A Schütz motet, for example, is eminently fit for the task: all its notes can be analyzed both in themselves, i.e., in musical terms, and in relation with the words they set.

31 Prompted by the comments of the practising novelist himself, the literary critic realizes that literature and music both contrast with the plastic arts as they enact as it were the notion of time in a much more explicit manner. Literature and music differ from one another, however, in that the literary work – except in the case of a relatively short poem or even a short story – requires a much vaster and vaguer temporal development. In the case of the novel alone, there is the lazy reader, the slow and inveterate re-reader, the fast reader, etc. The temporal precision of music allows only minor variations at this level, even though the differing length of a Wagner opera played (too) slowly or played (too) quickly comes to mind. It would be well worth remembering in this context the famous example of Parsifal, conducted in Bayreuth by Strauss and Toscanini. The interpretations differed by some fifty minutes…

32The observations about time and music with which chapter VII of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain opens are particularly worth quoting:

  • 35 Thomas Mann, La montagne magique, trad. Maurice Betz, Paris, Fayard, 1931, II, p. 270-271 (« Promen (...)

Peut-on raconter le temps en lui-même, comme tel et en soi ?... Le temps est l’élément de la narration comme il est l’élément de la vie : il y est indissolublement lié, comme aux corps dans l’espace. Le temps est aussi l’élément de la musique, laquelle mesure et divise le temps, le rend à la fois précieux et divertissant, en quoi, comme il a été dit, elle s’apparente à la narration, qui, elle aussi (et d’une tout autre façon que la présence immédiate et éclatante de l’œuvre plastique, qui n’est liée au temps qu’en tant que corps), n’est qu’une succession, est incapable de se présenter autrement que comme un déroulement, et a besoin de recourir au temps, même si elle essayait d’être tout entière présente en un instant donné. Ce sont là des choses évidentes. Mais il n’est pas moins clair qu’il y a une différence entre la narration et la musique. La durée musicale n’est qu’un fragment du temps humain et terrestre où elle se déverse pour l’anoblir et l’exalter indiciblement. Au contraire, la narration comporte deux espèces de temps : en premier lieu son temps propre, la durée musicale et effective qui détermine son écoulement et son existence ; en second lieu le temps de son contenu, qui se présente en une perspective d’aspect si différent que le temps imaginaire du récit peut ou bien coïncider presque complètement avec sa durée musicale, ou bien en être infiniment éloigné. Un morceau de musique intitulé : « Valse de cinq minutes » dure cinq minutes. C’est en cela et rien d’autre que consiste son rapport avec le temps. Mais un récit dont l’action durerait cinq minutes pourrait, quant à lui, s’étendre sur une période mille fois plus longue pourvu que ces cinq minutes fussent remplies avec une conscience exceptionnelle ; et il pourrait néanmoins sembler très court, quoique, par rapport à sa durée imaginaire, il fût très long. D’autre part, il est possible que la durée des événements relatés dépasse à l’infini la durée propre du récit qui les présente en raccourci35...

  • 36 See Marcel Beaufils, op. cit., p. 72-73: “[…] sur le seul point de la durée, les valeurs réciproque (...)

33The problem is assuredly vast and complex: the paradox is that music is both closest to actual time duration and – at the same time – transcends and abolishes it (incidentally, Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 n° 7 is actually based on one “idea” and lasts some 35 to 45 seconds, being, I imagine, one of the briefest – though complete in a sense – musical pieces ever composed36).

34But what does, say, the gigantism of the tetralogy mean to readers of Les hommes de bonne volonté, Jules Romains’s monumental twenty-seven novel cycle? Can the literary work not be more succinct (say the four-line Goethian or Hugolian poem, infinitely shorter than any Chopin prelude or any Schoenberg Klavierstück) and much longer (say Romains’s twenty-seven volumes) than the musical work?

35The latter, however, even in its briefest form, will probably be of much greater complexity as it can superimpose several layers of sound, something which is virtually impossible from the literary point of view. Consequently, the literary work is less ideally suited to constant re-reading than the musical work on account of its greater size (except, once again, in the case of shorter poems). It may, in other words, hardly give rise to the phenomenon – frequently encountered in music – of excessive familiarity, bred by one or other musical work, even of relatively vast proportions. This is even more true when we think of reading out loud, which allows fewer variations than silent reading with its increase of possibilities with regard to tempo.

  • 37 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 109-127 (« affinités esthétiques et répétitions dans le roman c (...)

36All this has serious consequences for the role of memory. Thus, the reader who has reached the end of the first third of Jules Romains’s novel cycle would undoubtedly be well advised to resume the first volume, in order to refresh his memory. The reader may believe indeed, at the start of the ninth tome (Montée des périls), that Maillecottin, who leaves Renault for Bertrand, is a (totally) new character. He has forgotten that Madame Maillecottin has already appeared in the first chapter of Six octobre, the work’s first tome. The question though is whether the reader will start again. Will he refresh his memory when he still has two-thirds of the journey to go? The reader will have had to wait for nearly three thousand pages before Jerphanion finally receives Jallez in the very mountains he had almost believed he did not love when he first journeyed to Paris. Only at the end of the first tome of the second third of the work do the two friends discover together Jerphanion’s country of birth. The resonance is a long time in coming. Nowhere do we see better than in such a novel cycle that literature is condemned to the horizontalness of the text, as superpositions of sounds are mechanically impossible. Interpretive superpositions exist only in the metaphorical existence of the reader’s mental images37.

  • 38 Ibid., p. 67-94 (« Les embûches des arts comparés »).

37Despite their common features, music and literature often involve a sharply different manipulation and development of the factors of time and memory, except again, naturally, if we envisage only (relatively) short works. A study of these two factors at the level of the elementary structures of both arts, however ambitious and fraught with difficulty it might be38, would be a choice direction in musico-literary studies. Carolyn Finlay’s explorations in her Britten article are a particularly worth-while example not only in the restricted field of librettology but also in the global field of the specific comparison of literature with the art of music.

38Such a technical, but enlightening, approach – similar to the semiological approach – vis-à-vis the many possible forms of integration of these elementary data should start out from cautiously analyzed concrete examples and try to take into account the various aspects of the problem posed.

Notes

1 Louis Marin, “On Reading Pictures: Poussin’s Letter on Manna”, Comparative Criticism, IV, 1982, (special issue on “The Languages of the Arts”), p. 3.

2 See Calvin S. Brown, “The Writing and Reading of Language and Music”, Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, XXXIII, 1980, p. 7-18.

3 Thomas Munro, The Arts and Their Interrelations, New York, The Liberal Arts Press, 1951, p. 403.

4 See Louis Marin, op. cit., p. 3-5. See also Jean-Pierre Barricelli, Melopoeiesis, New York, New York University Press, 1988, p. 1-2:
“the most difficult interrelationship… involves music”;
“to be genuinely interdisciplinary the analysis of, say, literature and economics or literature and psychology must be done in such a way as to make a contribution, not only to the field of literature, but to that of economics, or that of psychology, as well”.

5 Among recent contributions to the field see, e.g., “Musique et littérature de Guillaume de Machaut à Jean-Philippe Rameau », Cahiers de l’association internationale des études françaises, XLI, 1989, p. 129-144 and p. 177-185 (« La Fonction des sentences dans les livrets de Quinault » and « Les Librettistes de Rameau, de Pellegrin à Cahusac ») with references to Patrick J. Smith’s The Tenth Muse. A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1970; Louis Auld, “Intrigue and Raisonnement in the Opera Livret”, Biblio, 17, XXV, 1986, p. 5-18, etc.

6 See Albert B. Lord, The Singer of Tales, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1960. See also Calvin S. Brown, Music and Literature, London, University Press of New England, 1987, p. XI (new preface). Bede’s original text is in Latin. The quotation is taken from the English translation given in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, New York/London, W.W. Norton & Co., 1986, 5th ed., p. 20.

7 See James A. Winn, Unsuspected Eloquence: A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music, London, Yale University Press, 1981, “The Poet as Singer: The Ancient World”, p. 1-29.

8 See Wladislaw Tatarkiewicz, History of Aesthetics, Paris, Mouton, 1970, Vol. 1 (“Ancient Aesthetics”), p. 28 (“Aesthetics of the Archaic Period”).

9 See Jean-Louis Cupers, Euterpe et Harpocrate ou le défi littéraire de la musique, Bruxelles, Publications des Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, 1988, p. 12. See also Ulrich Weisstein, Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, London, Indiana University Press, 1973, p. 110.

10 The phrase is borrowed from Solange Corbin, L’Eglise à la conquête de sa musique, Paris, Gallimard, 1960, p. 143-144. See also Calvin S. Brown, Music and Literature, op. cit., p. 44-45.

11 See Hans Heinz Dräger, “The Relations of Music to Words during the German Baroque Era”, in George Schulz-Behrend, ed., The German Baroque: Literature, Music, Art, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1972; Anna Amalie Abert, Die Stilistischen Voraussetzunger der “Cantiones Sacrae” von Heinrich Schütz, Wolfenbüttel, Kallmeyer, 1935; H. James Jensen, The Muses’ Concord: Literature, Music and the Visual Arts in the Baroque Era, London, Indiana University Press, 1976.

12 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 39-55 (« Un préalable spécifique: les aspects musicaux du langage »).

13 Charles Lalo, « L’esthétique musicale », in Norbert Dufourcq, ed., La musique, des origines à nos jours, Paris, Larousse, 1946, p. 482 (« Les formes primitives et les évolutions de la musique »).

14 Ibid., p. 508-510.

15 See Raymond Court, Le musical, Paris, Klincksieck, 1976, p. 250-261 (« Qu’est-ce qu’une musique pure? ») and p. 13-14 (« La double articulation en art »).

16 See Marcel Beaufils, Musique du son, musique du verbe, Paris, PUF, 1954, p. 61-93 (« L’androgyne insaisissable »).

17 See Calvin S. Brown, Music and Literature, op. cit., p. 268-271 (“Conclusion”).

18 See Étienne Souriau, op. cit., p. 126 and following.

19 See respectively Guy Scarpetta, L’impureté, Paris, Grasset, 1985 and James A Winn, op. cit., passim.

20 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 118-119.

21 See Steven P. Scher, “Beethoven and the Word: Literary Affinity or Artistic Necessity?”, Jahrbuch des Wiener Goethe-Vereins, LXXXIV-LXXXV, 1980-1981, p. 128.

22 See John Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986.

23 See Steven P. Scher, letter to Jean-Louis Cupers, 28 December 1988: « Ursula Mathis of Innsbruck has also been doing interesting work on expanding on and refining the basic diagram, suggesting – quite rightly – that “Textmusik” (or “texted music”) would be a better term to use in place of the more general and therefore more vague term “vocal music” ». See Scher’s basic global diagram of melopoetics, reproduced at the end of this volume.

24 See in particular Hans Heinz Dräger, op. cit., and Anna Amalie Abert, op. cit., passim.

25 The word is Arnold Schmitz’. See for example Carl de Nys, « Pour la plus grande gloire de Dieu », in Gilles Cantagrel, ed., Jean-Sébastien Bach, Paris, Éditions du Chêne, 1985, p. 169.

26 See W. Gillies Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach, Sacred and Secular, London, Oxford University Press, 1959, in particular vol. 2, The Church Cantatas, respectively p. 245 and p. 246-247).

27 Thrasybulos Georgiades, Music and Language: The Rise of Western Music as Exemplified in Settings of the Mass, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 69-72.

28 See for example Ivo Supicic, “Expression and Meaning in Music”, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, II, 2, 1971, p. 204. One thus speaks of the “referentiality of the non-referential”. See e.g. Richard Leppert’s “music’s referential non-referentiality” in Walter Bernhart (ed.), Lawrence Kramer, Song Acts, Writings on Words and Music, Leyde, Brill/Rodopi, 2017, p. IX (“Foreword”).

29 E.g., Ann C. Fehn and Jürgen Thym, “Repetition as Structure in the German Lied”, Comparative Literature XLI, 1, 1989, p. 33-52.

30 See second epigraph of this paper.

31 See Raymond Court, op. cit., p. 105-108 and p. 227-237 for the relation with Jakopbon’s terminology (« Procès métaphorique et process métonymique selon Jakobson » and « Le linguistique, le poétique et le musical »).

32 Carolyn Roberts Finlay, op. cit., p. 25-26.

33 Ibid., p. 27-28.

34 Alain, Les arts et les dieux, Paris, Gallimard, 1958, p. 88 (« En lisant Dickens »).

35 Thomas Mann, La montagne magique, trad. Maurice Betz, Paris, Fayard, 1931, II, p. 270-271 (« Promenade sur la grève »).

36 See Marcel Beaufils, op. cit., p. 72-73: “[…] sur le seul point de la durée, les valeurs réciproques sont l’une à l’autre dans la proportion de 8,5 contre 1. À ce prix, vingt minutes de chant supposeraient tout au plus deux minutes et demi de texte versifié. Ainsi s’explique que l’Opéra soit, d’ordinaire, un corps lent et lourd. Du « temps » vital, à peine distendu, du poème, nous sommes passés au temps « magie »”.

37 See Jean-Louis Cupers, op. cit., p. 109-127 (« affinités esthétiques et répétitions dans le roman cyclique »).

38 Ibid., p. 67-94 (« Les embûches des arts comparés »).

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