7 nov. 2008

I have often been drawn to Barthes's essay "The Grain of the Voice," which is accessible to the English speaking reader in Image - Music - Text. Most recently, I decided to investigate the vocal style of Charles Panzéra, who is the hero of Barthes's essay. (His foil is Fischer Dieskau.) Curiously, the essay is usually read with no real understanding of Panzéra (who appears as "Panzera" in the translation, minus the accent and the first name.) I bought a cd of him singing and discovered a whole tradition wholly unknown to me, though I had read Barthes on Panzéra innumerable times: the French art song or "mélodie," which usually takes classic French poetry as its basis (Verlaine, Baudelaire, for example.) It's a tradition of setting the poetic text to music with a great deal of respect of the prosody of the French language.

I do like Panzéra quite a bit. I don't know how much by dint of suggestibility: I wanted to like him because of Barthes's description, and I like the idea of looking at setting of Baudelaire. I don't know much about the Lied, which RB uses as his foil to the French genre. I've heard Schubert art songs, of course (no doubt sung by DFD) and I know that it bears some relation to German poetry in much the same way the "mélodie" does to the French. Heine, Goethe, Schiller. Rorem does something similar with English and American poetry. Whether you like any particular composer in this tradition, though, I think it's an interesting way to think about the performance of poetry. That's what I'm trying to start to think about in my Hall Center Paper a week from Monday.

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