Clare Wilson, Reimagining the Mélodie: An Analysis of the Musico-poetic Expression of André Caplet (PhD, University of Ulster, 2018)

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 Author:  Wilson, Clare 
 Title:  Reimagining the Mélodie: An Analysis of the Musico-poetic Expression of André Caplet 
 Degree, institution:  PhD, University of Ulster 
 Status, year:  accepted, 2018 
 Volumes, pp., etc.:  2 vols (392pp and 35pp), 100000 words 
 Repository:  Ulster University Magee Library 
 General specialism:  Musicology: Analysis 
 Content, timeframe:  1878-1925 
 Content, key terms:  Concepts:
Genres, instruments: 
Rhythmic Analysis; Performance Interpretation; Music and Literature; Musico-poetic Study
Caplet, André
Art Song; French Mélodie


The mélodies of André Caplet (1878–1925) are permeated with an abundance of intricacies and complexities in terms of tonality and rhythm. Through exploring aspects of tonal and rhythmic structures in the sets Paroles à l’absente, Le vieux coffret, Trois fables de Jean de La Fontaine, and Cinq ballades françaises, a chronological portrait of Caplet’s compositional language and his approach to portraying poetic imagery in the musical fabric of the mélodie is offered.

This study presents an analytical outline of the intersection between the harmonic and rhythmic structures and the expression of poetic imagery and atmosphere in Caplet’s mélodie sets. Drawing from the methodological principles of Harald Krebs, the study explores the ways in which Caplet translates the meaning and expression of the poetic text into an unfolding musical narrative. The potential to tell the poetic story and evoke imagery and atmosphere in different ways lies hidden within the tonal and rhythmic layers of the music. To consider this potential, each individual song- analysis offers musico-poetic interpretations of the ways in which Caplet manipulates harmonic language as governed by the poetic text, as well as perspectives on the intersection between fluid rhythmic states and unfolding narrative. Additional consideration is given to analytically-informed performance interpretation and, where appropriate, recordings are discussed. Volume II contains accompanying Structural Overview Charts for each individual mélodie analysed. These charts present an overview of key structural features such as harmonic rhythm, phrasing, time-signature changes and other relevant information for each mélodie, to add analytical support to the discussion in Volume I.

Caplet’s mélodie sets contain rich musical textures, embedded in a compositional language that is profoundly sensitive to the meaning in the text. The study aims to illuminate the complexity and beauty that these melodies offer the listener and performer alike, as well as revealing insight into Caplet’s acute artistic and poetic sensibilities.