Irony and Sound: The Music of Maurice Ravel 1580461891, 9781580461894

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Irony and Sound: The Music of Maurice Ravel
 1580461891, 9781580461894

Table of contents :
Introduction
"Gentle Irony"
Simple Sound: Ravel and "Crescendo"
Opposed Sound: Ravel and Counterpoint
Displaced Sound: Ravel and Registration
Plundered Sound: Ravel and the Exotic
Sound and Sense: Ravel and Synaesthesia
"Secrets of Modernity": Irony and Style
Appendix: Ravel's 1902 Prix de Rome Fugue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Irony and Sound

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Eastman Studies in Music Ralph P. Locke, Senior Editor Eastman School of Music Additional Titles of Interest Beethoven’s Century: Essays on Composers and Themes Hugh Macdonald “Claude Debussy As I Knew Him” and Other Writings of Arthur Hartmann Edited by Samuel Hsu, Sidney Grolnic, and Mark Peters Foreword by David Grayson Debussy’s Letters to Inghelbrecht: The Story of a Musical Friendship Annotated by Margaret G. Cobb French Music, Culture, and National Identity, 1870–1939 Edited by Barbara L. Kelly In Search of New Scales: Prince Edmond de Polignac, Octatonic Explorer Sylvia Kahan Maurice Duruflé: The Man and His Music James E. Frazier The Music of Luigi Dallapiccola Raymond Fearn Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac Sylvia Kahan Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair Annegret Fauser

The Musical Madhouse (Les Grotesques de la musique) Hector Berlioz Translated and edited by Alastair Bruce Introduction by Hugh Macdonald Pentatonicism from the Eighteenth Century to Debussy Jeremy Day-O’Connell The Pleasure of Modernist Music: Listening, Meaning, Intention, Ideology Edited by Arved Ashby The Poetic Debussy: A Collection of His Song Texts and Selected Letters (Revised Second Edition) Edited by Margaret G. Cobb Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 1: The Romantic and Victorian Eras Scott Messing Schubert in the European Imagination, Volume 2: Fin-de-Siècle Vienna Scott Messing The Substance of Things Heard: Writings about Music Paul Griffiths Variations on the Canon: Essays on Music from Bach to Boulez in Honor of Charles Rosen on His Eightieth Birthday Edited by Robert Curry, David Gable, and Robert L. Marshall

A complete list of titles in the Eastman Studies in Music Series, in order of publication, may be found at the end of this book.

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Irony and Sound The Music of Maurice Ravel Stephen Zank

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Copyright © 2009 by Stephen Zank All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation, no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded, or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First published 2009 University of Rochester Press 668 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA www.urpress.com and Boydell & Brewer Limited PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK www.boydellandbrewer.com ISBN-13: 978-1-58046-189-4 ISBN-10: 1-58046-189-1 ISSN: 1071-9989 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Zank, Stephen, 1950– Irony and sound : the music of Maurice Ravel / Stephen Zank. p. cm. — (Eastman studies in music, ISSN 1071-9989 ; v. 66) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-1-58046-189-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-58046-189-1 1. Ravel, Maurice, 1875–1937—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Irony in music. 3. Music and literature. I. Title. ML410.R23Z36 2009 780.92—dc22 2009028391 A catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. This publication is printed on acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America.

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Contents

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List of Illustrations

vii

Acknowledgments

ix

A Note to Readers

xi

Introduction

1

1

“Gentle Irony”

7

2

Simple Sound: Ravel and “Crescendo”

40

3

Opposed Sound: Ravel and Counterpoint

85

4

Displaced Sound: Ravel and Registration

135

5

Plundered Sound: Ravel and the Exotic

183

6

Sound and Sense: Ravel and Synaesthesia

223

7

“Secrets of Modernity”: Irony and Style

268

Appendix: Ravel’s 1902 Prix de Rome Fugue

283

Notes

289

Bibliography

391

Index

419

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Illustrations 1.1

Mercure de France, authorial monograms and (bottom) those of Debussy and Ravel

35

Typographical symbols of separation, from the first Ravel memorial volume in 1939

35

Alcanter de Brahm’s Point d’ironie and “Willy”’s dedication of collected criticism to Ricardo Viñes

37

2.1

Ravel’s sketches for the opening mm. of the Left-Hand Concerto

45

3.1

Gédalge’s model (1901) for Ravel’s treatment of the 1902 Prix de Rome fugue

89

5.1

Title page to Judith Gautier’s discoveries of the “Bizarre Exotic”

201

6.1

Frank Thiess, 1914, concerning Cäsar Flaischlen and Beethoven’s Op. 13, mvt. 2

228

Title page to Anatomie et physiologie de l’orchestre, by Delius and “Papus”

237

René Ghil’s extensions, 1885, of Rimbaud’s “orchestral” speculations

258

Marie Jaëll, illustration, ca. 1910, from her “Theory” of the tactile for pianists

260

Marie Jaëll, proposed synaesthetic influences, ca. 1910, of color upon a pianist’s thumb(s)

261

1.2 1.3

6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5

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Acknowledgments I am very grateful to Suzanne Guiod, Editorial Director of the University of Rochester Press, Ralph Locke, Senior Editor of the Eastman Studies in Music series, and Louise Goldberg, for their generous and patient editing of this work over what proved to be a period of unexpectedly extended uncertainty. Their criticisms, at all levels, have made my contributions the very best possible. I thank, too, Donna Buchanan, Lawrence Gushee, John Hill, the late Roger Shattuck, and Tom R. Ward for having read this manuscript in detail in early 2004, and for their constructive criticisms. I especially thank Arbie Orenstein for having read multiple versions of the manuscript, and for his guidance over twenty years. Mme Catherine Massip, Director of the Music Division of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, kindly allowed me to reprint two sketch fragments of Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, as well as the entirety of his Prix de Rome fugue from 1902. I gratefully acknowledge, as well, permission from Mercure de France to reprint the punctuation symbols found in chapter 1, and permission from Jean-Claude Teboul, of Ostinato rigore: Revue internationale d’études musicales, to reprint portions of chapter 3 from an essay that I published in his distinguished journal.

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A Note to Readers In order to keep music both in the foreground and consistently in tandem with arguments of the text, larger-scored examples have been condensed and transposed to concert pitch, from the most widely available and reprinted scores that derive from the historical Durand and Eschig editions (as the other, less complex examples have also been). There being, to date, no critical edition of Ravel’s works (please consider “Ravel Editions,” in my Maurice Ravel: A Guide to Research, New York and London, Taylor Francis, 2004), I have chosen to emphasize the relationships between text and music as much with rehearsal (“R”) numbers as with measure numbers. Most readers will find their easiest access, again, to the reasonably reliable and ubiquitous reprints from Durand, Dover, and, more recently, Salabert. On rare occasions, I have normalized Ravel’s orthography (as in the fugue transcription, for example, “fragt.” vs. “frag.” or “ft.”), while reproducing as closely as possible other graphical indications to scale. In some few other examples, I have moved tempo and/or dynamic indications slightly in order to meet limitations of page space and the exigencies of an argument at hand. I have sometimes also eliminated accompanimental lines or figurations, or represented them by held chords—again, in order to present a kind of digest of the music. I have not, of course (beyond the obvious editorial comments or indications) added either text or musical notation not to be found in Ravel’s music. Unless otherwise noted, all translations throughout the book are mine.

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Introduction Whatever his chosen discourse, Ravel imbued it with extraordinarily new sonorities, his implacably precise taste, sophistication, and transcendental authority triumphing without fail. . . . For Ravel possessed the weapon of irony—that self-aware intelligence, capable of playing with and within itself, hovering about, always in control. Tempted by so much, it abstains not from the impossible, but from that which would be inhuman. In this, I like to think, may be found the most profound evidence of [our] French genius. —Jean Zay, French Minister of Education, reading aloud at Ravel’s funeral in 1938 Music is the art of achieving the sensually perceptible through sound. —Henriette Faure, student of Ravel, 1920 A style . . . is the duly formulated result of an entire array of scattered tendencies, distant in origin and slow in development: it is the product of time. —Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, great French and international music critic, 1907

Intent This is not a book solely about irony, nor is it one about musical irony per se. We have, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, few large-scale studies to consult; those addressing irony itself come from relatively recent times, and none pertain significantly (if at all) to music. The present inquiry, therefore, does not attempt to define, sort, or “scale” past and present efforts in using words to write about music, writing about music that incorporates words, trying to write about words as music1 or—however intriguing—variations thereof.2 Rather, in view of the phenomenon’s slim profile concerning music and its long-acknowledged influence upon literature (or, for that matter, philosophy, art, and life in general),3 it traces—indeed courts—irony as an attributed, underlying element of one composer’s musical style, along with attendant ironies that come to the foreground of stylistic and historical reconsideration. Aspiring to the late Dennis John Enright’s model of “practical” rather than theoretical criticism,4 it is indebted to many others, among them, of course, Harold Bloom, who, in his

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earlier and more complicated work, also used the phrase “practical criticism,”5 and to as many previous and original sources as is possible to address and acknowledge within a single, more focused study. The many attempts to divine irony over centuries—“ensnare” might be more appropriate, given the results— have unfolded primarily through words, from the advanced structures of rhetoric, of course, but also from everyday speech with ironic intent that must have preceded (before informing) the great centuries of Antiquity, and all that has followed. At the very least, one may observe that for a good two millennia irony has been conveyed chiefly by sound, by the sound of words spoken, whether written down or not. But it has been conveyed, too, by other means such as gesture or visual representation, and one may therefore observe, too—with little glee, given the complications—that irony and a variety of perceptual modalities including sound, and musical sound, are promisingly conjoined. Though the term’s most enduring general definitions are surprisingly similar6—centering around (to paraphrase) “saying one thing while meaning another”7—they beg many persuasions of the obvious, among them what might “mean meaning” to an author, to an “ironized” subject (or object), or to irony as received by others.8 Recalling the verb ensnare, and borrowing counsel from a chapter heading of Vladimir Jankélévitch’s eminent 1936 study of irony,9 we recoil from one of irony’s most obvious of “traps,” that of trying to define or redefine it, on grounds of elegant and informed demurral by others. Wayne Booth, for instance, opposite page one of his much later study (1970), deferred to Douglas Muecke’s previous brilliant work. But Muecke, too, had deferred: “Since . . . Erich Heller, in his Ironic German, has already quite adequately not defined irony, there would be little point in not defining it all over again. . . . Getting to grips with irony seems to have something in common with gathering the mist; there is plenty to take hold of if only one could.”10 An extended toe, perhaps, to risk the paradoxically obvious: irony has first of all to do with the unexpected, but with the transcendentally so, without which few—if any—of its readings will make much sense (i.e., “What?! But how can this be so?!”). Liaisons dangereuses with a handful of other terms must be acknowledged. Rey Longyear (among others) has recounted how Schlegel dubs irony as, in fact, paradox,11 a term used often in Ravel criticism throughout the composer’s lifetime. Henri Ghéon, for instance, writes in the Nouvelle Revue française (1911) that “The music of Ravel is French paradox itself,”12 and Francis Poulenc, in recalling his first encounter with Ravel in 1917, was even more emphatic: “But of course, I remember—Ravel was paradox itself, and, around younger talents, I think, he tried to accentuate this.”13 Ravel’s “Boswell,” Roland-Manuel, appears in 1925 to regret that many of the best talents of his time had found only irony and paradox in the treatise so important to Ravel (and previously to Baudelaire, Mallarmé, many others), that of Edgar Allan Poe,14 and the following year he used “paradox” four times in reviewing the premiere of L’Enfant et les Sortilèges at the Monte Carlo Opera.15 Upon Ravel’s death, Émile Vuillermoz recalled the composer’s

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3

ability to confound a curious public through a deep love of paradox,16 and, as Arbie Orenstein has noted, among Ravel’s most preferred works was indeed Diderot’s Paradoxe sur le comédien.17 But the well-known influence of Poe’s irony and paradox upon the French offers a clue to Debussy’s evident irritation in regard to Ravel. In 1907, Debussy wrote to Louis Laloy: “I agree with you [that] Ravel is extraordinarily gifted, but what annoys me is the attitude he adopts of being a ‘conjuror,’ or rather a Fakir casting spells and making flowers burst out of chairs.”18 Beneath Debussy’s annoyance lies a good hint of what underpinned Ravel’s musical irony—a meticulously designed unexpectedness distinguishing it from “mere” paradox, humor,19 satire (or parody),20 mockery, or sarcasm.21 These various terms have all turned up, on occasion, with regard to composers as dissimilar as Offenbach, Mahler, and Prokofiev,22 as well as Ravel himself.23 Since the terms are synonymous neither with one another nor with irony, they will not be discussed in further detail.24 Whether or not irony has been for too long an “embedded quality” of Western civilization itself, as Muecke has suggested elsewhere,25 or, as Lilian Furst has more recently proposed (in accordance with Heller, Muecke, Booth, and too many others to mention), irony has always been simply too “slippery” to lay hands upon,26 one can affirm the obvious for introductory purposes: for more than two millennia there has been little disagreement about irony’s existence, and little agreement about its substance. Booth points “gently” to the larger question(s), acknowledging the prodigious work of both Muecke and Norman Knox, in establishing “the remarkable story of how ‘irony’ took over so much of the modern literary world.”27 What of music? In the present book I advance the deceivingly obvious hypothesis that music may constitute a bridge between the different domains of irony. The irony “of notes,” as it were, is cast amidst, across, and beyond ironies of words and/or life or “things.” I also advance, a more modest, theoretical aspect of Ravel’s intent, located between the two sole previous treatments of the topic by authors known well to him and to posterity (Roland-Manuel and Vladimir Jankélévitch). Finally— ’weapon’ or not, as Jean Zay judged at Ravel’s grave—we propose that irony belongs as much to critics and historians as to authors and audiences. If, as Raymond Immerwahr tells us, Schlegel found it invaluable in making sense of life’s chaos,28 it can surely be considered a tool of aesthetic, musical observation.

Evidence Encouragement may be drawn from what has been agreed upon about the literary forms of irony (without which, obviously, there would have been—and would remain—fewer points of departure for all),29 from major dictionary and encyclopedia treatments of the term over time,30 from the small number of essays addressing musical irony meaningfully (recognized gratefully here and

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introduction

in chapters to come), and from substantial evidence in contemporary and subsequent criticism of Ravel’s music that turns one toward other sources with new curiosity. Mark Evan Bonds, who, in previous and continuing work on the origins and effects of another very large term (understandings of which also come to us from Antiquity—Rhetoric), has ventured convincingly into musical irony.31 Rey Longyear has provided help (the best, as Bonds justly notes) in an essay on Beethoven and irony,32 and Ronald Woodley and Peter Kaminsky have explored more specific terrain concerning, respectively, Prokofiev’s first violin sonata and some of Ravel’s vocal music.33 I have also drawn upon Jean-Michel Nectoux’s “Notes” toward a Ravel aesthetic,34 and the other studies acknowledged below. Still, Bonds has ventured furthest, planting the origins of musical irony in the late eighteenth century (i.e., Haydn), and arguing that the far older literary technique of an author’s ironic distancing “represented a new, and to many critics objectionable, aesthetic of music in the second half of the eighteenth century.” In so arguing, he conveys a good bit of structural encouragement from the very best of sources: ‘[R]hetoric’ is to be understood here in the much broader sense as defined by Aristotle: “the faculty of discovering the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject whatever.” . . . In this sense, form is the manner in which a work’s content is made intelligible to its audience. Conventional patterns, by providing listeners with points of reference and predictability, facilitate the presentation of a content.35

An obliging cloud hovers: in the centuries following Aristotle’s associations with irony, its interpretations splintered faster and further than those pertaining to rhetoric, even attaining by the nineteenth century—as Wayne Booth put it—“a grand Hegelian concept, with its own essence and necessities; or a synonym, for romanticism; or even an essential attribute of God.”36 Our cloud’s lining: by this time one can demonstrate that among Aristotle’s “means of persuasion,” and (as Bonds, I believe, fairly interprets him) the facilitation and “presentation of a content,” lurks—if not dwells—our larger topic. We cannot here begin to chart irony’s relationship to and with rhetoric. Nonetheless, the oft-noted presence of irony in Ravel’s style may offer clues to other composers who were similarly inspired. Much remains to think about in the century between Haydn’s death and Ravel’s early maturity, when one finds evidence of an increased appreciation of musical irony, a greater willingness to acknowledge or even welcome it. Given the constraints of a single volume, the discussion of important primary sources including, of course, the Socratic and Platonic dialogues, Swift and the marvelously peculiar British cultivations of irony,37 Hegel, Schlegel,38 Søren Kierkegaard’s stunning thesis,39 and the voluminous subsequent receptions (especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) is rendered difficult at best. References are made, as often as possible, to sources deemed relevant to Ravel and

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his world amidst a new gathering of specific references to irony, a “repainting,” as it were, of the rich interdisciplinary canvas of the composer’s life, and with some new attention to the influences of German musical idealism and aesthetics, given irony’s long acknowledged embedded influence therein.

Analysis Keeping in mind the larger point of departure—that the means of meaning something in our case has been achieved through the conveyance of the effects of a chiefly literary phenomenon via another modality of perception (musical sound)—some obvious indices must be acknowledged. The “why” behind the inquiry is perhaps easiest to address (having already been alluded to), since, to reiterate, Ravel cultivated irony and its effects often enough to make scholarly neglect a dilemma. As to the “where” of explorations, some examples come with a “perceptual pedigree” (i.e., previous critical notice), others are newly proposed due to their relationship with relevant or related topics. As to the “how” of Ravel’s irony, Wayne Booth’s invitation to uncode the “sharing” of ironies must be declined (beyond one parameter suggested below concerning authorial intervention), for logistical reasons. The “what” of Ravel’s irony will be of two-fold interest, mechanical, and conceptual—the first being, in essence, “notational” (whether or not words, as they sometimes do, intrude or inform), since notes and their manipulation obviously underpin the “what” Ravel wished for us to grasp, and correspond roughly to the larger historical category of “verbal” irony. To closer ends, inquiries will focus upon several aspects of musical sound clearly fascinating Ravel and his contemporaries, such as dynamics, counterpoint, orchestration, and related (in fact, primarily literary) concerns, including the ‘Exotic,’ and French fin-de-siècle interests in multisensorial perception. All of this is entirely reasonable, given the contemporary explorations of these categories, of musical sound in and for itself, and in view of the great influence of music upon literary figures from Baudelaire to Mallarmé, to and beyond Ravel. Secondly, conceptually, that is, it will be important to note, reinterpret, or newly propose ironies falling into the larger category of the irony of “things,” of the world, or of “fate”—ironies attached to Ravel or his music and life, from contemporaries (consulted as often as possible), from those who followed, and from those who choose, in further retrospect, to consider such “situational” ironies as tools of constructive review. Pierre Schoentjes has most recently reacknowledged the enduring significance of these two categories (verbal and situational).40 Muecke, though with some evident frustration in sources to approximately 1970, has done virtually the same.41 Ravel invoked both (probably inadvertently),42 as did some of his contemporaries,43 and the categories are, obviously, intertwined: in noting an irony of “things,” of fate, or of situations, one suffers a disruption of expectations that may be set aside, of

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course, with momentary insight and without further anxiety. But this begs more “cosmic” interpretations of irony over many centuries, and the complexities of what might connect a general experience of irony with those more directly tied to the problematic “nodes” of subject, object, and recipient.44 Unlike some others, Ravel has been well served by differing and advanced forms of analytical and stylistic biography in the generations following his death (i.e., the outstanding work of Roland-Manuel, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Arbie Orenstein, Roger Nichols, and Marcel Marnat). There is scant need, therefore, for another biography or “Life and Works,” in the early twenty-first century. Yet irony, the proverbially Janus-faced “tool” of an author’s intentionally ambiguous design, descending to us from millennia in primarily rhetorical, literary, or theatrical guise, imbued and inflected a larger portion of Ravel’s style than has yet been studied. Clearly an instrument of his musical thought, it merits inquiry, especially in view of the composer’s “continuing paradox”—his sturdy persistence, on the one hand, to 20th-century musical life, and, on the other, as Roger Nichols has most recently noted,45 the surprising inattention to Ravel’s significance, and—as with irony itself—the lack of any real consensus about his style.

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Chapter One

“Gentle Irony” Make no mistake: the disarming smile comes not from a peasant, but from a removed observer of the human psyche, one turning around and about all that amuses within his secret world of gentle irony. —Louis Laloy, renowned French music critic, 1907

Notice Among acclaimed critics and historians of the Belle époque, Louis Laloy used the above phrase to describe Ravel’s maturing musical thought in 1907,1 as did René Chalupt, the first compiler of the composer’s correspondence, in describing his epistolary style long thereafter.2 Though “gentle irony” and cognates surface repeatedly throughout and beyond Ravel’s lifetime, Norbert Albrecht’s judgment of some thirty years ago in the distinguished German literature still obtains: long after the composer’s death, irony remains terra incognita in terms of Ravel criticism.3 To retrace responsibly within limited space we may begin with Henry Bidou’s thoughts at Ravel’s death: early biographer of Chopin, military historian, author of works on Africa and nearly exact contemporary, Bidou placed Ravel succinctly amidst the interdisciplinary ferment important to present questions: “Above all, Ravel was of his time. He was twenty years old in 1895, the generation that in literature followed so closely the true ‘Symbolists,’ sharing in their dreams, yet mixing in something ironic and brilliant of their own. . . . In music, the generation of 1895 found their perfect expression: the music of Ravel.”4 Bidou remembered well: a more detailed description of this world, echoed several times over by Ravel and others throughout his career,5 has come down to us from Tristan Klingsor, poet, friend of youth, and fellow member of a boisterous, all-male, musico-literary cénacle meeting regularly between what Roger Shattuck has aptly described as The Banquet Years, and the outbreak of the 1914–18 War. The group’s adopted name of Apaches6—a term in rather wide circulation at the time7—was as ironic as Klingsor’s chosen pseudonym,8 and contemporary and subsequent accounts of the ardent traffic between composers, writers, and artists on either end of the receding nineteenth century were only reinforced upon Ravel’s death. Klingsor, shortly after Bidou, writes in a different venue: “One must not forget that this was the time of Mallarmé, Jules Laforgue, and Mac-Nab—Symbolists, decadents, mischief-makers all, competing for the approval of the few hundred that constituted our Paris.”9

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“gentle irony”

Life for Ravel, however, among whatever “few hundred” alleged by Klingsor, was not so easy at the beginning: in its public debut at the prestigious Société nationale de Musique in 1899, his first orchestral work, the Shéhérazade overture (not to be confused with the song cycle of several years later, after Klingsor’s poems), was as much mocked as marked, and by the most influential. “Willy” (Henri Gauthier-Villars, Colette’s first husband) judged Ravel straightaway as a mediocre talent and “debussyste,”10 and a “hustler of Rimsky-Korsakoff.”11 Pierre Lalo went into more detail, finding the youthful overture wanting in formal terms, and alluding to what was suggested in the introduction as aspects of Ravel’s “verbal” irony: “Any sense of development, above all, is so lacking that one is tempted to think that Monsieur Ravel is alluding to it through irony.”12 Succeeding works at the century’s turn, however, like the Pavane pour une infante défunte and the Jeux d’eau, were remembered by fellow Apaches for their more positive and general aspects of “irony, color, and novelty,”13 and as Ravel endured early critical condescension, an unprecedented series of failures in the Paris Conservatory curriculum (academic and performance), and in the international Prix de Rome competitions, he managed all the same to deliver to the French public a modest yet consistently brilliant series of works, extending from the Jeux d’eau of 1900 to the String Quartet of 1902–3, the surprising Sonatine for piano (1903–5), and others including the orchestral songs of both 1903 and 1906. The former of these songs was praised by critic and fellow Apache Émile Vuillermoz for its mastery in passing from irony to the more “gentle” domains of tenderness.14 Throughout all, individual and public notice of irony’s importance to Ravel’s style unfolded pointedly. Marguerite Babaïan, for instance, working with Ravel between 1904 and 1906 on the Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (sometimes referred to as the Chansons populaires grecques), has left some clues about the “popular” perception of Ravel’s irony during shared times: “He came to my house happy, spruced up, always with a bunch of red marigolds, and with that touch of gentle irony permeating all of his music. What struck one, of course— behind the touch of habitual ceremony—was the probity, absolute honesty, and clarity of his artistic designs.”15 By 1907 (the time of our opening quote from Laloy, and not long before Igor Stravinsky joined the Apaches) Ravel had been acknowledged by no less than Georges Jean-Aubry in the Censeur politique et littéraire as “enfant terrible” of contemporary French music: in placing Ravel squarely within a “family” of writers including Heine, Laforgue, and Gide, Jean-Aubry invoked irony no fewer than five times.16 The same year, only a few months after his earlier remarks about Ravel’s irony, Laloy sought to encourage a less well-known composer of the time (again in the Société Internationale de Musique journal) by noting Ravel’s “penetrating shrewdness” and “gentle irony”: Raymond Bonheur, it would seem, had recently “found his way.”17 Irony, then, might well play a constructive role in the development of musical style, and, indeed, in still other criticism of this year, Laloy reiterated how important he felt it was to Ravel’s “precise expressivity.”18

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Perhaps Debussy would have advised the young Bonheur differently about “finding his way,” since he writes to Laloy at this time: “As to Ravel, I recognize once again your habitual discrimination. . . . Though it appears to me unclear that he has ‘found his way,’ he might well thank you for having suggested one.”19 One must remember, too (always), the more visceral aspects of our topic, the irony of the ‘things” of the world, of fate. One of Laloy’s distinguished colleagues in the French press, Joseph de Marliave, invoked another Apache, the poet Jules Laforgue (as had Laloy, too, in fact) in recommending to Maurice Ravel in 1907 the gentle irony of the aforementioned composer Raymond Bonheur, having found the humor of the Histoires naturelles (and one movement of the suite Miroirs) to have been forced, less musical, and less inspired than that of Bonheur.20 Whatever Marliave’s advice, Ravel had not only by this time recovered but—ironically—begun to benefit from his previous failures: with successful works before the public on a recurring basis, he suddenly found himself (at the invitation of his former teacher Gabriel Fauré) sitting on the examining juries that had previously tried to do away with him at the Conservatory. Marliave’s reception and understanding of Ravel at this time offer a bleak, mercuric example of what the late Dennis John Enright called “that larger phenomenon, the dark sky” upon which “lightning flashes” of irony might make their mark.21 Well known, evincing little sympathy for other of Ravel’s music than that mentioned,22 and intent in 1907 on referring Ravel to an obscure work of an obscure composer for “enlightenment” about the uses of musical irony—Marliave was all too soon killed in the war in which both he and Ravel served fully. Posted to the eastern front the year before Ravel, he went quickly missing. His papers, however (published posthumously, and accompanying his early—the first, actually—study of the Beethoven String Quartets, with a preface by Fauré), convey how much the practice of music—in Marliave’s case, weekly readings of German string quartets23—meant to French soldiers practicing war. Ravel, too, though unable to carry his instrument about, tried to keep such hope alive: “There was a beautiful park, and, in the vestibule of a château, an excellent Érard, on which I played some Chopin one Sunday afternoon.”24 His dedication of the finale to Le Tombeau de Couperin—on which he had been working during these terrible years—went posthumously to Joseph de Marliave, and the work’s premiere was carried out shortly thereafter (1919) by Marliave’s widow, Marguerite Long, who went on to champion Ravel’s music of the coming decades.25 But to return to the initial decade of Ravel’s success, some further remarks by Laloy about the importance of irony from literary perspectives appeared in the Revue musicale de Lyon in 1910: far from compromising the emotional import of Ravel’s music, his “gentle irony” breathes life into it, rendering it more poignant through exceptional juxtapositions of sorrow and smile—Ravel is to be included in the company of Cervantes, Dickens, and (more recently) French authors such as Jules Renard, Courteline, and Tristan Bernard.26 The following year one finds at least three different references to Ravel’s irony, from three different

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authors: Laloy, following up on previous remarks, found that L’heure espagnole represented a further stage in Ravel’s cultivation of the phenomenon,27 whereas Reynaldo Hahn, somewhat unsettled by the new work, thought Ravel might have gone “a bit too far” (this time) with irony.28 Pierre Lalo—as usual, it should be observed29—savaged the work, noting its “glacial irony,” mechanical coldness, and lack of “spiritual” life of the characters.30 In 1912, Francis de Miomandre extended the reception of Ravel’s irony to choreography: Ravel’s lost ballet Adélaïde ou le Langage des fleurs, securely grounded in classical traditions, nonetheless manifested both “ironic elegance” and “modern imagination.”31 This was an opinion echoed later with more specific reference to “gentle irony” by Vuillermoz.32 Given the previous years’ judgments about Ravel’s first work for the stage, it may not seem particularly striking, save that (1) there was no real choreographic component to L’heure espagnole (ironic in itself, given traditional French expectations), and (2) the argument for Adélaïde was in fact Ravel’s own.33 Vuillermoz noted, too, in the SIM journal in 1912 that Ravel’s greater work of the same year (Daphnis et Chloé) might offer some reassurance, indeed delight, to those who had found L’heure espagnole—dominated as it was by the “Muse of Irony”—inflexible or affected.34 The following year, René Chalupt suggested that the continuing success of Ravel’s Shéhérazade song cycle (by 1913 in the active repertories for nearly a decade) was due in part to the ironical nature of Klingsor’s poetry, the musical potentialities of which were perhaps palpable only to talents like Ravel.35 And at virtually the same moment in New York, Daniel Gregory Mason was trying, clumsily, to come to grips with what he considered to be Ravel’s secondary (to Debussy), “modernist” success, in the new orchestration of Ma Mère l’oye: [T]here is nothing of the exalted or heroic about it, and one may have in studying it an uneasy wonder whether modern technique does not too constantly outrun the thought it has to present. Yet within its limitations it is, by virtue of tender clairvoyant imagination penetrating childlike things, of humor half ironic and half naive, and of distinguished finesse in workmanship, a veritable little masterpiece.36

In reviewing recent productions at the Opéra Comique in Mercure de France (1914), another critic important to Ravel and our inquiry, Jean Marnold, judged Ravel’s L’heure espagnole to have been the most unique event in recent history from “the young French school,” a masterful sonorous experience, even if the composer had let his enthusiasms run far, his irony become a bit bitter, in service to the libretto’s “literary pretentiousness.”37 Chalupt, in an extended essay on Ravel’s works to 1918, revisited the songs, drawing a distinction between the “sarcastic humour” found in Noël des jouets and the more “gently veiled” irony of the Shéhérazade cycle, but—more tellingly, in the shadow of Debussy’s recent death— he noted that one of the larger differences between the two composers had in

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fact derived from Ravel’s peculiar infusion of humor with irony, something not to be confused with either the more evident exuberances of Chabrier or the mystical explorations of Erik Satie.38 And two years later, in a different journal, Chalupt had the courage to state the obvious—Ravel was indeed the successor to Debussy’s immense legacy, in part because of his refinement of irony.39 An indication of irony’s continuing interest to musical criticism in the new century may be divined from Jean Cocteau’s appropriation of Ravel in 1919 as an interdisciplinary “weapon” of sorts, for his post-Impressionist future—“After Renoir and Monet, Vuillard, Bonnard; after Debussy, Ravel,” a notion reaffirmed in the distinguished British journal Chesterian, by one of his followers in the group of Six: “While Debussy’s sensibility is made of a profound and passionate tenderness and lingers over effects of light, caressing sounds and the intoxicating atmosphere of evenings, Ravel’s introduces the smile into his art; not the somewhat heavy pleasantry of Chabrier, but a keen irony. He reasons while Debussy lingers; he is never duped.”40 Irony circulated, too, amidst lesser-known figures of the postwar years: Fernand-Georges Roquebrunne, for instance, cautions publicly in the Paris literary press about what he believed in 1920 to have been the official, too-trammeled course of criticizing Ravel’s melos: “What a great irony, if one can call it that! Color, brilliance, vanity—all are entirely opposed to Ravel’s lyrical intent, composed of informed, gentle sensitivity and discrete detachment.”41 Meanwhile, having abused Ravel soundly for a good twenty years (and likely not following the British journals closely), Pierre Lalo appears to have experienced a conversion of sorts about this time: whatever previous reservations about L’heure espagnole—excoriated eleven years earlier because of irony—Lalo finds the work in 1922 to be “a work of consummate skill,” one in which Ravel’s ingenious talent delighted in irony.42 Roland-Manuel had suggested as much the year before, in Revue musicale, that Paris “envied” both London and Brussels audiences greater access to a work that marked “the renewal of opéra-buffa,” one in which Ravel’s greatest gifts had been “wonderfully unified and brought to life by inspiration both ironic and deceivingly sentimental.”43 But Lalo might soon enough have found encouragement in Britain to stand his original ground: Cecil Gray, in his 1924 contribution to the Oxford University Press Survey of Contemporary Music, declared that Ravel was “actually an extremely sentimental little person who is only rather too ashamed to show it. Most professional cynics and ironists are like that, as a matter of fact.”44 Inevitably, as Ravel approached the height of his career, reservations were expressed in French sources as well, but with less venom: within what constituted, for instance, the most responsible, comprehensive attempt to chronicle French music across the divide of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,45 Pierre Hermant (like Chalupt a few years before) distinguished Ravel’s style from that of Debussy in terms of irony: “As much the irony of [Debussy] is smooth, without sourness, always disposed to fantasy and poetry, so is that of Monsieur Ravel sharp, and inclined toward the dry and a certain coldness.”46 As will often be

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the case, Roland-Manuel’s guidance in such matters (found within his abovecited remarks on L’heure espagnole) is circumspect: more sources of the 1920s read Ravel’s style positively than otherwise. Louis Aguettant, in his lectures in 1924 to pianists at the Lyon Conservatory, cast Ravel’s irony as much in artisanal terms—performers might better interpret the final pages of the Valses nobles et sentimentales by consulting Verlaine’s Colloque sentimental 47—as in those of the larger literary context: “Nothing is more French than this sensibility shrouded in irony that one finds in Mérimée, Barrès, Toulet, and others.”48 One can trace the undercurrents further in a special issue of the Revue musicale dedicated entirely to Ravel in 1925. Chalupt, in an essay entitled “Maurice Ravel et les prétextes de sa musique,”49 assigned him to a different “family” of writers than had Jean-Aubry in 1907, Ravel representing musically the great tradition of Montaigne, Voltaire, and Stendhal. The “spiritual irony” of L’heure espagnole’s text, after all, had been realized by an “equally spiritual and ironic” music,50 irony providing, in essence, Ravel’s escape from “vulgarity, banality, grandiloquence, and superficiality.”51 In architectural terms, André Suarès noted Ravel’s delight in taking on the more established classical forms, in effect “possessing” them as no one else could, “transforming them through irony,”52 and in the final line of his contribution, he echoed Louis Laloy’s description of nearly twenty years before: “Such an art, so seemingly casual at first blush and disconcertingly so, exudes calculation and self-control.”53 Arthur Hoérée suggested (paradoxically) that, in looking for clues to the aesthetic of Ravel’s remarkable string quartet, it would be fruitless to explore his choice of poetry in the vocal works, since they reveal him to be—first of all—“an ironist.”54 In Monte Carlo the following year (1926), the premiere of Ravel’s second and only further work for the lyric stage engendered much criticism, yet little resembling the negative reception of musical irony that had greeted L’heure espagnole. One critic found L’enfant et les sortilèges to have been as much the work of an acrobatic technician as an ironic poet,55 another observed that its brilliant orchestration and fusion of diverse sonorities could only have descended from the refined poetry of a master ironist,56 and Roland-Manuel, in one of two separate reviews, used “paradox” four times.57 Edward Burlingame Hill’s considerably detailed remarks about Ravel’s irony in the Musical Quarterly of 192758 found their echoes throughout the composer’s four-month tour of the United States and Canada the following year. After initial appearances in New York in January of 1928, Irving Weil telegraphed to the nation in Musical America his belief that Ravel had turned to musical irony in part because of the difficulties of his life (including, one assumes, the horrors of the 1914–18 War): “The spectacle of life seems always to have wounded Ravel’s creative sympathies but his music sheds no tears over it; makes fun of it in a grim kind of way, sometimes, bitter, sometimes ironic, sometimes with the gesture of a profound observer who, however, cannot help making his individual comment on the fateful show.”59 Weil traffics a bit here in the superficial, yet he echoes

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again—and from abroad, at the remove of some twenty years—Louis Laloy. Within only a few days of the New York engagements, Ravel had conducted some of his orchestral works in Boston (Sanders Theater, Harvard University),60 but Jeannette Cox in the Musical Courier—again speaking to a national audience— dubbed his appearance a few days later at Symphony Hall (with, as previously, the Boston Symphony Orchestra) Ravel’s “true” debut, noting “The transparency, the economy of means, wit and irony of his music are all of the highest order.”61 Several weeks later, at the opposite end of the continent, the second rubric under Ravel’s reception in Seattle read “Emotion Cloaked in Irony,” a notice with continued attention: “The gifts of Ravel are those of a satyric poet. It is here that he is at his best, . . . Like the poet Baudelaire, Ravel is restrained, as if ashamed of his emotion, and he cloaks all deep feeling in raillery, irony, as did Voltaire and La Fontaine, his kinsmen in more ways than one.”62 The reaction of another critic, in San Francisco, to music written for Klingsor’s poems nearly a generation before, was hardly isolated: “It is literary music, the work of a man who sees the Orient through the eyes of his imagination.”63 In Chicago, Glenn Dillard Gunn put forth what appears to be a hastily conceived notion of Ravel’s irony: Hailed as the leader of his nation’s music, he has, too, an unrivalled reputation as an ironist, a fact unknown to me until yesterday. Knowing the lovely, mystic, sensuous, glamorous music of this youth and his prime, it never would have occurred to me to discover anything sardonic in his nature had I not had the good fortune to hear him play piano. Only a supreme ironist would consent to play his own beautiful music in public as badly as Ravel plays it. He plays even worse than Johannes Brahms did in his declining years, and Brahms set a mark for all bad pianists to shoot at.64

But again, as with Weil’s remarks in New York, Gunn’s allusions to a kind of “supreme” irony hovering around and about one’s intentional self-misrepresentation annoy creatively. Suspicion, indeed indignation, over an author’s playful, ironically removed voice had played out prominently twenty-three years before in Paris, in the scandal surrounding Ravel’s final Prix de Rome competition—a young composer so gifted and successful with the public at large simply could not have failed unless he had chosen to do so.65 But if we dismiss Gunn’s musings in favor of Lennox Berkeley’s later, more benign comments—“It often astonishes people to learn that a musician who wrote outstandingly well for the piano should have played it so badly, but composition and execution are different things”66—something, all the same, is lost. We have, after all, acknowledged irony’s transcendental nature. Some interpretative “reconciliations” may be noted, best amongst them, perhaps, the paradigm of “mask” or disguise, to which more than a few authors have subscribed both during and after Ravel’s lifetime.67 Adorno, for instance,

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writing the same year as Gunn in Chicago about the “erotic” in music, dubbed Ravel the “ultimate enemy of Wagner,”68 then soon crowned him “the master of sonorous masks,” a composer who had somehow managed to reconcile irony with form.69 The esteemed Italian critic Guido Pannain, writing about the time that Ravel had left for America, adhered to a more equivocal view—the music, as he saw it, was too indebted to what Adorno had given Ravel credit for trying to outrun (via masks and/or irony), Romanticism.70 But Pannain’s respect for Ravel was deep, and despite little sympathy for some of the earlier works, he acknowledged Ravel’s near “monopoly” in irony, and accorded that of L’heure espagnole a special place, rejecting previous criticisms of its bitterness or satire.71 To remember Dennis Enright’s metaphor of dark backdrops, it comes as something of a frightful realization that at this point, at the top of a career throughout which he had been both praised and criticized mightily for cultivating irony, Ravel had little more than three years of creative life remaining, time enough to complete two incongruously different piano concertos, virtually nothing else.72 That the topic would follow him into oblivion and beyond is painfully evident in Arthur Mendel’s peculiarly vindictive remarks from Princeton in 1932 concerning the last major work: The Ravel Concerto [in G major] is about as good and about as bad a piece as Mr. Gershwin would like to write. It is another depressing reminder of the terrible waste Ravel represents—a truly phenomenal talent possessed by a man who has no longer, if he ever had, any appropriate use for it. . . . The cheap triviality of the material in the concerto is appalling. Even the shallow but amusing sentimental irony that used to be his chief distinction Ravel has discarded; this work, like the ‘Bolero,’ simply sets out to be pleasing in the most superficial way, and its gilt surface wears thin before one has heard the whole thing once. . . . This is leisure-class art with a vengeance—two years of one of the world’s great talents, for the composition of a work which, except to exhibit the means a pianist should use toward ends in this case absent, has no value whatsoever.73

Surely—to be generous—Mendel mistakes trees for forest, at what was in effect the end of Ravel’s public life. As had been the case in the special Revue musicale of 1925, the repeated literary references found in contributions to Ravel’s Tombeau issue of 1938 startle more than a bit,74 betraying again the larger context, the literary mosaic or “canvas” (to use René Dumesnil’s phrase and description of, as he saw it, Ravel’s aesthetic),75 the “forest” of aesthetic influences behind what Arthur Mendel perceived to be “trees” of an exhausted and “sentimental irony.”76 Ravel himself, in an interview in Paris preceding Mendel’s judgment by only eight or nine weeks, encourages apprehension over such verdicts: “It is not by the height of one tree that one divines the mystery of a forest.”77 Descending from the 1890s, first described for us by Tristan Klingsor, recalled time and again by those fortunate enough to have known and survived Ravel, the richness of

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the literary and interdisciplinary tapestry of his life makes it difficult to accept Mendel’s dispatch of an enigma Thomas Mann dubbed “beyond compare the most profound and most alluring in the world.”78 The day after Ravel’s death Gustave Samazeuilh expressed restrained, elegant grief, writing in Le Temps that “[His] music was not only the vibrant reflection of his own being, but of the spirit and essence of his nation. . . . underneath his reserved side—often enough ironic—Ravel was above all an artist.”79 Émile Vuillermoz, writing the same day in Excelsior, reminded his readers of Ravel’s terrible last years—waiting for death “on another planet”—when his virtuosic writing, ironic fantasy, and stylistic “tight-rope walking” were no longer possible.80 Having noted earlier that in trying to make sense of Ravel’s winning style in 1907 Georges Jean-Aubry had used the word “irony” five times, one finds—thirty-one years later—André Mirambel, Professor of Greek at the Sorbonne, invoking the term five times, in trying to make sense of Ravel at his death.81 Klingsor (no doubt unaware of Mendel’s words in the New World) mused upon opinions closer to home that had not granted Ravel his due: There has already been much writing about Ravel, some of it veering toward the superficial. Because he was too proud, too shy to expose the profound sensibilities of his heart, some have all too quickly claimed he had none, judging him a polisher or a refiner, no more. But they forget that among such artisans one sometimes finds a Cellini. Ravel was, indeed, an engraver: of irony.82

Drawing closer still, Klingsor quoted from his own Jeux d’eau: Fountains in the park and a flock Of dispossessed, Troubled hearts of the comely And the gentle ironic heart beating beneath The velvet vest of Maurice Ravel, . . .83

Within the year, Vuillermoz had echoed Klingsor (though not in verse), alluding to the knotty matter of “schools,” and which models of influence any younger generation of composers might best be advised to follow. He did so by recalling Ravel’s earliest days: “Within our great and established traditions of the Conservatoire, such a young, slight and dry talent—scarcely interested in selfrevelation and practicing both tongue-in-cheek paradox and irony formidably—was regarded by colleagues with a bit of mistrust.”84 And Virgil Thomson, having likely read both Klingsor in Revue musicale and Vuillermoz thereafter,85 marked the later, unhappy tenth anniversary with a less-than-oblique reference: “[Ravel’s] was an adult mind and a good mind, tender, ironic, cultivated, sharply observant . . . There was acid in him but no bile; and he used his acid as a workman does, for etching.”86

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Contexts and “Canvas” The evidence, then, for at least one literary aspect of Ravel’s style and its larger interdisciplinary context is evident.87 As early as 1911 Henri Ghéon had declared Ravel’s music to occupy “the very boundaries of literary music, indeed of music itself,”88 and Ghéon’s judgment, as earlier implied, had deep roots in the 1890s. By early in the new century, Ravel makes it quite clear the extent to which he was invested in the larger, interdisciplinary “mosaic,” or canvas of musical life noted in his Tombeau by eminent critics such as Dumesnil. In trying to persuade an uninterested (indeed haughty) Jules Renard to attend the musical premiere of his Histoires naturelles, Ravel attempts to reassure: he does not wish to “add” to Renard’s verse, but newly interpret it: “To say with music what you do with words when, for example, you stand before a tree.89 I think and I perceive in music, and I wish to conceive and sense the same things as you.”90 Some of the more transcendental implications of these remarks are pursued below, but, for the moment, the literary dispositions of Ravel’s musical intent will be of interest. In a public conference on French music in 1930, Robert Bernard (who, after Ravel’s death, would oversee the Tombeau issue of Revue musicale) waded confidently into the marshes of comparative aesthetics of his time. He suggested that Ravel’s inspiration was enough literary (the genius of his minuets, for example, embodied the qualities of certain portraits, as well as the acumen of Saint-Beuve’s prose, and were, in fact, the best musical “transpositions” of the Grand Siècle) to invoke the possibility of virtual “reconstitutions,” along the lines of writers such as Anatole France, Henri de Régnier, and (to a lesser degree) Verlaine.91 Vladimir Jankélévitch, in his excellent Ravel monograph of 1939, drew the sharper, more distilled point: “Le Grillon” from the Histoires naturelles represents “the final transfiguration of irony into poetry.”92 Throughout Ravel’s career, surely by its sad end, a certain creeping, aesthetic “totalisme” was observed by those who knew and remembered him from the 1890s forward:93 “To test, to verify the ‘totality’ of Ravel,” wrote Benjamin Crémieux in 1938, “one need only recite the names of writers and painters most purely French. Marot, Ronsard, La Fontaine, Racine, La Bruyère, Diderot, Chénier, Nerval, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Valéry, Giraudoux; Clouet, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Watteau, Ingres, Courbet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, not one of whom wants for resonance in the works of Ravel.”94 But to reiterate briefly, the present study cannot be about irony writ large, or about musical irony per se, but rather about retracing Ravel’s music in view of contingent influences acknowledged frequently by him (and many others),95 and centering around the two greater and long-acknowledged domains of the phenomenon, the irony of words, and that of the “things” of the world. We can advance beyond Norbert Albrecht’s earlier reference to the “terra incognita” of irony concerning Ravel,96 grounded in uniquely conceived perspectives of musical sound fascinating the generation of composers surrounding both Debussy and Ravel (again, however regrettably difficult to separate the two, irony is a

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recurring thread). We can then argue that the increasing interest with which irony was treated as a literary device throughout the nineteenth century in France found a compelling realization beyond that long-acknowledged in the works of writers and poets well known to all interested (including Debussy and Ravel, of course), and specifically in Ravel’s music.97 Léon-Paul Fargue (a greater poet than Klingsor, to be sure, yet true friend and fellow Apache to both Klingsor and Ravel) has provided some helpful evidence of the categories of irony.98 In proposing that music constitutes on occasion a bridge between the different domains of irony—an irony “of notes,” as it were— cast amidst, across, beyond those of words and/or “things” (i.e., situations), we may also draw some encouragement from more recent examples of interdisciplinary music criticism. Edward Said’s affirmation, for instance, that “The letters and words of literary texts are of course denotative; they share a common, and overlapping, discursivity with spoken language in ways that, with the exception of a rudimentary onomatopoeic mimicry, are very different from the relationship between musical notes and words,”99 may appear to argue against our larger premise, but they appear less so when reflecting upon the choice of the (more recent) noun “discursivity,” and its pregnant adjective “overlapping.”100 If Said appears to draw something of a “lift bridge” between the perceptual contexts of written and spoken language and those musical, there can, nonetheless, be little doubt that amongst “the qualit[ies] of being discursive” over two millennia reside those of irony. These relevant “discursivities” are (1) mutual reverberations between music and other arts from (roughly) Baudelaire’s enthusiasms when encountering Wagner,101 to and through (2) Mallarmé’s receptions of Baudelaire, Wagner, and other music, to (3) the development of what it is possible to call “Wagnerian musico-literary theory” during the relatively brief and intense period of Symbolist poetry and criticism,102 into (4) the sea-changes of the 1914–18 War and its aftermath (e.g., Cocteau’s influence on those following Ravel,103 perhaps over-emphasized).104 The broader outlines of these interactions have been responsibly charted for quite some time. As Ravel was finding his way through the preparatory curriculum of the Paris Conservatory and wandering about the Paris World Exhibition in 1889 with his best friend of adolescence, Ricardo Viñes,105 some broad—and representative— evidence about the recent musico-literary currents was offered to the educated French public at large by the prolific and influential editor of the prestigious Revue des Deux Mondes,106 Ferdinand Brunetière. Brunetière,107 from about 1890, and with clairvoyance, as Suzanne Bernard has emphasized, realized how important music and its appropriated vocabularies had become to the younger poets. He placed their new efforts within a greater literary evolution stretching from the “architectural” realms of the classical era, to those “pictorial” of the nineteenth century, and into the new “musical intentions” of Ravel’s generation.108 With patent anxiety over the proliferation of musical titles chosen by authors such as Verlaine, Moréas, Laforgue, and Ghil (works entitled, respectively,

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Romances sans paroles, Cantilènes, Complaintes, and Gammes),109 Brunetière writes in 1888, “To develop a subject nowadays means to write a series of variations on a theme; and one no longer moves from one idea to another by transition, one modulates.”110 Yet the mixing of sensibilities, vocabularies, and aesthetics that representatively—to use the concept again—entangled Brunetière and virtually everyone else of the time,111 is indicative of the empathetic, interdisciplinary interchanges constructively entangling Ravel and his fellow Apaches, and those of other groups yet to be documented. By the time of both Petrouchka and Daphnis et Chloé, Stravinsky had joined the Apaches, and by the tumultuous premiere of Le sacre du printemps one begins to find some evidence of determined divergence among larger figures of our inquiry. Significant traces of what Cocteau and his “troupe” were to pursue in the coming decade112—a decade that for all practical purposes would do away with what had made the “constructively entangled” aesthetic life of groups such as Ravel’s Apaches germane—were intuited (in the tradition of Bertrand, Baudelaire, Mallarmé and others) by the staunch Debussy and Stravinsky advocate Jacques Rivière.113 Rivière, one of the outstanding literary critics of his time, had been given his start in writing about music by Jean Marnold, during the year of Ravel’s Prix de Rome scandal.114 Impressed, by 1910, with some aspects of Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, Rivière nonetheless reckoned the work (and Ravel) to be of less consequence than Debussy and his achievements (especially Pelléas).115 He was also swept away by the entirely different aesthetic of Le sacre du printemps,116 noting that the music “had been stripped completely bare of any vibration,” that it had done away with the customary “halo” of orchestral timbre to which one had grown accustomed. He reported that Stravinsky’s desire in such a work was far more than to renounce Debussy’s path, it was to “argue directly, clearly, more specifically through instruments that don’t flutter or vibrate, that say nothing more than what they say, whose timbres—wanting in partials—are more like abstract words.”117 Rivière, by this time, had maintained a strong friendship and correspondence with the gifted writer Alain-Fournier for nearly a decade,118 and it is therefore a bit surprising to find Ravel (rather than Debussy, or anyone else around the time of Stravinsky’s Sacre) turning to Alain-Fournier’s sole masterwork, Le grand Meaulnes, for inspiration in a projected work of “absolute” music.119 AlainFournier was by no means unacquainted with Ravel’s music. One senses in a letter of his to Rivière in 1907, for instance, that perhaps there was too much vibrating in Ravel’s recently orchestrated version of Une barque sur l’océan: (quoting Christopher Palmer) “[W]e find Alain-Fournier complaining to Rivière . . . that the music was both derivative of Debussy yet lacking the intense personal involvement of ‘Le dialogue du vent et de la mer.’”120 All too soon, to remember Joseph de Marliave’s fate, Ravel was requesting Alain-Fournier’s Le grand Meaulnes from the war front (via his “Marraine de Guerre”),121 and only one week later recommending it to his friend and proofreader at Durand, Lucien Garban.122 But by

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then—in another echo of Enright’s irony upon dark skies—Rivière had been taken prisoner by the Germans, and Alain-Fournier (like Joseph de Marliave) was dead.123 And, given Alain-Fournier’s aforementioned preference for Debussy in originality and “intense personal involvement,” it is indeed curious to discover (as did Palmer) the phrase “une barque sur l’océan” prominent in the opening to chapter 4 of Le grand Meaulnes.124 Remarkable, too, that in the decade before their untimely deaths in war, both Marliave and Alain-Fournier had found this one work of Ravel—“Une barque sur l’océan”125—so unattractive.126 Another of Palmer’s observations (though hardly unparalleled)127 restores some compass: “It is impossible to overrate the part played by contemporary painting and literature in the formation of Debussy’s mature style.”128 René Chalupt had said as much about Ravel a half century earlier (“Nearly all of [Ravel’s] music derives from a removed literary context that, vaguely or precisely, underpins his inspiration”),129 as had Henri Ghéon, even thirteen years before Chalupt.130 The groundswell of similar interpretations is more than evident in the 1938 Ravel Tombeau, and—especially in view of the glimmer of Alain-Fournier’s use of “une barque sur l’océan” in Le grand Meaulnes, ca. 1915—it is important to keep in mind the implications of the reverse of Palmer’s commonplace—the prodigious pull of music upon French literary life in Ravel’s lifetime, Proust’s example being perhaps the most widely recognized. Not long after Debussy’s death, Proust famously recounted that “Music has been one of the great passions of my life. . . . It has brought me indescribable joy and knowledge, and the certitude that something exists beyond the ‘void’ with which I have struggled for so long. It runs like an electric thread throughout all of my work.”131 Used side-by-side by Proust, the paradigms of “void” and “thread” hold retrospective, contemporary, and continuing authority. Stéphane Mallarmé’s central aesthetic struggles about the first of these is known, betrayed in correspondence as early as 1866, from those who knew him well. Eugène Lefébure, for instance, makes jocular use of a verb that will be of great interest below: “Are you still juggling your particular torments of the Absolute, Being, and Nothingness?”132 In the generations following Proust, Jean-Paul Sartre would write his grand philosophy of L’être et le néant (not treating music in depth),133 and ClaudeHenry Joubert his concordance, Le fil d’or, of Proust’s great novel.134 In having to pass by one of the ironic mysteries of Proust and his Recherche—Ravel’s virtual absence135—the continuing resonance of the two paradigms should be acknowledged: “fil d’or,” by 1925, had migrated into the most sensitive and detailed criticism of Ravel’s musical style,136 and shortly after Proust’s death (in November of 1922), André Coeuroy—having already accorded Ravel a chapter in his book of the same year on “modern” French composers137—shed some further light on the suggested “inverse” paradigm of music shaping literature. In a remarkable essay exploring music’s influence upon Proust,138 Coeuroy (leaning a bit upon some previous work by Charles Du Bos), quotes from an earlier bit of the still unpublished, complete À la Recherche.139 He declared that Proust in prose was

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more profound when writing about music: the transcendental possibilities open to a musician (in this case a pianist, as proposed by Proust’s narrator) can only be imagined, even by an enlightened amateur such as Swann—they remain to be discovered by those few capable of awakening “the hidden richness of that profound darkness taken by the rest of us for emptiness, nothingness, void.”140 Whatever the mysteries of Ravel’s “negative presence” to Proust’s immense relevance,141 the work of two other writers involved in Ravel’s early career advance the “discursivity” (again, Said’s word), of what obviously constituted a complex, constructively entangled, aesthetic discourse among many. On the one hand, Romain Rolland, earliest of French musicologists,142 musical germanophile, influential critic, playwright, pacifist, strong supporter of Ravel’s contemporary Richard Strauss, and author of the only novel comparable in size and ambition of its time to that of Proust.143 On the other, the aforementioned Jean Marnold, influential critic and fierce defender of Ravel, who joined Louis Laloy in founding the S.I.M. Mercure Musical in 1904,144 and who wrote well into the late 1920s for the Mercure de France.145 Rolland took little notice at all of Ravel until the eruption of controversy surrounding the 1905 Prix de Rome competition, when he publicly declared a lack of sympathy for the music while defending its creator personally and politically.146 Marnold by then was well into the game, decrying, in 1902, the institutional problems underpinning Ravel’s final refusal (i.e., the curriculum of the Paris Conservatory and its leadership, specifically Théodore Dubois),147 and praising Ravel’s new works before the public.148 Yet Rolland, during these times, evinced considerable contempt for Marnold, alleging “pedantry,” “habitual clumsiness,” even “dread of Jews,”149 a charge—especially in wake of the Dreyfus affair—that was entirely applicable to larger figures of the time, and one that Rolland skirted deftly in his 1908 collection of historical essays (chronicling, of course, the “larger” Musicans of Today).150 Something of our greater topic circulates dismayingly beneath “M. d’Indy is not a man hedged in by the boundaries of his art; his mind is open and well fertilized. Musicians nowadays are no longer entirely absorbed in their notes, but let their minds go out to other interests.”151 Man of letters, one of the earliest (again, with Louis Laloy) of French musicologists, Rolland had for a very long time indeed let his mind “go out to other interests,” among them German idealism as expressed in German music (especially that of Beethoven). His éducation sentimentale had in fact unfolded about the same time as Ravel’s, but along far different paths. As Ravel and his fellow Apaches were reveling in their creative, impoverished entanglements of the late 1890s in Paris, Romain Rolland was learning from Malwida von Meysenbug in Rome about “the heroic grandeur of previous German thinkers, heralding an ideal humanity,” and “the great, hidden legacies of both France and Germany.”152 It is therefore of some interest that in Rolland’s Musiciens d’aujourd’hui, the chapter following “Vincent d’Indy” and devoted to Richard Strauss manifests tempered praise indeed. Allowing for Strauss’s undeniable brilliance in

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orchestration, Rolland is, all the same, a bit disillusioned, and in lofty terms: Zarathustra ends in impotence, Don Juan’s and Don Quixote’s conclusions are similarly problematic, surely not Beethoven’s example, since, despite “sad adagios,” he always ends on a note of triumph!— His work is the triumph of a conquered hero; that of Strauss is the defeat of a conquering hero. This irresoluteness of the will can be still more clearly seen in contemporary German literature, and in particular in the author of Die versunkene Glocke. But it is more striking in Strauss, because he is more heroic. And so we get all this display of superhuman will, and the end is only ‘My desire is gone!’153

A bit more irony may perhaps be teased: Rolland’s great devotion to German music—that comprising “the deepest of European musical streams”154—is better grasped by reading his monumental novel based upon uniquely idealist conceptions155 (conceived during the years of Ravel’s repeated failures in the Prix de Rome competition, and written about the same time as Proust’s À la recherche),156 and his specific mention of Die versunkene Glocke, in tandem with Richard Strauss as evidence of flagging German aesthetic and idealist intent,157 is even more “alluring,” since it was at this time, and to this specific work of “irresolute will” that Ravel was in fact deeply attracted, and to which he dedicated at least eight years of precious time and effort.158 The work might well have been completed had not the war—to which, Romain Rolland was opposed and Ravel committed—intervened,159 carrying Ravel to the front at Verdun,160 to broken health,161 and to an unrecovered pace of—if not creativity162—certainly productivity.163 Ironies accumulate: as Ravel’s enthusiasm for Gerhardt Hauptmann’s stage work of “irresolute will” faded slowly from his crowded consciousness amidst the wreckage around Verdun,164 the heavy-handed, anti-Semitic “pedant” Jean Marnold joined him in a startling act of “resolute will.” Marnold opposed publicly—on both fronts, as it were—extensive efforts by other French writers and musicians intent on suppressing and stifling German music, both during and after the war. If not sharing the level of enthusiasm for Wagner expressed by Marnold in Mercure de France of May 1915,165 Ravel must surely have been heartened by Marnold’s faith expressed therein in the deep resilience of contemporary French music, to include (from recent times) d’Indy, Dukas, and [!] L’heure espagnole.166 Marnold had, in fact (in the first of two reviews of L’heure), called for the delivery of the long-awaited work after Gerhardt Hauptmann, but as the war ground on, Ravel became as much concerned with matters of his own survival as with those of German music in France at large. Throughout what remains a rather under-recognized event in French musical history, a group calling themselves The National League for the Defense of French Music,167 founded and directed by Charles Tenroc (of considerable influence at the Schola Cantorum and at the journal Courrier musical),168 counting among their “Honorary Presidents”

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Camille Saint-Saëns, Vincent d’Indy, Théodore Dubois,169 Gustave Charpentier, and some twenty-odd other composers and performers, published a remarkable manifesto in the Paris press calling for the boycott of German (and Austrian) music. A copy reached Ravel at the front,170 and some timely traces of irony may be divined from the beginning of his detailed response: “I fully approve of the ‘need for action’ which gave birth to the National League. I felt this need so keenly that I gave up civilian life, although nothing compelled me to do so.”171 Ravel’s longest surviving student has left some compelling observations about all this, close to the end of his life, at the turn of the twenty-first century. According to Manuel Rosenthal, in a time of war manifesting the worst kinds of “propaganda,” that which has been proposed as among Ravel’s greatest of “weapons” was insufficient to the task: “Recruited, Ravel was enraged. If earlier he had

contented himself with irony (‘Far less useful to stifle or to isolate oneself from the work of others, than to try to do as much’) the impertinence of the ‘hidden skewers’ drove him to exasperation: ‘Perhaps better when this is all over that we get to keep our weapons.’”172 Refusing to be associated with such a “national” organization, Ravel sent a copy of his reply to Marnold (in the event, one assumes, that something untoward might happen),173 and the controversy sputtered on for some months, without gaining great traction. The group’s secretary (composer, critic, and author Jean Poueigh, pseudonym Octave Séré, who at one point had sued Erik Satie), published an essay in 1916 calling for the ban of Wagner’s music after the war,174 but it was quickly rebutted by Marnold,175 and two years later, when Marnold published his criticism of the war years, he included a telling appendix of letters from French soldiers at the front discussing German music, composers, and aesthetics.176 Little “retreat,” though, in Poueigh’s 1921 Musiciens français d’aujourd’hui (nearly duplicating, ironically, the title of the Germanophile Romain Rolland’s above-mentioned work, French being added to Musicians of Today):177 Saint-Saëns and Massenet received the longest chapters (Satie none, of course); Ravel’s is among the shortest, and—some fifteen years after first mention—his Versunkene Glocke after Gerhardt Hauptmann, is still listed by Poueigh as “in preparation.” In another bolt of irony upon dark skies, Marcel Marnat informs us that on the other side of the trenches, both Hauptmann and Thomas Mann had signed on to anti-French organizations resembling the League to which Ravel had refused to lend his name.178 Touching upon matters of life and death, then, our contexts are plainly contingent, sometimes starkly so. How to begin to untangle some of the “literary” contexts of Ravel’s music, while doing justice to the convictions of talents like Romain Rolland, who had expressed his disillusionment with Bismark’s Germany long before the war, pitting one “heroic” composer (Strauss) against another (Beethoven)? In this lies the undying worm of German thought—I am speaking of the thought of the choice few who enlighten the present and anticipate the future.

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I see an heroic people, intoxicated by its triumphs, by its great riches, by its numbers, by its force, which clasps the world in its great arms and subjugates it, and then stops, fatigued by its conquest, and asks: ‘Why have I conquered?’179

To be sure, Rolland had feared France’s—and Ravel’s—coming apocalypse for a good decade,180 and, as Claude Digeon has shown, Rolland looked more and more specifically to French musicians for hope during the years of Ravel’s repeated failures to win the Prix de Rome.181 A young composer (Ravel) in whose music Rolland had no interest, was, hence, publicly defended, while Strauss (nearly as young),182 and in whom Rolland had great and personal interest, was reminded publicly of larger responsibilities. One would certainly wish to know more than that disclosed in Rolland’s journal about a performance of Pelléas et Mélisande in May of 1907, one that he, Ravel, and Richard Strauss all attended in the same loge, an evening that began with dinner at the home of the heavy-handed, pedantic, Jew-dreading critic of Mercure de France, Jean Marnold (who joined them, of course, for the performance).183 An allowance for other fils d’or, for other “threads” behind, beneath, and intertwined with our contingent contexts, such as potential French parallels to persuasive German idealist models of the “will,” to which Romain Rolland and others had subscribed (however problematically during the war years),184 is fitting. It is well known that the second half of the nineteenth century witnessed an increasingly metaphysical role of poetry in France, beginning (roughly) with Baudelaire and culminating in the works of Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé, and various of their colleagues and followers.185 Much achieved in these decades was surely rooted in a uniquely French will186—to (as Mallarmé put it) “take back from music” its powers of persuasion, rhetoric, and emotional impress. This was an enterprise that rang as much of antidote as analog, but was in fact a parallel, contiguous, and contingent effort, intertwined with that which it sought to transcend. The roots of its inspiration—however profoundly “transliterated” by French talents from Baudelaire forward—stemmed greatly from German music: Beethoven, Wagner, and (yet again, before, during and after the 1914–18 War) Beethoven.187 Basil Deane, in his excellent study of some time ago, touched more than gently upon this: “At a time when the Symbolists, conscious of the limitations of language, envied music its fluidity, its indirectness of statement, Ravel, equally aware of the limitations of his medium, sought to give his music the precision of a verbal or even a visual image. . . . It could be said of him that he wished to ‘reprendre à la poésie son bien.’”188 The last line, of course, represents an inversion of the Symbolist desire, collective “will,” indicating that long before the war (ca. 1906), Ravel was navigating deep, and not exclusively Germanic waters. We know that Ravel’s preferred poet was indeed Mallarmé,189 “the greatest of all French poets,” he once said,190 “the only French poet” on another occasion,191 and though both of these comments date from the 1920s, we also

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know that while reading Alain-Fournier’s Le grand Meaulnes at the front of the 1914–18 War, Ravel requested the most recent, indeed, the first comprehensive study of Mallarmé’s works by Albert Thibaudet.192 Writing to Mme Dreyfus (his “Marraine de guerre”), Ravel confides that “everything dealing with Mallarmé interests me deeply,”193 presupposing, obviously, a knowledge beyond his much earlier musical setting of Sainte (1896), and the astonishing suite of songs written just before the war, aptly entitled Trois Poèmes. As Ravel’s relationship to and with Stéphane Mallarmé surely is greater than now known (and deserves a study of its own),194 one may note in passing, from Michel Delahaye’s fine work, the hint of resentment expressed by Debussy in his pointed reference to “the Mallarmé-Ravel family.”195 Mallarmé’s aesthetics have been carefully chronicled by Suzanne Bernard as “idealist,”196 and she ventures far beyond documenting several times over how the poet considered music and literature to be “two faces of the larger entity of ‘Idea(s).’”197 Indeed, she concluded that the formulation of an “idealist aesthetic” was for Mallarmé his salvation,198 and in Albert Thibaudet’s book, which Ravel read at the front of the war, one finds some important references: Precisely because he was not a musician, Mallarmé was better able to settle upon such enigmas to personal ends. Music, toward the end of his creative life, offered to him gently and subtly that which had come to him previously in life through the dry irony of reality as shades of hopelessness: the idea of something “beyond,” of a “meta” poetry toward which it is noble to struggle, to reach out with hands worn with research and will. Music, which he understood poorly as a discipline, was for him a representation of the ideal, of the very limits of poetry itself.”199

Having struggled mightily with music, as Thibaudet also recounts,200 it should come as little surprise that Mallarmé evinced (more than once) a “French will” calling for poetry to “take it all back” from music.201 In these years of Ravel’s artistic emergence (and Mallarmé’s final few years, those of his greatest contemporary influence), we find the former reading a good bit of the literature underpinning the latter’s “idealist” philosophies: Edgar Allan Poe,202 Baudelaire,203 Huysmans,204 Verlaine,205 and—more interestingly—Rimbaud.206 As Bernard notes, it was, indeed, Rimbaud’s newly published work that gave inspiration to the generation of the mid-1890s. The members of that generation—to recall Henry Bidou in Revue musicale from our earliest pages—were devoted to the “real” Symbolists, in newly brilliant, ironic fashion, and found their musical model was the young Maurice Ravel.207 Important to remark, too, in Bernard’s reading of Rimbaud, is her use of a term applied to Mallarmé, and of great importance concerning Ravel: gageure, the assumption of a venture so difficult (in the poet’s case, that of becoming a “seer,” of finding ways to suggest rather than describe), something so impossible that it constitutes, in effect, a

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kind of “wager,” a bet against all reasonable odds.208 As for Poe, both Baudelaire and Mallarmé had been captivated by and had translated his works, and Poe’s influence was acknowledged often by Ravel and those who knew him from the decade framing the war.209 Roland-Manuel went so far as to suggest that, were Ravel asked to compose a theory of aesthetics in 1921, he would begin with Poe.210 As to more specific questions of French composers’ “will,” one finds some revealing ambivalence about it from Ravel as early as 1912. In the few surviving Paris reviews, for instance, he writes that countryman Georges Witkowski’s “Franckist” Second Symphony (specifically, his management of orchestral color) “appears to have been guided by will alone.”211 Several weeks later, he is quite clearly aggravated by the allegedly vast, tedious developments of Brahms—“An artist’s will should only be the attentive servant of his instinct: . . . The will to develop can only be sterile.”212 And, if not provocative enough, Ravel extended himself further in this notice, avowing that in both Germany and France, Brahms and Franck—whatever their effects of boredom213—were models best suited to the aftermath of Wagner’s undeniable brilliance: in France two contemporary streams emerged, the less successful being the Franckists—“devotees of the artist’s will, . . . their faith in it [becoming] only stronger.”214 Though less often than irony, “will” appears repeatedly in association with other relevant terms of contemporary (and subsequent) criticism of Ravel and his music, and often enough to be of note. Roland-Manuel, betraying in 1921 the precedence for what was to become Jankélévitch’s artfully constructed Ravel “gageure” aesthetic of the late 1930s, anticipated, too, the vocabulary used by Suzanne Bernard in her analyses of Rimbaud (shortly after Jankélévitch): “Hatred of indecision, distrust in the comfort and procedures of the pompous, willfulness sometimes [my emphasis], that the work of art appear as the winning of a well-placed bet, the overcoming of impossible odds.”215 More obligingly, Roland-Manuel concludes his essay with: “The desire, above all, to pursue the pure intellectual joy achieved through the pleasures of sound [my emphasis, again] as opposed to those found in intoxication of the emotions—such is the aesthetic of Maurice Ravel.”216 Beyond Louis Aguettant’s performance-practice advice to students at the Lyon Conservatory three years later (i.e., Verlaine, and the conclusion to the Valses nobles amidst the larger environment of “masked” French irony noted earlier; see pp. 13–14), one should note his recommendation that students keep in mind the importance of Diderot’s Paradoxe du comédien, a work that we already know to have been important to Ravel: “Ravel willfully makes himself impervious and concerned uniquely with matters of technique; he believes that a musician has no need to experience the emotions he wishes to communicate. What counts is what he produces musically, a determined effect. . . . This is Diderot’s Paradoxe du comédien applied to music.”217 In discussing Ravel’s vocal works the following year, Arthur Hoérée reproached more than a few by lamenting the increased role of “chance” in contemporary aesthetics, declaring “Ravel is pure will, ignoring

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‘chance,’ a quality assuming nowadays all too easily the status of a universal criterion.”218 In the spring of 1930, Pierre Capdevielle speculated in Le Monde musical that the true motive behind Bolero (La valse, too) had lain not in their ballet commissions, but in Ravel’s unique intelligence and will.219 Marcel Belvianes, in Le Ménestrel, revived briefly Romain Rolland’s “deep stream” of German music and aesthetics: one of the most extraordinary of “modern” works, Ravel’s art in this case was truly “Schopenhauerien” in its ever-new repetitions of a single motif,220 though Robert Bernard, in his conference on French music of the same year (at the Paris Conservatory and the Sorbonne), read Ravel’s “will” differently: “No artist revealed his subconscious less than Ravel. A virtuoso rivaled only perhaps by one like Picasso, Ravel is more self aware, more in control of a will so powerful and sovereign that it leaves less—if ever it had left anything—to instinct.”221 Nonetheless, Jankélévitch, in his 1939 Ravel study, chose “will” as a means of distinguishing between Ravel and (1) Fauré (Ravel as indebted yet manifesting a will, in effect, of “feinting” or of ruse);222 (2) Debussy (Ravel perhaps less sensitive or “receptive,” yet more “willful” and determined from the beginning);223 and (3) Erik Satie (the latter’s “theatre of indifference” as opposed to a sharp response to Romanticism, in which Ravel’s will never failed him).224 His gageure Ravel aesthetic, then, leans heavily upon what he perceived to be the composer’s “iron will,”225 and the topic—like Ravel’s irony—continued to circulate after the composer’s death.226 Robert Bernard, writing only two weeks after Ravel’s death, both reiterated and advanced his conference interpretations of eight years prior: individual elements of the music are more often noted than its great syntheses, yet the balance of all—underpinned by intelligence and by the mastery of a “selfconscious will”—represents one of the great moments in musical evolution.227 Arthur Honegger, too, is in agreement within the year, in the Revue musicale Tombeau, expressing astonishment at how long it had taken to measure Ravel’s role in the evolution of French music (indeed, of all music), or that he might ever have been considered an imitator of Debussy: Stravinsky, Ravel, Dukas, after all, had all knit their respective links in the great chain of musical development, but key to Ravel’s successful synthèse (which he likened to that of Mozart) was, indeed, a certain will, or—as Honegger links two crucial terms more closely than had Roland-Manuel in 1921—Ravel’s “will to wager.”228 A shorter contribution to the Ravel Tombeau returns the discursivity closer “to shore”: framing the topics differently from Romain Rolland’s conjectures over superhuman, pointless will (“Why have I conquered?”), and in terms recalling Proust’s thread or fils d’or of music (his means of filling the “void” of existence), Jean Cassou writes “The willful intent of Maurice Ravel was to use nothing in the service of music save intelligence. It is always present in his work, solely aware of all that might not be of its own, filling the void which— even more than nature—it abhors, passionately curious about how far it might extend its boundaries of influence. Given such a course, it sails into those distant worlds governed by irony.”229

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At the very least, we reckon Ravel’s aesthetics to have been closer to Mallarmé than to those of his fellow Frenchman Romain Rolland, and the search by Mallarmé for something resembling a middle ground in forming his own French idealism230—the need to take it all back from music—should not, again, surprise in view of the enormous influence of German music of the time. Beyond the heritages of early polyphony and “folk” musics only beginning to be studied seriously during Ravel’s adolescence, there would be little point in denying that the French—along with virtually everyone else in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—drew deeply from Jean-Christophe’s “stream.” A good deal, therefore, of what has been discussed heretofore (and that which follows) has to do with the surprising “bookends”—Beethoven and Wagner—of much of French musical life in the nineteenth century, and of the struggles of Mallarmé’s and those whom he influenced. As early as 1864—midway between Beethoven’s death and Ravel’s birth, at the beginning of a long encounter with words like “suggest,”—Mallarmé does great justice to the moment by enjoining (famously), “Paint not the object, but the effect which it creates.” Beethoven, of course, sixty years before, had insisted on something similar—that he be properly understood about his sixth symphony (“More expression than representation”).231 Some eighty years after the Symphonie pastorale—as Ravel emerged from adolescence— Mallarmé conveyed the refinements of his quest (ca. 1891) to a regrettably small yet growing public: “To name an object is to stifle three-quarters of the pleasure inherent in a genre capable of revealing all little by little: to suggest, that is the dream.”232 Suzanne Bernard’s concluding thoughts about Mallarmé and music (conceived little more than a decade after Ravel’s death) share promising kinship with those concluding the previous section by Tristan Klingsor and Virgil Thomson: “Mallarmé was an engraver, a goldsmith defending literature as best he could against the overwhelming influence of music—a role that in fact he was fully aware of and welcomed whole-heartedly.”233

Paradigms and Signs If it is primarily within literary discourse that irony has flourished as a topic of inquiry, one must—certainly in Ravel’s case—concede “crossovers” at play (or, to use Baudelaire’s far better, musically inspired term, correspondances). Probably with intent, Ravel used the word irony rarely, at least in public. Upon first hearing the Pavane pour une infante défunte around the century’s turn, fellow Apache and poet Fargue credited the work’s irony, color, and novelty, yet when faced with acknowledging a performance of the work in the role of a critic for the SIM journal in 1912 (quoted above with regard to “Franckist” influences of “the will”; see p. 25),234 Ravel had almost nothing kind to say about his own music. Chastising himself over imperfect architecture and lack of conceptual “adventure,”235 he invoked both categories of irony: “Oh, irony of fate,” says Ravel, before proceeding to deconstruct himself

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about the Pavane’s “verbal” (notational) failings. The fact that Vladimir Jankélévitch, the author so eminently qualified to address the topic in depth touched only “gently” upon it, even in his detailed study of Ravel’s music in 1939, is significant.236 Jankélévitch, intimately familiar with the composer and his music (indeed, with much other music),237 chose, like nearly everyone before and since, to write about irony from chiefly literary and philosophical perspectives. Noting the atmosphere of irony, or an “ironic touch” from time to time in Ravel’s music,238 he cast the composer’s style in terms of “artifice,” “masques,”239 and, finally, “une esthétique de la gageure.”240 Others, such as Jankélévitch’s younger colleague René Schaerer, were also interested in the topic: in declaring, for instance, the presence of a “masque” in irony to imply by default its “snatching away,” and, therefore, the creator’s “sincerity,”241 Schaerer touched upon one of Jankélévitch’s Ravel chapter titles, upon Adorno’s views about Ravel and “masks” mentioned earlier, and upon a term of peculiar pitch (especially in French) that Ravel—ironically—got himself into a muddle with over many years, “sincerity.”242 But Jankélévitch was quite happy to acknowledge the only other attempt prior to his:243 “An ‘aesthetic of deception.’ The notion descends from Roland-Manuel, who has penetrated more profoundly than anyone the secrets of such a phrase. Still, we prefer another aesthetic, that of the ‘wager’ with its embedded assumption(s) of virtuosity and iron will.”244 In speaking to the subtleties of Ravel’s “discourse” (the term used by Jean Zay at Ravel’s graveside),245 it is surprising how unambiguous those few who knew the music as intimately as Roland-Manuel and Jankélévitch could be about the “traps” (to remember the final chapter title of Jankélévitch’s book L’ironie, “Des pièges de l’ironie”) of pegging Ravel’s style. This was not to be taken lightly. The surprisingly pungent caution embedded in the criticism from former Apache Calvocoressi—loyal and friendly colleague to all here concerned from the late 1890s, and outstanding music critic of his decades246—resonates to the present day. Stepping aside in 1941, near the end of his life, Calvocoressi questioned specifically the premises of Jankélévitch and Roland-Manuel, along with “those who have tried their hand at turning out portraits of [Ravel] as man and artist based on the assumption that there was something unusual and mysterious in his mental make-up.”247 He reminded all that “as a musician [Ravel] was first and last an artisan,” interested as much in inspiration from the “exterior” world as from any inner, “mysterious” cultivation.248 Calvocoressi’s cautions, at the remove of three generations, give pause. But the only theoretically formalized designs of Ravel’s aesthetic—however intertwined—remain those of Roland-Manuel and Vladimir Jankélévitch, and both were informed by the (mysterious) leviathan of irony. A deconstruction of either would be counterproductive, as would the reconstruction from scratch, as it were, of a completely new Ravel aesthetic. But “Calvo” (as Ravel referred to him affectionately) would likely have allowed for the probing of the common ground of his two, rejected models, since Ravel’s extraordinary success in virtuosic deception (Roland-Manuel’s esthétique de l’imposture), and in

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vertiginous odds-playing (Jankélévitch’s aesthétique de la gageure) would have been far less successful without a subtle and advanced understanding of irony. And the cultivation of such a “weapon,” of course, could be successfully achieved—in Calvocoressi’s words—only by one “first and last an artisan.” Close to midway through his 1939 Ravel study, Jankélévitch elaborates convincingly upon his “dealer/player’” aesthetic: “All of Ravel’s music represents in a sense a certain problem to resolve, a game in which the dealer changes at whim the rules at play.” Such, he concludes, over several pages of detailed discussion with examples, underpins Ravel’s “richness of poverty.”249 Fair enough, if we allow for Thomas Mann’s “most profound and most alluring” of problems, and if we recognize, too, that Jankélévitch’s elegant arguments echo rather eerily a source often acknowledged in his parallel literary study of irony— Kierkegaard.250 As noted, Jankélévitch does not much pursue Ravel and irony specifically in either of these texts of the late 1930s,251 yet one gains something in reflecting upon Kierkegaard’s belief that the ironic figure of speech—irony’s simplest form, to his way of thinking—is “like a riddle and its solution possessed simultaneously,”252 since its resonance is hard to miss in Jankélévitch’s justification for his Ravel gageure aesthetic: “Every work of Ravel represents in this sense a problem to solve, a game in which the player changes at whim the rules.”253 As for Roland-Manuel’s earlier model of “deception,” it is, at least for the moment, more straightforward, in that deception has been at the root of virtually all definitions of irony since Socrates. Wayne Booth—indebted, too, as all, to Kierkegaard—254 has made it clear how he would wish for such matters to be carried forward, his conviction that “one important question about irony is how authors and readers achieve it together” framing the departure point for his discriminating study.255 His challenge being too grand (as noted in the introduction, there is no structured or historical treatment of musical irony to date), one holds it, nonetheless, close to heart. Irony—certainly verbal irony—implies agency.256 Inherent therefore, in both Kierkegaard’s “riddles with simultaneous solutions” and Jankélévitch’s Ravel “problems to solve” is its most oft-noted quality since Antiquity, the “willful intervention” of an author in matters at hand.257 As have writers of rhetoric, poetry, drama, and prose “intervened” throughout the course of chosen works to confound, deceive, interrupt expectations, so, too, did Ravel. To acknowledge effect is a beginning, of course, but one begging provenance. As with other disciplines, musical irony has to do with design, with the “intendedly unexpected” dimensions of one’s art. Without entering into the rich panoply of arguments over irony’s intrinsic, even dangerous negativity (as Kierkegaard had argued), or the myriad opposing interpretations (including Schlegel, who, as Lloyd Bishop has noted, argued that irony was both positive and “progressive” in the transcendental sense),258 one can surely concede that in order to achieve irony, an author’s intervention must be, in some sense, “negative,” with regard to the materials in play, and the possibilities of reception.

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Suzanne Bernard has been quoted on Mallarmé and his world with confidence, but she also examined in great detail a larger topic of importance to both Mallarmé and Ravel—prose poetry and free verse.259 In the preface to his final and most difficult work,260 Mallarmé presented Un coup de dés as a work that would be of greatest interest to the younger generation, a work of free verse and prose poetry, the unexpected “melding” of which had resulted from the author’s “taking back” of certain resources from music belonging to literature.261 That the influence of free verse and prose poetry on Ravel’s music—vocal (Shéhérazade, the Histoires naturelles, Mallarmé songs), instrumental (especially Gaspard de la nuit, discussed several times in chapters below), stage (L’heure espagnole), or chamber (Chansons madécasses)—was significant, is quite evident, and, in fact, noted in some detail in the only other work resembling Bernard’s in breadth and depth, John Simon’s Prose Poem as a Genre in Nineteenth-Century European Literature.262 Tristan Klingsor, looking back to the Belle Époque from 1925, recounted how Ravel had been “seduced” by the phenomenon.263 From Klingsor’s sole biographer, Pierre Menanteau, one gains a few clues to what might have been behind Mallarmé’s presentation of his last complete work to the younger generation of poets (and to a public that he knew would receive it in part as deranged):264 “Free verse. . . . Who cares who invented it? Like the Orient, folk music, like myths and tales of the supernatural, it was in the air.”265 As for “negation,” Suzanne Bernard declared it embedded in the very notion of the prose poem, an art possessing the impossible yet essential internal contradictions that make it, in effect, “icarien.”266 Only a few months after Arthur Mendel’s cruel remarks in the New World about Ravel’s last completed work (at what was, again, the effective end of his creative life), Ravel—perhaps in remembering his desire to be a pilot, or at least a bombardier, during the 1914–18 War—discussed some never-to-be-realized projects with enthusiasm,267 among them two works of absolute music inspired by flying. One was to be a symphony (or, as Ravel put it in a letter to Manuel de Falla, “An Airplane in C,” entitled Dédale 39),268 the other a symphonic poem entitled Icare. Flight is, of course, an emblematic activity of risk, daring, and artifice for those earthbound. Apparently unaware of Ravel’s desperate, final years, Suzanne Bernard extended her interpretation of prose poetry, with embedded self-negations and “art icarien,” to the specific work—Mallarmé’s last—that we know Ravel was acquainted with from the front of the war. She wondered if Un coup de dés had not been by default destined to fail: transcending the boundaries of language—like music—was it not une tentative icarienne?269 One of Jankélévitch’s interpretations, indeed definitions, of irony in his literary study, conjures up convincingly the image of juggling, the power, as he put it, “to play, to toss into the air one’s materials with the intent of repudiating or recreating them.”270 This was a quality that—like gageure—Roland-Manuel had already spoken to a decade earlier, concerning both Ravel’s music to date (the “paradoxical juggling of previous themes and timbres”)271 and his mysteriously hidden compositional process (“Nothing in the hands or the pockets: the conjurer juggled away

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even the apparatus of his tricks”).272 Émile Vuillermoz, writing in Candide only two weeks after Ravel’s death, presaged much of Klingsor’s insight in the coming Tombeau, but he did so with a negative mixing of our proposed metaphors: “Throughout his entire life Ravel has been deluged with delicately poisoned praise concerning his elegance of minor genius, his quintessential ideal, his astonishing virtuosity of technique, his skill in juggling and magical cleverness. . . . a perfidious [my emphasis] tradition doing great injustice to his memory by hiding from us his true face, that of a great classical musician.”273 If one allows for what might have lain behind Ravel’s choices about what to “toss into the air with ironic intent,” some constructive ground may be developed between both of Jankélévitch’s brilliant studies, the work of Roland-Manuel, and much of their relevant and important vocabularies. Ravel’s repeated triumphs of the musically unexpected imply at the very least webs of speculation: series, in effect, of negotiations before negation, when the potential attractiveness of one or more deceptions would had to have been weighed carefully against the myriad possibilities of individual and/or collective response. Alfred Cortot, Ravel’s nearly exact contemporary and friend of youth,274 conservatory,275 early maturity,276 and later colleague of great international success,277 alluded to such matters in his history of French piano music, noting that the significance of Ravel’s genius resided not only in the timeless French aesthetics of clarity (recalling Mallarmé’s efforts at an “idealism” grounded in more than German music and aesthetics), but in his forever evolving ability to divine “the purest and most convincing combination of sonorities amidst the paradoxes of contemporary opinion and trends.”278 Negotiations, then, transpired during the “juggling” (Jankélévitch’s metaphor for authorial ironic intent) before Ravel’s “negations” were put into place for some, or any to entertain. More than a bit of this is embedded in Louis Laloy’s quote at the opening, where he paints the image of a sophisticated observer at distance, amused, embracing and treating all privately, with gentle irony. The detailed nature of Ravel’s negotiations in “treating all” remain forever entombed, yet some of their parameters—their fils d’or—may be pursued by interrogating the music from newly discrete perspectives, with attention to contemporary and subsequent criticism, and to as many musical moments as possible. The proposal—or corollary, as suggested above— concerning negotiation may in itself be appropriately ironic, since a corollary by definition derives from prior theory (in this case, the vast critical literature addressing authorial interventions and ironically intended “negations” over many centuries), yet here probes the possibilities of that which must surely have preceded individual practice. Jean Cocteau’s contribution to the 1938 Ravel Tombeau underlined the literary “marquetrie” of the composer’s life in a surprisingly semiotic fashion. Trying to distinguish between composers of the time, Cocteau turned to an unexpected metaphor: if in the end Ravel had discovered how to “punctuate without underlining, Satie by contrast had learned how to forget about such things altogether

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(plumbing, as it were, the reservoirs of his childhood writing exercises), whereas the miracle of Debussy had been to reconcile, to somehow “‘reunite all,’ though with a style at times too ‘feminine,’ and a punctuation too ‘limp.’”279 The word—punctuation—was used familiarly by many, of course, including Ravel (clanging bells, punctuating the “ordered progress” of a modern factory),280 his students (the gentle, polished punctuation of one register of bells by another in “La vallée des cloches”),281 and by many scholars of more recent times.282 But aside from one brief instance by Jankélévitch of the 1930s—referring to the “discourse” of Ravel’s rhythm—no one appears to have pursued the term to detailed analytical ends.283 Cocteau’s musings should not be taken lightly. Punctuation marks an attempt to communicate through intervention, sometimes beyond an author’s materials of moment, using signs, signs that (according to Thibaudet on Mallarmé, whom we know Ravel read in wartime) might be conceived of even before words were put to page, or (in the end), entirely dispensed with,284 a transcendental notion long acknowledged as both fundamental and disquieting to the development of the poet Ravel most admired. John Simon has made the point most bluntly—“Mallarmé, we see, uses punctuation chiefly as a musical device.”285 He persuades by comparing two versions of one work separated by twenty-four years: “So musical is this system of punctuation that it denotes not only, as already mentioned, pauses, but also expressive coloring, like musical notations.”286 His further insights enter into specific examples intrinsic to the development of the genre so important to both Mallarmé and Ravel—the prose poem—by engaging another of our earlier-proposed paradigms: “[W]e should perhaps consider even the visual aspect of the dash: it is like the thread showing through, that thread on which the word and thought-pearls are strung.”287 Simon here speaks of Hölderlin and (regarding “dashes”) of Novalis, whose larger efforts he pairs with those of Mallarmé and Rimbaud,288 but Suzanne Bernard, in her parallel study of the same time, ties the stylistic import of the dash (the “tiret”) in greater detail not only to Mallarmé, but to two other poets known well to Ravel: Rimbaud and (especially) Aloysius Bertrand. Bertrand uses the dash in systematic, nearly typographic fashion (foreshadowing advances made by Rimbaud and Mallarmé),289 to more complex “polyphonic” ends,290 and as a means of “underlining”—to recall Cocteau’s references to Ravel, Satie, and Debussy—of both rhythm and ideas (sometimes abruptly so, with modern, even mechanical effect).291 Now, Simon’s “thread” of Bernard’s “tirets,” upon which ideas are strung, can apply to virtually all French punctuation at one time or another, given its increasingly musical interpretations in recent centuries. Albert Doppagne’s well-known text, for instance, in tracing the development of French punctuation from the thirteenth century, accords the second of only four categories the designation of signes mélodiques, while asserting that, in fact, any sign in any category might at some time be “musical” in appointment.292 But Simon and Bernard have agreed

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upon particularly important elements of larger, current contexts: the poet who transmitted Aloysius Bertrand’s legacies (along with his own, never mind Edgar Alan Poe’s) to the generation of Mallarmé and then of Ravel, was keenly aware of the powers of punctuation: “Look, I told you,” writes Baudelaire to the director of the Revue nationale concerning his La belle Dorothée in the 1860s, “if you find the comma displeasing, then remove the entire verse; do not remove the comma—it is there for a reason.”293 And, as in Poe, punctuation braces Baudelaire’s irony itself at times, providing the necessary “transparence” to an intended “banality” in words or text “underlined”—again ringing of Cocteau’s description of Ravel.294 Having translated Poe (like Baudelaire), Mallarmé makes short, great fun of the entire topic, in an imaginary interview with a journalist dispatched to retrieve (“from the oracle”) a quick contribution to the series of “So What Do You Think About . . . ?” in the Revue blanche. His response to “What Do You Think About Punctuation?” is contrivedly serious: Monsieur, I reply gravely, there exists no topic so solemn. In employing or eschewing conventional signs we betray either prose or verse, the totality in essence of our art: the latter [eschewing typographical artifice] repays in its power to order momentum through articulated, vocal means; yet in the former I find it to be such a necessity of artifice that I prefer a blank page, an open space, however naked—punctuated by commas or periods with lesser combinations, imitating music—to an unpunctuated text, however sublimely suggestive.295

But this is gently ironic, too, since Mallarmé, in his later work, moved steadily away from any punctuation at all, into a kind of versal void,296 which leaves an enduring enigma: during the years that Mallarmé surely hoped would solidify his late-growing influence, how best to weigh his unsettling conclusion that only music might drive out the exigencies of punctuation? Punctuation in France (certainly by Ravel’s generation) was enjoying a significance beyond prose and poetry, which is to say, beyond words. Jean Marnold, Ravel’s loyal defender and longtime contributor to the Mercure de France, has been mentioned several times, and Mercure indeed was the dominant “Symbolist” publishing house and journal of its time, a time during which one may observe increasingly novel punctuation within the journal, and from its contributors. A general “house” symbol for separation had been used repeatedly over the years (below, fig. 1.2b), but in the late 1890s a host of others appeared, many—or most, according to Andrew Mangravite—solicited from, designed, or even drawn by their authors, for use in place of numbers in “non-limited” editions of Mercure’s books.297 Most of these authors were known to Ravel, some very well indeed. Jules Renard, for instance, to whom Ravel revealed himself aesthetically in terms never quite replicated,298 chose (perhaps a bit too obviously,

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at least in retrospect) the symbol of a fox, within borders alluding to an “R” (fig. 1.1a), whereas Henri de Régnier—whose verse graces the title page of Ravel’s first great work (the Jeux d’eau)—conceived of his opportunity with more gentle irony, his initials enfolding a large and lovely sea shell, or coquille, the colloquial term for “misprint” or printer’s error (fig. 1.1b). Others were more provocative: Rimbaud’s symbol appears as a skull embedded within a lyre (fig. 1.1c), Gustave Kahn’s “K” enfolds—not gently—a distressed young woman lashed to a tree (fig. 1.1d), and Félix Fénéon’s repeated “marker” is obviously a bomb (fig. 1.1e).299 The larger number of relatively benign self-assignations such as Maeterlinck’s double M in marble (fig. 1.1f), Pierre Louÿs’ gently intertwined “PW” (fig. 1.1g), the Wagnerian Edouard Dujardin’s strange “ED” with a reversed “E” (fig. 1.1h), and Saint-Paul Roux’s wiry letters enclosed in something of a triangle (fig. 1.1i), furnish the context for what has long been noticed in the musical editions and correspondence of Debussy and Ravel, their respective “monograms” (fig. 1.1j)300 One wishes, of course, to avoid unduly confounding punctuation with typography, but such distinctions in the decades relevant to our inquiry appear not to have been so closely drawn:301 in the first collection of essays assembled after Ravel’s death—from which were drawn Cocteau’s above remarks—the editors advise “It remains only for us to acknowledge the Thomson-Houston Company, France, in underwriting our work, testimony again to its interests in the matters of music and mind. It has been possible through their generosity to accord our ‘Memorial’ volume justice in typographical fashion resembling that of Ravel’s (musical) style.”302 Symbols, then, resembling those of the original Mercure de France series (fig. 1.2a and b, respectively), along with others larger and engraved (whose iconographic relevance has yet to be considered, as in fig. 1.2c), “punctuate” the entirety of the volume. And we know, too, that Mallarmé—rather like Ravel querying virtuosos of his time closely about the ranges and capabilities of their instruments—sought out specific typefaces from different printers for his final completed work, the Coup de dés.303 In keeping with Baudelaire’s example—linked, again, to Poe and Mallarmé— the degree to which the aesthetic relevance of both punctuation and irony intensified in the decades framing Ravel’s adolescence and early career is important, and there is no better evidence of it than the efforts of a lesser-known critic, poet, and novelist of the 1890s, one Alcanter de Brahm (pseudonym, for Marcel Bernhardt).304 Alcanter (1868–1942) was well published in his time,305 he was known to Ravel (their mutual acquaintances and circles of influence often intersected),306 and he subscribed to the obviously large theme (though never much developed) that “To write poetry is to use symbols.”307 His history of French poetry (Cent ans de poésie, 1830–1930) does not appear to have had much influence on contemporary critical opinion, but it addresses the hundred years most important to us here, and it often makes reference to music and related topics. In agreeing, for instance, with Rémy de Gourmont, that in poetry “sound trumps sense,”308 Alcanter stressed the need for “clarity,” citing Mallarmé, Verlaine,

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Figure 1.1a–j. Mercure de France, authorial monograms (a–i, left to right, descending), and (j, bottom) those of Debussy/Ravel (a) Maurice Ravel, (b) Henri de Régnier, (c) Arthur Rimbaud, (d) Gustave Kahn, (e) Félix Fénéon, (f) Maurice Maeterlinck, (g) Pierre Louÿs, (h) Edouard Dujardin, (i) Saint-Paul Roux, (j) Debussy and Ravel

Figure 1.2. Typographical symbols of separation, from the first Ravel memorial volume in 1939 (a–c, left to right, descending)

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Villiers de l’Isle Adam, and another author of special interest to Ravel, Barbey d’Aurevilly, whose interest in and importance to irony (like his greater contemporary Baudelaire) has been well established.309 In reinforcing the premise of a larger aesthetic canvas, or mosaic shaping Ravel’s life,310 Alcanter noted some of the inevitable critical reaction against younger Symbolists poets (including that of Ferdinand Brunetière, proposed earlier as institutionally representative of the times),311 and sketched a rare background to the formation of groups like Ravel’s Apaches.312 But Alcanter’s most fixed intent was no less than to formalize, to reify Thomas Mann’s “profound and alluring” subject through a freshly minted, newly-conceived device of typographical punctuation. His point d’ironie (fig. 1.3a)— designed for insertion at appropriate times in order to advise readers of irony’s “presence” in a text—first appeared in another of his books, the bizarre, sprawling 1899 philosophy of art, science, and society entitled L’ostensoir des ironies.313 Such an idea was not entirely new conceptually,314 and, like the very few previous attempts, it was unsuccessful, though in its own odd way, since Alcanter’s sign was quickly, significantly taken note of, before quickly disappearing. Alfred Jarry commented upon it in February 1901, and it was reproduced in the great Nouveau Larousse illustré of 1897–1904, and (less prominently) in subsequent editions of the encyclopedia until 1960, where the author of the entry under “irony” describes it (as had Alcanter himself) as a sign “in the form of a whip,” in order to alert the reader.315 As Pierre Schoentjes tells us, both Apollinaire and Anatole France acknowledged Alcanter (France even praised the L’ostensoir des Ironies),316 and seven years before excoriating Ravel’s public debut at the Société nationale de Musique, the powerful critic Willy wrote an obliging preface to Alcanter’s 1892 collection of “chansons.” (Willy’s cruel 1899 notice about Ravel may be found in his collected criticism published shortly thereafter, a copy of which was signed and dedicated—ironically—to Ravel’s best friend and most significant colleague of the times, Ricardo Viñes, fig. 1.3b). Struggling, in (as he put it), his “métacritique” of the Ostensoir, with much of what Mallarmé and others already had—various aesthetic and theoretical conceptions of the ideal and the beautiful—Alcanter makes fierce reference to the importance of the will, invoking it both as a “weapon,” to be used in the struggle for the “promised land” of the ideal,317 and as the driving force behind all great works of art and thought.318 His admittedly strange and impassioned efforts break down, once again, as Schoentjes has observed, along the essentially bipartite model noted by Douglas Muecke (irony of words vs. irony of things, or of the world).319 And among Alcanter’s most obvious obstacles, of course, was the tricky question of whether, by the time a reader perceived his sign, it might be “too late”—one having missed the moment, so to speak, or—as Muecke put it bluntly (and in French)—“point d’ironie, plus d’ironie.”320 Still, despite an engaging dismissal, Muecke credits Alcanter with having conceived something of a “perfect negativity” with his sign. Schoentjes is surely justified in arguing

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a.

b.

Figure 1.3. (a) Alcanter de Brahm’s Point d’ironie. (b) “Willy”’s dedication of collected criticism to Ricardo Viñes

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for some new respect for Alcanter, in that the presence of his point does no real harm to the discovery of situational irony (it might, perhaps, aid a “too confident” reader), and since verbal irony, when spoken, sometimes calls upon external “signs” (i.e., gestures such as the proverbial raised eyebrow, shrugs, winks of an eye, and the like).321 With regard to the latter, it will be fruitful—finally—to consider Émile Vuillermoz’s contribution to the Ravel Tombeau: Ravel, despite being from the south, had no accent. He spoke with a voice somewhat muffled, soft, and careful, given neither to rushing nor to restraint. But he had a peculiar way of letting his voice drop gently at the ends of phrases. It was, I think one could say, his “‘point d’ironie.’” And when he launched into one of his pointed narratives (the subtleties of which were known only to him) he would execute a characteristically personal gesture: slipping the reverse of his right hand quickly behind his back, he would begin a sort of ironic pirouette, scrunch down his eyelids over his eyes, which were bright with malice, and then direct his final words downward at the interval of a fourth or a fifth.322

A noteworthy confluence, then, of verbal and gestural irony with punctuation and music, since (1) Ravel’s “falling fourths” have long been of interest,323 (2) we find Alcanter’s sign transliterated in Ravel musical criticism as early as 1907 (indeed in that of Louis Laloy, with whom we opened this chapter),324 and (3) we also find a rather stunning example in Ravel’s correspondence from even earlier—1901—in which he uses the phrase “point d’ironie” along with Alcanter’s symbol.325 In his 1912 study of Mallarmé, Thibaudet devoted an entire chapter to punctuation—that preceding “Music,” and following others entitled “Irony” and “Idealism”—in which he wrote “Let punctuation function like the distribution of light in the canvas, illuminating the play of one’s words.”326 And in referring to Mallarmé as a “free-prosist”327—the importance of Mallarmé, prose poetry and free verse to Ravel has already been shown—Thibaudet attached to punctuation a surprisingly independent, transcendental quality that he bothered to couch in musical terms,328 one that he contrasted with other “performance practice,”329 and one that, accordingly, raised the difficult question for poets “Must we write as we speak?” The reply with regard to Mallarmé, was an emphatic “No” (with an attached irony),330 but at least one implication of Thibaudet’s fine and unprecedented work from 1912—with which we know Ravel was familiar—is clear: punctuation was a transcendental and instrumental element of Mallarmé’s imagination. And in remembering Cocteau’s attempt to distinguish between Satie, Debussy, and Ravel metaphorically through punctuation, we can surely look for more than falling fourths.331 Irony was the punctuation of Ravel’s musical thought. The argument, then, organized around significant and representative topoi of the composer’s sonorous interests, will be advanced that the essence of Ravel’s

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style—as opposed to the more “exploratory” one of Debussy (to which it has been contrasted)332—was not only “synthetic” but radically so, and informed by a uniquely successful cultivation of irony through (musical) sound. Achieved through a recurring series of “negotiations,” Ravel’s practice of irony represents a greater, more tensile fil d’or than has yet been shown. Chapters follow the conceptual “array” implied in the three, individual quotes at the very top, assuming (1) Ravel’s “weapon” of irony to be at play, through (2) traces betrayed by one student’s terse yet insightful notice of what music aspired to in Ravel’s world, and (3) embracing Calvocoressi’s sterling 1907 definition of style—“the duly formulated result of an entire array of scattered tendencies, distant in origin and slow in development . . . the product of time.” If, as Robert Bernard stated forcefully, Ravel’s style had never been so misunderstood as at the time of his death,333 if it remains “terra incognito” with regard to irony three-quarters of a century later, some reconsiderations are clearly in order. Explorations, hence, touch inevitably upon questions of Ravel’s place in musical historiography, including distinctions with Debussy and others, of course, but also something recently noted by Roger Nichols, “[the] feeling that Ravel could have been more adventurous if he chose, is widespread, as is the feeling that on the occasions he did choose to be adventurous, it was in the wrong directions.”334 The consistently effective cultivation of musical irony would seem to be quite adventurous—indeed “modern”—in and of itself, given the titanic nature of irony over millennia. Yet Rollo Myers, for instance, tells us at the end of his influential 1960 “Life and Works,” that “in the hierarchy of great creators the place of Maurice Ravel is not among the Titans,”335 that “Ravel has few parallels in the annals of music, or, indeed, of any other art, because few artists have succeeded in detaching themselves so completely from their art,” that “[Ravel’s] music may have the clarity of crystal, but the clairvoyant will seek in it in vain a clue to the ultimate mysteries of love and life and death.”336 But it is impossible to practice irony without detachment, and it is all too evident that irony invests, indeed, besieges “the ultimate mysteries of love and life and death.” We endeavor, therefore, to advance the still rather slim “discursivity” about Maurice Ravel into a new century, by raising some fresh uncertainty about the intricacies of the music, to which we now turn.

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Chapter Two

Simple Sound: Ravel and “Crescendo” An explorer of the sonorous universe, he likes nothing so much as to skirt its outer limits. —Louis Laloy, 1911, in the Courrier musical

In 1911, Victor Debay wrote an essay in the widely read Courrier musical entitled “L’Anémie,” in which he lamented the current state of musical affairs: too much “weakness” (even decadence) manifested itself among the most promising composers of the day—Maurice Ravel, for instance, from whom one had expected so much, was entirely too preoccupied with matters of technique and most especially of “sound,” the novel explorations of which had become for him an end in itself.1 Ravel’s career was securely established by 1911. Through considerable patience, he had managed to construct a remarkably promising career almost entirely outside the established channels of artistic and commercial compromise. Surviving three expulsions from the Paris Conservatoire, five failures in the Prix de Rome competition, and invective in the Paris press from the likes of Debay and others (including Camille Saint-Saëns at one point),2 Ravel had nonetheless brought to the French public a series of superb works. Other critics (including Laloy and Vuillermoz) had already made mention more favorably of Ravel’s fascination with newer palettes of sound,3 Vuillermoz noting specifically, in 1909, the importance—especially to new music—of the “recherche voluptueuse du son pour le son.”4 By 1925 he had characterized Ravel’s virtuosity of timbre and orchestration as “the sonoric equivalent of splitting the atom,”5 and there was ample precedence for such “discursivity.” In Le Temps, five years earlier, T. Lindenbaum had opined that the world of sound had never had such a discriminating visitor as Ravel; his mastery distinguished him fundamentally from Debussy; manifested a certain “human undercurrent” that someone like Richard Strauss, for instance, “had never sensed, nor communicated”; and represented—as in La valse—something “better than the most extraordinary of sonorous dreams.”6 There is, of course, no such thing as “simple” sound—the adjective is used merely to introduce an early parameter in accordance with Henriette Faure’s remembrance of working with Ravel privately; music, as she saw it, was “the art of

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41

achieving the sensually perceptible through sound.” In her accounts, one gains insight about both dynamics and what she refers to as their management: “From only the first couple or three chords struck one sensed what I venture to call Ravel’s ‘touch.’ He was capable of surprise, sudden violence, driving arpeggi, and stifled crescendi. And he had a way of ‘floating’ these sonorities that he called ‘planing.’”7 Such sonorous “planing” indicates a fine dimension of what both Suarès and Adorno alluded to in these same years: Ravel possessed his forms, transforming them somehow through irony, or, in this case, through one of their most fundamental, not-so-simple qualities. Despite the astonishing notoriety of Bolero, its technical and stylistic precedents remain for the most part unexplored. Several studies have alluded to the importance of dynamics in Ravel’s music,8 but the subject, certainly with regard to Bolero, has most often been passed over in favor of psychological and philosophical treatments,9 or in technical analyses of the work’s orchestration, timbre, or acoustical phenomena.10 Rather than the result of a straightforward commission,11 for instance, Bolero was seen by some of Ravel’s contemporaries—including Suarès—in different light, as the culmination of mystical, even lugubrious personal tendencies,12 or as yet another of the composer’s stylistic “wagers.”13 But the articulation of a large-scale composition through the use of a single dynamic was a triumph, underscoring Ravel’s interest—at the height of his career—in the control of the basic properties of musical sound. Moreover, crescendo was of stylistic importance to Ravel from the beginning, and he continued to refine it during the very few years remaining to him after Bolero. His early style, maturing during the French fin de siècle, was much influenced by the erosion of “functional” tonality and its syntax, as well as the collapse of established models for articulation and organization, whether macro or micro. All of these accelerated throughout his career, and Jankélévitch, hence, was prescient in noting Ravel’s early and continuing use of dynamics. He extended, for instance, interpretations of the “volcanic crescendos like the clown of Toledo” in Miroirs nearly into the metaphysical, juxtaposing them with other works.14 He proposed that the crescendo—especially the shortened crescendo—served Ravel well as a peculiar weapon, one—to recall the title of an important section of his text on irony itself—that aided the composer in avoiding potential “traps.”15 His insights, as usual, are acute. But between the two extremes—the sudden, foreshortened pirouettes of “Alborada del graciosa” in Miroirs, and the enormous, calculated explosion of Bolero—lies a good deal of compositional middle ground. Ravel’s use of the crescendo was multifaceted, of architectural and programmatic import at different compositional levels, and evident in widely differing examples of his oeuvre. That both distinctions and similarities may be drawn between these examples would seem to indicate a “dynamic of dynamics” at play within Ravel’s musical thought, decades before the theoretical formalization of such elements.16

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I. Architecture Exposition: Planes of expectation: Concerto for the Left Hand (1930–31) To publish two piano concertos in 1931 was an act of some boldness: the genre had been out of favor for a very long time (as noted in one of the many reviews of the works),17 having suffered a lengthy decline that may or may not have reached a nadir around 1904, according to Hans Engel’s large study.18 One is inclined to agree. Consider, for instance, Romain Rolland’s notice in the Revue musicale of the year previous leading with “Les Concerts—La guerre des concertos a recommencé,”19 and Calvocoressi’s indication, six years later, that audience hostility to such “modern” efforts, seems to have changed little—“The genre rages on,” as he put it in Comoedia illustré.20 Associated, as Michael Stegemann has noted,21 with a long, indeed, nineteenth-century legacy of “Gentlemen Virtuosos,”22 Ravel’s concertos appeared amidst the even more developed contentiousness of Les Six, the growing international acceptance of atonality and the Second Viennese School, and the enduring social chaos after the 1914–18 War. Ravel had thought often before 1930 about a work for piano and orchestra, either along the lines of a Basque Rhapsody,23 or (as mentioned in chapter 1) perhaps a dramatic work based on Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. But, curiously, as the French may have lacked literary models for the supernatural and grotesque (see below, chapter 6), so, too, perhaps, as Stegemann has suggested, they “fell back on models from the Viennese Classic period” in concertos, trying to “adapt these forms to the popular tastes of French Romanticism.”24 The behavior of the virtuosos and the music that they had both composed and inspired over the course of the nineteenth century had become stylized, to say the least: distaste for the solo concerto was so pronounced that public conflicts broke out on stage as well as in the press.25 Yet however “alluring” the sociocultural implications of keyboard virtuosity,26 the substance of the concerto introductions themselves are of more present interest. The expositions of piano concertos had obviously calcified, the public tiring of them long before trying to give their attention to the remainder of a work. The embedded structural challenge had long been evident, of course—a soloist (or a group of soloists) making different demands upon conventional, first-movement forms. The quandary of a “double exposition”—and its concomitant potential for tedium—was solved quickly enough by a genius such as Mozart by simply moved the pianist’s entrance to the second bar, as in K. 271. Beethoven appropriated (gently) the entire opening to his Fourth Piano Concerto, and, in the Fifth (belligerently), he divided all between orchestra and soloist. The French, however, appear not to have been so willing to surrender the programmatic and theatrical dimensions of their concertos, remaining more invested in Paganini’s “heroic” example.27 Romain Rolland, familiar with both aesthetics and war, went on at some length about the developing “little war over concertos”: the younger

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43

part of the concert-going public was revolting, hissing “famous and obscure virtuosi alike in their performance of any concerto, whether it was splendid or detestable.”28 At the turn of the twentieth century, virtuoso concerto performers in Paris were greeted with whistling, howling, and catcalls, rather than cheers and applause, even, on occasion, during orchestral introductions.29 The hostility of Ravel’s generation to the solo concerto was confirmed by fellow Apache and poet, Léon-Paul Fargue: The public of my youth, of Ravel’s youth, would jump up out of our places, demonstrate, intervene, indulge our follies, even whistle impatiently at concertos as we fled from them out the nearest door to have a cigarette. The halls were packed, we had to work our way through layers of bodies, all lost in the profound depths of music. We needed this kind of life to survive, to remain both poor and happy.30

Such public response was deeply rooted, probably inevitable, and the result was a paucity of distinguished solo concertos up to the time of Ravel’s two. Whatever the variety in clumsy writing between Paganini and Ravel, the first, formal objective of both had been—in the first of Ravel’s only two essays—strikingly similar: the introduction of a hero. Paganini, of course, had been his own; Ravel’s would be the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm fighting opposite Ravel, in the 1914–18 War.31 There had been, however, a historical oasis of sorts: between Paganini’s concertos and those of Ravel a century later, lay those of Camille SaintSaëns, which were extremely popular with their French (and international) publics. The stylistic similarities between Ravel’s Concerto in G Major and those of Mozart and Saint-Saëns have been noted often enough,32 but further associations may be drawn between the Left Hand Concerto and other “traditional” concertos,33 among them the most successful of the Saint-Saëns five, his second.34 During the extended introduction of the latter work it is the orchestra sitting quietly, while the soloist intones a long, quasi-improvisatory introduction, over a pedal point in the style of a Bach organ toccata.35 Surely this opening—in its time a novel solution to the dilemma of concerto introductions—played upon Ravel’s imagination,36 since he followed SaintSaëns’s example, but reversed the media, allowing himself freer reign for an introduction in the guise of—as he put it himself—a “very different,” yet “solemn, traditional” work,37 one that was rhetorical in the nineteenth-century Parisian sense, yet unconventionally so. As in the Saint-Saëns Second Concerto, the calculated, deliberative building of anticipation is ambiguous from the opening. The topos of Wittgenstein (whose name appears in bold letters across the title page of one of Ravel’s sketches for the work, fig. 2.1)38 is evoked circuitously, by the nearly inaudible yet strangely “virtuosic” writing for divided double basses (ex. 2.1). Listeners must have been

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44



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hard put to orient themselves in the opening of what they assumed would be a reasonably traditional piano concerto of (reasonably) historical precedence in 1930. A nearly abstract world of sound, created by harmonics of the lowest strings, yields only grudgingly to a solo contrabassoon (m. 2 of ex. 2.1), whose ascending motive, striding upward in “heroic” leaps—pointedly uncharacteristic writing for the instrument—builds upon the veiled and virtuosic fumbling of the double basses: beginning within narrow intervals, the concerto’s principal theme traverses (incongruously, in such instrumentation) more than two octaves before coming to rest. The ironic feint to Saint-Saëns’s extended organ/piano pedal point of introduction—Ravel’s “perceptual ostinato”—continues: at the end of the contrabassoon’s long line, horns intone, softly, a second descending motive—a mirror inversion of the main theme’s narrow, opening intervals—that suggests the outlines of the Dies Irae when spun out (last 5 mm. of ex. 2.1). Cellos first acquire significant material here, twice repeating the outlines of the ascending minor-third motive of the contrabassoon’s opening statement in (inverted) counterpoint with the horns, and gaining support from the bassoons and those of the double basses no longer engaged in inaudible, ironically pointless “virtuosity.” The plane of expectation drops unexpectedly by a half step at R2 (ex. 2.2), from piano to pianissimo, as anticipations are shifted without being dislodged; altered (somewhat) harmonically,39 they are reinforced by the enduring textures and timbres of the lower registers, and by the relentless, “compressing” rhythm of Ravel’s elegant sarabande. The abatement, hence, is perceived less as the beginning of a new crescendo, than as a continuation of the first, and a second goal is assumed and approached through the gradual ascent of the first Urmotiv (as Walter Pfann has called it),40 through the lower-middle and middle ranges of the winds, horns and violas (again, ex. 2.2). A third tier of expectation is gained at R3, at the dynamic level of forte and the (harmonically) functional level of the dominant (m. 9 of ex. 2.2). The craft of Ravel’s merging orchestral and structural intent becomes more clear in these ten bars, constituting the denouement of his introductory argument: the final “plane of expectation” contains a new and rhythmically urgent motive, constructed above the extraordinary and heretofore ambiguous dominant 4/3 pedal, and beneath which even the minor tonic is briefly entertained. The flirtation with D minor, however, is set aside by a passing G7 harmony in the lower brasses, preparing (step wise) the cadentially imperfect, yet overwhelming dominant resolution at R4 and the entrance of Ravel’s imperfect, onearmed hero. That the underlying pedal point since measure 1 has remained E, the super-tonic, or dominant of the dominant, augurs the irony of Ravel’s arrière-pensée:41 he has swayed, manipulated, indeed “juggled” the essentially nineteenth-century harmonic and programmatic expectations of his audience through—as alleged in Prix de Rome exercises of thirty years before—“imperfect” behavior.42

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45

Figure 2.1. Ravel’s sketches for the opening mm. of the Left-Hand Concerto (BnF ms. 17647)

Development: Planes of Argument: Concerto in G Major (1931), concluding movement In view of their vast stylistic differences, it is quite extraordinary that Ravel was able to write the two concertos concurrently. Before finishing the Left Hand Concerto he had projected far different contours for the Concerto in G.43 Yet the straightforward exuberance of the latter work’s concluding rondo conceals a similar, underlying sophistication in the presentation and manipulation of materials through dynamics, since a sixty-measure crescendo is embedded in its interior “development.” In contrast to the dramatic opening of the Left Hand Concerto, the extended crescendo between R16 and R20 of the Concerto in G furnishes a distinct plane upon which all three of the rondo’s main themes may be argued—at times simultaneously and retrospectively—and within which the

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Lento Cb. 1

   pp

        

Cb. 2 & Vc.

    



Cb. 1



 







  





                                    

   

 

  

       

p



 



Contrabassoon, Solo



R1

 

 

 



     

              Horns

      

 

 

   

 





 





             

Bassoons

 

                  

 

 

 



  

 

 



Vc. & Cb.



    

 

   

  

   

Ex. 2.1. Left Hand Concerto, mm. 1–12.

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+ Horns & Violas

+ Clar.

R2

   









Basn., Cb., Vc.

                     

                       



Cb.

+ Piccolo [!]

+ Upper Strings

 

 

 

  

 

Strings

      f

   

[Strings]

     









 

marcato

     

  



   





Trumpets, Trombones, Tuba

   

 



 





     

  

 





  

    

 

  

 

 



      

    







 

Trumpets, Trombones

  

   







 



 



 



  

R3

    

 

 



 

  

 

    

 

 

     

Ex. 2.2. Left Hand Concerto, beginning at R2.

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movement’s distinctly rapid conclusion is foreshadowed both stylistically and motivically. Moreover, in an architectural sense, the crescendo provides a welcome sense of repose, an extended episode of continuity within a work—as Ravel put it—making “no pretense to depth,” and in a movement that parades its themes rapidly, even simultaneously, a movement conceived—again, in Ravel’s own words—“in the most immutable terms.”44 Given irony’s nature(s), one might, all the same, reconsider his words with regard to these sixty-some, creatively disingenuous measures. The Rondo of the Concerto in G contains three principal themes around which several others of less consequence circulate, its lively spirit embodied in the first, disguised as a keyboard toccata in perpetual motion (ex. 2.3a), introduced by a very brief drum roll and four quick, cadential chords. A second powerful, jazzlike theme in the solo clarinet is quickly grafted onto the busy keyboard toccata (ex. 2.3b), confounding formal expectations from the start: experienced as an “A” section, the material up to R3, then, proffers two themes superimposed upon one another, neatly encased at either end by the circuslike cadential chords of the movement’s opening.45 A third, jocular theme is introduced at R3 (ex. 2.3c), yet swerves off into a variant of the opening running-note material. A novel march theme in triplets is introduced at R7 (ex. 2.3d, preceded by an echo in syncopation of the opening “circus chords”), further confounding expectations, its underlying (duple) rhythm underpinning yet another runningnote, thematic variant at R11 (a short, descending chromatic scale, first in parallel, then in expanded and staggered octaves, ex. 2.3e, the latter to have echo in the final measures of the concerto along with the rondo’s opening chords). Having embezzled expectations, then, with an increasingly telescoped presentation of themes, Ravel must surely have been thinking about waning perceptions, especially midway through a quick, final movement at risk of careening out of control. One more “wager” ensues: the shortest of all motives, punctuated by variants of the surprise opening, providing backdrop for a final running-note motive, a more interesting, sweeping four-measure motive (R13, twice repeated, like its predecessor, ex. 2.3f). Finally, two measures before R14, the only heretofore sustained tonic chord of the entire movement, in the unstable, 64 inversion of the (unstable) flat-sixth degree (E♭)—ushers in Ravel’s long, interior, and ironically stabilizing crescendo (ex. 2.4a). To this point, the listener has been obliged to take in an absurdly short and percussive introduction; a perpetuum mobile motive with a wild jazz theme grafted upon it; a facetious white-note, chordal theme in marchlike, duple meter (punctuated by snorting bassoons); and three more variants of a running-note theme, all of which encase another, more pronounced march theme in triplets. With the presentation of materials more and more telescoped, some sense of order is called for, and Ravel’s sixty measures of crescendo allow for an argument, a re-presentation, even “recapitulation” (within a rondo, no less) of his seemingly strewn-about themes.

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(a) (Presto)

 p   

    

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

(b) R1

 

 p         





  

 

 

     

    

3

    



 

  



  

 

 

mf

  

 



  

 



 

  

 

 

 

 



 

 



 

 

   





           

     

(c) R3



 

 

 

               

 

3



 



 

 

 

    

f



 

  

 

 

  

    



 

 

  



  



 

 

  



(d) R7

    

    

f

                         

mf

[+ 8 mm.]

(e)

R12

ff                                            

 [Previous 2 bars, 8vb]

   



    



    



    



  [Prev. 2 bars, 8vb]

(f)

                                    

R13

p

Ex. 2.3. Concerto in G, 3rd mvt. (a) mm. 5–10/ (b) beginning at R1. (c) beginning at R3. (d) beginning at R7. (e) beginning 1 m. after R11. (f) beginning at R13.

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50

simple sound

        

(a)

R14

 

Tutti

f

    

 

Cellos

 

 p

 

 

          

       

       

Bassoon, Solo

       

               

(b) R15

Piano, Solo

  







 





  







 







(mf)

                              Ex. 2.4. Concerto in G, 3rd mvt. (a) beginning 2 mm. before R14. (b) beginning at R15.

Experienced proportionately, given the breakneck pace of the movement, the larger “canvas” of design is nonetheless of carefully measured planes, of architecturally inspired intensification. Conceived and realized at nearly the same time as the vast, languorous, and sensuous opening crescendo of the Left Hand Concerto, the crescendo here, close to the end of the Concerto in G, is terraced as well: three sections of sixteen, twelve, and thirty-two measures respectively. The first (beginning at R14 in ex. 2.4a) rises from the dynamic level of piano to mezzo forte before falling back to piano. The second (between R15 and R16, ex. 2.4b), rises to forte, and again falls back to piano, echoing the effect of the rapid diminuendo of the brass-woodwind chord introducing the crescendo, and creating a “dovetail” effect of anticipation between it and the next segment. The third and final “terrace,” however, proceeds a bit more uniformly, from piano to forte in four eight-bar phrases of quicker harmonic rhythm, and intensifying thematic argument: and while the first two segments have featured the toccata-like main theme (accompanied by the “jocular,” folk-like theme in relative and— heretofore—uncharacteristic isolation), in the third one finds fragments of the “march” theme accumulating around and about the other two, as the density of instrumentation and pace of harmonic rhythm increase (ex. 2.5a–d). In view of the fact that the rondo concludes in even greater telescoped fashion than before after this point, it is clear that Ravel conceived of this crescendo as an opportunity to rechannel the final movement’s energies, restructure its

Zank.indd Sec1:50

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simple sound

51

(a) Vlas., Cb., pizz.

R16

   



  



   

p



   



 

        

   



   



   

  

       

Piano                                           (A major, 8 mm. )

(b) R17

    

Trumpet

p

3  3                     Piano               

3  3                     

3

           

3

3

                   

(Bb minor, 8 mm.)

(c) R18

  

Clarinet

mf

  

          3

      Piano          

3

3

               

       3

3

      3

3

                             

(F# minor, 8 mm.)

Ex. 2.5. Concerto in G, 3rd mvt. (a) beginning at R16. (b) beginning at R17. (c) beginning at R18.

momentum, and re-present its main thematic materials, to provide—at some risk (i.e., wager)—an interior, architectural plane of argument.

Retransition: Redirected planes: Jeux d’eau (1901); Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) Though individual qualities of “Retransition” may be influenced by forms presupposing different kinds of musical logic, its function remains essentially the same— a perceptible preparation for the return of primary or important materials. Ravel first attempted a sonata form in a youthful and rather romantic work for violin and piano (1897), which he suppressed from publication.46 Only three years later, however, one finds in the Jeux d’eau a miniature masterpiece of sonata form, and

Zank.indd Sec1:51

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52

simple sound

(d) R19

mf

     

   

Horns

  

 

   

    Piano

           

    

   

 

 



   



        

  

 

  

   



 

   

   

 

   

                   

(Eb Major, 4 mm.) 3

3

mf Clar.               

3

3

         

Trumpet

Flute

 3 3            

3

R20 3

           3

    

    

3

f

  

   

Piano



   

                   



   



   

   

                     

(E minor, 4 mm.)

Ex. 2.5. (concluded) (d) beginning at R19.

one inspired by Ravel’s avowed fascination with musical sound itself: “The Jeux d’eau, which appeared in 1901, are fundamental to all of the pianistic novelties one finds in my work. This piece, inspired by the noise of water and the musical sounds that fountains make, is founded upon two motives in the manner of a first movement sonata form, without adhering to its classical tonal plan.”47 A renunciation of functional harmony in 1900 (confirmed nearly thirty years later),48 was no small matter, and Ravel threaded the needle in part by according equal importance to both the tonic, “home” key of E and its most dissonant, “leading tone” interval of the major seventh: one finds them unhesitatingly wed, both upon the downbeat of the work, and in its final moment (see below, chapter 4, ex. 4.13a and c). For a second theme, however, Ravel chose a pentatonic collection of pitches, developing them sequentially over several pages with increasing virtuosity, until a climax in tremolo and huge glissando over the (pentatonic) black notes, descends the

Zank.indd Sec1:52

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simple sound

     







 





53

cédez légèrement







               

f

   

                       



  

 



 

 



Ex. 2.6. Jeux d’eau, the diminuendo preceding recapitulation of the main theme, m. 61.

entire keyboard. Reasonable expectations at such a point include the return of a principal theme, but Ravel resists, repeatedly offering his second (as if to open a “new” development section). Some creative malice, then, may be suspected in the return of the main theme, surreptitiously, via an unexpected decrescendo (marked cédez légèrement, ex. 2.6). In retrospect, Ravel’s close friend Hélène Jourdan-Morhange perceived the significance of Jeux d’eau’s virtuosic crescendi (see below, ex. 2.12a–d), yet she missed the essence of this rather peculiar reverse crescendo, a mirror image of the composer’s dynamic play of thought, the ironic underpinning for a deceitful Retransition.49 The exceedingly clever miniaturization of sonata form in the Jeux d’eau was further crystallized in the chain of waltzes of 1911, the Valses nobles et sentimentales.50 At least two may be viewed as miniature sonata forms, in which crescendo plays an integral role of Retransition.51 Introducing the suite as a whole, the first waltz is unambiguous, formally and stylistically. Measures 1–20 are a straightforward exposition, measures 21–60 a short development, and measures 61–80 a recapitulation and conclusion. Of the “development” section, however, measures 53–60 clearly prepare the return of the main theme, and deserve to be seen as a Retransition: their main feature is a terraced, tripartite crescendo, containing both the chromatic dissonance and chordal step-wise motion of the short development and the main waltz motive. Measures 53–54 depart from the dynamic level of pp, measures 55–56 from p, and measures 57–60 (having been twice prepared motivically and rhythmically) finally move from mf to ff through an extraordinary circle of fifths, chromatically decorated in such a fashion that the bass line’s movement “back” to the main theme outlines a whole-tone scale in descending fourths. This procedure is a rare moment in Ravel, and—when coupled with the terraced dynamics—evidence enough of some irony,52 since his brief but simultaneous refraction of both harmony and dynamics bends here the nondirectional essence of a whole-tone scale to the more distilled, architecturally directed purposes of Retransition.

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54



simple sound

Ravel’s musical logic in the even more diminutive sixth waltz is equally provocative: the B section of this (A-B-A form) waltz is enclosed by identical, double statements of eight-bar periods, little more than parodies of the waltz itself (see ex. 2.7). Six repetitions of the movement’s sole motive (a one-measure, leaping figure) followed by a two-measure rounding-off, were characterized by Ravel’s student, Mlle Faure, as “small, graceful leaps which expire and fall back in nostalgia and affectation.”53 Yet this B section contains more material than either A section—twenty-eight measures as opposed to sixteen in each A section—and it is freely “developed”: measures 17–22 [at R39] and 23–28 [at R40], for instance, add a new and lyric extension to the “rounding off” of the main idea in two distinct tonal regions (G minor and A minor), and measures 29–36 [at R41] extend the main motive into “Romantic” four-bar phrases.54 Following such short-lived effusion, the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic ambiguities—indeed, the murkiness—of measures 37–45 [at R42] is unexpected, difficult to make sense of in terms that do not take into account some sense of a “return.” Their chief characteristic, however, is a perfectly symmetrical crescendo–decrescendo, the more discernible because Ravel collapses suddenly the registration of his writing—hands previously bounding about the keyboard are now suddenly, literally, on top of one another in claveciniste fashion (R42). And buried within the “murkiness” is, again, as in the previous, more brittle left-hand example of the first valse, a whole-tone series in the right hand, “clouds within clouds,” in a sense.55 Irony, hidden again: a dynamic retransition of perfectly mirrored proportions—as opposed to the terraced, or reverse crescendi in the opening valse—coupled with a sudden, palpable “collapse” of the sixth waltz’s paradoxically kinaesthetic (i.e., bounding, broad-ranging, even quasi-Romantic) identity backward in time. The satisfactory explanation for such miniaturized “dynamic of dynamics” remains Retransition—the reawakening of expectations for the waltz’s original “jumping,” repeating, one-measure motive, which does indeed arrive next, in the literal repetition of the A section.

Recapitulation: Planes of recognition: Concerto in G Major (1931), first movement; Concerto for the Left Hand (1930–31) Having observed that Ravel uses crescendo ingeniously in the exposition and development of thematic materials, as well as in the preparation of sections large and small for their return, we may wish to consider the significance of dynamic intensifications within recapitulations. Stripped of their carefully conceived dynamic properties, several reprises in both of Ravel’s concertos are difficult to conceive of as such. The first movement of the Concerto in G is deceivingly sophisticated in design, even more so than its rondo observed above, and certainly with regard to retransition: some five separate themes are advanced and developed, rendering (as in the finale) the recapitulation itself enigmatic, as the

Zank.indd Sec1:54

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simple sound



p

   

R41







  

   

  







  

       

mf







 





 

   

 













mf





 





 



  













 











 



                      

 





  

 











 

 

 

pp













  



R40





  



pp









  



R39

  

55





        





  





R43   au Mouvt                                        



R42

p





 







 



 





 



 



pp

 



Ex. 2.7. Valses nobles et sentimentales, vi (mm. 17–45).

soloist’s cadenza appears before the recapitulation (as in the famous example of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto),56 itself having been prepared by two other ornate instrumental cadenzas. To the present point, however, the recapitulations of the major themes are underpinned by crescendi that are, once again, integral to their success. What may be designated as the movement’s fourth theme is one of its most distinctive and lyrical, presented with a jazz-like harmonization in E of lowered third and major sixths (at R7, ex. 2.8a). Its character, however, is transformed

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56



simple sound

in recapitulation, as the orchestra joins the soloist after the cadenza, a cadenza that is hardly “heroic” in expectations of the time. Indeed, one might argue that the recapitulation of the theme actually takes place within the pianist’s solo cadenza, since it appears unambiguously beneath a plethora of ornate, “exotic” trills, accompanied by a crescendo of its own (at R26, ex. 2.8b).57 But the latter is really an anticipation of what is to come: originating in a “jazz” idiom, reappearing in the cadenza in the ornamental garb of “exotic” trills—an ironic, false recapitulation in itself (doubly so, unfolding as it does across the registers in the thumb of the left hand, unique “weapon” of the soloist in Ravel’s other, only just completed concerto)—the theme is recast in another recapitulation after the cadenza, in a completely different and (for Ravel) highly unusual Romantic vein. With the entry of the orchestra, the harmonies become richly diatonic, centered around G major in a manner recalling Massenet (or, indeed, the interior of Debussy’s L’après midi d’un faune, which Ravel admired profoundly, at R27, ex. 2.8c).58 An essential feature of the (thrice-recast) theme, however, is its unmistakable crescendo, here across nearly a dozen measures, culminating (like the conclusion to the huge opening crescendo of the Left Hand Concerto) in a sensuous and “imperfect” 43 climax (at R28, in ex. 2.8d).59 Behind the event, one might also remark (1) the irony of a principal theme within the first movement of a “classically” conceived piano concerto manifesting a tripartite “cultural identity” (i.e., Jazz vs. the Exotic, Romanticism); (2) the theme’s identity re-presented in the reverse historical order of its treatments (a glimpse, perhaps, of what Ravel might have been “negotiating,” or juggling, as Jankélévitch had described the greater practice or irony); (3) the “exotic” and Massenet allusions are actually structural “elisions” across the divide of the solo cadenza itself; and finally (4) with the possible exception of the culmination of the “Daybreak” scene in Daphnis et Chloé, Ravel had not treated a melodic line in such overtly romantic fashion in more than thirty years.60 However elongated and affecting, the above crescendo (preparing the end of the first movement of the Concerto in G) is dwarfed by that concluding Ravel’s other, written concurrently. As Ravel used terraced dynamics to open his Left Hand Concerto, so he used them to conclude it. The final crescendo in what would be his penultimate work of complexity is uncommon on at least two counts:61 first of all, as in the previous example from the G-major Concerto, it is anticipated both thematically and dynamically in a preceding solo cadenza (though on a far grander scale), and, secondly, the crescendo manifests a recapitulation of both main themes of the concerto simultaneously in the measures following the cadenza, when the orchestra joins the soloist. It unfolds on a scale so large that it is in effect a macrocrescendo. As seen earlier, the first motive to emerge from the haze of the long introductory crescendo outlines an ascending third, soon joined by a complimentary descending third in the horns. In the cadenza near the end of the work, the second of these—the descending-third motive in the horns—is first presented (ex. 2.9a), creating a certain perceptual irony of

Zank.indd Sec1:56

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57

(a) R7

en dehors

        mp     

 

  

  

(b)



 

 

     

   



 

      

   

    

       p 

R26

  

 

 p

etc.                                                     6 6   6

(c) R27

Piano

                                                     mf

6

   p

    (d)

 Orchestra



 



 



 

R28

    Piano                                                              6                   Orchestra f      6

Ex. 2.8. Concerto in G, 1st mvt. (a) beginning at R7. (b) beginning at R26. (c) beginning at R27. (d) beginning 1 m. before R28.

timbre, in that the listener must strive again—as in the opening bars of the work, nearly twenty minutes earlier—to make sense of an obscure, muddy world of sound. It is almost as if the work were either disintegrating or trying to begin all over again, as traces of what had been the concerto’s first clearly discernible threads of a motive (in the horns) drown amidst the hero’s fumbling at the very bottom registers.

Zank.indd Sec1:57

9/24/2009 10:32:47 PM



58

simple sound

(a) R50

Cadenza

 

6

                                   

p

  

    

 

    

 



    

                      

(b)

                                                                                          (c)

        

R51

 



           

                         

                                         

ff

 Ex. 2.9. Left Hand Concerto. (a) beginning of the second solo cadenza, R50. (b) beginning 24 mm. after R50. (c) beginning 1 m. before R51.

After great struggle—several pages of unprecedented and registrally virtuosic writing (see below, chapter 3, ex. 3.24c)—the concerto’s opening motive of ascending third eventually emerges in the bright tonal realm of E major, its treatment marking the first segment of the work’s concluding macrocrescendo. The latter comprises a remarkable series—two-fold, and “terraced,” like the enormous double crescendo within which it lives—of increasingly wide-spaced, upward leaps in the keyboard (recalling, of course, the obscure, groping, ironically “heroic” writing for the contrabassoon in the opening bars of the concerto), now amidst a flurry of decorative, dominant-ninth figuration (ex. 2.9b).62 Yet having attained its dynamic goal—the greater subdominant of the concerto

Zank.indd Sec1:58

9/24/2009 10:32:48 PM

simple sound Piano

  









        



   















       





  

59



 

Clar. 1

    







 

 Clar. 2

  

Violas, Vc., Cb.

      

                         

  







       





      







      Ex. 2.9. (continued) Left Hand Concerto. (c) beginning 1 m. before R51.

(G major)—the exceptional writing for one hand alone collapses paradoxically within it (ex. 2.9c): (1) any sense of a “greater,” harmonic design of the work has long been obscured by the enormous, tonally vague canvass of the unfolding, enormous, and meandering cadenza; (2) the minor mediant amidst an (at long last) established realm of E major will be perceived as unexpected; and (3) a suitably programmatic and harmonic footing for the final, dynamic leg of Ravel’s concluding macrocrescendo must be found for the one-handed soloist to argue the Dies irae a final time, amidst and against the increasingly dense web of sound initiated by lower winds insisting upon the concerto’s opening and obscure principal theme (ex. 2.9c, 1st m. after R51). The final crescendo dilates upwards, through the orchestra, gathering quickly the incisive rhythmic figure introduced toward the culmination of the exposition (above, ex. 2.2, at R3), but the latter is so ingeniously vested in Ravel’s orchestration that it generates a nearly unbearable frenzy of motivic and harmonic anticipation, as it collides repeatedly with the soloist’s struggle (ex. 2.9d).63 The three tones of cadential

Zank.indd Sec1:59

9/24/2009 10:32:49 PM



60

simple sound

(d)

 

  





        

 

                       

Flutes & Oboes

    



  

   



   

 



Strings

          R52

 

    

        

                               

ALL Winds

    

         



   



   

   

Horns

  

 

 

 

Ex. 2.9. (continued) Left Hand Concerto. (d) beginning 1 m. before R52.

purpose first given to the most powerful choirs of the orchestra at the end of the concerto’s exposition—D–F–G, with the express purpose of introducing Ravel’s one-armed hero via the greater dominant64—are, at work’s end, fittingly returned to him. They usher in the tonal apotheosis of D major, an ironically “redemptive,” plagal cadence, glistening all the more with Ravel’s characteristic added minor sixths to the major (tonic) triad, an echo across nearly three decades of the shimmering, programmatic tremolos of “Ondine.” The neighbor-note, added-sixths here, however, arrive in quick, massive blows of appoggiature from the high winds and trumpets, transfigured inflections of

Zank.indd Sec1:60

9/24/2009 10:32:50 PM

THUMB 3

       







    

      



        















   



  

 



   



Trumpets



 

 

 

3

f



HORNS 12

             

           











   







Trumpets, High Winds

f



     

 



TUTTI f

       

Ex. 2.9. (concluded) Left Hand Concerto. (d) beginning 1 m. before R52.

Zank.indd Sec1:61

9/24/2009 10:32:51 PM

62 (a)



simple sound

Très léger

      







 

  

    















3













3

3







3

23











  











  





 





3

3

(b)

      

    

pp

pp

      



 f

pp

       







Ex. 2.10. Miroirs, “Noctuelles.” (a) mm. 1–2. (b) m. 23.

Ondine’s soft murmurs, at the opposite end of Ravel’s dynamic imagination (and life), measure 2 of ex. 2.9c.

II. Program Planes of suggestion: Miroirs, “Noctuelles” and “Une barque sur l’océan” (1904–5); Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo” (1907–8) As was the case with formal architecture, Ravel’s use of crescendo to programmatic ends has both “micro” and “macro” aspects. The “Symbolist” suite of 1903–5, Miroirs (from which Jankélévitch drew his “sérénades interrompues” in “Alborada del gracioso,” above p. 41), provides two other fine examples: “Noctuelles” (Night Moths), and “Une barque sur l’océan” (A Boat on the Ocean). Vuillermoz tells us that “Noctuelles,” the first of the five movements in the suite, was inspired by the evocative verse of fellow Apache Léon-Paul Fargue, to whom the work is dedicated.65 Ravel’s student Henriette Faure used an ambrosial vocabulary beyond “minuscule” to describe their essence: “‘Noctuelles’ expresses the immaterial presence of minuscule butterflies of the night, the whirring of wings, a pollen of sound, the unreal atmosphere of the night, dampness, mystery.”66 The crescendi of “Noctuelles” are indeed minuscule in

Zank.indd Sec1:62

9/24/2009 10:32:52 PM

(a)

    



7

  

 

3

 

  







  

3

 

  





  

3

 





                                          

(b)

  

38

pp

  





 

  



                              

                    ff

(2 hands)



 





















[dim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ............ ]

(c)

pp

        



    

 





 

 

 

  

    



ppp

  

 

  



 

 

 

 

  

  

    

  



   

     

 

mf

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

 

   

 

  

  p

 

 

    

Ex. 2.11. Miroirs, “Une barque sur l’océan.” (a) mm. 8–10. (b) mm. 38–39. (c) beginning 15 mm. before the end.

Zank.indd Sec1:63

9/24/2009 10:32:52 PM

(a) Modéré      



pp

   







(b)

         

En



a c - - - - - - - - - - - - c é - - - - ---------------



(rh)

        

   



(rh)      

(rh)

 

 

r a n t - - - - - - --------------------------

(rh)



 

(lh)

           f





 



 

 

      

              

     



(d)

ppp



 









 





 f

(e)

     



 

pp

 

             







(lh)

 



(rh)

 

(lh)

(c)



 



 





 







   

     



     



l é - - - - - - - -------------



            

           

                                               ppp  [2 bars]

En accélérant

                                   [En accél . . . ]

            



   

        

   



Ex. 2.12. Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo.” (a) m. 1. (b) mm. 17–22. (c) mm. 92–94. (d) mm. 228–34. (e) mm. 445–56.

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comparison to others of Ravel: blind, night-moths permeate the mysterious nocturnal, their meanderings conveyed by “wing flutters,” across the pages of what is essentially (yet again) a small-scale sonata form.67 Vlado Perlemuter called them “soufflets crescendi,” and said that Ravel insisted they be carefully calibrated, inflating and deflating proportionately, despite diminutive size,68 while Mme Jourdan-Morhange found in them precedence for some of the similarly smallscale, diabolical, and hallucinogenic crescendi of “Scarbo” (ex. 2.10a and b).69 The third of the Miroirs, “Une barque sur l’océan,” is conceived around a more general program, the tossing of a small skiff upon the ocean, whose crescendi are both soothing and violent, and (according to Ravel) require variation in order to convey the essence of their larger topic.70 Since the primary thematic material of “Une barque” consists solely of a handful of open intervals struck in the middle ranges of the keyboard by alternating hands (surrounded by arpeggi in the nineteenth-century style of Sigismund Thalberg, creating the effect of a single, giant harp), the variation required to save the work from monotony is effected through Ravel’s careful attention to dynamics. The crescendi of “Une barque” follow first the gentle contours of its general program (ex. 2.11a), but the swells intensify and inflate—“giant ascending arabesques, tacking upwards, tumbling back down to the depths dynamically,” as Mlle Faure characterized them (ex. 2.11b; see, also, the discussion of arabesques below, in chapter 4, beginning on p. 168).71 A long-line squall, too, rises up slowly in the middle of the work, but dissipates in spacious diminuendo, commensurate with the energy generated in its measured, programmatic crescendo (a bit reminiscent of the “deceitful Retransition” found in Jeux d’eau), returning Ravel’s skiff to its original, gentle headway. By the final measures of “Une barque,” only the occasional draft remains—“micro,” “soufflet,” crescendi, recalling those of Ravel’s minuscule “Night-Moths” (ex. 2.11c).

Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo” (1907–8) Ravel’s use of crescendo in “Scarbo,” the concluding movement of his Bertrandinspired keyboard “poem,” is quite radically different from his use in the earlier movements. Since the program here is both specific (like that of “Noctuelles,” but now “Scarbo,” night-dwarf, Satan, or “bogey man”) and general (like that of “Une barque,” here nightmares, or the diabolical dimensions of the night), the crescendi of “Scarbo” are also both “micro” and “macro” of construct and persuasion. The conventional expectations of a crescendo, engaged so effectively in “Noctuelles” and “Une barque” hardly three years earlier, are effectively inverted in “Scarbo” from the opening bar. The first three notes (containing the germ of Ravel’s two principal themes) rise up from the lowest register of the instrument, yet, in “reverse hairpin,” taper away rather than intensify dynamically from an already hushed level of pp (ex. 2.12a).72

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66

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A decrescendo in ascending pitches (however “micro” in proportion) is not entirely unexpected, given Ravel’s “precautions against mediocrity” in 1907,73 but further subtleties of his mirror-image, Symbolist thought may be observed: the opening “diminuendo in diminution” is recast straightaway in reverse, composed-out with a virtuosic decoration of the three single pitches in a rather violent crescendo (ex. 2.12b). This is followed soon enough by instances of (again) reversed dynamic diminuendo from the opposite extremes of the keyboard (ex. 2.12c), and—further into “Scarbo”—by formidable exemplars across all the registers, enormous and ironic arabesques commencing from the top down dynamically, the reverse, “macro” conflation of Ravel’s opening “micro” measure, an unexpected turnabout in 1907 of customary crescendo/ascent and decrescendo/descent dichotomies of pitch, dynamics, and performing-practice kinaesthetics (ex. 2.12d). More conventionally virtuosic dynamics in “Scarbo” such as the doubly terraced crescendo after the opening measure and later “lightning-bolt” crescendi (to quote Henriette Faure again),74 still outnumber those of reverse expectations, but the work’s program—a satanic dwarf, bounding and leaping about one’s bedroom in the middle of the night—is astonishingly amplified in the previous example by Ravel’s dynamic interpolations—“great arpeggios, unraveling from the extreme depths to the very top, in a spectacular diminuendo which he characterized as ‘evanescence.’”75 Feasible musical relationships between “Scarbo” (a “diabolical scherzo,” to be sure)76 and its text are best charted in responsibly general terms, doubtless the wishes of Ravel, if not Aloysius Bertrand, and certainly implied in Alfred Cortot’s thoughts on the work.77 Still, one episode of the poem provides a more focused example of Ravel’s dynamic train of thought, an especially elongated and “macro” use of programmatic crescendo. Recalling architecture (that which both Suarès and Adorno believed Ravel to have possessed and transformed through irony), and acknowledging the tenuousness of any sonata-allegro “template” in “Scarbo,” we must nonetheless concede that the work’s central event is a very large recapitulation, first of the entire introduction, then of the principal themes in reverse order (the second first, and—finally—fragments of the first theme). And between the recapitulation of the second and first themes, there unfolds an enormous dynamic event: if one adds the “preparation,” five measures of a dynamically flat, gapped scale in automaton-like pattern at the beginning (mm. 445–48, ex. 2.12e),78 and the five measures of vertiginous decrescendo preparing the return of the first theme after all has transpired, this macrocrescendo exceeds thirty measures in compass, and brings the fourth stanza of Bertrand’s poem pointedly to life: Did I think he was finally gone? the dwarf inflated himself between the moon and me like the giant bells of a Gothic cathedral, with a golden rattle shaking on his pointed head!79

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A further irony emerges: despite such reverberant dimensions—again, more than thirty measures—the segment itself remains the most stylistically “consistent” within “Scarbo,” whether one weighs texture, rhythm, harmony, motivic treatment, or figuration. It is, therefore, as much a plane of suggestion (painting in blurred chromatic course over a tritone-laden pedal point both the general nature of its text as well as one specific vision within the text), as a plane of stylistic repose and preparation, for the musical nightmare’s approaching conclusion. Its function, then, is assuredly extended and of “macro” quality. To quote Cortot, this work is “of incorporeal and fleeting character, with exploding percussion, and bounding, displaced chords,”80 and much consists of highly organized chaos. Among the “organizing” forces of such chaos, then, is Ravel’s command of crescendo.

III. Metacrescendi In, about, and “of” Time: Bolero (1928); Shéhérazade (1907); Sonatine (1911) Having discussed Ravel’s crescendi in both micro and macro terms, programmatic or structural, one might inquire after “meta” uses of the phenomenon, those of the “beyond,” a notion prominent in the aesthetic discourse of Ravel’s time, especially in the period before the 1914–18 War. Albert Thibaudet’s reading of Mallarmé’s struggles being transcendentally advanced by music, by “the idea of something ‘beyond,’ of a ‘meta’ poetry toward which it is noble to struggle, to reach out with hands worn with research and will,” has already been noted,81 as has Alcanter de Brahm’s sprawling philosophical tract of 1899, self-described as a “métacritique,” in which he first revealed his transcendentally motivated punctuation point, one that might telegraph the presence of an author’s ironic intent.82 In 1913 Valentine de Saint-Point,83 a friend of the poet Ricciotto Canudo (soon to be another fellow infantryman of Ravel, and to whom Ravel would dedicate his 1918 Frontispice),84 proposed a new stylization of dance, to parallel other arts, as he conceived of them: Dance is not merely a plastic art, a vulgar realization, a sensual rhythmic form, either instinctive or conventional, of music. . . . In order to avoid confusion I had to come up with a name that would straightaway diferentiate [my proposal] from what we call dance today. . . . To create a correctly expressive word with legitimate roots is not an easy thing. . . . I chose Métachorie, which—as you all know—signifies “beyond the chorus,” beyond the Greek Chorus, which is to say, the dance.85

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Ravel never betrayed the sophistication of effort in his commissioned ballet for Ida Rubinstein’s troupe in Paris (or in most other of his works where crescendi might be thought to operate at levels “beyond” local or extended functions of intensification and/or expectation). The effects of the work’s multiple, simultaneous ostinati and terraced orchestral dynamics over a single, extended volume of time, however, moved Claude Lévi-Strauss deeply enough to make several observations. One was the refreshing “We would not get very far in the analysis of works of art if we relied on what their creators say about them, or believe to have accomplished in them.”86 Another (recalling Jankélévitch’s earlier “metaphysical” speculations about Ravel’s crescendi), was the rather apocalyptic “meta” conclusion: “The tremendous dissonance in the second part of the penultimate measure . . . signifies that henceforth nothing remains of any importance, not timbre, not rhythm, neither tonality nor melody.”87 One would be hard put for a better reference to alleged “negation,” that quality so important to ironic intent. Bolero is obviously a crescendo in time, but it is, too, one about time, about the time of a work’s initial and subsequent perceptions (like others, of course, “simply” conceived or otherwise): once experienced, Bolero can never be reexperienced in its own peculiarly blatant fashion, since a first hearing is likely to negate those following uniquely. Norman Demuth, who published widely on Ravel around the past midcentury, was fortunate enough to have attended the work’s concert premiere in Paris in 1930, and he said as much in noting the audience’s quasi-hysterical reaction until (and after) “the bubble burst” of key change near the end: “Of course, this does not happen a second time. Mesmeric forces of this kind can work on the ear only once. Thereafter it becomes a joke and even that palls after a few minutes. . . . For this reason the work might be allowed to drop out of the concert repertory altogether.”88 A harsh judgment— would a composer at the peak of his skill have risked such a thing? The annihilation or negation in the penultimate measure of Bolero’s thirteen or fourteen minutes (as Lévi-Strauss saw it) might be one thing, but would Ravel have written a work that—in Demuth’s opinion—could “self destruct” after one or (to be generous), several hearings? About a year and a half before Demuth, Henri de Curzon, musicologist and librarian at the Opéra Comique,89 had attended the work’s “true” premiere (Ida Rubinstein’s ballet, not long after Ravel’s return from America in November 1928).90 Curzon, writing in the 1938 Ravel Tombeau, presaged Demuth’s distrust and dismissal of Bolero, but on a different “plane” of apprehension: “For those who saw Bolero, any orchestral performance was a curiosity, a wager, a trick. . . . [sic]” Now, having invoked Jankélévitch’s aesthetic of the gageure—and after three dots of punctuational intent (with four more to come)—Curzon pushed beyond what appears never to have occurred to Demuth: “And all so well done, mind you, that Ravel must have conceived of it that way, defying concert life to embrace the work. . . . [sic] Yet another of his ironies?” So ends Curzon’s contribution to the 1938 Ravel Tombeau.91

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69

Among Ravel’s closer friends and fellow Apaches from the 1890s was the distinguished composer Florent Schmitt. As will be seen in the next chapter on counterpoint, Schmitt was one of few to grasp the complexities of Ravel’s most “symphonic,” densely argued and previous work of the 1920s (the Sonate pour violon et violoncelle, or Duo sonate, as it was sometimes referred to). But with regard to Bolero, Schmitt was surprisingly, paradoxically in accord with Norman Demuth’s opinion from 1930. Having heard the work in 1935 (for, one assumes, more than the first time), Schmitt prayed that a concert version of L’enfant et les sortilèges would not suffer Bolero’s fate—“that inexplicable work that fell from Purgatory on a rainy day, a perfect realization from its commission, sole mistake in the career of the artist the least disposed to error.”92 Schmitt, too, suggested (on a later occasion), that upon hearing Bolero (“again,” it would seem), one might just as well step outside, wait for the “interminable” course of events to approach its end (i.e., Demuth’s “bubble burst” of key change), and light up a cigarette.93 Jankélévitch’s conjecture around the time of Ravel’s death about the composer’s “richness of poverty,” gratefully acknowledged in chapter 1(p. 29), is nonetheless wide of the mark concerning Bolero: however one interprets the line(s), there is hardly impoverishment. On the other hand, Jankélévitch is halfright about the work’s cumulative success in achieving a “variety of monotony,” and he is astoundingly correct—ironically so, in declaring as an apparent afterthought—that however “simple” Ravel’s endeavor might have been, “No one had yet thought of it!” No small matter, this, and in keeping with the theme of a larger interdisciplinary canvas shaping Ravel’s creativity from the beginning, one might again briefly consider the possibility of literary influence. Ravel’s knowledge of Baudelaire and Poe has already been emphasized, and by 1928 he was likely familiar with the former’s Le tir et le cimetière, a work characterized by Suzanne Bernard as one long crescendo, with an “explosion” at the end, within which the refrain of “La Mort” tolls like Poe’s “Nevermore” (in The Raven).94 Armand Machabey also raised some issues a long time ago that deserve to be more carefully thought through: (1) An important chapter has yet to be written about the “physical” effects of a work based entirely on such amplification,95 and (2) Bolero’s orchestration is put together with such authority that one is tempted to see its virtuosity in retrospect a bit too easily.96 Machabey’s second point is the more helpful, since it encourages our inquiry into the background and precedence for Ravel’s obvious success in extending a single crescendo over such a long time span, or—as will be seen next—in ironically reverse fashion. “Meta” phenomena being, again, those perceived beyond what one might think of in perceptual foregrounds, one looks for modalities promoting such discrimination. The principles of “cyclic” form (soliciting perceptions over more than one movement of a larger work), have long been of interest in Western music, especially during the early careers of Ravel and Debussy, yet discussions of cyclic form—whether in a sixteenth-century parody mass, Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, or music of César Franck—most often center around motivic and

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thematic elements, as opposed to others. The dynamic quality of Ravel’s song cycle Shéhérazade (1903, poems by Klingsor), differs from Bolero in many ways, of course, but perhaps most conspicuously in its inverse treatment of intensification: Shéhérazade manifests a decrescendo over time, as opposed to the “forwardmoving” crescendo in time of Bolero. Arthur Hoérée noticed this, in his appraisal of Ravel’s vocal music for the Ravel Tombeau in 1938: “Despite their unequal proportions and programs, all three pieces of Shéhérazade form an homogeneous totality, whose shape [is] a long decrescendo: it is the perfect example of a poem with orchestra.”97 In view of earlier examples, and of Tristan Klingsor’s testimony that Ravel took considerable care in selecting his poems for an imagined Orient—in effect, choosing those with a greater potential for plastic ‘development’98—the notion of dynamic development over different movements of a work is worth further consideration. For a three-movement course of reverse intensification, Ravel marked the way: most evidently, the textual material itself decreases in volume, the first poem, “Asie” being the most ambitious. “Asie” treats several exotic subjects in separate episodes describing an imaginary trip to Persia; two of these sections grow dynamically to the levels of f and ff (the first between R2 and R11, the second between R13 and R15), and both return to their opening levels of pp. The movement concludes dynamically where it began as well— at the level of ppp. Like “Asie,” “La flûte enchantée” begins at the dynamic level of pp (in describing a woman dreaming of her lover as she watches over another).99 But it is less than half the length of “Asie,” and betrays only one short episode of dynamic intensification (beginning at R2, ex. 2.13a), before falling back within little more than a dozen measures to conclude—like “Asie”—at the dynamic level of ppp. The concluding poem of Shéhérazade, “L’indifférent,” is nearly identical in length to “La flûte enchantée” (fourteen vs. thirteen lines), yet still less dramatic, painting a remarkably condensed, intense scene of sensual attraction and diffident rejection: its dynamic course begins again at the level of pp, but goes virtually nowhere. Even the breathless, momentous entreaty “Entre!” is uttered pp, before the movement’s dynamic shape ebbs for the third and final time, again to ppp.100 Whether or not Ravel “had in mind” something along the lines of Pelléas et Mélisande, as Willy Tappolet once suggested,101 the palpable influence of Debussy is here infused with the ‘Exotic.’102 Moreover, Shéhérazade is cyclic in nature (as is Ravel’s String Quartet of the same time,103 like its obvious model, that of Debussy). Each movement of Shéhérazade concludes with a reference to its early measures, and a “neighbor-note” motive (most conspicuous as the opening theme of “La flûte enchantée”) may be found in all three (ex. 2.13b, c, d, and e). Over the course of the entire triptych, then, within the steadily decreasing dynamic activity of the individual poems, each beginning and concluding at the levels of pp and ppp, Ravel’s design draws attention to foreground events as well

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(a) R2

Allegro

   

   3         

f     Mais moi,



je suis é - veil - lée en - cor.

 

 

Et,

j'é - coute



 

 

au

de -

 5 5                                                           f mf (Strings)                                            p (2 flutes, in alternation)

        

5

(b) Oboe, Solo

   



  

 



  

  

p

(c) Flute, Solo

   







    (Strings)

Flute, Solo

(d)

    

 pp

     



 

 

(e)

      

   

   

     

      

      

  

 

 



  

 













 

    

Ex. 2.13. Shéhérazade, “La flûte enchantée” (a, c), “Asie” (b), “L’indifférent” (d–e). (a) “La flûte enchantée,” beginning at R2. (b) “Asie,” mm. 2–3. (c) “La flûte enchantée,” m. 2. (d) “L’indifférent,” mm. 1–3. (e) “L’indifférent,” beginning 7 mm. before the end.

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as those of the “beyond.” His decrescendo over time in Shéhérazade may be measured in the decline of dynamic activity, in the ranges of that activity, and in the eroding intensity of each successive poem. It is surely purposeful, and it is quite paradoxical in view of the later, “reversed” dynamic features of La valse, Bolero, and the two piano concerti.104 The cyclical nature of Ravel’s Sonatine, from only four years later, has long been acknowledged105—its opening motive of a descending fourth reversed enharmonically in the opening of the second movement “Menuet,” reinstated in the final movement (first as the main motive in the upper voice, mm. 4–7), then as a lyrical secondary theme (mm. 37–39), finally in outline as part of a virtuoso perpetuum mobile (m. 60ff.). But the Sonatine is an important work in the development of Ravel’s style, and our concluding speculations about “meta” mechanisms at play amidst and among the music can be sustained by recalling Lévi-Strauss’s conviction that we are curbed in our understanding of a work when unwilling to go “beyond” what a composer tells us about it. Marcel Marnat has already noted a “buoyant accelerando from one movement to the other,”106 but a bit more may be proposed: the Sonatine’s three movements may viewed in mirror image to what was proposed in Shéhérazade, as a dynamic intensification, a crescendo in Ravel’s temporally structured materials of tempi, the perceived time of music as it unfolds. Given the work’s interlocking and cyclic thematic references, a rather straightforward harmonic plan moving from the “softer” minor to the “brighter” major modalities (Fsharp minor–D-flat or C-sharp major–F-sharp major), and the increasingly quick tempo indications of the three movements (Modéré—Tempo de menuet— animé)—to say nothing of the accelerando of the final page (a coda moving from “très marqué” in 54 meter to “Accelerez” in 34, finally to “Très animé,” with duple-hemiola effects)—it is not too much to perceive beyond Marnat’s “léger accelerando” a more specific crescendo in the unfolding of the Sonatine’s time in music, through to its very last measures (See ex. 2.14). Marnat had offered some encouragement for such speculation in observations about the Bolero: “[O]ne perceives that this design, as all the great works of Ravel (whether La valse, Gaspard, or the “finale” of Daphnis) is no more than a new variation upon the theme of intoxification, of vertigo [“vertige”].”107 And Jankélévitch had used the same term in describing Ravel’s crescendi: “[A]s for the Valse chorégraphique it manifests two [crescendi] at the same time—a relentless, self-intoxicating crescendo that mounts up little by little to a vertigo, brutally interrupted at the forte by a pianissimo.”108 If La valse and Bolero represent Ravel’s further refinements of dynamic intensification, some of the roots of this virtuosity surely lie in his earlier cultivation of cyclic, “meta” forms of compositional self-reference.109 The steady intensification, then, the potentially perceived “vertigo” of the rate at which the three movements of Ravel’s Sonatine unfold, may be viewed as an ironic crescendo of musical time “within itself.”

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simple sound  

    

2

 



  



f

                                

très marqué

      

 



  





                                       



   

 

 





 

 



3



  fff

 



  

        

(l.h.)

  

fff



73

Très animé

Accélérez

    





     



 

 



Ex. 2.14. Sonatine, 3rd mvt., final 14 mm.

IV. Irony and Style: Mixed Planes La valse (1906–19) La valse, as suggested above, is a work of overlapping and paradoxical crescendi, comprising as much Ravel’s musical style (i.e., program and architecture) as contemporary and subsequent perceptions of the work and its creator’s alleged intentions. It is also a work “overtaken” well within its lifetime by the intensification, the crescendo of overlapping interpretations of events engulfing its extraordinarily long period of gestation,110 and such readings—or misreadings—continue to the present day, ascribing to it assorted anticipations and indictments of the Great War and of twentieth-century life in general. But La valse is also Ravel’s unintentional, hence doubly ironic preparation for Bolero,111 manifesting—as opposed to a single, extended crescendo—a series of them, running in tandem with a “chain” of waltzes recalling those of the Valses nobles et sentimentales. At first glance, the programs of the two works are not so dissimilar—Schubertian waltzes on the one hand, waltzes of the Viennese Imperial Court (ca. 1855) on the other—but the first stirrings of La valse in Ravel’s consciousness appear to predate those of the Valses nobles by several years. In a letter of 7 February 1906 to Jean Marnold, he wrote: “It’s not easy what I am trying to do just now: a great waltz, a kind of homage to the memory of the great Strauss, not Richard, the other one—Johann.”112 One might suspect Johann Strauss to have been less problematic as a point of departure, but in retrospect it was the Schubertian waltzes that emerged more easily. Unaware of the horrors awaiting Austria, Germany,

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74

simple sound

and France, Ravel completed the Valses nobles in 1911, but retained his projected “grand waltz” after Johann Strauss throughout all of the Great War. The struggle of dealing with an idealized Vienna during the conflict’s early months may be sensed in a letter from St-Jean-de-Luz, dated 1 October 1914, to Roland-Manuel. Refused enlistment in the French Army because of his diminutive size, Ravel struggles with several continuing works, including both the homage to Johann Strauss (which he still refers to as Wien), and Gerhardt Hauptmann’s steadily sinking “Bell” (whose links to German music and aesthetics were proposed in the previous chapter), all while tending to the early French wounded: Yes, of course, my good friend, Good God, I realize that I am working for the Fatherland by writing music! At least, that’s what they have been trying to convince me of for two months—first of all to dissuade me from enlisting, and then to console me after having been rejected. . . . Anyway, I have written a trio, like poor Magnard:113 . . . at least it’s a beginning. I look after the wounded every week, too, which is trouble enough: it’s extraordinary the number, if not the variety, of needs that 40 men can have during the course of one night! I am also working on some music; it’s impossible to continue with Zazpiac-Bat,114 the papers are all in Paris. It’s difficult to work on La cloche engloutie—this time I think it really is—[sunk],115 and to finish my symphonic poem, Wien.116

Despite generally frail health and small physical size, Ravel succeeded in enlisting in March of 1915, and was sent to the front near Verdun as a truck and ambulance driver.117 His considerable sufferings before a medical discharge in 1917 were deepened by the death of his mother, and during the next three years, aside from completing the more immediate homage to fallen comrades in the war—Le tombeau de Couperin—Ravel wrote virtually no music. Still, he could not abandon his Wien: Diaghilev had commissioned a ballet—the subject of which was to be centered around Ravel’s original conception of the work, the waltz—and, had it not been for the relative vagueness of the commission, Wien, like Hauptmann’s Versunkene Glocke, might well have been lost in Ravel’s disillusionment and depression following the War.118 There is, too, some irony in that the work’s completion was due in large part to the generosity of Ferdinand Hérold, who extended to Ravel the use of his chateau in the mountains of the Massif Central for the completion of La valse. Hérold had been Ravel’s sole access (via translation) to Hauptmann’s Versunkene Glocke, and as Wien finally became La valse, Ravel adhered resolutely to his prewar conception: After Le tombeau de Couperin the state of my health kept me from writing for some time. I could only compel myself to write La valse, a choreographic poem, the inspiration of which predated the Rapsodie espagnole. In my imagination, I conceived [La valse] as a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz mixed with the impression of a fantastic and fatal whirling. I situate this waltz within the frame of an imperial court around 1855.119

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75

These remarks correspond with the tripartite “program” specified for the first edition published by Durand in 1921: [1] The forms of dancers, couples waltzing, emerge through the openings of swirling clouds. They scatter little by little: one perceives [at] A an immense hall filled with whirling dancers. [2] The scene brightens little by little. The light from the chandeliers explodes ff [at] B. [3] An imperial court, around 1855.120 For whatever reasons, Ravel’s conception of the “program” for La valse remained remarkably unchanged throughout the fourteen years in which he matured stylistically, gained international renown, and went to war, suffering hard consequences. The perceptions and receptions of his program, however, changed dramatically. Ravel’s virtuosity in using crescendo to programmatic, introductory ends (culminating in the opening of the Left Hand Concerto) had been presaged by his famous portrayal of daybreak in Daphnis et Chloé.121 Between the conspicuous programmatic crescendi in Daphnis et Chloé and those more roundabout of the Left Hand Concerto, however, lie those of La valse—copious, ambiguous, open to further scrutiny. Arbie Orenstein has summarized most clearly the overall dynamic contour of the work, dividing it essentially into two crescendi;122 Roland-Manuel had sketched a previous and similar outline, but it is less clear about where he believed the second crescendo to have begun.123 The nub of further interpretation, however, is that Ravel’s program, so boldly placed opposite the first page of the first edition, addresses hardly the first quarter of the work. Its “denouement” at B (“exploding light from the burning candles”) arrives at the dynamic level of ff, but in the middle of a sixteen-bar period (ex. 2.15a). This first crescendo arrives, then, but does not “culminate” until nine measures later, one measure before R18, where the melodic future of the work is passed gracefully from the violas to a solo oboe (ex. 2.15b). For the rest of La valse we are left with the single line “An imperial court, around 1855,” and from this point on the waltzes do indeed unravel. The first, taken up delicately by the oboe from the previous apogee, is perhaps the most characteristic: anticipated in the vaporous, “unilluminated” measures of the program up to B, it bears a close resemblance to one in Ravel’s earlier “chain” of Valses nobles (ex. 2.15c). Yet however incomplete the program remains for the larger work, it betrays nonetheless the logic of its introductory crescendo,124 the designations of A and B indicating Ravel’s logic of preparatory dynamic intensification. The opening four bars are virtually inaudible, but in measure 5 the waltz rhythm is introduced by eerie divided and muted double basses (ex. 2.16a),125 the dynamic level between here and letter A moving from pp up through varying shades of p and mp back to pp, as fragments of the waltz rhythm become fragments of the waltz themes at R1 and R4 (ex. 2.16b and c). With the “clearing of the clouds” at A, however, the immense ballroom filled with dancing couples becomes subtly clear, as does the tonality which—heretofore “clouded,” devoid of accidentals—breaks gently into D major. The crescendo begins to rebuild again from pp, moving toward the “light of the candles” of Ravel’s B, as alternating ostinati in the lowest strings

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(a)

R17 / "B"

Vln. 1

          3  Vln.2        





   



 





   



ff

   

    



   

    



  

  

   

      

 

   

      

 

3       

   

  

 

  



3

     

   

Cb.

  

 

 

Vc. (div.)





          

Vla.

  



    



ff

   



 ff

    

ff

    

ff



    

   

    

   

   

    

(b) TUTTI [ff]

                

    

   

   

    

  

    

    

      

   

       

  

  

p

(c)

R18

              

  

Oboe, Solo





  Violas      



 

p





mf

 



    

 



[Valses nobles, iv]

Assez animé

      

   

      

 

  

   

    

 

  [etc.]

Ex. 2.15. La valse (a–b), Valses nobles et sentimentales (c). (a) beginning 2 mm. before R17, showing Ravel’s indication of “B.” (b) the tutti beginning 4 mm. before R18. (c) the earlier Valses nobles et sentimentales, iv, mm. 1–5.

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(a) Mouvement de Valse viennoise

 

1 Cb., mute, pizz.







 p

  



  



2 Cb., mute

 

   

   

   

   





   

   

pp

(b) R1



Bassoons



      



Cb., pizz.

  



  





  







  

  



  

  



(c) R4



Clar.

Bass Clarinet



  

 

  



 

   

    

p



Cb., pizz.

 























Ex. 2.16. La valse. (a) mm. 1–6. (b) beginning at R1. (c) beginning at R4.

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(d) A

R9

 





       



 Bass Clar.

 



pp

Cb.

  

p

   

Bassoons & Violas

  



       







   

pp

        

 

        



     



(e) R12

R13

Flute, Solo

                                   mp 





(HARP, at 32 vb., Ascending gliss.)

(g)

(f)

Strings, 1 m. after R13 [PREVIOUSLY, Flutes, between R6 & R7]

         p

 







  

       

      

 



 

pp poco cresc

Ex. 2.16. (concluded) La valse. (d) beginning at R9. (e) beginning at R12. (f) beginning at R6. (g) beginning 1 m. after R13.

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simple sound



79

and clarinets support a theme struggling (in violas and bassoons), to ascend dynamically and otherwise (ex. 2.16d).126 The material is delivered from its lower registers by a flute “codetta” (ex. 2.16e), a double harp glissando cleanses the palate (at R13), and a theme hinted at earlier by the flutes at R6 (ex. 2.16f) enters in the violins. The new melody (ex. 2.16g) is in more prominent register now (soprano), accompanied by greater figuration in the wind and sliding strings and double harps; the new melody creates a grander effect dynamically than its indications—pp and p for two statements—might seem to suggest; and, soon, a fuller orchestration, more evident waltz rhythm, and dynamic indication of mf make it clear that this second crescendo of the introduction, though having started out at pp (like the nearly inaudible beginning of the work), will travel further. Its previously noted (and flourishing) cadence shortly after Ravel’s programmatic indication of B relieves the accumulated tension and ushers in the remainder of the work for which he has left us to read, reread, or misread his own ironic characterization of La valse as an “apotheosis of the Viennese waltz.”127 Were there as much speculation about the formal qualities of La valse as that surrounding its alleged sociocultural or psychopersonal relevance, the work might be easier read, since both contemporary and subsequent interpretations of La valse have generated a disproportionate abundance of speculation about its cultural significance. The earliest, and, in many respects the most astounding, reaction to La valse was that of Serge Diaghilev of the Ballets russes, for whom the work was originally intended. Having spent the better part of fourteen years on the work, Ravel finally took his manuscript to the salon of Misia Sert after the war, where he and Marcelle Meyer played through the work in the company of Diaghilev, Stravinsky, and Francis Poulenc, who, fortunately, recorded the event:128 Furthermore, I happened to be at the scene of an extraordinary historical event. At a friend of Diaghilev’s, Mme. Misia Sert, who was painted by Lautrec, by Bonnard, Renoir, and who was a friend of Mallarmé (in fact of everyone), and who was a strong advocate of Diaghilev . . . at Misia Sert’s, then, I witnessed the presentation of La valse by Ravel to Diaghilev. There were very few people. . . . There was Diaghilev, Léonide Massine, Stravinsky, two or three assistants of Diaghilev . . . myself . . . and Marcelle Meyer. Ravel arrived and played La valse for Diaghilev. . . . At the piano. Diaghilev was supposed to mount La valse at the Ballets russes, with sets by José-Maria Sert, the husband of Misia.129 Ravel arrived very quietly, with his music under his arms, and Diaghilev told him: ‘Well, now . . . (in that very nasal tone, for which my own is the perfect imitation), well, my dear Ravel, what a joy to hear La valse! . . . So Ravel played La valse, with Marcelle Meyer, I believe, perhaps not so well . . . but all the same, it was Ravel’s La valse. And I, who knew Diaghilev very well at this time, I saw him rattling his teeth, moving his monocle around, I could see that he didn’t like it, I could see that he was

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going to say. . . .”No.” When Ravel had finished, Diaghilev said something to him which I think was very fair, he said: “Ravel, this is a masterwork . . . but it is not a ballet. . . . It is the portrait of a ballet . . . a painting of a ballet.” And I think that because of this La valse was never mounted. . . . And me, well, it was 1921, I was twenty-two years of age, and I was dumbfounded, you know? And it gave me a life-long lesson in modesty, this, because Ravel picked up his music quietly, without the slightest concern about what anyone thought, and departed calmly.130

Virgil Thomson’s first reactions to La valse—from both sides of the Atlantic—provide an amusing antipode to virtually all other interpretations. After three years of studying “modern” French composers,131 Thomson wrote to his friend Leland Poole from Paris: “Do you like La valse? I think it lovely. It may be ephemeral music; all Ravel may. A little over-dainty, a little à la mode. I don’t know. Only I find it quite charming.”132 The many adjectives in this short space (“lovely—ephemeral—over-dainty—à la mode—charming”) ring a bit feeble, in either purely or extramusical terms. Thomson did, in fact, remain detached—that adjective so important to the practice of irony—about Ravel’s music throughout his life,133 which is precisely why he was quoted at the conclusion to the first part of chapter 1 (p. 27), and why he is also quoted below, near the end of our inquiries (chapter 7, p. 281). Henriette Faure, on the other hand, understood La valse in more earnest, “attached” terms: All the [possible] drama and fantasy of this work was realized by Ravel: a fatal and fantastic whirling. . . . Personally, I remember only one thing, the fascination, the wresting power with which this hallucinatory rhythm seizes the listener. One thinks of Baudelaire—“Under the aegis of pleasure, this torture without end. . . . One can find the motivation for this tragedy within Ravel himself. He completed it after the death of his mother, who was his only real friend and true love.”134

An assessment of La valse upon Ravel’s death by the prolific author and influential critic Camille Mauclair raised the issue of “program” in what would prove to be a more characteristic tone, since it paired the work with “the imminent disintegration of an entire society”: From the Histoires naturelles to the Sonatine . . . to the frantic yet impeccable dynamism of Daphnis et Chloé, to La valse wherein the imminent disintegration of an entire society shudders, to the unprecedented tensions of the Bolero, to the Concerto for the Left Hand played by Jacques Février and Alfred Cortot—how many joys do I—aging mélomane, musical maniac that I am—owe to this reticent, mysterious being?135

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Knowing well Mauclair’s appraisal in the Revue musicale, Willy Tappolet weighed different issues behind La valse and suggested that Ravel’s intent in completing the work might have been one of reconciliation following the 1914–18 War.136 And in the first substantial German Ravel biography, he also placed La valse in the larger context of Ravel’s later (and programmatic) writing in the Left Hand Concerto: This is no more light, carefree writing. The severe, earnest, even tragic forwardthrusting momentum and substance of this magnificent sound-fresco show clearly that the War and its sufferings had not left Maurice Ravel unmarked. And though we can speak even less so of his work evolving or developing in a linear fashion after the War as before, so we encounter here (along with the risk of falling into pure virtuosity for its own sake through an unprecedented technical acumen) a deep human gravity, which intensified in the Concerto for the Left Hand into the heroic.137

Subsequent interpretations in the international literature, however, have had had their echoes: La valse has been just as misunderstood as amusing “entertainment” music as other music of Ravel. Correctly heard, La valse encompasses the multifaceted, shining portrait of the true Ravel: the playful, the artistic, the choreographic, the virtuosic, the miniaturist as well as the fairy-world magic, the refined and the tragic. Ravel’s Waltz is more than the summation of a dance form which had reigned for a century, more than the recapitulation of an art form, La valse is the mirror image of a musicohistorical, even a general historical situation.138

W.-E. Lewinski’s above speculations of the 1960s anticipated the more sophisticated appropriation of La valse in 1980 by Carl Schorske, with which the latter he opened his splendid study of the Viennese fin de siècle: “At the close of World War I, Maurice Ravel recorded in La valse the violent death of the nineteenth-century world. The waltz, long the symbol of gay Vienna, became in the composer’s hands a frantic danse macabre. . . . His grotesque memorial serves as a symbolic introduction to a problem of history: the relationship of politics and the psyche in fin-de-siècle Vienna.”139 But whether or not Ravel’s incomplete “program” of La valse will do justice to Schorske’s introduction to his brilliant study of Vienna’s complexities before and after 1918 remains an important question, since Schorske insists on providing considerable detail for his inspiration: Although Ravel celebrates the destruction of the world of the waltz, he does not initially present that world as unified. The work opens rather with an adumbration of the individual parts, which will compose the whole: fragments of waltz themes, scattered over a brooding stillness.140 Gradually the parts find each

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other—the martial fanfare, the vigorous trot, the sweet obligato, the sweeping major melody. Each element is drawn, its own momentum magnetized, into the wider whole. Each unfolds its individuality as it joins its partners in the dance. The pace accelerates; almost imperceptibly the sweeping rhythm passes over into the compulsive, then into the frenzied.141 The concentric elements become eccentric, disengaged from the whole, thus transforming harmony into cacophony. The driving pace continues to build when suddenly caesuras appear in the rhythm;142 the auditor virtually stops to stare in horror at the void created when a major element for a moment falls silent, ceases to act.143 Partial paralysis of each element weakens the movement,144 and yet the whole is moving, relentlessly driving as only compulsive three-quarter time can.145 Through to the very end, when the waltz crashes in a cataclysm of sound, each theme continues to breathe its individuality, eccentric and distorted now, in the chaos of totality.146

Schorske’s thesis is undeniably attractive, but it presumes a dramatically denied intent: “Ravel’s musical parable of a modern cultural crisis, whether or not he knew it, posed the problem in much the same way as it was felt and seen by the Austrian intelligentsia of the fin de siècle. How had their world fallen into chaos?”147 Of concern here (to an admittedly smaller focus than Schorske’s) may be the phrase “whether or not he knew it,” since Ravel’s aesthetic intent is surprisingly easy to demonstrate: in 1924 (expressing reservations about a recent interpretation of La valse), he declared: “Some people have seen in this piece the expression of a tragic affair; some have said that it represented the end of the Second Empire, others said that it was postwar Vienna. They are wrong.”148 Even allowing for the precedence, established earlier, of Ravel’s allegedly intentional, public “misbehavior” (i.e., whether writing outrageous Prix de Rome proofs in isolation at Compiègne, or parading his own works incompetently, internationally from both the podium and the keyboard), it seems problematic to argue that Ravel would (or could) tell a parable—a short allegorical story—without being more aware of the chaos in Austrian society described and developed in such detail later by Schorske. Justly moved by the undercurrents of La valse, like so many before and since, Schorske used them as a prelude to his fine leap of interdisciplinary faith resting, all the same, on ironic ground: Traditional liberal culture had centered upon rational man, whose scientific domination of nature and whose moral control of himself were expected to create the good society. In our century, rational man has had to give place to that richer but more dangerous and mercurial creature, psychological man. This new man is not merely a rational animal, but a creature of feeling and instinct. We tend to make him the measure of all things in our culture.149

Aside from asserting that “rational” man was somehow less rich, dangerous, or (especially, with regard to Ravel) mercurial than modern, “psychological” man,

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one wonders about the temptations of making La valse into “the measure of all things”: can La valse, or any single work of art, really stand as a barometer to the political and cultural rot underpinning Schorske’s wonderful study? On a smaller “canvas” from the same time (1980), the American composer George Perle offered some more focused speculation about La valse, reading it (like Schorske and others) rather starkly as a danse macabre or Totentanz, but with regard to an inconsequential work by Alban Berg that presaged, in turn, a bit of Wozzek: The [Marsch] was completed in the weeks immediately following the assassination at Sarajevo and is, in its feeling of doom and catastrophe, an ideal, if unintentional,150 musical expression of the ominous implications of that event. Fragmentary rhythmic and melodic figures typical of an orthodox military march repeatedly coalesce into polyphonic episodes of incredible density that surge to frenzied climaxes, then fall apart. It is not a march, but music about a march, or rather about the march, just as Ravel’s La valse is music in which the waltz is similarly reduced to its minimum characteristic elements.151 In spite of the fundamental differences in their respective musical idioms, the emotional climate of Berg’s pre-war “marche macabre” is very similar to that of Ravel’s post-war “valse macabre.”152

Perle’s more modest, vaguely sketched “emotional climate” concerning La valse (neither quantified nor qualified) is nonetheless in considerable accord with others more detailed. Consider, for instance, Walter Pfann’s more recent plumbing of Ravel’s (alleged) personal and psychological states, from perspectives addressing both the La valse and the Left Hand Concerto: Accordingly the [Left Hand Concerto], like La valse, can be understood as an artistic response to personal need and conflict and, in view of the compositional material introduced, can be interpreted in the sense of “Idealist-Music” as well, that music-philosophy which Ravel last but not least opposed, since there the autobiographical and the musicophilosophical become united, leaving behind the carefree realm of the “occupation inutile”153 . . . pushing toward the realm of an artistically sublimated triumph over existence, in the sense more or less of Gustav Mahler’s music.154

To cast La valse in such terms, however, remains problematic. As Roland-Manuel tells us, Ravel had little interest in the metaphysical155—and Arbie Orenstein’s judgment is perhaps the most prudent, touching gently and securely on deeper issues: Although La valse carries on in the tradition of the Valses nobles et sentimentales, the concluding passages open up a fresh dimension in Ravel’s art, that of tension

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bordering on the breaking point. It is apparent that the disorientation of World War I and the composer’s personal grief following his mother’s death have been sublimated in this ‘fantastic and fatal whirling.’ This unprecedented tension will achieve its culmination in the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.156

A sublimation into “fantastic and fatal whirling” frames, of course, the core of temptation to Schorske’s theory of La valse and modern “psychological” man. But Orenstein’s remarking of “tension bordering on the breaking point” reminds, too, of the more basic and ironic qualities of crescendo, those having to do with the increase of perceived intensification(s), and those underpinning Marcel Marnat’s observation about the thread—the fils d’or, to remember Proust—the thread of vertige running through all of Ravel’s major works, not just La valse.157 The wide range of speculation touched upon concerning La valse, then, may be viewed as a crescendo in itself, a surprising intensification of interest over a single work’s sociomusical and cultural significance, defined often enough in terms estranged from (or conflated with) its creator’s testimony. Given Ravel’s evident predisposition to the unexpected, he would likely have wished for such a panoply of readings. Yet given his hard-won technical acumen, he would surely have wished, too, for some recognition of the means by which he was able to generate such interest and controversy, including his uncommon command of the not-so-simple phenomena of musical dynamics, evident long before Bolero, La valse, and before Victor Debay’s anxieties in the Courrier musical of 1911 over the sonorous “anemia” of contemporary composers.158

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Chapter Three

Opposed Sound: Ravel and Counterpoint I. Counterpoint and the Academy The history of counterpoint in French music is rich indeed, intertwined with the teaching of harmony and the larger composition curriculum at the Paris Conservatoire.1 Ravel’s training in the late 1890s under André Gédalge provided the foundation for an elegant and imaginative contrapuntal virtuosity, the subtleties and consequences of which merit further attention. As Roland-Manuel and Alfred Cortot (among others) recognized, the art of opposed musical sounds comprised one of the most tensile stylistic threads running through all of Ravel’s music.2 As a young student, Nadia Boulanger recalled discovering the composer of Jeux d’eau doing his exercises cheerfully, along with the others in Gabriel Fauré’s composition class: I had a surprise when I found myself in Fauré’s class and discovered Ravel was there, too, doing, as I used to do then, traditional counterpoint. I was insignificant, and did counterpoint, I didn’t always find it interesting, yet it seemed quite natural that Ravel should do it. I did it, he did it, we did it. . . . It was only years later that I realized that he had already written his string quartet, and I asked him why he was still studying counterpoint. ‘One must clean the house from time to time; I often do it that way,’ he replied.3

A measure of Ravel’s subsequent and enduring respect for the discipline may be divined from his responses to those coming for advice. In 1920, for instance, he asked Eugène Cools to assist an aspirant: My dear Cools, . . . Your letter is going to get me out of a problem: I have been looking for your address. Here’s why: one of my compatriots—and remember, a Basque with dual allegiance—the Abbé Donostia, from St. Sebastien, came to play me some of his own compositions and ask my advice. I was afraid a bit of hearing “monastic” music—until now he has lived in a convent; but I had

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the pleasant surprise of discovering in him a most delicate musical sensitivity, which needs only to be cultivated. Not being able to work but intermittently, I cannot at the present time take on any more responsibilities, and I immediately thought of you. Could you let me know if this might interest you? It would be above all (at least now) a question of lessons by correspondence (counterpoint and fugue).4 Please let me know of your decision at my address here where I expect to spend some more time.5

The next year a better-known composer arrived, yet balked at the “house cleaning” Ravel had in mind. He was dispatched to Charles Koechlin: My dear Friend, I have persuaded the Swedish composer, Wiking Dahl (whose remarkable “Maison de fous” you may have heard) that he is going to have to work harder. I couldn’t, however, convince him to study counterpoint and fugue, which he believes to be useless, even a hindrance. So it will be up to you to convince him, if you decide to undertake the guidance of an artist who is worth the trouble.6

Ravel’s devotion to the discipline he had learned so well and recommended to others derived, in fact, from common ground shared with Koechlin—their rigorous training in the class of Gédalge.7 Whatever Nadia Boulanger’s memories about the exigencies of counterpoint in Fauré’s class,8 it was in fact Gédalge’s teaching that shaped the musical thought of more than a few composers of the time: “I am pleased,” said Ravel, “to say that I owe the most precious elements of my technique to André Gédalge.”9 Composer and uniquely distinguished educator, Gédalge (1856–1926) came to the Paris Conservatoire at a late age;10 admitted to the class of Ernest Guiraud (teacher of Debussy, among others), he was promoted to répétiteur (“coach”) of Massenet’s class in composition, when Guiraud died in 1892. Gédalge’s formidable Traité de la fugue was published in 1901, and indeed dedicated to both Guiraud and Massenet. Gédalge considered the faculty of the newly competitive Schola Cantorum (where Satie took refuge to study counterpoint—perhaps with some encouragement)11 as “bunglers,”12 and his teaching stood out considerably amidst a curriculum weighted toward the training of instrumental virtuosos and composers for the musical theatre. The teaching of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, grounded in the idealism of the 1790s, of course,13 had nonetheless congealed during the second half of the nineteenth century, its impetus and ideals having been channeled into a single powerful institution and a curriculum of increasingly theoretical uniformity.14 While the rebellion by Vincent d’Indy and his followers at the Schola represented a new beginning of sorts (cer-

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tainly for Satie),15 it also marked a crisis for the entrenched curriculum of the older institution.16 Gédalge’s contributions were felt from at least the early 1890s, but a smaller “revolution” occurred when he was promoted by Fauré in 1905 to direct the study of counterpoint as an independent subject.17 And Gédalge owed his promotion in no small part to the recalcitrance of one of his students, since through the scandal engendered by Ravel’s fifth failure in the Prix de Rome competition in 1905, Fauré was named director of the institution and was able to reform and recast much of the curriculum and faculty. Koechlin, in describing Gédalge’s teaching of this time, reveals, too, Ravel’s emerging style: First of all, the style to which Gédalge led us was that of the art of counterpoint (along with infinite respect for the melody, a cardinal rule of this master, as well as the quality of harmony). None of those orchestral chichis so often attributed to followers of Debussy. And, secondly, Gédalge prized above everything else rhythm: liveliness, movement, grace and freshness. . . . Too, he never trifled with matters of architecture. Logic and clarity were absolutely essential to him: he followed simultaneously the examples of Mozart and Bizet.18

Darius Milhaud’s memoirs reinforce and extend Koechlin’s observations, especially with regard to Ravel and the annual Prix de Rome competition, though, perhaps, given his ambivalence about Ravel, in ways he had not altogether envisaged: All those who participated in his [Gédalge’s] class recognized his great science and great heart. He knew how to guide without prejudice the beginnings of a personality striving to emerge, struggling to become aware of itself; even to the opposite extreme, he pushed his students to follow their most secret inclinations. The great lesson of Gédalge was above all to treat melody as the essential element of music. “Whatever sauce you spread around is subject to fashion. What matters is the melodic line; that remains fixed.” [Milhaud’s emphasis] . . . In the end, he taught his students music: he revealed to them the dynamic nature of melody, with no concern about what one called at the Conservatoire “the Competition attitude.” “Do you want to win a prize in counterpoint, or do you really want learn your craft?” he said to his new students.19

It could not have been easy for a gifted and independently-minded student in whose ears rang such advice—“Do you want to win a prize in counterpoint, or do you want to learn your craft?”20—and it may well be, as Hugh Macdonald has suggested, that musically “Ravel learnt nothing from the experience. He learnt merely that institutions are no friends of art and came to hold their activities in revulsion.”21 On the other hand, Ravel’s first-level entries in the Prix de Rome competitions

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(five fugues between the years 1900 and 1905), represent a significant stylistic anchor, and though they await a detailed study of their own, it is helpful to view one of them in passing, as an example of Gédalge’s influence. The Prix de Rome, as inaugurated in 1803, was an annual competition consisting of two stages, a concours d’essai and a concours définitif. In the first stage, candidates were isolated for six days and required to compose a four-part, tonal fugue and (after 1871) a chorus (usually four parts) with orchestral accompaniment, the themes and/or outlines of which were sketched by the jury of the time. In the final stage, contestants were allowed thirteen days to produce a lyric scene, also based on a predetermined topic and text. Gédalge, of course, would have been of little help concerning the final stage, but in the all-important preliminary round of counterpoint and fugue, his training was invaluable. Beyond the sole example recounted above by Milhaud, a few clues remain to the independence of his teaching, resonating for good or ill, beyond the inevitable annual iterations of the competition. Gédalge had no illusions about the “metaphysical” value of the genre (of technical writing) to which he had committed himself to teaching, and of its paramount importance in the qualifying rounds of the Prix de Rome—the fugue d’école, or “academic (school) fugue.”22 He freely acknowledged the paradox of continually comparing his students’ efforts to the fugues of J. S. Bach, who, of course, had often enough broken the rules.23 Yet in this, Gédalge was opposed by no less than Jules Combarieu, early musicologist, Egyptologist of sorts, and highly influential critic,24 who considered the fugues of Bach to be potentially “dangerous”25 (a delightful irony, in view of the fact that Combarieu had studied with Philipp Spitta),26 and who had little sympathy for “cleaning house,” certainly via Gédalge’s convictions.27 We pursue, therefore, however briefly given space, Gédalge’s undeniable influence in Ravel’s five years of struggle (1899–1905) to win the Prix de Rome,28 in one essay for the preliminary round of the competition in 1902. Subjects for the required fugue were sometimes assigned with imperfections, in order to challenge contestants, and Ravel’s example in 1902 was certainly less than ideal according to Gédalge’s criteria: though the subject falls within the prescribed range of a sixth, and does not manifest unnecessary rhythmic dissimilarity,29 it comes nearly to a dead stop in the middle of its third measure, pausing awkwardly on the dominant, and rendering the fourth measure harmonically redundant if not precarious.30 What already would have been a short subject (general agreement in treatises of the time centers around four to eight measures—long enough to permit the introduction of stretti, required in the “school fugue”) was then, compromised (ex. 3.1). Ravel’s exposition, comprising sixteen measures—subject and answer first in the alto and tenor, then in the bass and soprano—corresponds, not unsurprisingly, to one of the models found in his master’s treatise (i.e., four-voice fugue, with one counter subject before the second entrance, as evidenced in fig. 3.1).

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Figure 3.1. Gédalge’s model (1901) for Ravel’s treatment of the 1902 Prix de Rome fugue from Traité de la fugue, 1re partie: De la fugue d’école (Paris: Enoch, 1901), 75

In the following six measures (based on fragments of the subject), Ravel appears to be moving quickly to G minor, the recommended modulation for such competition fugues,31 in order to prepare the subject’s entrance on the sixth degree. (See the appendix (p. 283), for a transcription of the entire fugue.) Chromatic movement in the bass is prolonged and accompanied by ascending fragments of the subject in the other voices, delaying the entrance until measure 23, blurring a bit the harmonic sense of arrival in G minor (though the alto compensates in the following measure with the countersubject and the requisite leading tone, F♯). At this point Gédalge recommends an answer at the third degree, and Ravel obliges in measure 27, the second note of the answer, G, again briefly blurring the modulation into D minor. Ravel now needs an episode, and rather than follow Gédalge’s textbook precisely by moving to the fourth degree (E♭), he chooses the supertonic for the subject’s next entrance at measure 40, then, in measure 44 offers the subject at the recommended fourth degree of E♭. There is no response (the answer would return to the tonic, per Gédalge’s treatise), and Ravel turns the obvious dominant cadence deceptively into an imitation sequence of the subject’s final measure, the cadential neighbor note and trill figure which point unmistakably to the dominant (mm. 49–53). The intent of these measures is to prepare the first pedal (mm. 54–58), in which these (cadential) fragments of the subject’s final measure compete with Ravel’s more emphatic, augmented treatment of the subject’s first measure (the head of the subject, inverted, in augmentation) over the dominant (mm. 53–58). The purpose of this, in textbook fashion, is to introduce an essay’s first stretto.32 The subject returns at two-measure intervals in ascending order through the voices in measures 61–71, and Ravel then offers his second episode in which we find two short canons at the octave (mm. 71–72 in the tonic between the bass and alto,

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      

    

    

         

 

Ex. 3.1. 1902 Prix de Rome fugue subject.

then mm. 73–74 in the relative minor, between soprano and tenor). The pace quickens: subject and answer in stretto in the subdominant (mm. 75–79), two measures of transition, then countersubject in stretto (mm. 82–85), and countersubject in augmentation beneath the subject (mm. 85–88). Ravel’s second dominant pedal underpins simultaneous treatments of the head motives of both the subject and the countersubject (mm. 90–94), and its resolution introduces the conclusion of the fugue: subject, countersubject against subject and answer (both in augmentation) and, finally, the tonic pedal and last stretto of the subject, a response, and some fragments. In view of the limited time allowed for the completion of materials (to include the other required choral piece with orchestral accompaniment) Ravel’s effort was a fine one, falling well within the general outlines of what Gédalge and a typical jury would have expected,33 and he was clearly entitled in 1902 to qualify for the second stage of the Prix de Rome. The final stage of that year’s competition, however, would solicit proficiency in a genre far less congenial to him and, unfortunately, outside the parameters of the present inquiry.34 But Gédalge’s aesthetic (as noted above, so deeply grounded in strict counterpoint), inspired and informed Ravel’s philosophy of composition and teaching,35 and it circulated” to other planes of his imagination.

II. Familiar Categories Thematic material: Trio (1914), first movement; Violin Sonata (1923–27), first movement One needs look no further than Ravel’s first published work, the Menuet antique (Paris: Enoch, 1898) for evidence of early contrapuntal play.36 Ravel’s buoyant, small-scale tossing about of themes simultaneously here, when he was only twenty, bore rich fruit in the coming decades; Jean-Claude Teboul has noted the sophistication of a work “contrapuntally conceived” like the Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn (1909),37 and by the time of the superb Trio, completed on the eve of the 1914–18 War, Ravel’s counterpoint of thematic materials had acquired a subtlety of unsettling, structural relevance. In the Trio’s first movement, just prior to the development, Ravel resubmits his opening theme briefly in the lowest registers of the piano, as if to “announce” it,38 yet in recapitulation (and afterward) he treats the second theme with more attention (at R10, ex. 3.2a). The subtlety

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   

(b)

                                                                            

   

   

  

        

  

            

  



 



                                              

     

    

   

  



  

 



  

Ex. 3.2. Trio, 1st mvt. (a) recapitulation, beginning at R10. (b) preparation of recapitulation, beginning 4 mm. before R10.

is not in a reversal of themes in recapitulation—hardly unique over long time to Ravel—but in the unexpected and ambivalent preparations for the event, echoes on a larger scale of the motivic “telegraphing” of the development. Having toyed with expectations on a “micro” level, Ravel confounds convincingly: in the midst of what appears to herald the climax of a development section, both first and second themes are recapitulated simultaneously, at the top of a furious crescendo (in itself unexpected given the context), only to be dissolved of apparent purpose through a diminution of the second theme, “backwards” into another recapitulation. Glimmers of the first theme remain in a kind of

Zank.indd Sec1:91

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92 (b)



opposed sound .....

Rall . . . . .

.....

                                        poco dim.

poco dim.                          

   

       

   

    

   

 

 

poco dim.





 

 



 





2 octaves lower





Rall. . . . .



     

  

 

 

 

 

 



 







Ex. 3.2. (concluded) Trio, 1st mvt. (b) preparation of recapitulation, beginning 4 mm. before R10.

“structural paraphonia,” as Richard Beyer has put it,39 but the recapitulation is clearly of the second theme, not the first, and Ravel unfolds it compactly, in completely different character from its heated “anticipation,” and—most astonishingly—within the space of only a few measures (ex. 3.2b). Following the war, in which he served and suffered greatly, Ravel continued to surprise amidst the new and vigorous “Neoclassical” trends. His renewed explorations of redefined formal ambiguities inherent in the aesthetic changes of the postwar decade may be observed in the thematic counterpoint of the opening movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1923–27), where his ventures are quite different from those of nine years before in the Trio. The piano opens with a genial, meandering theme that advances in a curiously “indeterminate” fashion (i.e., both harmonically—a gapped scale retreating into a narrow and more inflected range, and rhythmically—asymmetrical but stable, then symmetrical but unstable, fragmented measures of 68 and 98 meters, ex. 3.3a). After only a few measures, the single piano line scatters into a bland tremolo as the violin enters with the same theme from a different modal realm (m. 7 of ex. 3.3a). Within only four more measures, Ravel presents a second, more precocious theme in the piano left hand, opposite the violin’s prolongation of the first (m.10 of ex. 3.3a), and, as the exposition of some forty measures advances, the two themes “rub up” against one another repeatedly, their roles even reversing toward the end.

Zank.indd Sec1:92

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opposed sound

93

(a) [Piano]

                                     p

Allegretto [Violin]







      



   

p

                                         [Pno.]

  













 



                    











 









 







 







[Pno., LH]



  

 

 



 



  

 

    

   

Ex. 3.3. Violin Sonata, 1st mvt. (a) mm. 1–11.

The chafing of the discourse, however, brews a certain perceptual “mistrust,” since it is less and less clear whether Ravel intends to develop one or both of the very different ideas straightaway, or whether a “real” second theme might soon appear. When the latter rather than the former occurs at R3—a slower, more generous and expansive theme (in the violin, ex. 3.3b)—its effect has, nonetheless, been oddly compromised by an exposition in which neither of the first two themes—colliding with one another from the beginning—appear to have lead anywhere especially compelling. The counterpoint of ideas has, in effect, merely churned Ravel’s musical clock ahead in “Neoclassical” fashion,40 creating an unsettling sense of having entered into a continuous, incongruous “slow development” of some kind. This is especially true given the stark, open intervals of the pianist’s accompaniment to the violin’s new theme, intervals that persist and expand registrally. A development section does in fact ensue, but here

Zank.indd Sec1:93

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(b) R3

   

[Violin]

  

pp

[Piano, RH]

        [Piano LH]    

  

   

       





     

 

   





p

espressivo

 

  



 

 

 

 

 



     

   

 

 







 



       





 





 

       



  

(c) R5

[Violin]

   

   

[Piano]

  

    



 

 

 



                            

p

             

sul Sol



  

             

 

  

             

 





   

 

       

Ex. 3.3. (concluded) Violin Sonata, 1st mvt. (b) beginning at R3. (c) beginning 1 m. before R5.

Zank.indd Sec1:94

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opposed sound

95

(a) R7

    

Vln.

   Pno.







  



 

    

  

  









       

  



        

      





  

    

                    





    













  

  

  







  

         

                                







(b) R11

  cantabile   





 



 













mp

                                              

p

   

        



 





 

 

   



 

senza sord.

3

Ex. 3.4. Violin Sonata, 1st mvt. (a) beginning at R7. (b) recapitulation, beginning at R11.

Ravel opposes his first two themes horizontally (ex. 3.3c)—the vertical arguments between piano and violin comprising only the movement’s first theme and what one might reasonably assume to be materials of either transition (as in the anticipation of the Trio’s first movement development section of nine years previous) or introduction (given their previous purpose in the suddenly “slow” section, ex. 3.3b)—the few, stark accompanimental major sevenths to the movement’s third theme. The sevenths, however—cleverly disguised of purpose—do in fact become a scaffolding around which the climax of Ravel’s “Neoclassical” development is constructed (ex. 3.4a). One might note, too, the novelty of the

Zank.indd Sec1:95

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96



opposed sound

movement’s recapitulation: it is contrapuntal (as in the Trio), but “falsely simultaneous,” comprising the first theme in the piano, yet destabilized, as it enters (1) “off the beat” and (2) in opposition to still another theme in the violin (ex. 3.4b). From youthful works of the late 1890s, then, to the Violin Sonata of some twenty years later, Ravel’s success in avoiding the “sterility” he believed inherent in a Germanic “will to develop,”41 was due in no small part to his audacious juxtapositions—indeed, oppositions—of thematic materials.

Rhythm: Jeux d’eau (1901); String Quartet (1902–3), second movement; Trio (1914) “Pantoum” Ravel’s rhythm, exuberant and diverse, often manifests syncopation as well as the horizontal alternation and/or juxtaposition of meters. Polyrhythms, however—conceived vertically by definition—were on occasion formalized, and their dispositions are sophisticated enough to warrant attention as a species of rhythmical counterpoint. Again—as was the case with harmony—Ravel encourages speculation about the rhythmic aspects of his contrapuntal thought: in an interview with Georges Jean-Aubry in 1924, shortly before his departure for Madrid,42 Ravel appears to be thinking about writing “a symphonic poem without a subject, where the whole interest will be in the rhythm.”43 An early inclination to combine themes vertically in the Menuet antique extended to polyrhythm, since the moderate triple-meter theme of the work’s Trio could not help but conflict with the syncopated-duple and running-note figuration of its opening main theme; yet Ravel combined them without hesitation (ex. 3.5). Only three years later, he turned again to artifice learned from Gédalge in the final pages of the Jeux d’eau: how to conclude a miniature sonata-allegro form with a suitable treatment of the second (rather than first) theme, while doing justice to its projected properties in augmentation, and how to fill an increase in the dialogical time created by extending the theme over twice its original span. Ravel recast the work’s original accompanimental figuration in a mirror-image, double diminution of both rhythm and register (ex. 3.6);44 and with some internal resonance, too, since the theme—though not classically symmetrical—has a semblance of antecedent and consequent portions, and the final tones of the consequent section already comprise in themselves no more than the augmentation of the first five, those that Ravel used to shape the conclusion of his first, true masterwork. Within less than a year of completing Jeux d’eau, Ravel had finished the greater part of his more substantive String Quartet, and, in a turbulent time nearly thirty years later, he affirmed the work’s significance in an interview with the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “After our extreme modernism, a return to classicism was to be expected. After a flood comes the ebb tide, and after a revolution we see the reaction. Stravinsky is often considered the leader of neoclassicism, but don’t forget that my String Quartet was already conceived in

Zank.indd Sec1:96

9/24/2009 10:33:09 PM

à peine alenti

  

                        

 

 

              



        

p

marqué





 



      

 

 

R14

           

Ex. 3.5. Menuet antique, end of the “Trio” section, beginning 2 mm. before R14.

 



  

 

 

   

rapido

    



  









                                                    6

p

6

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ex. 3.6. Jeux d’eau, mm. 77–78, first 2 of the final 9 mm.

Assez vif - Très rythmé

    

pizz.

f



   

pizz.

  

pizz.

    

f





       









     







    

                              

                                         f 



pizz. f







 









 

Ex. 3.7. String Quartet, 2nd mvt., mm. 1–5.

Zank.indd Sec1:97

9/24/2009 10:33:09 PM

98



opposed sound

terms of four-part counterpoint, whereas Debussy’s Quartet is purely harmonic in conception.”45 Debussy’s Quartet surely having been a model,46 Ravel’s rhythmic counterpoint in the second movement (appropriately marked “Assez vif—Très rythmé”) stands out the more. A vertical conflict of meters (simple 3 vs. compound 6 ) is assumed, since Ravel indicates it in the time signature of 4 8 all parts from the beginning (ex. 3.7), yet each part alternates independently between the two meters according to the rhythmic/melodic context, the outlines of which are delineated in the opening measures. Again, syncopation being a cardinal quality of Ravel’s rhythm, the accents indicated in the first and third measures of compound meter in the second violin and viola provide exactly this: a counterpoint of syncopation to the main theme in the first violin. The rhythmic source of Ravel’s objective is the more evident, since he has made the melody (only one part of four) subordinate to the rhythms by way of timbre: all voices are pizzicati, but—in the composer’s words—“conceived in four-part counterpoint.” As in dux–comes, the syncopation implies an inventive, contrapuntal duality.47 The exploration of rhythmic “dualities” widened significantly in the Trio of 1914, the counterpoint of rhythm here due to different interests than those observed in the Jeux d’eau or the Quartet. Even though entitled “Pantoum,”48 the Trio’s second movement is plainly a scherzo, a seemingly straightforward A–B–A form in quick triple meter, yet one with a B, or “trio” section, that can only be described as extraordinary. The A section comprises two morsels of contrasting material, the first a scratchy syncopated neighbor-note figuration, divided by a brief puff of air and syncopated pizzicato accompaniment (ex. 3.8a), the second a three-bar, asymmetrical idea (an arabesque, actually), that Ravel expands and contracts relentlessly throughout the movement. (ex. 3.8b). As one might expect after the smaller-scale example of the Quartet’s scherzo, the adamant, virtuosic exchanges of these materials in the A section—most often in syncopation—remain tightly organized under a shared 3 time signature. 4 In the B section, however, Ravel surprises doubly, introducing a lyrical four-bar theme of rather odd quality. Given the virtuosic nature of the writing to this point, a sense of repose or gentle contrast is not unexpected, but the nature of this “trio” theme is startling. It rings a bit prosaic, of the cabaret or music-hall, in large part because it is written in augmentation to the relentless, running quarter-note values of the preceding yet continuing A section: Ravel insists on retaining the slender motivic materials of the latter as “incidental escorts” for the middle section. Since the dissimilarity between the concurrently running ideas is too great to unfold within a single time signature, Ravel opposes them, the slow-moving, “cabaret” theme in 42 meter, against the chattering drones of the violin and cello, chained to their original 34 meter (ex. 3.8c). The counterpoint of two different meters, then,

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(a)

  

 



 



  



 



Vln., pizz. p

Vc., pizz.

  

p



           

   

    









  

 





   

               



           

  







arco    





  

 

  

 



       Pno. p        

  

 



(b) R1

arco

Assez vif

p

 

 

arco

p

  







 

           3

  

 

3

 





  

arco





 

 

pizz.

pizz.









 



 



3









  











 

p





 





 





 3





 

    





   



 



  



3

arco

 

   



   







3

  

 



   



   



     





Ex. 3.8. Trio, 2nd mvt., “Pantoum.” (a) mm. 1–5. (b) second theme, beginning at R1.

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100

opposed sound

(c)

                                                                     

R10

      

pp









ff

     

 

          

 

       

 



pp expressif

  









                         

 

             

 

 

     

  

  

  

 

Ex. 3.8. (concluded) Trio, 2nd mvt., “Pantoum.” (c) combining of meters, beginning at R10.

within a shared tempo mediates the simultaneous opposition of highly different materials—on the one hand, short-lived fragments from the more frenetic A section and, on the other, the unexpectedly casual theme of a highly unconventional “trio.”

Harmony: Le tombeau de Couperin, Menuet (1914–17); Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine” (1907–8); Concerto in G Major (1931), third movement Much, if not all of Ravel’s music was written during what Jim Samson has aptly described as a time of “declining tonality,”49 and some surprising traces of what was soon enough accepted as “bitonality” may be observed quite early on, in both the Jeux d’eau for piano (1901–2), and in the bizarre and peculiarly beautiful orchestral “cadenzas” for two clarinets, then two bassoons, of the “Prélude à la nuit” from the Rapsodie espagnole (1907–8, with which Stravinsky was acquainted). We pursue, then, the possibility of an “harmonically contrapuntal” aspect of Ravel’s style, appreciable at the turn of century in the examples

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opposed sound



101

just mentioned, and developed in two later examples, at the intervals of fifteen years each.

Modality and tonality: Le tombeau de Couperin, Menuet (1914–17) In an interview from London in the last productive year of his life,50 Ravel provided an intriguing glimpse of how he viewed counterpoint and harmony (and, in fact, registration, discussed in the following chapter) as interrelated: Then M. Ravel discussed another idea. [It] was that in these days of cacophony it might be quite an original idea for the orchestra to start, say, in C major, and then, through a series of discords the instruments should divide, some going up a semitone at every three or four bars, while others went down in the same way, eventually ending in perfect harmony in C major two octaves apart. He said: “It is just an idea but it might be rather fun working it out and certainly a novel way of resolving harmony from discord.”51

Among the reasons for André Suarès having proposed Ravel by 1925 as an archmodel to others, was indeed the composer’s harmonic thought: “There is always an agreement between Ravel’s chords. He delights in modal indecision: he finds a way to make the dominant falter with the most perverse pleasure.”52 Refuge in modal indecision during a time of declining tonality was not in itself unusual, especially in view of the new enthusiasm with which Medieval and Renaissance musics were being received at the newly competitive Schola Cantorum (though, as Jürgen Braun has noted, Ravel’s interest in the precious few alternatives to functional tonality appears to have been remarkably unconscious,53 certainly when compared with Debussy).54 The religious roots of modal music appear to have interested Ravel little: he remained detached,55 exploring the possibilities of “faltering dominants” without committing to any particular hierarchy of pitches for very long.56 But in the Menuet from Le tombeau de Couperin (and remembering the earlier Menuet antique), a novel counterpoint between modality and tonality may be proposed wherein Ravel reconciles significantly dissimilar materials of his A section (ex. 3.9a), with those of an interior “musette” (ex. 3.9b). Rather than juxtaposing the different materials briefly within a “trio” section (as in the Menuet antique, fifteen years earlier), Ravel here joins them in their entirety in an unexpected “recapitulation.” The question of harmony within such artifice, however—Ravel’s “accords d’accords”—remained: given the anticipated return of the Menuet’s A theme, clearly in the tonality of G major and manifesting (uncharacteristically for Ravel and especially within the invoked topos of a grand siècle menuet) the raised seventh degree, a conflict with a musette in dorian mode was unavoidable. The chordal migration, as it were, of the musette’s theme to a more phrygian

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102

opposed sound

(a) Allegro moderato

           

  

  

     



 



 

      

  

pp

  

  



 

 

        







   

  



(b) Musette

     pp

  





 

 

 

  



 

   

 

  

 



 

 

       

 



    



Sourdine

(c)

  

 

  



 

     

  

  





 

 

 

   

pp

  

 

 

 

     

     

 

 

Ex. 3.9. Le tombeau de Couperin. (a) opening of the Menuet, mm. 1–6. (b) opening of the “Musette” section, mm. 33–40. (c) combining of the two themes, mm. 73–78.

persuasion, in simultaneous recapitulation with the A theme of the menuet, was Ravel’s surprising and satisfying solution (ex. 3.9c).

Mixed modalities: Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine” (1907–8) It has been alleged (and repeated over time) that Ravel never used the wholetone scale,57 but this is not really true. It is true that Ravel rarely used such collections (see, for instance, p. 53, and ex. 2.7 or ex. 3.10), and it is also true that when doing so, Ravel did justice to Suarès’s admiration of his “accords d’accords.” In order, for instance, to extricate himself from the dramatic culmination of “Ondine”—the end of a massive crescendo that might well have been included

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opposed sound

        ff









     

    

   













 



 



 









  





  









 



 





















 



  

















 



    





 

   







 



 











  



 











   



  











 

 

  







     



 



 

 

103

 



  

          



  

 





 

         

Ex. 3.10. Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine,” resolution of the central crescendo and climax, mm. 66–67.

in the previous chapter—Ravel constructed an ingenious ladder of opposed modalities in dynamic descent. Converging from the opposite, outer reaches of the keyboard, the figuration in both hands is scaled proportionately in virtuosic terms, but also in harmonic outline: six descending whole-tone in the right hand against the outline of three ascending diatonic, minor-modality chords of the left (ex. 3.10). In the previous example from Le tombeau de Couperin (ex. 3.9b and c), Suarès’s remarking in 1925 on Ravel’s wicked delight in faltering dominants was appropriate, but in this case his remarks upon Ravel’s death seem more applicable: “Sometimes—and one really can’t know how—a touch of malice and irony bring into agreement the most opposed of materials. There is sorcery in these combinations.”58 “Always” and “never” are difficult terms, of course, but in the same sentence that Rollo Myers advises about whole-tone scales, he also declares that Ravel “always avoids the leading tone.” Yet again, as in our previous example of the Menuet from Le tombeau de Couperin, such is not the case (even when

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104

opposed sound

(a) R1

Clarinet, solo

   

     

3

6

f

Piano

          



                        

    





p

  



  

 



  







 

 

 



 



3

              p Lower strings

 



  



                           



      



  





  



(b) R20

       

Piano, solo

 



  

          

 

3

ff

     

 

 

 

3

 

Violins





f



     

Lower strings

     





  

       



                      

       



  

Ex. 3.11. Concerto in G, 3rd mvt., juxtaposition of the 2nd theme with different timbres. (a) beginning at R1. (b) beginning at R20.

Ravel envelops the main theme in recapitulation with a modal underpinning), and it is most certainly not the case in “Ondine,” where her final plea hangs upon the C♯ of a melodic D-minor scale, in what is probably the work’s most supremely programmatic moment. There may also be some irony in that one means of avoiding leading tones is to traffic in whole-tone collections. But whatever quibbles (again) with Myers, Suarès was surely correct, and helpful, in telling us that “Ravel saw what diatonic harmony was potentially capable of.”59

Tonality, texture, and timbre: Concerto in G Major (1931), third movement In the finale of what proved to be Ravel’s final work of consequence, an opposition of harmonies unfolds that is enhanced and then transformed by what might best be described as a concurrent counterpoint of textures and timbre. Leading tones functioning traditionally in the outer sections of the Menuet of Le tombeau de Couperin are paradoxically irrelevant in this movement. To be sure, the

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opposed sound



105

concerto as a whole is in the key of G major, but it should be remembered that the opening of the first movement is nearly pentatonic in quality (lacking the third),60 and yields quickly to more exotic and jazz-colored materials. The finale’s main theme is even more opaque, little more than a machinelike toccata, of open fourths and fifths. In both thematic and harmonic counterpoint, however, atop its first reiteration, Ravel propels a second and unexpectedly raucous, nearly “Be-Bop” theme, first in the clarinet, then in the flute (again vaguely pentatonic but parrying in outline first E-flat minor, then G-sharp minor). The piano rattles on obliviously, while beneath all the lower strings provide some bare outlines of a conventional harmonic underpinning, in pizzicato punctuation. Considering the surprise of the moment,61 the context of a concerto finale, and even a quick glance at the orchestral score, it is a bit as if a second theme had never entered (ex. 3.11a). But the potential for chaos—there being no such precedence in the work’s previous two movements—is contained by Ravel’s mastery of three, concurrently advancing and historically ironic textures and timbres: (1) the first “theme”—in effect, an immobile, twentieth-century perpetuum mobile, a toccataparody of oscillating fourths and fifths centered around the seventeenth-century clavecin ranges of the keyboard;62 (2) an unexpected second theme, wherein the solo clarinet careens suddenly upward over more than two octaves in the piercing, twentieth-century timbres of high jazz winds; and (3) a reassuring, classically “minimalist” accompanimental texture in the lower plucked strings, with an occasional, characteristic syncopation. The significance of the juxtapositions becomes more evident in recapitulation (nine measures after R19), when the themes are brought back as they had first been presented—simultaneously, and in similar textures, but now with juggled timbres: the scurrying, toccata-like texture of the piano is handed over to the violins in the same range, while the raucous jazz theme is given to the solo piano, in the upper registers of the previous solo clarinet (ex. 3.11b). But again, the dissonance and potential chaos of the opposed tonal areas and their themes is mediated, here by newly assigned textures, with the timbres altered just enough to reawaken interest in the themes themselves. Since upper registers of the piano are unable to “pierce” like those of the clarinet, a new kind of clarity and “bite” comes to the foreground, as the perpetuum mobile texture of the “toccata” is handed over to the strings: Ravel has moved the alternating and open intervals into and across the entire string section in staggered, running note figuration. As the concerto draws quickly to its close, then, a new balance of timbres has been achieved, without disturbing the integrity of the event(s): the effective, simultaneous presentation of two principal themes and their convincing recapitulations in preposterously different tonal realms, enlivened by Ravel’s decision to “juggle” their timbres, while retaining their (already) ironic textures and ranges.

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106



opposed sound

II. Less Familiar Categories Timbre: Fusion, illusion, allusion: Sonate pour violon et violoncelle [Duo sonate] (1920–22), first and second movements) Ravel’s most learned and intense use of counterpoint may be found in the Duo sonate for violin and cello, of 1920–22. Lennox Berkeley, who had known the composer well, echoed somewhat Ravel’s own thoughts about the work:63 From 1920 onward it is clear that Ravel felt the need for a change of style. He wanted to get away from the richly harmonic idiom he had up to then employed. He must have realized that any rejection of tonality would be impossible for him, he therefore contented himself with a more linear, contrapuntal approach to his material. The first work in this new manner is the Duo Sonata for violin and cello. With these instruments alone there is little possibility of harmonic writing which is no doubt why Ravel chose this particular medium.64

Berkeley was correct in emphasizing (as had Ravel himself) an interest in the new harmonic “asperities” of the postwar decade,65 but the question of timbre should also be pursued: choosing two such similar instruments would inevitably risk setting the stage for what Vladimir Jankélévitch would soon describe as a “poverty of polyphony, . . . a tortured sport of two voices in counterpoint, chasing, entrapping, eschewing one another, with no underpinning of accompaniment.”66 In his largest-scale instrumental work67—“an entire symphony fashioned only for the thumb and index finger”68—Ravel chose to write for two solo string instruments of related, potentially analogous timbres. The result was hardly as forbidding as one might fear from Jankélévitch: within remarkably severe and self-imposed limitations—by default, a dialogue between only two instruments was required—Ravel created the effects of, on the one hand, a single meta-instrument and, on the other, those of multiple instruments (i.e., an entire string quartet). This Duo sonate occupied Ravel for the better part of two years,69 and only the first movement was completed in time for original purpose.70 Shortly before publication, in a letter of 23 March 1922 to Jacques Durand, Ravel sent some corrections, and a clarification about the work’s dedication: “My dear Friend, On returning I found a letter . . . concerning the

dedication of the Sonate pour violon et violoncelle. . . . I was just going to write to you about this and some other matters. First of all, the dedication, which, in effect, I forgot to inscribe on the top of the manuscript [should read]: à la mémoire de Claude Debussy.”71 The casting of the work on such a grand scale—four movements, three densely argued, and all united cyclically—was no small matter. In order to

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opposed sound



107

trump expectations inherent in such a self-imposed format (i.e., how to sustain the structure of any single movement, never mind a “symphonic” architecture of four, with only two potential melodic lines of similar timbre), Ravel forced himself into counterpoint of the highest order. His success in the endeavor—in essence, an extremely careful essay in the timbre, within the potentially crushing “macro” expectations of a “symphonic” sonata form dedicated to none other than the recently deceased “Claude de France”—is quite stunning. The first movement of the Duo sonate, marked Allegro, begins with an ostinato figure in the violin, the most subtle of several “leitmotifs” of the larger work, an oscillation between minor and major thirds and a linear, unifying device brutally transformed in the opening measures of the following movement. Against the violin in close range (even allowing for harmonics), the cello quickly enters with the first theme; but, as if in “horizontal imitation,” Ravel inverts the parts symmetrically at R1 (cello assuming the ostinato role a fifth lower, violin the main theme a fourth higher, ex. 3.12), an especially fine rendering of Gédalge’s conviction that counterpoint is “polymelodic” as well as polyphonic: “Fugal composition is not

merely polyphonic—this word has no significance here—but, more precisely ‘polymelodic,’ since the art of counterpoint consists primarily in using simultaneously, not several isolated sounds (this is the role of harmony) but several melodic parts of similar or different natures and rhythms.”72 Because of the timbre, but also because of Ravel’s interweaving of the two “opposed” voices— similar ambitus, rhythmic notation, even phrasing, as well as the symmetrical repetition of the twelve bars in question—the sensation of the work’s opening may indeed be experienced as one of a single string instrument presenting a theme and accompaniment, repeated in delicately expanded registers. Such an interpretation is justified by the opening of the following Scherzo, marked “Très vif,” where Ravel presents the harmonic cell of his ostinato figure from the first measure of the opening movement in augmentation and pizzicato, in identical register, and again divided between the two instruments—an acutely “minimalist” contrapuntal gesture, in effect a timbral imitation of imitation (ex. 3.13a). The principle unfolds. Recurrent exchanges throughout the movement of identical rhythms (i.e., R3, ex. 3.13b—imitation, in essence, of rhythmic figuration) mitigate the effects of inevitably wider, indeed unbridled changes of register, threatening to remind that two instruments are “at sport, chasing, entrapping, eschewing one another” (in the words of Jankélévitch), as opposed to a single meta-instrument. The occasional outburst of double or triple stops, in either or both parts, only hints at a conclusion counterbalancing the predominantly stark and thinner opposition, throughout what is surely one of the grimmest of scherzi ever written. After a short interlude, echoing the opening measures of the first movement at R17 (ex. 3.14a), Ravel writes an increasingly dense crescendo and conclusion, doubling first the texture of the cello (from R19, ex. 3.14b), then the

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108



opposed sound

Allegro

  

Vln.

 

Vc.

   p

   







 

 

   





 

  

  



 

 

 

 





 

sur Ré

    

 

      

   

   

 









   

 



     



 

    





 

   



 

 



  

   

  



 

       

p

 



  

  



 



         

R1

 

p

    

       

Ex. 3.12. Duo sonate, 1st mvt., the opening figures in the violin and cello switched just before R1.

violin (in unison, with expanding intervals), then in metric diminution (ex. 3.14c). At R20, the violin makes a final, diabolical restatement of the scherzo’s second theme in a different key from the cello, whose double stops have been expanding steadily since the beginning of the crescendo, and extend to nearly two octaves. And in the midst of such frenzy, Ravel inserts (seven mm. later) a brilliant “moment within the moment”: as the materials continue to diverge relentlessly from one another, he asks the violin to leap unexpectedly into a series of raked pizzicato chords, four notes each, charging the instrument, in effect, with accompanying itself, above the gnashing of the cello (ex. 3.14d). The illusion of a single instrument is no longer tenable. The carefully measured fury and invocation of several instruments at the closing of such a “scherzo” is amplified in the more densely textured fugal writing of the fourth and final rondo movement, marked “Vif avec entretien,” a suitably

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opposed sound

109

(a) Très vif

Vln.

 

pizz.





  



 

pizz.

ff

Vc.

















 



            





  



  





ff

(b) R3

Vln.



Vc.







(arco)

     

mf

arco

        

pizz.

 



  



arco

      

       

pizz.

 



p

     

arco



p

     

        

 



     

     

     

Ex. 3.13. Duo sonate, 2nd mvt. (a) mm. 1–12. (b) the “rhythmic imitation” of the opening mm., beginning at R3.

formidable conclusion to Ravel’s “symphonic sonata.” The subject, a striding motive of descending major sevenths—already slipped clandestinely with carefully conceived irony into the first movement after only forty seven measures73—enters in the cello, after the final refrain of the rondo’s A theme at R24 (ex. 3.15). The violin’s response comes at what would be judged the subdominant in a classical treatment five measures later, but the writing is nearly atonal; the cello repeats the subject, the violin answering in mirror inversion (m. 12 of ex. 3.15). As often before, the instruments reverse roles, and the main rondo theme appears in the cello under the subject, then under its inversion (5 mm. after R25, in ex. 3.15b). When the rondo theme moves to the violin, the cello responds with one of the movement’s interior, march-like themes (at R26, ex. 3.15), the roles again reversing briefly before the subject reenters beneath the second half of the interior theme (4 mm. before R27 in ex. 3.15). Dissonant, double-stopped trills in both instruments, in

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110

opposed sound

(a) Moins vif

R17

         

pp

   

   

   





    









   

  





mp expressif

(b) R19

 

 

 















p léger                                                        (arco)

1er Mouvt

                



mf

                    



Ex. 3.14. Duo sonate, 2nd mvt. (a) beginning at R17. (b) beginning at R19.

alternation with transpositions of the greater work’s opening, at opposite ends of the dynamic spectrum and in conjunction with secondary fragments of the marchlike interior theme (all this at R28, ex. 3.16a), inform the increasingly dense “horizontal” counterpoint, and after a hair-raising final stretto, eight bars unleash a wave of cadential chords inflating to the range of five octaves. Given (1) the substantial size of the entire section (extending over more than a hundred measures); (2) the increasing intensity of argument; (3) the introduction of earlier themes from the movement as well as from others; and (4) the steadily increasing number of tones to be played simultaneously by both instruments in widening ranges, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ravel’s intent here— as at the end of his “scherzo” (on a preparatory scale)—was none other than to create the illusion of several virtuoso players. In the Duo sonate, then, the graceful intertwining and imitation of themes in the first movement and the brusque, minimalist opposition of single tones or

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opposed sound

111

(c)

    

 



ff

 



 



 





 



                                      ff

                    

 

R20 sur le chevalet



(d)

   

     

 

 

pizz.



 





pizz.













  







arco

 

 



               



 

 













    





 



 







  







 









Ex. 3.14. (concluded) Duo sonate, 2nd mvt. (c) beginning 8 before R20. (d) beginning 13 after R20.

thematic rhythms in the first half of the scherzo movement represent Ravel’s fusion and illusion of two instruments into one, whereas the diabolical conclusions to the scherzo and the brilliant fugue concluding the “rondo” of the larger work embody his allusion to the power of far greater forces,74 perhaps a response to earlier works of long-accepted consequence,75 likely a mockery of the reception of his preliminary essays for the Prix de Rome competition by enshrined mediocrities of the Institut.76

Zank.indd Sec1:111

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112

opposed sound

(a) (arco) R24

vln.

vc.



     

arco







 

 







 



 

















 



         



  

    



 

 

 

    

 



   







  

 







 

  









     

  





 

(b) R25





  

  







  

  

 

  





  

  

 



 



 





 







 



Ex. 3.15. Duo sonate, beginning at R24.

Estrangement, dialogue, coalescence: Violin Sonata (1923–27) In the Violin Sonata that followed his Duo, Ravel used counterpoint to quite different timbral ends: the relationship between the parts evolves from estrangement in the first movement, to a more intelligible (even jocular) relationship in the second, and—in the perpetuum mobile of the last movement—to a coalescence of the fundamentally incompatible timbres of a single violin and the twentiethcentury piano. The rapidity, indeed the simultaneity with which the first two themes of the opening movement appear forces counterpoint upon the listener immediately, but any perceptual “melding” of the two parts is plainly not of Ravel’s design,77 and the result is a metamorphosing “counterpoint of incompatibility.”78 To recall the opening dialogue between instruments, the first theme

Zank.indd Sec1:112

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opposed sound

       



     

 

 





   





 

   

 



R26

 











 















 







 









 





  

 











    



 





  

  





 





  

 



















    

 





  





         







  





 





 



113





R27

    

 



Ex. 3.15. (concluded) Duo sonate, beginning at R24.

passes to the violin in measure 7, but the piano wanders off into a bland, dissonant tremolo which, even when expanded in scope, becomes even more paradoxically “irrelevant” as the new, spiky left-hand theme enters (See above, m. 10 of ex. 3.3a). The violin responds to the new theme in similar fashion, with a vague accompaniment consisting of (again) bland but dissonant intervals opening upwards from the tonic, and when it finally “takes back” (to recall Mallarmé) the theme, its accompanimental intervals are passed to the keyboard, reworked and extended horizontally with further, seemingly peripheral and irrelevant decorations (i.e., consecutive major triads).79 The piano’s role becomes even more estranged, as the third theme of the extended lyrical section dominated by the violin appears—widely spaced, perfect intervals of the fourth and fifth, mingle with archaic, organum-like pedal points (above, ex. 3.3b). Yet the pedal—despite its newly charged context of “Modal archaism” vs. “Neoclassic lyricism” (as in the violin’s new melody)—derives from the more chaste model of Gédalge’s treatise (eighth element of the academic, or school fugue),80 and after a resourceful, highly unconventional development, the movement’s reprise is once again

Zank.indd Sec1:113

9/24/2009 10:33:19 PM

114



opposed sound

(a)

  Vln.   

R28

ff

  

Vc.

 ff

 



    

   

   

      

  5 A  

   

  

    

  





 



   



 





 







p



 







 p R29











 





    ff

       

   

 



   

  

   

   













   

  

  

 









      5  A  

     



Ex. 3.16. Duo sonate, 4th mvt. (a) beginning at R28. (b) beginning at R33.

of interest. As noted, the recapitulation consists of the first theme in counterpoint with still another (resembling a bit in retrograde the third), but there is an incorporated event of further structural consequence, another of Ravel’s extraordinary “prepared” recapitulations:81 the main theme has—finally—been reprised, but in counterpoint with another, already introduced eight bars before the event, in the ambiguous lower register of the piano at R10 (ex. 3.17a). The violin (denied the theme by its rival’s eight-bar anticipation) reclaims, indeed

Zank.indd Sec1:114

9/24/2009 10:33:20 PM



opposed sound

115

(a) R10 3               

                                  

pp

  







p

   sord.  



 



 



 











                                                                     poco cresc.

  









 





  







  

 



 

 



 R11

cantabile                  





 



mp

p

   







  



mf







      

         

p



3



  



 





senza sord.

Ex. 3.17. Violin Sonata, 1st mvt. (a) strangely prepared “reprise,” beginning at R10. (b) beginning at R15, final contrapuntal mm.

“takes it back,” and wanders off for a very long time, beginning at R11 (some fifty measures). The violin develops the theme spontaneously, anew, as it were, while the piano is left to dart along beneath, sweeping up all of the movement’s other thematic and motivic fragments in a kind of newly embarrassed autonomy. A reconciliation is clearly in order, and Ravel achieves it, as Arbie Orenstein has noted,82 with a fleeting, slender, three-voice fugato that closes the movement gracefully at R25 (ex. 3.17b). Rather than echoing the ironic and singular estrangements of the first movement, the remaining two movements of the sonata build upon the slender thread

Zank.indd Sec1:115

9/24/2009 10:33:21 PM

116



opposed sound

(b) R15

  





p

       





pp

     



  



    







 

   

        





Andante



  

           

  

 







  

      

     

  



senza sord.

        



      



 

Rallentando

      

 

    

      

 

    

  

Ex. 3.17. (concluded) Violin Sonata, 1st mvt. (a) strangely prepared “reprise,” beginning at R10. (b) beginning at R15, final contrapuntal mm.

of “reconciliation” found in its concluding bars. A feisty dialogue of opposed timbres characterizes the second movement, entitled “Blues,” altering expectations radically.83 The potential estrangement of the parts inherent in the bitonal opening, for instance (ex. 3.18a), is here less relevant. With an invocation of the Blues from the mid-1920s, anticipations of a solo voice with accompaniment are inescapable: the players, hence, “need” one another far more than in the cerebral, “Neoclassical” first movement. Ravel’s counterpoint in this pungent movement is confined to occasional imitation, such as canon (at the startling interval of a tritone, ex. 3.18b)—but his “tone painting” in the violin of an implied vocal part (blue notes, falsetto cries, and the like) evinces another imitation—that of program. The counterpoint hence is brusque, even brutal at times, but it is without fail an engaged dialogue of participants, of two voices clearly invested in one another’s materials, however transitory. The final movement of the Sonata is a novel and curious study in virtuosity, a perpetuum mobile growing out of the second theme of the first movement (ex. 3.19a, and, above, m. 10 of ex. 3.3a), conferred almost entirely upon the violin. The subtle irony of its beginning—several overt and spasmodic false starts—would be more surprising in a work manifesting greater earlier compatibility between the parts. But Ravel’s innuendo is deceitfully direct: any reconciliation between

Zank.indd Sec1:116

9/24/2009 10:33:22 PM

(a)

Moderato pizz.

Vln.

                  

 

     





    



f



Pno.

(b)

pizz.

   

  

    



 

 



 

  



3

     

f





 

 

  

f

         

      

 

arco

   

           

 





3















 









 

p

 



 

 



  

 

        

    



p

 

   

 







 



  







 

 

 

 







  

 



 



 

















 



  

 















 

 

 

 



  









 

Ex. 3.18. Violin Sonata, 2nd mvt., “Blues.” (a) mm. 1–5. (b) beginning 4 mm. before R9.

Zank.indd Sec1:117

9/24/2009 10:33:22 PM



118

opposed sound

(a) Allegro Vln.

Pno.

     



Allegro             pp       

              (b)

 

 



    



 

 









    



 

 

 

arco,sul tasto



p







     



    









pizz. pp



 



 























 

       

  





 







  

p





f

               



  





f

                

  

                        















  



R2





                       

  

 

 

       3

p

  





 



 



            

 

     

 

3

 



 



  

 

Ex. 3.19. Violin Sonata, 3rd mvt. (a) mm. 1–9. (b) beginning 4 mm. before R2.

the instruments—i.e., beyond those previously “negotiated” on rather meager ground such as the final measures of the first movement in miniaturized counterpoint, or the brief, programmatic pretexts of the second-movement “Blues”—will be difficult, even quarrelsome. So it is, though expectations intrinsic to a perpetuum mobile are engaged more “gently” beyond the anomalous opening, the two players vying almost reluctantly for the virtue of the concluding movement’s endless motion, their parts neither diverging nor detaching once the chase is

Zank.indd Sec1:118

9/24/2009 10:33:23 PM

opposed sound



119

(c)



R4

                  

          



mf



    

 

 

mf

   





                





   

 

 

  

 









           









 

  

     







 



 







   



Ex. 3.19. (concluded) Violin Sonata, 3rd mvt. (c) beginning at R4.

on. The piano punctuates the violin’s run sparsely at first, almost without exception upon downbeats, and when a new, potentially destabilizing theme is given to the right hand at R2 (m. 5 of ex. 3.19b), the secure rhythmic punctuations of the left continue. There are moments of uncertainty, such as syncopation in the second half of the second theme (ex. 3.19c), or sudden “smudges” in the piano at R11 (ex. 3.20a), but these are calculated, ironic moments, echoes of the previous “Blues” dialogue. Over the course of the finale, however, the violin in perpetuum mobile and the piano in increasingly sophisticated supportive dialogue gradually coalesce rhythmically, texturally, and harmonically, emerging into the sonata’s more “crowded,” inflected (F-sharp major), and unequivocal conclusion in G major—a brilliant reconciliation of opposed struggles (ex. 3.20b), especially when we remember the movement’s opening measures of overt, estranged impudence. In light, then, of Ravel’s obvious delight in exploiting the “essential incompatibility” (as he had put it) of his chosen instruments, the final movement

Zank.indd Sec1:119

9/24/2009 10:33:24 PM



120

opposed sound

(a) R11 Vln.

     

        

      

  

 

Pno.

   

      



 

              

 

 



 

  



  







(b) R17





  







  

 

 

 

 



3

    



 





 

  

  

 

 

 

 



  

 

 



  

  

 

 

 

 



3

    



 



3





 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 



   

 

 

 

 

3



 

 





 

 













 



 



Ex. 3.20. Violin Sonata, 3rd mvt. (a) beginning at R11, showing references to the previous “Blues” mvt. (b) the “final inflections” toward the end, beginning at R17.

and conclusion of the Violin Sonata represent a gradual, contrapuntally negotiated coalescence and reconciliation of timbre, in sharp contrast with the previous examples of fusion, illusion, and allusion in the Duo sonate.

Program It is well known that programmatic topics of the fin de siècle influenced Ravel greatly. The dimensions, however, of their penetration in various aspects of his

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opposed sound



121

counterpoint may be questioned. We know that Ravel was fascinated by contemporary interpretations of the Orient, much “in the air,” as Tristan Klingsor had put it,84 but we also know that he was acquainted with the tone poems of Richard Strauss and used them as teaching examples, captivated, obviously, by their virtuosity, including those of programmatic orchestration.85 Romain Rolland, unexpected public defender of Ravel in the Prix de Rome scandal of 1905, knew Strauss’s powers as well as anyone in France at the turn of the century (as shown in chapter 1), and he had few doubts about their effects upon Ravel: “[T]he young Ravel, crystal-clear, sincere, objective, and unselfish, confessed that the elemental force of this genius [Strauss], the white-hot burning wind of Salome, which whipped through one’s soul like dry leaves, had completely conquered him.86 Charles Koechlin, however—in the Tombeau to André Gédalge—chose to emphasize other aspects of Strauss’s legacy, vaunting the contrapuntal superiority of his (Ravel’s) generation with regard to other national “species,” and—most interestingly—specifically inviting a comparison of Strauss with his former classmate: Look at the examples of most foreigners; I shouldn’t like to give in to vain nationalism, but nevertheless, let’s be clear about it: it is here in France today where one finds the real tradition of Bach. . . . Only one example: savor the writing in “Pavane de la belle au bois dormant” in Ma Mère l’oye of Maurice Ravel, or that of the “Fairy Garden,” and then compare it to the kind of contrapuntal style of Richard Strauss. . . .87

Koechlin, unfortunately, left no more than three dots after Strauss’s name, but his invitation to consider some of the writing in Ma Mère l’oye (without undertaking the larger, as yet unattempted comparative study to which he alluded) is most welcome.

Topos: An appropriated, vertically altered “exotic”: Ma Mère l’oye, “Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes” (1911) Ma Mère l’oye, inspired by fairy tales of Madame d’Aulnoy and Charles Perrault, was composed between 1908 and 1910, as a gift for the children of Ravel’s close friends Cipa and Ida Godebska.88 It went through three versions, the first for piano four hands (for the children), the second an orchestration of the same, and, finally, a somewhat expanded version for the ballet.89 In “Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes” Ravel freely invoked the symbols of his time for an exotic Orient—pentatonic scales (in the first theme as well as the surface texture upon which it rides), exotic instrumental effects (rendered by the celeste, glockenspiel, tam-tam), dovetailing of melodies with their fragments (creating ambiguous, yet sinuous horizontal lines),90

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122



opposed sound

and “layered” registrations of sound (as in gamelan music). The movement’s outer sections are in effect identical, but its middle is eminently sophisticated with regard to counterpoint. The “exotic” canons between the clarinet and celeste in this B section of “Laideronnette” (ex. 3.21a), enlist Western imitation in the service of Ravel’s uniquely imagined East, and as an especially revealing measure of the composer’s comfort in the endeavor, we may note that when the section draws to a close, rather than simply reintroducing the A section, Ravel extends the canon underneath the A theme, first in the clarinet and violas (ex. 3.21b), then in the English horn and second violins, then, finally, in the first violins and oboe (ex. 3.21c). The result is a return made ambiguous by a simultaneous recapitulation/retransition of sorts, a “classical” formal innovation inspired by a contemporary and exotic topic, since the A section material is not fully appreciated until some fifteen measures into its own return, when the material is permitted to continue on its way “unfettered” by the programmatically inspired counterpoint. Delighted by Javanese music and its horizontal strata heard at the Paris World Exhibitions, Ravel had obviously been provoked in a fresh sense:91 appropriating an Eastern topos he informed it with Western artifice learned in Gédalge’s class at the Conservatoire.92

Narrative: Contrapuntal “moralities”: Ma Mère l’oye, “Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête” (1911) Ravel’s counterpoint of musical topoi unfolds on different perceptual levels within the same suite: “Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête” (composed in 1910) carries an epigraph with a tripartite program distributed ingeniously across another A–B–A form.93 The allegorical (and, of course, moral) kernel around which the tale is conceived94—and which Ravel exploits so deftly through counterpoint— is represented on the one hand by “Beauty”‘s theme of the A section (a nearly diatonic duet between solo clarinet and harp, ex. 3.22a) and, on the other, the “Beast”‘s motive in the B section, at R2, a chromatic third and leaping major seventh assigned to the completely different, awkward, and groping instrumental iconography of the contrabassoon (ex. 3.22b). Ravel, however, places his two ideas increasingly in counterpoint in the B section, moving Beauty’s theme from the clarinet to different winds (first the flute outlining F-sharp minor, then the oboe, C-sharp minor), with the Beast scraping along beneath, hesitantly, his motive inverted against the latter part of Beauty’s melody (ex. 3.22c). An intensification ensues (“Animez”), as Beauty’s theme is returned to the solo clarinet, then to the flutes and oboes in octaves. With promise, it is truncated in order that the Beast may be heard by himself—at least once—but then compressed rhythmically and melodically, it moves haplessly away from the Beast, out of his range and into that of the bassoon (ex. 3.23a), and concludes with a

Zank.indd Sec1:122

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opposed sound (a)

R10

Clarinet, Solo

     







    



Tam-tam



(b)

123









Celesta, Solo

























 



















 









mp

Clar., both

R13

pp expressif

      



Celesta

      Violas







pp expressif

     





 





















R14

    









ppp Celesta

     Violas

    







 



















 















Ex. 3.21. Ma Mère l’oye, “Laideronnette.” (a) within the “B” section, beginning 2 mm. before R10. (b) passage leading toward the return of the “A” section, beginning at R13.

relaxation of accumulated tensions (rallentando), though without a resolution of its implied, morally contrapuntal dialogue: the Beast and his theme remain estranged. At R4, however, the A section returns, the Beast bolder in counterpoint, engaging Beauty’s theme from the first downbeat forward (ex. 3.23b), and persisting throughout an expanded reprise of the B section’s programmatic accelerando. The dialogue becomes excruciating, the ranges and register again impossibly high for the Beast, and the bassoon extends his entreaties fully eight measures into a climax and grande pause. Ravel’s counterpoint has become grotesque, even “repulsive”: how humiliating, after all, for an instrument—however beastly—to surrender its voice (in love, no less) to the more flexible, registrally “attractive” qualities of his neighbor instrument? A reconciliation of opposed materials is again hoped for, and this time a magical harp glissando ushers in the

Zank.indd Sec1:123

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124



opposed sound

(c) Eng. Horn

pp expressif

     

       

 pp



Piccolo [8va.]

   



  







       







     

2nd Vlns.

     



Oboe

     

 



pp Grandes flûtes

             1st Vlns.

     



 



     











     



     



Ex. 3.21. (concluded) Ma Mère l’oye, “Laideronnette.” (c) continuing the passage begun in (b), beginning 8 mm. after R14.

movement’s conclusion: a “beastly” theme redeemed, made “beautiful” in the upper registers of the solo first violin (ex. 3.23c).

Metaphor: Counterpoint and the protagonist: Concerto for the Left Hand (1930) Addressed earlier with regard to dynamics, the Left Hand Concerto merits brief revisit in view of its protagonist:95 if not most lines in a play, the one-handed soloist wields the most notes in a work of decidedly dramatic, indeed, heroic force,96 written, as Willy Tappolet justly noted, at the summit of Ravel’s creative powers.97 The solemn treatment of complimentary themes in the enormous upheaval of the work’s conclusion has already been noted (see pp. 102–4), but surprisingly subtle dialogues rise up, indeed “flare,” long before the work’s grand and expansive denouement. During the concerto’s only lyrical interlude, for instance, a new and graceful descending melody (against the winds) recalls Liszt’s thematic transformations of the previous century, as the murky, even Wagnerian foreboding of the work’s main theme (stretched out, nearly inaudibly in the

Zank.indd Sec1:124

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(a) Mouvt de Valse modéré

      

pp (Flutes)







Clarinet, Solo







pp expressif

(Harp)

       pp (b)





   









 

   



 



   



 











 











    

 









 









(c)

R3

Flute, Solo

 

 



 







p très expressif

       Strings arco        pp 



     

Bassoon

p



     











 



      Harp   



 

 





     3

p





p

1st Horn p

Contrabassoon, Solo





  

3

p

      

Clar. p

 

    





      

R2

Contrabassoon, Solo

 





 

  



 

Ex. 3.22. Ma Mère l’oye, “Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête.” (a) mm. 1–5. (b) the motive of the “Beast” in the ‘B’ section, beginning at R2. (c) “Beauty” and “Beast” in counterpoint, beginning at R3.

Zank.indd Sec1:125

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(a) Fl. & Oboe

p

              

Clarinet, Solo

               p

         

mf

1st Vlns.

Animez peu à peu

 





     





3

p Contrabassoon

 

 

 

 



 



 



 

      

    3



    3

mp

Assez vif

 



  

BASSOON

   

  3

f



 

 

3

ff

(b) 1st Clarinet

R4

pp expressif

  

  

 (Bassn.)

 

1er Mouvt. (un peu plus lent)

  

    

  



  

  



R6

 

  

VIOLIN, Solo

 

              

  

 

  

 

    

très expressif

     pp

Strings

  





 

pp Contrabassoon 3

(c)



    





 



   

  



   

Ex. 3.23. Ma Mère l’oye, “Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête,” continuing and concluding counterpoints. (a) 7 mm. after R4. (b) beginning at R4. (c) beginning at R6.

Zank.indd Sec1:126

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opposed sound



127

contrabassoon over the many measures of Ravel’s opening), here becomes a serene underpinning for a new and graceful convergence of lines (ex. 3.24a). On the other hand, the rude principal theme of the ensuing scherzo section,98 is removed, after several “unopposed” hearings, to the extreme upper registers of the piano. It is then recast in a series of increasingly provocative jousts, first against an innocuous background of arpeggiated chords in alternating strings and winds (between R30 and R33), then, softly, against the second theme of the concerto in trombones (1 m. after R32), again, belligerently, against the strings (1 m. after R35). Finally, in a violent, double counterpoint (at R37), the theme is folded back upon itself, the strings seize the Dies irae motive with grim enthusiasm, and the trumpets and horns seize the “scherzo,” as the one-handed soloist left to pound out shattered fragments (ex. 3.24b).99 Amidst what simply could not have been anything resembling flawed orchestration in 1930, Ravel’s protagonist is truly “buried” here—for the only time, actually—in a wonderful cacophony of programmatically inspired counterpoint. More complex juxtapositions, however, are worked out within the tremendous and terraced macrocrescendo concluding the work, the architectural mirror of its opening. The opening ideas of the exposition are widely disproportionate in size—the first reaching out over four measures of wide range, the second consisting of only the latter’s first three notes (transposed and inverted). In spite of this, it seems fairly clear that they are not parts of one and the same, that Ravel has had plans from the beginning for the slighter scope of his secondary Dies irae idea (or Schicksalmotiv, as Walter Pfann has properly characterized it).100 The matter becomes more clear in the work’s concluding cadenza, when it is indeed the three-note, “fateful” motive that is the first to appear, not the longer first theme. Extended again over seven measures (as it had been in the exposition), it gives way to what is the most deceivingly difficult writing of the entire concerto, as Ravel draws out the tension by delaying the return of the longer, serpentine first theme in a remarkable three-voiced dialogue to be executed in the upper registers of the protagonist’s one (amputated) right hand (ex. 3.24c). The first theme at last reappears, transformed nobly with elaborate figuration of dominant-ninth harmonies, and (in the characteristically false culmination noted previously concerning crescendo), Ravel collapses the event in order to frame one final and programmatic argument—the one, weaker hand pitted against two hundred others. Beginning quietly in the low winds (as it had in the opening pages of the concerto) the juxtaposition of Ravel’s first two, interrelated themes is no longer horizontal and “polymelodic” (i.e., the long, groping main theme, then its Dies irae appendage, recalling again Gédalge), but vertical: as the main theme inflates upward, throughout the orchestra, the Hero struggles with one digit (thumb), of the one (generally) weaker hand, to hold the Dies irae above the rising sonorities that slowly “crush” him. After what is, in effect, a programmatic stretto, the work’s ironically martial, “victorious” conclusion in D major is nearly anticlimactic.

Zank.indd Sec1:127

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128



opposed sound

(a) R10

Piano, Solo

Andante



                







































English Horn (and Strings)

    





        p 



               

      



















                      





 



(b) Piano, Solo

  

  



 

R37

    fff

     

  

 

 

Strings

 



         



 

   

           

Trumpets





   

       

 

   

  

 

Ex. 3.24. Left Hand Concerto, differing counterpoint of the work’s interior and concluding sections. (a) beginning at R10. (b) beginning 2 mm. before R37.

Paul Wittgenstein, in overcoming the ghastly injury that put an end to his career, enlivened the active repertories of his time by commissioning a number of works for the left hand alone (including concertos by Strauss, Prokofiev, and Britten),101 and conceived, too, a sophisticated pedagogical system of his own.102 But the protagonist who commissioned Ravel’s concerto judged it in the end as poorly conceived, attempted to rewrite parts of it, and—having never appreciated the work’s prodigious stylistic never mind contrapuntal sophistication—disavowed it.103

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opposed sound

129

(c) Piano, solo



   

 

                           3

 

  

   





 

   



                       

   

















                                 







 

                                                            3

Ex. 3.24. (concluded) Left Hand Concerto, differing counterpoint of the work’s interior and concluding sections. (c) passages in the final cadenza.

IV. Irony and Style: Housekeeping There is clearly more at play in Ravel’s early work with André Gédalge than “housekeeping.” It is, after all, from these years at the turn of a new century that Ravel uses the phrase “point d’ironie” coupled with Alcanter de Brahm’s symbol, and within a letter lamenting the politics and intricacies of the Prix de Rome competitions. Yet as Robert Bernard noted in his wide-ranging symposium concerning French contemporary music in 1930, “academic” was the rarest of criticisms leveled at Ravel (a slight miracle in itself),104 and Nadia Boulanger’s contemporary amusement over the entire matter might be reconsidered in light of Gédalge’s greater motives. In the concluding pages of his Treatise, he makes it quite clear (as, indeed, he had in his Introduction) that counterpoint and fugue were only means to ends, parts of the larger aesthetic canvas of one’s musical éducation sentimentale: “The following must always be

kept in mind: A fugue—even in academic dress—is a piece of music. Time spent studying fugue solely from the point of view of contrapuntal combinations is time lost. Practice in fugal composition is profitable only on the condition that the art of developing a musical idea is being sought.”105 It is something of a sad irony, then, that Théodore Dubois—whose resignation,

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once again, as Director of the Paris Conservatoire (as well as Gédalge’s promotion) had been forced by the scandal surrounding his rejection of Ravel in the preliminary round of the 1905 Prix de Rome competition—appears to have agreed with the larger goals of Gédalge’s teaching. In his own treatise of the same time (1901) Dubois had written: “One must not lose sight of the

fact that the study of counterpoint is the best of disciplines for a young musician seeking to master his art. No other work can replace it from the practical standpoint, and it is hardly difficult to recall the names of those composers who have profited by drinking from its great source.”106 Some more of irony’s footprints, however, run beneath the surface of Dubois’ “one” (as opposed to Ravel’s “several”) “chute.” In the July 1905 issue of Revue musicale, a rather official-looking notice welcomed Fauré as new director of the Conservatoire, and sought to reassure the public. To paraphrase: [after] so much bizarre press coverage of late, a “time out” is in order. Monsieur Fauré appears to have no enemies (a privilege he may soon enjoy); as for his works, promising, yet nothing large enough to have left a permanent imprint with the public. To remember—the role of the director is not to make reforms but to manage the budget, to be fair to all. In this, Monsieur Dubois was an ideal model. His voluntary resignation is to be greatly regretted, and surely M. Fauré will follow his examples.107 Fauré, of course, did nothing of the kind, and though (as both Arbie Orenstein and Marcel Marnat have noted in detail) the 1905 competition in which all six finalists were students of a single jury member—Dubois’s colleague, Charles Lenepveu, professor of composition—Dubois’s dislike for and mistreatment of Ravel considerably antedated 1905.108 Friction as early as 1899 between Ravel and his “director” (who had governed since the death of Ambroise Thomas in 1896) has been traced by Orenstein,109 and in a letter of the following year Ravel indicates—while working on the preliminary requirements for the 1900 Prix de Rome—that he has no illusions about Dubois and his (unrealized) chances in the competition.110 From the next year’s attempt (1901), Ravel’s third and yet again unsuccessful, comes his example of Alcanter’s “point d’ironie,” made with direct reference to counterpoint, and even mentioning Charles Lenepveu. Some resentment about all of this, then, surely smolders hardly five months before the explosion of the scandal in the venerable M.-D. Calvocoressi’s review of a new work by Lenepveu, whose six students were all somehow swept into the final round of the 1905 Prix de Rome. Calvocoressi has a difficult time here avoiding Ravel’s weapon: “To speak about Monsieur Lenepveu’s Jeanne d’Arc is not easy: in being ironic one risks accusation of disrespect or bias; in being serious, one appears to be tilting at old, motheaten windmills that (if I might say) no longer turn.”111 As the scandal broke and unfolded from May, of course, Lenepveu—along with Dubois—received the fuller force of what Calvocoressi had hinted at.

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131

The irony of a literary figure such as Romain Rolland coming to Ravel’s public defense in 1905 (especially while appearing to have lost confidence in the Germanic, idealist intent of more favored composers, even Richard Strauss) has been alluded to. Even more striking, however, is Édouard Lalo, who—like Romain Rolland—had, again, little sympathy for Ravel’s music, but made a point of saying so regularly. He echoes Rolland in less lofty terms, calling Lenepveu “a poor musician” and “the author of several paltry works” while acknowledging Ravel (despite some continuing reservations) as “a genuine musician, and one of the leaders of his generation.”112 Jean Marnold had been excoriating Dubois and the Conservatoire curriculum since 1902, praising Ravel’s music thereafter, and—by June of 1905—he was well infuriated and more than ready to call out Lenepveu (and his six finalists): “We must know, if, for now and all time, awards are to be extorted by intrigue or conferred by imbeciles. . . . For the future of our music, it is high time to sweep away this clique of pedants, equivocators, and spiteful cads.”113 Yet it appears that Dubois slipped into an ironically comfortable retirement, hardly one of disgrace. Three years later, the opening essay of the 15 July issue of Revue musicale is devoted to a lengthy analysis of his new piano sonata (recently premiered by Édouard Risler); it begins by noting “Monsieur Théodore Dubois, since he gave up voluntarily the responsibilities of administration, appears to have devoted himself specially to symphonic and chamber music.”114 Lenepveu, too, at least short term, appears to have suffered little from the events of 1905, retaining his post, and churning out even more Prix de Rome winners. The article that follows in the same issue of Revue musicale praised both laureate and teacher: “M. André Gailhard; M. Lenepveu.” In fact, Lenepveu scored far more space here than his latest prodigy, coming in for praise as a “Kingmaker,” a removed, objective observer who must surely regret the perversion, even poisoning of public taste by works not measuring up to his high musical idealism—Lenepveu, it is alleged, has been a conservative force of balance against anarchic and revolutionary influences.115 And five months later (1 December 1908) we find under “Publications et exécutions récentes, Charles Lenepveu,” a warm analysis and reception of his recent choral fugue for women’s voices. “Who,” asks the critic, “would be better equipped to write such a work of classical form than the eminent Conservatoire professor, long acknowledged as ‘Master of Masters’? After all, most all Prix de Rome winners are his students.” Then follows a long list of Lenepveu laureates (to 1908).116 A number of more “verbal” ironies might be proposed concerning Ravel and fugue, perhaps chief amongst them the fact that (despite the evident importance of counterpoint to his training and style) he wrote, in fact, only one such titled work, the curious second movement to Le tombeau de Couperin, a work which is dynamically and developmentally “flat.” Jankélévitch, long ago, presaged the latter adjective in its proper context, that of Ravel’s intended

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will to ambiguity—a fine example of his negotiating, juggling materials—by concluding that the fugue’s countersubject was, in fact, the real subject.117 How, after all, might one trace the course of a fugue with elements so cloaked? Louis Aguettant’s comments about this work stem from only several years after its premiere, attributing to it “delicateness,” rather than “flatness,” its theme punctuated by “breaths,” a true fugue, to be sure, with an episode in contrary motion, and (to recall Ravel’s intentional misbehavior, his academic self-negation in the parallel octaves of the 1905 Prix de Rome exercise) one with “forbidden”—rather than “falling”—fourths.118 Ravel did write one other fugue, of course, the formidable conclusion to the Duo sonate discussed in some detail above, and the stylistic difference between it and the soft, lyrical, “flat” fugue of Tombeau—manifesting a “breathlessness” (as Aguettant implied) of an entirely different world—deserves a study of its own. We must content ourselves here with thinking about irony’s relevance in reconsidering the music’s received interpretations. Among others noted earlier, Jürgen Braun and Walter Pfann have agreed in general terms, though with differing specificity, about the Duo sonate’s contrapuntal virtuosity and stylistic significance. But how to account for the reading of the work by one of Ravel’s best-known biographers, Norman Demuth, whose work has been cited repeatedly for two generations and much admired? “It sounds as if Ravel had lost

all interest in the work and finished it perfunctorily, of necessity. There is no burning flame behind it. He nearly falls into central European style and remembers his manners just in time. It may have been an experiment. . . . In an otherwise pleasant garden this Sonata stands out as an arid patch.”119 As we read quickly, “arid” stands out, since Braun (among others) has pursued the ironically obvious question of how to measure a fugue that is “virtually atonal,” much as Aguettant tried to make sense of Ravel’s other (tonal) fugue in the Le tombeau de Couperin,120 in which he believed the identities of subject and countersubject to have been confounded. We have no idea what Demuth might have been alluding to about “manners,” but it is indisputable that Ravel’s second fugue was anything but an experiment, that it had—as Braun stated forcefully121—larger structural purposes in architectural terms to the composer’s largest-conceived work.122 Here, then, another example—completely missed by Demuth—of Ravel “possessing,” as both Adorno and Suarès had put it, classical forms (a four-movement, “symphonic” work) through ironic transformation (the second of only two fugues, untitled, undeniable, atonal, making profound “cyclical” references to the preceding movements). Josef Häusler’s characterization of the Duo sonate’s “radical polyphony”—with a touch of resonance given its time (ca. 1968)—hits remarkably close to the mark, but comes with a twist of its own, since Häusler, like many others, did not believe Ravel to have been a major influence in twentieth-century music.123 Florent Schmitt, as noted above no friend of the Bolero, yet lifelong friend and fellow Apache,124 wrote at unusual length and in great detail about the Duo

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133

sonate in Le Temps, ten days after Ravel’s death—“one of the most ingenious and most significant in the evolution of music,” as he put it, yet a work, sixteen years after its premiere, among the least recognized.125 An indication of how little the work’s intricacies were first grasped may be observed in André Schaeffner’s notice in Le Ménestrel following the premiere, a small fraction of lines compared to those accorded by Schmitt, declaring that the work would likely never be included among the best of Ravel, due to its “narrow polyphony” and “frugal instrumentation.”126 But another of Ravel’s comrades, in fact, his only student to have survived the turn of the twenty-first century, has brought some lighter irony to the other work of these years discussed above, the Violin Sonata. Manuel Rosenthal writes: “Just try to imagine what Gédalge’s class was like! Ravel, Schmitt, Rabaud, Roger-Ducasse, and—above all—Enesco. Enesco was one of Ravel’s favorites: ‘the most gifted of us all,’ he told me once with remembered passion.”127 The two were acquainted as early as 1897, and Ravel appears to have entrusted his first violin sonata (self-suppressed, unpublished until 1975),128 to Enesco.129 Over the next twenty years, both composers won worldwide fame and success, and Ravel returned to Enesco for the first readings and premiere of his (finally) completed and mature Violin Sonata of 1927. But according to Rosenthal, Enesco truly “detested” the work’s second movement, the delightful “Blues,” and in early 1927, with the work’s premiere approaching, friction led Ravel to consider passing the event over to his long-admired and even closer friend, Hélène Jourdan-Morhange (who had been of considerable assistance in scoring the work, and who did in the end receive its dedication).130 The friction with Enesco also led Ravel to take Rosenthal aside in confidence, to inquire about the new work, and Rosenthal reassures in unexpected fashion, certainly with regard to our earlier characterization of the work’s second, opening theme as “spiky”: Bold as I was (likely too bold at age 23), I told him that at the very least I found the first movement enchanting with its spontaneously bucolic theme (rare in Ravel), its cool clarity successfully “spiked” with a kind of chicken cackle. At this point he jumped up and said, “Right! You have it!” And he proceeded to confide in me that the idea for the first movement had come to him on the boat to England. Without knowing how on the crossing, he had felt an acute longing for France, “so strong, he continued, that I wanted to go back immediately. And I wondered at this moment what I missed most about France, what I might somehow be able to recreate. And I thought of the French countryside, a village, a farm. . . . So what does one hear in a farm? The barnyard, the prattle, the tattle of chickens. And it all seemed so obvious to me that when I undertook the work after arriving, it was the result of these memories. I simply had to unite my larger lyric idea (my nostalgia) with a more concrete, symbolic element of my country: the French countryside in its most everyday nature, which is to say villages, farms, chickens. . . . Hence, the rhythmic ‘spikes’ that caught you up.”131

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J. S. Bach, Neoclassicism, jazz, barnyards, chickens, and counterpoint. How to reconcile? It seems that Louis Laloy—so important from our opening pages— also studied “house cleaning,” as early as 1899, with Pierre de Bréville of the César Franck/Vincent d’Indy school. But when Laloy had completed his studies and sought to advance into D’Indy’s composition class, he was turned back. D’Indy told him he was too intelligent.132

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Chapter Four

Displaced Sound: Ravel and Registration And yet, the intuition of this musical engineer remains intact. And nothing impairs his taste, his sonorous creativity and the exquisite sensitivity of his ear. He lives, he thinks, and—if one can say it—he sees by hearing. —André Suarès

The question of register—a specific range of the total pitches available to an instrument—was an important aspect of orchestration taught at the Paris Conservatoire during Ravel’s youth, the more specific relevance of which, of course, is attested to in the treatises of Berlioz (1844, 1855), Gevaert (1885), and Widor (1904; modeled after Berlioz), which we know Ravel consulted frequently.1 We know, too, that Ravel was interested in writing a treatise on orchestration,2 though it was his good friend and colleague Charles Koechlin who eventually succeeded in doing so, and on a comprehensive scale.3 Ravel’s interest in the extreme registers of virtually all instruments was well known: orchestral players, friends, and performers were often sought out about how to challenge their instruments’ capabilities, and even a brief survey of orchestral audition materials from the twentieth century reveals a disproportionately high number of Ravel excerpts (especially in view of the size of his symphonic oeuvre). What might at first appear to be a relatively narrow aspect of managing musical sound—moving and removing, placing and displacing one’s materials throughout various ranges—was, in fact, an intendedly ambiguous aspect of Ravel’s style, and one acknowledged by Vuillermoz as distinguishing him from Debussy.4 A composer may use (or, indeed, abuse) varying ranges of instruments to create, fulfill, or deceive expectations, but Ravel extended the principle from individual instruments (including the piano) and sections or choirs of instruments, to the basic building blocks of his art—to the familiar categories of melody, rhythm, and harmony, and also to timbre. Since registration was intimately related, the question of agency in what Jörg Christian Martin called Ravel’s “wandering instrumentation” may be carried forward:5 much beyond the obvious “wanderings” in Ravel’s universe of sound.

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I. Melos Concerto for the Left Hand (1930) Martin noted how Ravel’s “wandering” solo and thematic lines assume a dynamic role in the shaping and form of their respective works,6 as may be seen in more detail in the two piano concertos. The opening bars of the Left Hand Concerto are clearly bound up with more than “instrumentation,” since they deliver the work’s opening theme in the double bass and contrabassoon in nearly unrecognizable fashion, as noticed in the more scientific literature: [T]he average listener would be hard pressed to detect any change in pitch when a pure tone Bo was followed by a pure tone C1. Yet this interval is clearly recognisable as a semitone when it appears in a musical context—for example, in the contrabassoon solo which opens Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. . . . The reason for this apparent discrepancy becomes clear when we recall that the pitch of a complex musical tone is determined, not by the fundamental component, but by those harmonics which lie in the ‘dominant region.’7

Ravel’s stroke of genius, however—the dramatic instrumental groping of Wittgenstein’s theme—was empirically hard won, and in a work conceived for a pianist’s single, (generally) weak hand alone, some examples deserve further notice. These surely include (1) those of registral extremes (given sonorous expectations of listeners, kinaesthetic stress for performers), and (2) those, paradoxically, in the more resonantly rich, middle sections of the keyboard (given the lack of a second hand, for decorative or other purposes). The extended and lyrical “development” of the opening theme and motives, and the lyrical interlude thereafter noted in our last example (ex. 3.24a), yield eventually to an explosion of brass and percussion ushering in the more caustic, jazz-like interior of the concerto, replete with glissandi, syncopation, and “bluenote” chords, within which one central theme of the scherzo is tossed back and forth repeatedly between the one-handed soloist and the orchestra. In the midst of such exuberance, however, Ravel retreats dynamically, pairing winds and a horn with woodblock, in a rendering of his Dies irae theme in exotic, oriental garb (ex. 4.1), one that soon invites back in the central jazz theme. Yet the latter’s pianissimo, piquant appearance at the very top of the keyboard drives any onehanded soloist uncomfortably toward the footlights, as it pierces Ravel’s delicate orchestration and reverberates in a toylike fashion (ex. 4.2a). The event is made more of, as the theme is passed “across” (registrally) to the piccolo, relieving some discomfort by pushing the soloist into a more comfortable (i.e., kinaesthetically lower, dynamically higher), yet mindless chordal accompaniment of the piccolo (ex. 4.2b).8 It is interesting to note Serge Prokofiev’s thoughts about

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R33

Clarinets, Oboes, 1st Horn

     p

    

 

 

 

 

 

Strings                                                       



WOODBLOCK



   

                 

Ex. 4.1. Left Hand Concerto, “exotic” treatment of the Dies Irae in the interior “scherzo,” at R33. (a)



       

Piano, Solo





 









   





 





pp (2 pédales)



(Violins)



                                   (Violas & Vc.)           

         

         

        



(b) Piccolo

                                        p

                                                            Piano, Solo

 

Ex. 4.2. Left Hand Concerto. (a) beginnning one m. after R30. (b) beginning 1 m. after R34 in the “scherzo” section.

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such writing, since he (like Ravel) had received a commission from Paul Wittgenstein, and recently completed his concerto for the left hand. Clearly interested in performing one or both of Ravel’s new concertos in Moscow,9 Prokofiev writes to Boris Asafiev on 9 April 1932, “I’d say Ravel’s Concerto is rather dry, but still superbly written. I say ‘superbly’ with the caveat that he doesn’t follow any of the requirements of a concerto; this is simply a piece in which the piano has solo passages on an equal level with the piccolo or the bassoon.”10 At the “beginning of the end” of Ravel’s concerto, however, the long macrocadenza within the macrocrescendo of the work’s conclusion, the Dies irae motive, which was so delightfully presented (in exotic or even Arabic fashion) in the interior scherzo, is returned to the deeper, nearly unrecognizable registers. And between the ensuing, extraordinarily difficult counterpoint around subsidiary motives and the concerto’s final architectonics, Ravel moves to invoke the decades of Paganini, Liszt, and Sigismund Thalberg. He gives us a sudden, remarkably pure effusion of E-major arpeggiation cascading down, across several octaves, and an even greater, more remarkable (and rare) effusion of dominant-ninth harmony, as the figuration is expanded and spread out over nearly all the keyboard with the contrabassoon’s original theme inserted amidst it (see above, ex. 2.9b and c). All of this confers upon Thalberg a significant if posthumous irony, since Ravel, here, a century later, calls upon the latter’s devotion to the newly developed, “singing,” middle range of an early nineteenth-century instrument and his ingenious “three-hand technique,”11 in order to devise such illusions from only one—the weaker—hand, across nearly all registers of an essentially unchanged instrument. Such a self-prescribed, sonorous, “bottleneck” is worth pondering: without the clever displacement of motive to potentially “surroundable” ranges, there would be little possibility of creating the effects of other voices, on either or any “sides.” Ravel’s registrations, then (throughout the entire concerto, actually), represent advancements rivaling those of Liszt, and—still largely unacknowledged—they touch upon the outer boundaries of twentieth-century keyboard writing, lyrical or otherwise. Prokofiev used similar techniques brilliantly in his Second and Third Piano Concertos,12 but—ironically, in view of many examples in his sonatas—he eschewed them in his Fourth Concerto (for the left hand alone), a work written, too, for Paul Wittgenstein, and, perhaps, the only work that Wittgenstein truly loathed (or at least the one he most loathed).13 Benjamin Britten’s fine concerto shines the more, but— plainly put—Ravel’s model has had no match.

Concerto in G Major (1931) Since Ravel’s two concertos were composed concurrently, it may be of some interest that the registral ambiguity of the opening of the Left Hand Concerto is mirrored at the opposite end of the spectrum in the other. In contrast to lower

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139

ranges and freighted programmatic implications, Ravel offers in the opening to the G-major Concerto a gay, holiday background recalling Petrouchka. Yet, despite the festive beginning, jolted into motion by the sudden, ironic crack of a whip—to recall the literary iconography of Alcanter de Brahm’s symbol from chapter 1—one struggles here, too, in the opposite registers, to grasp an opening theme. In this case it is something of a Basque folk tune in the solo flute, disguised, awash in the texture and partials of the soloist’s bitonal ostinato of similar register (ex. 4.3), which renders it—like the solo contrabassoon of the Left Hand Concerto—ambiguous of course and intent. As in the latter work, thematic (and registral) ambiguities increase: rhythmically and registrally unstable glissandi in the piano obscure the continuing fragments in other winds of the flute’s effort to establish a principal theme, and the aural puzzle is solved only by the sudden appearance of a solo trumpet reiterating the flute’s quickly fading material. The trumpet’s brighter version of the theme stamps it firmly upon the listener’s consciousness, but its previously displaced “wandering” is ironically pre-emptory, since, when confirmed in the middle register and brighter timbre of the trumpet, one somehow “recalls” the flute’s earlier version in a higher register, however imperfectly taken in. A more complicated example occurs later in the movement, as an uncommon instrumental cadenza (briefly interrupted, between R22 and R26) anticipates, indeed “prepares” the pianist’s larger cadenza. A solo horn, in unusually high register, repeats one of the most pregnant phrases of the earlier, thematically dense exposition, a singular echo across the movement of the soloist’s initial presentation of very nearly the same pitches (ex. 4.4a and b). There are further subtleties: at the beginning of the movement, this particular line had declined gently into the theme now reappearing at the opening of the solo cadenza, the two ideas connected by a short moment of chromatic mediation in the horns. Here, however, the high horn, rather than mediating between the two themes, has usurped the first of them (ex. 4.4a), inducing repose and reflection while preparing the soft entrance of the second theme in—ironically, since Ravel, again, is writing his only other concerto at the same time—the pianist’s left thumb.14 Mediation between the two themes is again chromatic, but expanded and reversed: ascending, broken octaves in the woodwinds create a rare and wonderful transition between the two adjacent melodies appearing together again, at the opposite end of the movement, and in different meters as well (ex. 4.5a and b).15

L’enfant et les sortilèges (1920–25) The opaque material of the opening measures of L’enfant et les sortilèges is fragmentary but profoundly motivic, a series of fourths and fifths reminiscent of the cyclical correspondences of the Sonatine, and anticipatory of the work’s final

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  

Flute, Solo p

Allegramente









 

   

    

   

                    

Piano, Solo

  

pp (Péd.)

                                       Ex. 4.3. Concerto in G, 1st mvt., mm. 1–4.

(a) R25

HORN, Solo

 

    p espress.

         

 



 

   

(Strings)

Flute Bassoon                              

(Horn solo)



  



       











   

(Strings)



   

Piccolo



Flute

Bassoon, (etc.)

                            

 

(b)

   



         

 



   



 





     

  

  

Ex. 4.4. Concerto in G, 1st mvt. (a) beginning at R25, showing the solo horn. (b) solo piano beginning in the 5th m. after R6.

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displaced sound (a)

    Horn

  

  

R7

  



   



141

Piano, Solo

    





   

 





   



(b)

                                   Oboe

      Horn

             



 R26





   

     

      

                               Piano, Solo

            



    

Ex. 4.5. Concerto in G, 1st mvt. (a) beginning 2 mm. before R7, showing the chromatic “introduction” of theme at R7. (b) beginning 3 mm. before R26, showing the expanded chromatic “preparation” for the reappearance of the theme at R26.

moment, the redeeming “Maman” of the naughty child (one of Ravel’s “descending fourths,” ex. 4.6a and b). The material, displaced, “wanders” in and out between woodwinds and the strange harmonics of a solo double bass, before and during the opening complaints of the work’s petulant principal. It implants subconsciously, as it were, the import of a single interval to be recalled most fully at the very end, in the child’s repentance (4.6b and c). But about midway in Ravel’s great lyrical work for the stage—as the misbehaved child wreaks havoc within his room, destroying all that one assumes dear—supernatural recipients

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142



displaced sound

of his torment return in reproach, prominent among them a dragonfly, whose beloved mate the child has pierced to the wall with a pin. In the second strain of a remarkably terse, painful aria, the dragonfly’s tones are reinforced by the clarinet, bass clarinet, and horn in an order of ascending intensification, betraying the anguish of her search (ex. 4.6d). A reinforcement of the melody, to be sure, but a displacement as well, as three distinctly different timbres chase one another, in different registers, above the cries of the dispossessed dragonfly.

Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria” (1907–8) At the opposite end, which is to say the beginning of Ravel’s career, “Feria,” the concluding movement of his first great work for orchestra, the Rapsodie espagnole, celebrated the composer’s Basque heritage in exuberant and choreographic fashion. After a deceptive double introduction (and see below, the section “Piccolo Pedal.” three festive themes tumble forth in quick succession, and Ravel crafts an interlude (at R8) to stem the headlong rush of energy and themes. New melodic material of an ostinato character is introduced at the dynamic level of piano, first in the solo flute (tonic in outline), then in muted, solo trumpet (suggesting the dominant, ex. 4.7a), both instances supported by plucked strings. The effect is suitably tranquilizing, but Ravel builds upon it immediately: flutes and oboes are joined by the bassoons, repeating the melodic ostinato, and the clarinet and trumpet respond with a “dominant” version. In the asymmetrical measures following R9 (here with more expanded string parts), the “difference is split” harmonically as the ostinato begins to “whirl” ironically, in simultaneous rhythmic diminution and melodic augmentation (ex. 4.7b). In the ensuing four (harmonically symmetrical) measures the melodic ostinato—having migrated to all of the higher wind instruments—furnishes the colorful backdrop for a restatement in horns, of the last-introduced theme of the beginning tumble (m. 4 of ex. 4.7b). What might first be taken as merely respite in the precipitous advance of a brilliant finale, has quickly regenerated and prepared the movement’s first grand climax (at R11). The key to such deceptive reintensification has been little more than an ostinato of several notes, “wandering” from one solo instrument to another, to groups of instruments, to entire families of instruments, until Ravel’s design has been achieved. The larger principle, hence, remains essentially the same in both examples: without the exacting displacement of melodic and motivic wares, their reverberations and import would have been diminished.

II. Rhythm Perpetual rhythm: Bolero (1928) Rhythm is itself experienced (perhaps most often) through sound, and many of its intricacies—certainly registration—deserve further inquiry. Again, as Jankélévitch

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displaced sound

143

(a) Tranquillo

Oboes, Beginning of the Opera                                        p

(b) Oboes, END of the Opera                              

R154



   







p

  





 





   

L'ENFANT

   p

Ma - man!

(c)

  





                           J'ai en – vie de ti - rer la queue du chat Et de cou - per             

 

         

       













L'ENFANT



cel - le





de



l'É - cu - reuil











Solo C. Bass

(d) R108

 Horns      pp

   

 

  



   

 



chè - re

Longue et



frê - le,

 

 

poco cresc.

DRAGONFLY

   

 

  

 

   

Tes tur - quois - es,

     

Tes to - pa - zes, L'air qui

   mp

  

            

t'ai - me Les re - gret - te Moins que

Ex. 4.6. L’enfant et les sortilèges. (a) the opening of the opera. (b) the final mm. of the opera, at R154. (c) from the introductory scene, beginning 7 mm. after R2. (d) early in the Dragonfly’s aria, beginning at R108.

noted in the late 1930s, a very long time passed in the history of Western music before a composer addressed the seemingly rudimentary challenge of writing a single, extended work based primarily on the principle of dynamic intensification. Yet much of the hypnotic effect of the Bolero derives from its rhythm, and one of the composer’s few public displays of anger (indeed, of any emotion) was related to the corollary matter of tempo.16 Most percussion instruments are either unpitched and/or uniquely fixed in range, and the canny displacement

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(a) R8

Flute, Solo

                          p

 

p

1st Trumpet, Solo (mute)





 

Flutes, Oboes, Bassoons

         p

p Clarinets, 1st Trumpet (mute)

     (b) Winds

     

R9

 

pp



p

      

(Strings)

 



 

 



 



 



                

(Winds)

 

 mf



                

 

 

 

 

  

HORNS

Ex. 4.7. Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria.” (a) beginning at R8. (b) beginning at R9.

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145

of rhythm throughout the Bolero is a measure of Ravel’s sensitivity to the matter of the orchestral choirs. By the end of the work, the delicate rendering of the rhythmic ostinato in the first measures (in the snare drum) has passed through the different registers of the percussion family, and well beyond. Bolero’s melody is more evidently appropriated and transformed by other instruments—even entire families of instruments in their respective registers—but so, too, is its fixed rhythmic ostinato, heard constantly beneath the permutations of the melody. A telling example is the horn’s snatching of the rhythm early on in the work (ex. 4.8). By the end, of course, the rhythm has moved into all families of the orchestra, intoned—ironically—on “fixed” pitches, as in the work’s earliest perceptual moments, rendered by a single snare drum.

Phantom rhythm: La valse (1919–20) Eight years before the Bolero (at approximately the same time as the Duo sonate), one may observe in the first forty measures of La valse a crucial initiation across the registers of a different rhythmic edifice.17 Ravel’s division of the double basses into three, especially at such a low dynamic level, is arresting from the start. In the first four measures, two of the three divisions engage in an obscure tremolo, their pitches indistinguishable. The third group, however, enters at measure 5, also with accented downbeats and indistinguishable pitches, their only purpose, clearly, to expedite the establishment of a waltz rhythm (ex. 4.9a).18 By measure 9, having established the shadowy if unmistakable outlines of a rhythmic “argument,” Ravel begins to displace its theretofore missing and crucial third beat, into the slightly higher registers of the timpani and harps (ex. 4.9b), and within only three more measures (in the bassoons), he has assembled the melodic fragments of the greater work. Still, the monotonous “duet in three parts” of double basses lunges on for nearly forty measures, an ironically essential dialogue of indistinguishable pitches underpinning Ravel’s grim apotheosis of the dance.

Phantom ostinato: Rapsodie espagnole, “Malagueña” (1908) Ravel had exploited the bottom registers of the orchestra, specifically those of the double basses, to similar purpose a good dozen years before the ominous opening of La valse. In the “Malagueña”of the Rapsodie espagnole, the basses were doubly privileged in introducing both the principal thematic and the rhythmic materials for the outer sections of the work, an event that proves strangely one and the same, since the theme in the double basses becomes the running ostinato for the entire movement. In the opening measures of La valse, where Ravel delivered only a rhythmic topos for the work, concern over the indistinguishability of pitch in the double bass registers was at least “half” diminished from the start. In the “Malagueña,” however, the dilemma had been more subtle, a

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146 R5

displaced sound

1st Horn

3                                     

p

             

               

1st Flute, pp

 



 



 

   

SOLO Trumpet (mute), pp

Ex. 4.8. Bolero, Rhythmic ostinato in the (pitched) 1st horn, beginning at R5.

(a)

1 Cb., mute, pizz.

 







  



p

2 Cb., mute

  pp

   

   

   

   

   



  



   

R1

(b)





 

 Timpani pp

         1st Harp p

        



 

Bassoons



p

        

  

        

        

Ex. 4.9. La valse. (a) mm. 1–6. (b) beginning 3 mm. before R1.

melody to be set forth in addition to the quick-moving, triple-meter rhythm of the dance.19 In order to keep the tones (or at least the melodic shape) of the Malagueña’s ostinato fixed prominently from the beginning, Ravel doubled the fourth, fifth, and sixth pitches (falling on the downbeat of the second and fifth measures) in the resonant lower registers of the bass clarinet (ex. 4.10a). In measure 8 (one measure after R1) the first clarinet joins the doubling, and at R4

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displaced sound



147

the first bassoon (ex. 4.10b). Even the sarusophone joins in, reinforcing all but forcing, displacing the bass clarinet into a caricature of its previous participation, in ridiculously high register. The higher, more conspicuous pitches of the Malagueña’s first theme are thus reinforced in a fragmented, “wandering parcel” like the motivic portions of L’enfant et les sortilèges excerpted in ex. 4.6. But in this case, the significance of the displacement is as much rhythmic as motivic: the pitches are too inconsequential in context—there are only three of them—to sustain much interest. Their brief resonance in the higher registers, however, drives the vital triple-meter rhythm of the Malagueña decidedly forward.

Rhythmic metamorphosis: Trio (1914) The rhythmic displacement of the main theme, and its significance to the first movement of Ravel’s Trio, may be considered in uniquely cyclic terms. The opening theme is a serene and ruminative melody, again of allegedly Basque nature,20 with an emphasized second beat in both of its metrically irregular measures (ex. 4.11a). The characteristic, lilting rhythm, however, becomes more ominous when moved into to the lower registers of the piano, in order to “announce” the movement’s development section (at R6, ex. 4.11b). The inherent, forward impetus of the emphasized second beats is exploited further throughout the development, as Ravel’s originally “gentle” rhythm prospers: transformed gradually, it becomes increasingly strident, even combative, when mixed with the movement’s lyrical second theme in diminution and contrary motion (ex. 4.11c). Yet after a formidable development and recapitulation, the serene motivic conditions of the opening replay, as the movement concludes in cyclic fashion: the “Basque” theme is splintered, displaced harmonically from its original modal domain into one suggesting C major, and its distinctive rhythm—once again tranquil, splintered as well—is invoked several times on the final page, then repeated verbatim in open octaves, in the bottom registers, to conclude the movement (ex. 4.11d). Far removed from the lyrical soprano register of the movement’s opening, then, the “alluring” rhythm of the principal theme has been distilled from its source, transformed in development, and returned to its original quietude for a few moments of sonorous, symbolic concord.

III. Harmony. A. Boundaries (Consonance, Dissonance) Major mode (added sixth): Daphnis et Chloé (1909–12) The topic of Ravel’s harmony remains enigmatic; though somewhat explored, few common conclusions have been drawn.21 To chart it in traditional functional terms is difficult, but the basic properties of consonance and dissonance, tension and resolution, plainly obtain. Ravel’s success in straddling the major,

Zank.indd Sec1:147

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(a)

  





x3





BASS Clarinet

  











 











 







pp

  



 

   



pp

Vc., pizz.

    











 



 x3







 

Cb, pizz. R1

Clarinet









  









  







 











 



 







 



x3



BASS Clarinet

 



Violas, div.



 

     





 



(b)

 



BASS Clar.

R4







Bassoon & SARRUSOPHONE

  



 VC. / CB.

 

  





 











 

p

 

  





 

x3





 



 

pp





p

p









 





 





























Ex. 4.10. Rapsodie espagnole, “Malagueña.” (a) opening to 6 mm. after R1. (b) beginning at R4.

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displaced sound



149

minor, and modal hierarchies of pitch of his time represents a species of “vertical virtuosity” achieved quite early on, and the severe self-criticism of architecture in the Pavane pour une enfant défunte (mentioned in chapter 1) might be applied to the work’s harmony, too, since Ravel’s few attempts to employ traditional harmonic language were quickly set aside in favor of experiment in the Jeux d’eau and subsequent works. Yet the greater portion of the sublime “daybreak” melody from Daphnis et Chloé, one of the most remarkable of the orchestral repertory—Stravinsky called it “one of the most beautiful products in all of French music”—is anchored firmly in a tonic recalling the straightforwardness of the Pavane. Grounded, too, as Arbie Orenstein has shown, in Ravel’s understanding of the French Baroque and classical figured bass,22 it “paints”—to remember the interdisciplinary canvas of Ravel’s world—its serpentine, horizontally rendered framework of tonic triad with added sixth upon one’s ears with the conviction of, as Virgil Thomson had put it, the engraver (ex. 4.12a). Ravel achieves his slow, celebrated, ten-measure crescendo that follows (between R166 and R168), by excerpting the motivic figure of two eighthnotes and a quarter underpinning his melody, and then gently moving the figure up through the families of orchestral instruments, above (now, as opposed to the melody itself) a disguised tonic pedal (ex. 4.12b). The outlines of the consonant triad (again, with the added sixth),23 are carefully and subtly displaced, from the lowest to the highest registers of the orchestra, sustaining both the famous crescendo and its denouement, in an additional six measures of diminuendo. The total number of measures, then, of uninterrupted tonic major consonance—nested, too, within a very slow tempo—totals sixteen, an unusual event in Ravel’s harmonic language, and one that stands in stark opposition to the language of the new ballet from a newly arrived Apache that stifled its early potential (Petrouchka).

Major mode (added seventh): Jeux d’eau (1901) As already noted, Ravel toyed candidly with expectations of an E-major framework in the Jeux d’eau, building his main theme on D♯, major seventh above and leading tone of the key, and then—as if reinforcing the conceit—reiterating it (again with the major seventh) upon A, creating, hence, the illusion of both tonic (I) and subdominant (IV) key areas, and—within only the opening bars of the work, no less—raising attendant expectations (ex. 4.13a). They remain clouded, to be sure, by a pentatonic second theme, but in another ironic gesture to tonality, Ravel surrounds it with an accompaniment of arpeggiated seconds suggesting the dominant (V) chord (ex. 4.13b). Among the means of confounding both harmonic and architectural expectations, then (in this case, a miniature sonata-allegro form ca. 1900) a keen sense of registration was of consequence: from the opening to the last pitches of the work, the leading tone reigns, displaced, in the end, to a register so high that its effect in the “home” key of E major is one of ironic reinforcement, rather than intimidation, or the sparking of further expectations (ex. 4.13c).

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(a)

 

Piano

    

    



pp

   (b)

 











 

Piano

(c)

        pp     

 

  



    





         



(Vln. / Vc.)

R6

 

   

    

Piano

    

     

   

     

  

ff

                                     Vln. / Vc.

 

    

 

   

      

 

                                                                

 

 

                           

(d) Mouvt de début (un peu retenu)

       

     

Piano (rh)



      

                    Violin, Vc.

ppp



Piano (lh)

         

 

        

Perdendosi







Perdendosi



         



      

   pizz.          ppp



 

Ex. 4.11. Trio, 1st mvt. (a) opening of the 1st mvt. (b) beginning at R6. (c) beginning 3 after R9. (d) final 6 mm.

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(a)

R162                                

R161

p (Upper Strings)

     

 

 

(Lower Strings)

 

 

 

  

(b) Cb., Vc., div.

R167

      



Violas, Bssns.

 







 



 

Vc., Bassoon





 



Violas, Eng. Horn, Bass Clar.

[Crescendo]

pp







 R168

Eng. Horn, Bass Clar., 2nd Vln.

 



 





Clar., Trpt., 1st Vln.

 





 



Trpt., Piccolo





  ff

2nd Vln., Oboes, Contra-Bssn.

 

 

 

 

Strings, Trombones. etc.(Tutti)

 

ff

 

Ex. 4.12. Daphnis et Chloé. (a) beginning at R161. (b) beginning at R167.

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152

(a)



displaced sound

Très doux

                       pp

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(b)

                               pp

    (c)

 

 

     

 

 

 



(pp)          

 

   

 

Ex. 4.13. Jeux d’eau. (a) opening m. (b) 2nd theme, at m. 19. (c) final m.

Minor mode (added seventh): Miroirs, “Oiseaux tristes” (1904–5) The final measure of “Oiseaux tristes” manifests a noteworthy mirror-image to the ending of Jeux d’eau, from within Ravel’s so-called “Symbolist” suite. The main theme here—like the second of Jeux d’eau—is pentatonic (though there is one, extraneous tone), and it appears after a plaintive, minimalist “bird’s cry,” single tones struck twice each on the dominant, B♭ (ex. 4.14a). The musical birds migrate to the tonic (E-flat minor), then take (enharmonic) flight into a programmatic and virtuosic middle section of thrashing wings. But when they have once again settled themselves and their plainte returned to close the work,

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153

(a)

            

Trés lent

           

      

très doux pp

    

      

(b)

             



 

perdendo







 

   

 



ppp

Ex. 4.14. Miroirs, “Oiseaux tristes.” (a) opening 2 mm. (b) final 2 mm.

Ravel submerges it in a lower register, the displaced, minor-mode complement to the final moment of Jeux d’eau (ex. 4.14b): the leading tone, D, beneath, its above resolution (E♭), above, as opposed to the Jeux d’eau, where the leading tone (D♯) had been in the upper register, its implied (major-mode) resolution below (above, ex. 4.13c). In either case, the removal to unexpected registers of leading tones and their expected resolutions reveals an animated quality of harmonic thought that may temper—as with whole-tone scales—received judgments about Ravel’s avoidance of leading tones.24

Mixed modes (added sixths): Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine” (1907–8) Added sixths, in the unevenly oscillating triads of “Ondine,” obviously constitute the work’s shimmering and programmatic essence. Ravel’s constant straddling of major and minor triads with sixths (major or minor), and his deliberate obfuscation of the major/minor dichotomy itself, persuade in “Ondine” because of their constant reregistering and displacement of both thematic and decorative materials. The seemingly tranquil triads surrounding the opening measure, for instance, open up, spread out over three octaves upon first restatement (ex. 4.15a), and a similar fate awaits Ondine’s second theme: its accompanimental figuration—a minor triad with added sixth—also

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154



displaced sound

unfolds over three octaves when restated (ex. 4.15b). The treatment of her third theme and decoration (major triad with added sixth), ascends nearly all of the keyboard (ex. 4.15c). The ambiguity of modality is clarified only at the end, when Ondine’s final plea is cast in the pure minor mode (extremely rare for Ravel), introduced again by her habitual figuration, but, ironically, reversed in harmonic “framework” (minor triad, added major sixth), and scattered—like the registral “water” of her previous entreaties—gently, over all of the keyboard (ex. 4.15d). Her plea unheard, the well-known result is a final flourish of mixed major, minor, and diminished figuration, dissolving into major modality. But the implied tonic of the opening measures is no longer implied: the root (C♯) is—finally—conspicuous, at the bottom of the arpeggi, Ravel’s sonorous displacement of Ondine’s tonally ambiguous opening spread out, one final time, over all the registers.25

Mixed modes (in relief): Duo sonate (1920–22), second movement As we argued in the previous chapter on counterpoint, the continually alternating major and minor thirds in the first movement of Ravel’s virtuoso Duo sonate from 1920 confer a “unifying ambiguity” upon the work—a gesture toward harmonic stability beyond the dichotomy of the major and minor modalities so sensuously blurred in “Ondine,” and blatantly flaunted only six years later in the relentless Bolero. Once again reflecting Ravel’s cyclical train of thought, the ambiguity of major and minor thirds of the Duo sonate’s first movement is brazenly echoed in the opening of the second movement, the rather ferocious scherzo.26 Sixteen measures of single-tone, fortissimo pizzicati alternate between violin and cello, outlining the A-major and A-minor triads (ex. 4.16a), followed by sixteen more measures of arpeggiation (ex. 4.16b), impressing bluntly upon listeners the single-bar rhythmic foundation of the arguments to follow. Yet all of this would have been less successful had not the single tones of the changing major/minor triads, as well as the fundamental one-bar rhythmic mold of Ravel’s scherzo, been so resourcefully “displaced”: alternating relentlessly between only two instruments of the same family, they echo the tonal ambiguity of the first movement of the greater work, while establishing (ruthlessly) the character of the next. If the notes of their opening triads belong to the same register on the printed page—no more than the interval of a fifth is traversed or outlined in the first sixteen measures—they belong nonetheless to different registers of their respective instruments, their imaginative provenance, therefore, open to question.

“Pseudo-false” tones: Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) After the Spanish exoticism of the Rapsodie espagnole and the Gothic-Romantic programs of Gaspard de la nuit, the Valses nobles et sentimentales marked a new and

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displaced sound

 

     

    





 

    

 

 

      

   



 

 

    

    



  

 

 





          

   

    



       

    

   



 



  



            



(a)

155

(b)

          

  

    

pp

     

 

 

                                        

Ex. 4.15. Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine.” (a) mm. 14–15. (b) m. 37.

fresh stylistic departure, as Ravel himself proclaimed.27 Tristan Klingsor and other members of the Apaches, when hearing the work in advance of its premiere and publication, noted its newly condensed, biting treatment of dissonance within lyrical context, and Klingsor cast the work in terms quite close to those of Jankélévitch’s gageure aesthetic:28 Before their publication, [Ravel] came to play for us the Valses nobles et sentimentales. We were alone. . . . But he wanted to see how I was going to react. We were enchanted from the beginning, and yet he had risked quite a lot. At least for the time. . . . The first measures of the Valses chafed at first. But then, as if it were only completely rational, the ear quickly found pleasure in those “pseudo-false” notes which, upon examination, reveal an authentic tonal source.29

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156

displaced sound

(c)

     

 

 



  



      

 







             

 

 



     

 

      

  





  

  





 

    



                                

   









(d)

 





pp

 

Ex. 4.15. (concluded) Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine.” (c) mm. 45–46. (d) m. 83.

The displaced, “pseudo-false” notes that Klingsor immediately perceived constitute an important facet of Ravel’s newly mordent lyricism. In the first waltz of the suite, for instance, the second and fourth chords comprising the main motive are obviously “reregistered” (as Kurt Akeret may have been the first to note),30 the second essentially a displaced, dissonant passing chord, the fourth an “escape” chord, reregistered (ex. 4.17a). But the displacements become more pronounced within a short development section, opening up to a distance of several octaves between the chords of the main motive (ex. 4.17b), and in what one might call (in view of Klingsor’s remarks) the “pseudo-recapitulation” of the waltz, the gaps between the displaced chords of the main motive remain open, but the directions of their original displacements are (ironically) half-inverted (ex. 4.17c). Knowing of Ravel’s respect for Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, one may

Zank.indd Sec1:156

9/24/2009 10:33:41 PM

displaced sound



157

(a) Trés vif Vln.

 

Vc.

 

pizz.





 

 pizz.

ff









 



 





 

 



 





 

 

 

    



 

 

ff

(b) R1

 

 

  



  p







     



  





   [previous 4 mm.

repeat three times, with slight variation]



 

Ex. 4.16. Duo sonate, 2nd mvt. (a) mm. 1–12. (b) beginning at R1.

assume the second’s example of displaced chordal virtuosity, and it seems fair to assume, too, that Ravel’s registration is to some degree behind Basil Deane’s informed reading of the effects of the Valses nobles, “viewed from the balcony, with pleasure and more than a tinge of irony.”31

Intervallic Dissonance: Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo” (1907–8) A novel aspect of Ravel’s predilection for intervals of the second emerges in the final movement of Gaspard, where the minor second assumes both motivic and programmatic significance: as nucleus for the movement’s themes, Ravel uses its inherent dissonance to frame their programmatic presentations and argument(s). The entire first page is devoted to the portrayal of Scarbo’s Satanic scraping and scratching: he is painted twice-over, in the same clashing minor seconds of two sharply defined and different registers, then spread out over the entire keyboard in a crescendo-accelerando of the motivic intervals. The significance of such an opening is underscored by its nearly complete recapitulation later in the work, where the clashing seconds are dropped into the lowest possible register of the instrument, and the upper (third) tone, D♯, is isolated, in order that it might drone on, ominously, in the aural mist of its dissonant accompaniment (ex. 4.18a and b). The reregistered harmonic, motivic and programmatic dissonance is extended: Ravel surrounds the droning D♯ with arpeggiation that moves up through the registers, metamorphosing into a diabolical, “spinning-song” backdrop for Scarbo’s third theme, which is built—paradoxically—

Zank.indd Sec1:157

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158



displaced sound

                  f              

(a)

  

                                             

   

    

        

(b) R6



        f



 

 

 

            

 

 

(c)

         

R8

         

      

   

 

    



 

 

 

     

ff

    

  

 

 

      

  

  

      

      

 

 

 

    

 

   

 

  

      

Ex. 4.17. Valses nobles et sentimentales. (a) mm. 1–4. (b) beginning at R6. (c) beginning at R8.

upon the interval of a major rather than a minor second (the final m. of ex. 4.18b). In reprise, then, in the central architectural event of the work noted in chapter 2, the motivic kernels of “Scarbo” merge through Ravel’s registration.

B. Equivocations Exterior, pseudo, false pedals: Miroirs, “La vallée des cloches” (1904–5) In view of the role that pedal points play in the music of Ravel,32 their registrations might be considered separately. One of the most noteworthy aspects of “La vallée des cloches” (last in the Miroirs suite), is the displacement of a dominant pedal point over most of the keyboard—above, beneath, and amidst the oscillating fourths and fifths of the outer sections of the work. As first pitch of the work,

Zank.indd Sec1:158

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displaced sound



159

(a)

   







   



ppp

           

  

   

   

  

 (b)

    ppp













                                                   LH            RH

  









                                           





    

                                                        pp ppp  un peu marqué 

Ex. 4.18. Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo.” (a) mm. 409–13. (b) mm. 418–31.

the G♯ is within three measures echoed from the middle to the top registers of the instrument (ex. 4.19a). But the bells of measure 3 are incorporated in diminution an octave lower in the following measures, extending the G♯ pedals to still another register (mm. 4–5 of ex. 4.19a), and Ravel offsets their tranquillity by introducing a “false pedal” at the bottom of the keyboard (G♮, false echo to the host of G♯s), and then a biting E♯ in the sonorous middle register of the instrument. As a minor second, the E♯ clashes with the E♮ of the upper bells, and, as diminished third (or, enharmonically, an augmented second), it intrudes upon the open-interval consonance of the dominant and exterior pedals as well, creating an especially acrid pseudo pedal, in the very middle of Ravel’s other registers (m. 6 of ex. 4.19a). The original dominant (G♯) pedals return to close the suite of mirrors, after the surprisingly lyric, indeed somnambulistic middle section of “La vallée,”33 but with a touch of surprise, since the middle section’s final, transitional pedal (an E♮ at the very bottom of the keyboard) hesitates

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160



displaced sound

amidst a cloud of decoration, suggesting at least some possibility of a traditional, secondary dominant, or “pivot pedal” (ex. 4.19b). But it, too, is false. The E natural serves only as an abrupt passing tone to the tonic, C-sharp minor, theretofore only implied throughout the work by Ravel’s swarm of displaced, “pseudo,” and occasionally false pedals.34

Piccolo pedal: Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria” (1907–8) The final movement of Ravel’s first major orchestral work opens with a delightful and “false” pedal in the piccolo. It is high pitched, of course, on G♮, and— underpinned by the harp and muted strings—it serves as the backdrop for the movement’s lively first theme, also commencing on G. True, a “root” of C♮ may be found underneath in the muted, divided violins, but the preponderance of pitches both written and (especially) heard in the first measures of “Feria” are G♮s. Reinforced by the harp and echoed obliquely at the opposite end of the aural spectrum by cellos and double basses, the quicker rhythmic figuration in the piccolo creates the unmistakable effect of a brief, active pedal on G, displaced into the higher registers of the orchestra. Its false fundamental (G), then, is part of a foil (ambiguous because of the registration) for Ravel’s first theme in the solo flute (ex. 4.20a). The theme hovers around the dominant seventh, but its root, too, becomes clear only several measures later, after a timpani roll on C at the opposite end of the registral spectrum (four measures after R1). Hence, the G♮ of the opening bars first functions as a “phantom fifth.” The piccolo pedal returns at R2, but in company of the first theme given to the clarinet; the G♮s are now displaced downward through the orchestra, echoed emphatically in the bassoons and horns, again doubled by the timpani, but absorbed as the constituent third of an E♭, dominant-seventh harmony, springboard in turn (again, with the root displaced, hidden in the lower strings) for Ravel’s second theme in muted trumpets at R4 (ex. 4.20b). The first theme’s implied harmony, a C7 chord—anticipated by the fluttering octaves of two piccolos above a scarcely audible root—is never resolved; rather, it elides into another dominantseventh harmony (E♭), through the second series of piccolo G♮s (reinforced by bassoons, horns, and timpani), launching a different theme. The piccolo pedal, then, is Ravel’s harmonic foil, first as phantom fifth, then as constituent third, for two buoyant themes grounded in theoretically unstable, dissonant chords of the seventh, neither of which is actually resolved.35

Perpetual pedal: Gaspard de la nuit, “Le gibet” (1907–8) By virtue of their treatment, the pedals of “Le gibet” are interior and neverending, conveying utterly their program of a town’s bell tolling at sunset, on

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(a) pp

Très lent

   

 

 



pp

    



     

  

       



très doux et sans accentuation

        

 



  



 

                           

p

 

 

 



  













  

un peu marqué

                                         (b)

 

  

 

mf p

  

 

 

  



                          

  

 

 



       pp          pp

  

 

Ex. 4.19. Miroirs, “La vallée des cloches.” (a) mm. 1–7. (b) mm. 47–49.

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162

displaced sound

(a) Piccolos (2)

                                                              pp

                      

Flute, Solo

 



          

(b)

           

                   R4

          

Trumpets (muted)

(Timp.)

3

             

 

 

       

 

3

Oboes & English Horn 3

    

 

       

 

 

 

  

            

    



3

3                3

3                

(Trumpets)







3

Ex. 4.20. Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria.” (a) mm. 1–6. (b) beginning 2 mm. before R4.

execution day. Though occasionally echoed, they are never moved, they are never truly displaced. The subtlety of Ravel’s determination here may be underlined by recalling the different bells of “La vallée des cloches” (ex. 4.19, composed scarcely three years earlier), distributed over the entire keyboard.36 The first and last sounds of “Le gibet” are those of its perpetual pedal, a B♭ in octaves, firmly fixed in the middle register, whether framing the work’s dark principal motive in the lower octaves (ex. 4.21a); underpinning (enharmonically) the pale, plaintive theme of the interior section in the soprano register (ex. 4.21b); or investing the tedious, lugubrious, double sequence of chords packed with altered intervals

Zank.indd Sec1:162

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displaced sound



163

of the thirteenth that converge creepily upon it, from the extreme and opposite ends of the outer registers, creating a texture so dense that three staves are required for notation (ex. 4.21c). The sole variant of the “perpetual pedal” is its dynamic: moving (like all of “Le gibet”) within narrow ranges, it furnishes only enough nuance in the peculiarity of the work’s sonorous “palette” to remind of its hopeless program. By writing an entire work, then, around an immutable, inner pedal, Ravel leaves an ironic exemplar of renounced registration.

Plagal pedal: Ma Mère l’oye, “Le jardin féerique” (1911) The final movement of Ma Mère l’oye, Ravel’s suite based on seventeenth-century fairy tales, includes two pedal points of subdominant harmony in the key of C, six measures each, of distinctly different intent (deceptive and authentic).37 The plagal pedal’s first iteration is symmetrical and noteworthy, six measures informing a prolonged, deceptive cadence beginning at R1, as strands of the movement’s motive ascend throughout the orchestra (clarinets and violas, horns, then flutes and strings, ex. 4.22a). The root (F) is securely fixed in the double basses, yet the expected resolution veers unexpectedly into the minor mediant (E), and an ethereal, interior section of instrumental solos. After contributions from the celesta, violin, and viola, a gentle return to—and descent through—the tonic prepares the work’s other, final plagal cadence. The root is again given to the basses, but reinforced in harp and bassoons, with the fifth (C). The third of the subdominant, too (A), is present—first in the cello and clarinet, then first horn, as a timpani roll on C (beginning in the third of six measures), further reinforcing the fifth of the subdominant, all the while anticipating the coming tonic resolution (ex. 4.22b). Most affectingly, however, from the beginning of his second “plagal pedal,” Ravel has introduced a dissonant tone (G): emphasized rhythmically in echolike fashion (off the beat, in the registers of the harp and second horn), it is nonetheless—ironically—the fifth of the approaching, final tonic, heightening, in slow motion, as much the tension of the pedal as its resolution. The first plagal pedal, then, in Ravel’s fairy garden, is “pure” but deceptive; the second ironically dissonant in decoration, yet definitive and authentic, its key elements “magically” displaced.

Interior appoggiature, cyclic suspension: Rapsodie espagnole, “Habanera” (1908) In the “Habanera” movement of the Rapsodie espagnole Ravel twice employed striking interior appoggiature: first to delineate the alluring first section of the work from its short development, then, later, to close it. In the first instance, violas reiterate the habanera rhythm softly in open octaves (C♯, reinforced

Zank.indd Sec1:163

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164



displaced sound

      

(a)

         

     

   

   

un peu marqué

     

       

 



   

                    

                

       

(b)

 

 pp





   

  

 

  

                

 

     

  

 

    

 

(c)

ppp très lié

      

   







     

 

 

   

        

  

 



 

    m.d.      

         

                         





  



 

mp

       

 

 

 Ex. 4.21. Gaspard de la nuit, “Le gibet.” (a) mm. 2–4. (b) mm. 28–29. (c) mm. 40–41.

enharmonically by the harps), as a sharply dissonant minor third in the horns penetrates Ravel’s transparent tissue of sound at R4 (ex. 4.23a). The root is in the middle of the horns, flanked on either side by the minor third, an eccentric, oddly dissonant moment, given its sudden appearance and interior registration. Yet when the outer horns ascend a half step around their interior root, the seemingly inevitable resolution is experienced (m. 3 of ex. 4.23a), “telegraphed” in a split second by the open octaves of the chord’s fifth in the new timbre of the celeste (rather than the previous violas). To close the movement, Ravel reprises the appoggiatura in the same register, but assigns it to trumpets rather than horns (ex. 4.23b). Having first heard the event in the somewhat bulbous timbre of the horns,38 the listener experiences its reappearance in the trumpets as less sudden, unexpected resolution to A major at the end is invoked by a startling,

Zank.indd Sec1:164

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displaced sound (a)

165

(Tutti) Flutes & Vlns.

R1

English Hrn. & Violas

 





Clarinet, Solo

     pp

 



p

    



(Tutti)

p

 

  

Vc.



     

    

 

    

 Bssns.

2nd Vlns.

 

Vc.

  

          



Cb.

pizz.

(b) Fl. & Vlas.

  

    

  

   

     

      

(+ Strings & Celesta)

(+ Ob., 2nd Clar.)

2nd Horn, Harp

p

   

   



   

   



   

1st Horn

Vc., Clar.

Cb., Harp & Bssns.

   

 



1st Horn

   

   



R5

   ff

p

 

 

 

(Tutti)

 



 

 

   

(TUTTI)

(TUTTI) ff



  

Tymp., tr., pp (cresc.)

Ex. 4.22. Ma Mère l’oye, “Le jardin féerique,” pedals. (a) beginning at R1. (b) beginning 4 mm. after R4.

prominent, but more focused, less exotic, yet somehow anticipated, and, hence, more definitive. In terms of orchestration, one might imagine further appoggiature of timbre, since the voicing of the two remarkable moments may be examined in their original casting for two pianos, which—fortunately—Ricardo Viñes convinced Ravel to orchestrate.39 Their effect in either case, however—uniquely pungent dissonance, welcome resolution—derives from registration. At about the same time that Ravel was painting the aquatic program of “Ondine” with pervasive added sixths, he turned to the interval for cadential purposes in the first movement of the Rapsodie. The opening measures of the “Prélude à la nuit” are tonally ambiguous, to say the least: a drifting four-note, minimalist ostinato which permeates all of the Rapsodie, confusing expectations from the start (ex. 4.24a). The fourth tone of the leitmotif, however (C♯), confers a measure of “cyclic” distinction on the movement’s conclusion, since the 6–5 suspension in the celesta above low strings. The root underpinning this closure (A) is nearly inaudible (in contrast to the reregistered C♯ on the final page

Zank.indd Sec1:165

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166

displaced sound

(a) 3 HORNS (of 4) No mutes

R4

     

MUTES

 

   

 

en se perdant

 

  







 





pp

mf 1 Horn (No mute)

   

MUTE









en se perdant pp

mf

  





Celesta

(b)

     pp    



3

3 TRUMPETS No mutes

    

 

   

 

pp





        

3



         3

MUTES

p

 

pp

 Celesta

          3

pp

 

  en se perdant

          3



3

 

       

Ex. 4.23. Rapsodie espagnole, “Habanera.” (a) beginning at R4. (b) final 5 mm.

of “Ondine,” for example), and very nearly suggests a 4–3 rather than 6–5 suspension: the timpani strikes the root briefly in anticipation, and divided cellos sustain a C♯ across the bar line (ex. 4.24b). Yet because of the displacement of the dissonance (F) into the upper, chime-like registers of the celesta, the ear seeks the thin, “missing” fundamental found in the double bass (A). The true significance of the C♯, however, is again cyclical: it is the fourth and final pitch of the relentless, drifting ostinato figure, heard from the first bar of the movement, throughout the greater work, here as major third of the cadential resolution in the opening movement.

Zank.indd Sec1:166

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displaced sound



167

(a) Très modéré 1st Vlns., mutes

  

(+ Oboes)

                           

ppp

p

Violas, mutes

                               ppp

(b)

Celesta ppp



Violas, mutes



  

 



                      (OFF, mutes) 2nd Vlns., mutes

Lower strings pp

         





    Timp.

  

 

Ex. 4.24. Rapsodie espagnole, “Prélude à la nuit.” (a) opening 5 mm. (b) final 4 mm.

IV. Timbre Bells: Miroirs, “La vallée des cloches” (1904–5) The effective use of extreme or unusual ranges of an instrument being of evident interest, Ravel broadened his use of registration (intuitively, no doubt, on occasion) to embrace the displacement of musical ideas, or parts thereof, from the ranges of one individual instrument to another, to those of another within the same family, and to those of other instruments and their families, including the human voice. As noted earlier, “La vallée des cloches” is saturated with bells—cow bells, church bells, bells heard across vallies, bells of everyday Basque folk life—all depicted through the mingling of oscillating, open intervals and pedal points in different registers. To argue the specific assignations of bells would be difficult, perhaps at cross-purposes with Ravel’s larger intent (though he appears to have once suggested that the last, lowest, might have been that of the Sacré Coeur cathedral in Paris),40 since the bells of “La vallée” share not only the same intervals— oscillating fourths, open octaves, fifths—but, almost without exception, the same pitches. Their varying “programs,” then, may be distinguished by register.

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168



   

displaced sound



          ppp

  





mp

  

      



 

         p



 



 

      

 

pp

Ex. 4.25. Miroirs, “La vallée des cloches,” final 3 mm.

The distant bells on G♯ sound first at the higher levels (ex. 4.19a) and are echoed softly in augmentation below, rendering the “pedal point bells” above strangely decorative. There may be some clues here to Ravel’s reaction to Satie’s Parade in 1917, since, as Jean Cocteau has recounted, Ravel said that he simply could not understand music that did not flow through a medium of “sonorous fluid,” a remark that was hardly idle.41 Ravel doubles the pedal—far below the other two registers of bells, enveloping them in a wash of fluidic sound—and then introduces a third, “insurgent” bell in the middle register, its corrosive E♯ (alluded to earlier) being the sole pitch foreign to those of the others. And, after the ensuing, paradoxically sensuous middle section, the bells are removed to lower registers: on the final page, their previous representations are echoed above a cadential ground pedal, and one finally hears the heavier tolling of the Sacré Coeur (ex. 4.25). Distinguishing one from the other, then, Ravel has painted the differing overtones of his bells in different registers of a single chosen instrument: swinging, metal bells—large, small, distant, near—in single pitches, octaves, fourths, and fifths, all find their imitations in “displacement.”42

Arabesques: Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria” (1907–8) The notion of conjuring up concrete, material outlines in musical space was hardly unique to Ravel. Both Schumann (in the mid-nineteenth century, Arabeske, Opus 18) and, later, Debussy (Deux arabesques) had rendered musically the decorative visual shapes of arabesques. Indeed, Debussy in 1901, betraying the significance with which he viewed the term, used it to describe—somewhat bizarrely—the music of J. S. Bach: “This concerto is one of many admirable works in the catalogue of the great Bach; one finds here almost intact the arabesque, that principle of ornamentation which underlies all the modes of art. . . . In

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the music of Bach it is not the character of the melody but its curve, its shape that moves one.”43 In reconsidering Ravel’s concluding “Feria” of the Rapsodie espagnole, any possibility of a programmatic or dance-related inspiration for its section manifesting a series of remarkable chromatic slides in all four sections of the string instruments, remains obscure at best. The shapes of these sudden displacements of musical sound, both on the printed page and in performance, evoke nothing if not arabesques. It is exceedingly difficult to hear them without conceiving a visual analog, and their extraordinary, paradoxical appearance within the riotous conclusion of a larger, symphonic work was ingeniously prepared by other musical ironies. The morose distinctiveness of an English horn solo in the middle of the “Feria” surprises, especially on the heels of gay, animated Spanish festival themes and grand climax: the horn’s elegant, serpentine melody at first resembles the movement’s second theme, but it narrows in compass to the space of a tritone, and then slumps downward, chromatically, to the bottom of an unusually long course an octave and a half below origin (ex. 4.26a). The strange “slide” continues, as a solo clarinet in A elaborates upon the idea, carrying it still another octave deeper, until the strings interrupt with an intense variant of the first theme of the multi-movement work (first heard in measure 14 of the opening “Prélude à la nuit”). Yet in the startling measures that follow, the latter theme—romantically recast, re-presented cyclically—is also interrupted, by the “larger” leitmotif of the Rapsodie, the work’s opening four pitches of the “Prélude à la nuit,” and in augmentation (for emphasis, one assumes) by a further, extraordinary and chromatic slide, generating what can best be described as a kind of aural “swoop,” a strangely pure arabesque of sound (ex. 4.26b). The extraordinary alternation of interruption vs. arabesque (in divided second violins) is extended, as the Rapsodie’s more passionate first theme reappears in the strings, interrupted (again) by the ominous leitmotif of the greater work with its accompanying figuration—the aural arabesque whose traces have been alluded to earlier44—descending into the violas. And beneath a final quote of the work’s “leitmotif” (now doubly augmented), Ravel’s arabesque sinks even further into divided celli, then plummets into the double basses, and disappears. One sonorous arabesque, then, has traversed in descent the domain of one family of instruments, writing upon Ravel’s individually convincing “canvas” Debussy’s convictions about the force, the pull in the “curve” of a melody, or—as in this example—its potentially, aurally alien decoration. Such sonorous imaginations ca. 1907 evince a novelty and virtuosity in the understanding of registration often revisited, reappearing most prominently at the end of the composer’s life in the Left Hand Concerto,45 and hardly lost upon others: Stravinsky knew of these passages before writing the opening measures of his Firebird,46 and Bottom’s snoring in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (1960)—a bit less elegant, but an arabesque nonetheless—betrays some little of Ravel’s imaginative genius.

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displaced sound

(a)

English Horn, Solo

    



  





 

  

          

3     

pp très expressif R13

      

3



    



             3

     3

mf

(b) Harp & Flute

    

 

 

 

 

 

(mutes)

   





 

2nd Violins, 4 players, divisi, & GLISS. 

          6

ppp

 

 

 

 

                               6

6

6

Ex. 4.26. Rapsodie espagnole, “Feria.” (a) beginning 1 m. after R12. (b) beginning 3 mm. before R16.

Cats and Trees: L’enfant et les sortilèges (1920–25) Onomatopoeia in French music is a phenomenon reaching far back (at least to Janequin), and one to which Ravel was predisposed.47 It is certainly one of—if not the—most vivid features of L’enfant et les sortilèges, where Ravel’s stunning “Cats’s Duet” (among other examples) challenged expectations of the mid1920s about the lyric stage. Between an arithmetic lesson forced upon the work’s naughty child (protagonist) and the garden scene in which Ravel’s onomatopoeia reaches its zenith, mixed tones and slides—unspecified pitches of sonorous, motivic material, yet within specific ranges—appear at the very bottom of the string family in a solo double bass using appropriately “cat-like” harmonic sonorities (and slides), as one of the beautiful beasts (to recall Ravel’s sensitive

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rendering of Beauty’s “Beastly” bassoon), emerges from beneath an armchair. The musical matter moves up, through solo viola and solo violin, the perfect registral preparation—indeed, sonorous reinforcement—for the extraordinary “singing” that unfolds (ex. 4.27a).48 As the duet advances, the cats’ original motives fluctuate in increasingly thick textures within the strings (ex. 4.27b), and the rest of the orchestra is gradually drawn in, until the great moment when the ceiling of the wicked child’s room opens up, and he is transported into Ravel’s other magic garden (to remember the earlier example of the “plagal pedals” in Ma Mère l’oye), where frogs, insects, and trees speak freely to humans, No sooner has the naughty child expressed wonder (and relief) to have been returned to Ravel’s garden—“Ah! Quelle joie de te retrouver, Jardin!”—than he is confronted by a “bleeding” tree crying out painfully in reproach for his slashed trunk, in a series of sliding tritones (ex. 4.28a), not so unlike the chromatic arabesques of the “Feria” of twenty years before. As in the “Feria,” Ravel’s thought migrates amidst and among the family of strings (violas and cellos, ex. 4.28b), but, here, at Monte Carlo in 1926, the wounded Tree’s cries are doubled in the more resonant ranges of the clarinets and bass clarinet (without the slides, of course),49 and then joined by a vocal chorus in a collective lament of falling tritones (ex. 4.28c). Ravel has made his terrible timbral effect more convincing by displacing it into the lower registers of the winds, the strings, and—finally—into a “sliding,” all-male chorus.

V. Irony and Style: Ravel’s Desk Ravel’s registration descended from what functioned in the role of an acknowledged and helpful literary metaphor, his “desk,” which is to say his piano. The most widely circulated remark about this has come from Ralph Vaughan Williams’s widow, who famously reported that when told of her husband’s work away from the keyboard, Ravel replied “But it’s not possible—how can one invent new harmonies?”50 There is, however, considerable and rich precedence. RolandManuel, looking back from 1921 on the 1901 (Jeux d’eau), whose measured symmetry of “plastic arabesques” had ushered in a new era of keyboard writing at century’s turn, attributed its success to Ravel’s having turned the instrument into a discrete “orchestra” in its own right.51 And twenty-five years after Jeux d’eau, at the premiere of the lyric opera in which cats and trees (never mind dragonflies, fire, and furniture) were invested with extraordinary voice, he made essentially the same point—Ravel simply could not have constructed such an orchestration away from his “desk.”52 Another student, Manuel Rosenthal, echoed his teacher’s remark to Ursula Vaughan Williams in claiming that the keyboard had, in effect, comprised a harmonic “treatise” for Ravel,53 and Vuillermoz expounded on this at some length not long after Ravel’s death, invoking again Proust’s metaphor of the thread (though here electric, rather than gold):

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(a) R95

    

Adagio



Cb. Solo

   expressif

  



  

    

 

   

 

3

 



L'ENFANT



p Oh!

 

ma

  

  

 



-



te!

Vln. Solo

(Cb. Solo, cont.)

   

Vc. Solo

 





 p



3

 











espr.





 

p

(b) CAT R97

Andante

    



très tendre

pp

    



p

             



(nasal)

Mor - nâ - ou, Nâ - ou,

Mi - in - hou!

Moâ - ou,

p CAT

                (nasal)

Mor - nâ - ou Nâ - ou,

       p

   

  





 









bouche fermée

Moâ - ou,

                      

             

Vlns., Vlas.

p

Violins, Violas









 





Cb.

Ex. 4.27. L’enfant et les sortilèges. (a) beginning at R95. (b) the Cats, beginning at R97. Nothing develops one’s sense of harmony like the keyboard of an organ or piano. The possibility of managing with two hands an entire range of polyphony, of juxtaposing sounds whose tonal qualities attract or repel, of exploring the tension and resistance of different scale degrees between which one cleverly sets up agreement or antagonism, of tapping skillfully that secret electric current obliging one note to ascend, another to descend, all this brings to the composer at a keyboard incomparable riches and unsuspected revelations.54

Jankélévitch, a few years before (in his monograph on Ravel), had offered an even more vivid description of what might be open to a composer exercising “will” from such a “desk”: unexpected discoveries, unheard-of sonorities,

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(a) TREE, Solo

 



  

Ma

bles -

 





su - re

  

ma

 



bles - su - re

(b) TREE, Solo





  

Ma

bles - su - re

Strings

   

  

   



  

ma

  

bles - su - re

Winds, Hrns. (with Strings)

     

  





(c) TREES, Tenor Chrous

   Nos

  bles -

 

 su -



res

TREES, Bass Chorus

   

Nos

       

  bles -

  

 

  su -



res

   





Ex. 4.28. L’enfant et les sortilèges, Wounded tree. (a) beginning 1 m. after R103, showing the melody. (b) the same mm., showing the instrumentation. (c) the Chorus of (Wounded) Trees, beginning 1 m. after R104.

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new timbres accessible as much through persuasion as through violence (even “profanation”)—“There are no taboos for the keyboard composer.”55 Marguerite Long, too, believed that Ravel composed “through his fingers,”that when not composing, his piano was shut, “his fingers idle.”56 Working at the keyboard was hardly uncommon, of course; both Stravinsky and Fauré were so observed by Vuillermoz and others,57 and the Vuillermoz’s description of Fauré returns us to the more literary aspects of our study: “One recalls Fauré strolling the avenues of white ivory, crossing over occasionally to the softer side of ebony, gathering up the intoxication of sound and sense circulating in the evening air.”58 The reference to Baudelaire’s sonnet is clear enough, but we might also note briefly the imagery of the “flâneur,” the urban rambler (Flaubert’s Frédéric Moreau, for instance, in L’éducation sentimentale) or even “dandy,” both of which apply to popular reminiscences of Ravel.59 Vuillermoz was, again, surprisingly clear about all of this and Ravel: “It is at the piano that a poet of sound often finds

his most beautiful rhymes. He tests in his own ear the possible audacities in order to calculate their potential receptivity. He then dispenses carefully, with great delight, both seduction and affront. Thus unfolds his alchemy of sound, with its intoxicating scents and mortal poisons.”60 Incorporated in such a reading is our proposal of “negotiation,” via Jankélévitch’s metaphor of juggling, or—as Vuillermoz sees it—Ravel’s “testing,” his calculating with regard to potential reception, and, finally, the dispensing of materials to confound expectations (with or without poison!). Among Liszt’s twelve Transcendental Etudes, one draws—as would so many like Vuillermoz, cited above—from Baudelaire’s sonnet, and one must indeed acknowledge Liszt’s precedence in matters transcending musical keyboards themselves, since so much of the rhetorical flourish cited above echoes Liszt of the late 1830s. Reproached, for instance, in 1838 for not yet having addressed the larger symphonic and operatic forms (as was Ravel, too, throughout his career), Liszt replied to his friend Adolphe Pictet that he had no intention of abandoning the cultivation of an instrument that he considered “highest in the instrumental hierarchy,” capable of recapitulating and concentrating “all of musical art within itself,” and the like.61 Ravel and many of his colleagues (including Jankélévitch) often admitted their debts to Liszt, but to follow Vuillermoz a bit further: The piano for Ravel was the key to a world of dreams. It is (like the organ, too) what we might call “an instrument of personal faith.” When alone with it, an artist enters—if I might be so bold as to say—into the world of confession. Everything within this half-open, great magic trunk, inspires faith. You sit down before it. And when its warm smile of seventy-two teeth has opened between mahogany or rosewood lips, you feel yourself in safe company.62

Such imagery is striking (and convincing), but the metaphor of clavier served writers, too, as an “instrument” of the imagination, and especially those well

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known to Ravel. Baudelaire’s Thyrse is subtitled “À Franz Liszt,”63 and we know that Baudelaire was reading both Aloysius Bertrand and Edgar Allan Poe as his style of prose poetry matured during Liszt’s later years of virtuosity. Baudelaire’s translation of The Raven had appeared in Paris as early as 1853, but when his own first prose poems were published (1862), he gave considerable credit to Bertrand’s Gaspard de la nuit, confessing to have read the collection “at least twenty times” before his attempt at similarly descriptive (if more abstract) writing about “modern” life.64 It is true that Bertrand’s reputation rests solely upon Gaspard, but it was (at least from Baudelaire forward),65 a work of enormous influence, and when Frédéric Bertrand tried to make some sense out of his younger brother’s short and unheeded life, he put it this way: “Surrendering to childish illusions he welcomed strange voices coming to him late in the night: the rush of wind in great trees, the cry of a gull, or that of a lost dog echoing in the distance, stirred within him the ivories of an unknown keyboard.”66 It was at about this time that Stéphane Mallarmé was making his first efforts as a young lycée student to translate Poe, and though music would not make its deepest imprint upon him for some time, it is clear that he was touched by the musicality of The Raven, since he added to the margins of his translation notebook: “One can not miss the beauty of the dark rhythm,” and—regarding nevermore: “It is one of the most beautiful words in English for a somber thought.”67 By the mid 1880s, Wagner’s influence had begun to spread widely in the French-speaking literary world, and newer interpretations of the “musicality” of verse began to circulate on multiple levels. Stuart Merrill, a good friend of Tristan Klingsor (and later promoter of the Symbolist cause in America) had ties with the Belgian group of Symbolists that challenged the French for perhaps a decade, and the Belgians (including René Ghil, of great later influence) published a short-lived journal like the French Revue wagnérienne entitled La Basoche, within which Merrill published in 1885 something he insisted on calling a “Fantaisie onomatopéique,” entitled “Les pianos.” Ravel’s predisposition to onomatopoeia has already been mentioned, and in some excerpts of Merrill’s “Fantaisie” published by Suzanne Bernard, one senses how awkward any translation will be: “Tinkling, trembling, knocking, clacking, trotting, jumping, moaning; pianos; all finally expiring, exhausted, in soft, lisping twitters.”68 Within the year (1885), some of the Belgian talents had allied themselves more closely with Ghil, in a quest to further intensify the musicalization of verse. They called themselves “Instrumentistes.” Mallarmé knew Ghil well, and supported his “instrumental” tentatives, at least until Ghil tried to claim him as a fellow “Symboliste instrumentiste.”69 Again, perhaps, a touch of irony, since music motivated Mallarmé most intensely in the final decade of his life. But, as already seen, he was struck earlier on by its effects upon Poe and Baudelaire, and he was struck, too, by the typography not only of letters and words (noted in chapter 1), but by that of music itself since: as Émilie Noulet has noted, he envied from an early age the foreign, even “sacred”

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powers of a graphical system designed to generate tones rather than words.70 And in maturity, Mallarmé came to envy music uniquely in that it “occupied that space between hearing and abstract, become comprehension,” a realization that haunted and likely doomed his largest-conceived and unrealized work, appropriately entitled Le livre.71 If not haunting, then, the metaphor of musical keyboard decidedly stirred Mallarmé’s imagination in the years preceding his encounters with symphonic music, Wagner’s theories, and the emergence and acceptance of vers libre: looking back in 1891 from the midst of these times, he ascribed the rejection of his Faun by the Parnassien school of writers around 1875 to his success in having provided Alexandrine verse in all its due heritage with a kind of musical accompaniment, “tapped out” around it by the poet himself, allowing for the emergence of “official verse” only at special times.72 Three years later, Mallarmé shared with British audiences at Oxford (Ravel would visit in 1931) his complicated, abstruse thoughts about music and literature, using vocabulary that has been of previous import. He argued that to pursue the ideal, to create an aesthetic sense out of life beyond the material (i.e., cities, railways, etc.), to grasp the “total arabesque” [my emphasis] of perceptual possibilities and omnipresent “line” connecting all points required to “establish the idea,” would be a difficult task indeed. It would require the marking and disruption of the infinite, whose secret rhythms might yield themselves up in expression to everyday use in vocabulary (only) after a profound probing of the (greater) “verbal” keyboard, by one’s own fingers.73 What Mallarmé was trying to do here in the early 1890s has been described by Suzanne Bernard as an “idealist transposition,”74 but one might see it, too, as suggested much earlier, as a French transposition of German musical idealism. Another example from this time is a bit less obscure: “I make music,” says Mallarmé in a letter to Edmund Gosse, “and by this I do not mean drawing upon the euphonious relations between words—that goes without saying; I mean rather by touching upon that world beyond, created magically by the inclinations of certain words in expression, where the sense of material communication is like that experienced by touching the keys of a piano.”75 But by 1894–95, probably under the pressure of failing to realize his “spiritual” work of synthesis (Le livre), and trying to move beyond the implications of free verse (which had finally won acceptance), Mallarmé moved further and further away from punctuation, and toward a new conception of a writer’s “space,” the organization of which takes us back curiously close to Ravel’s registration. In moving from blank open spaces upon a page (white, of course, versus the black and white of the keyboard, or of musical notation), to the page itself, and finally to two pages at once as structural or unifying goals, Mallarmé went far beyond the other Symbolists, creating in his Un coup de dés what is obviously “a new form of composition.”76 But in remembering punctuation and typography from chapter 1, we might perhaps think of Mallarmé’s control over such newly conceived space as having been won less by the abandonment

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of punctuation than through its transposition—to use (1) Mallarmé’s own word (describing his Le livre); (2) Bernard’s, too, concerning the reconception of idealism mentioned just above; and (3) Ravel’s, in describing his musical treatment of Mallarmé’s poems—the use of eight different typefaces in different sizes, in a new kind of poetic punctuation. Mallarmé’s other chief means of control, of course, was the displacement—the visual “re-registering” of his materials at different vertical and horizontal locations across the page, where the whites of the paper might “intervene,” influence (in appearance, disappearance, or reappearance) the images and—as Mallarmé himself suggests, invoking the Proustian metaphor of “thread”—the “prismatic subdivisions of the Idea,” his “precise, spiritual mise-en-scène.”77 And having taken pains to characterize Un coup de dés as a work melding prose poetry and free verse—through means, to recall, that he insisted on “taking back” from music—Mallarmé also endeavors to convince of its merit as a musical “score,” directing attention to the potential relationship between his changing typefaces, their sizes and locations, and their potential “intonations.”78 The editors of the journal in which Un coup de dés was first published in 1897 belabored the point more clumsily, describing in their preface the intent behind a new and unpublished work from the leading French Symbolist of the time: “In this work of entirely new character, the poet has taken it upon himself to make music with words. . . . The characters employed and the position of open space correspond to notes and to musical intervals.”79 This is well intentioned, of course, but difficult to entertain beyond the obvious (even allowing for the performing practice of reading lyrical poetry aloud at the time).80 Michel Delahaye has argued recently that much, if not all, such speculation had little to do with Mallarmé’s larger transcendental scheme of aesthetic intent,81 but one can still agree with Bernard’s earlier conclusion—especially in view of the fact that Mallarmé invokes counterpoint in his preface—that Un coup is a work of “true literary polyphony.”82 And she was, too, more creatively correct in judging that it was in this last completed work that Mallarmé profited most fully from music’s example, since he managed to “defy” it on his own transcendental, literary terms.83 The resonance of the work is impossible to recreate in limited space, but contemporary sources leave some fine clues: Paul Valéry—among those close to (and of influence upon) Ravel from the days of the Apaches84—was also among many bearing witness to Mallarmé’s courage in “elevating the ‘page’ to supernatural realms,”85 and his account of first encountering Mallarmé’s manuscript in 1897 reinforces the essence of the present chapter’s arguments, in poignant and powerful terms: I should like to recount some aspects of my personal relationship with Stéphane Mallarmé. One day in 1897 he asked that I come to see him, writing that he had something important to show me. I found him in his study—which served, too, as his bedroom. Mallarmé, little-known teacher of English and

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with no wealth at all, lived in an apartment both charming and simple in the rue de Rome, a dilapidated flat above all the others, gloriously decorated by paintings given to him by his friends Manet, Berthe Morisot, Whistler, Claude Monet, and Redon. He greeted me, then, in a small room where, not far from his bed, stood his desk, old and square with thick, twisted legs of dark wood. Upon it was a manuscript, which he picked up and began to read to me, its text even stranger than what I had known from him before, so strange, in fact that I could not take my eyes off it, in his hands. Such was my first encounter with the extraordinary poem entitled Un coup de dés. I don’t know if it has yet come to your attention, but this was a work specifically designed to provide a reader with the experience of interpreting an orchestral score at home, alone, at one’s hearth, as it were. Mallarmé had long sought the literary means by which one might, in reading a work composed of words and letters, attain the state of aesthetic consciousness rendered through the experience of orchestral music.86

Both Gustave Kahn and Paul Claudel believed the work to have been part of an even larger project,87 and—like irony as a touchstone of Ravel criticism—the metaphor of the musical keyboard as “literary” desk spilled over into the new century after Mallarmé’s death. Proust’s narrator, cited in chapter 1 with reference to the metaphors of music and void (p. 19), speaks to us very early on in the great novel about keyboards: “[Swann] knew that even the memory of a piano distorted his conception of how music worked, that the possibilities open to a musician were those of an immeasurable rather than paltry, seven-note keyboard, a keyboard almost entirely unknown upon which, here and there, separated by deep and unexplored darkness, millions of unknown touches of tenderness, passion, courage, serenity, each as different from the other as a separate universe, had been discovered by great artists.”88 In the most recent edition of the well-known Ravel interviews by Vlado Perlemuter and Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, its editor has suggested—doubtful this, but helpful—that the following passage by Claudel might have been written by Perlemuter: “It is no more the piano I play, but that instrument of humanity itself, composed of black and white keys, forming one single keyboard beneath my fingers—a means of plumbing all of the souls around me and their collective reverberations.”89 However one might judge Mallarmé’s success in the displacement, the “re-registration” of his letters, words, and groups of words in different sizes and typefaces across the pages of a self-described musicoliterary “score,” Ravel’s musical poetry of the same years remains eerily close at hand: the shifting disposition of bells in “La vallée des cloches” across the pages of an aurally conceived landscape, the immutably anchored, bell-death octaves of the other (“Le gibet”) are, in effect, Ravel’s further Sites auriculaires, two works composed during Mallarmé’s final years with an unmistakably Symbolist title, the second of which flaunts yet another (“Entre cloches”). Though it is unlikely Mallarmé ever heard the music,90 one cannot help wondering—

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especially in view of Un coup des dés, from these same years, how the poet might have “read” Ravel’s later soundscapes. And in view of the fact that nearly all of Ravel’s career unfolded after Mallarmé’s death (and that “challenge” as much as defiance is numbered among French understandings of “défi,” as Suzanne Bernard so aptly characterized Mallarmé’s intent with regard to music in Un coup de dés), one might well consider the reverse of such a notion of “soundscapes,” since it is likely that Ravel read Un coup de dés long before receiving, at the front of the war, Albert Thibaudet’s comprehensive study including individual chapters on music, punctuation, and irony, as well as Thibaudet’s analyses and excerpts from the poem.91 Ravel’s notes—like Mallarmé’s words—were displaced, removed to different registers of uniquely conceived space, with great care and sophistication. We know from several sources, including Ricardo Viñes’s unpublished journal, that throughout the 1890s both he and Ravel were reading the important authors discussed heretofore, but we also know that, the year before Un coup de dés was first published, Viñes took Ravel to see—and touch, in the more literary sense, for the moment—a peculiarly conceived, successfully manufactured piano with double keyboards, one of which was reversed in register, which is to say constructed with its highest-pitched notes to the left, rather than to the right.92 Viñes had seen the instrument (apparently of Russian provenance) at the Pleyel showrooms, returned there with Ravel,93 and he recounts that Ravel in fact remained “stupefied” over it for some time. Whether or not Ravel subsequently read Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés—which of course he did—we may safely assume his senses of registration and musical space to have been “touched” very early on (1896), in a fashion distinguished from those artists working with (first of all) words.94 In view of Mallarmé’s explanation in L’Écho de Paris of what he was trying to do in 1891 concerning to tradition (Alexandrine verse)—to surround it, with “tappedout,” musically verbal accompaniments—ex. 2.9b and c above (p. 58) might be rethought briefly. There, in the Left Hand Concerto, Ravel provides for the surrounding of long-standing tradition, most notably common-practice tonality with uncharacteristically “pure” tonic arpeggi (again, cascading downwards), then, in the more extended motivic and dynamic elaborations anchored in successive iterations of dominant ninth harmony (moving up, toward the work’s conclusion), the latter sanctioned theoretically by those who had, in fact, tossed him out of the Paris Conservatoire.95 One might also reconsider some of Hugh Macdonald’s thoughts about the Prix de Rome.96 Ravel’s repeated confusion over clefs (and accidentals) in the 1900 choral work bespeaks a certain “imperfect craftsmanship,” to be sure, but on the other hand, the bumblebee-induced orchestral buzzing and frenzy, resulting in a “spasm” and five-octave descending scale in the woodwinds, bore rather distinguished offspring in the similarly cast passage across all registers of the flutes toward the end of Daphnis et Chloé (at R87, as the latter tumbles into the arms of the former). And in the following year’s competition, 1901, the year

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in which we have traced Ravel’s use of Alcanter de Brahm’s symbol for irony, it is not too much to suggest that Ravel’s “overlapping phrases and bold unison of soprano and basses” written for “The Quivering Dragonfly,”97 found some echo in the L’enfant aria, and in the displaced overlapping of materials of the Cats’ duet and Trees’ lament discussed above (pp. 170–71). Certainly, as Macdonald says, by the extraordinary opening of Ravel’s 1905 choral submission, with its strange recitative of double bass and bassoon, his personal imprint is undeniable, and this must surely point toward the strange double-bassoon cadenza in the Rapsodie espagnole, the programmatic duet of contrabassoon and bassoon in Ma Mère l’oye, and eventually—more pointedly—to the Left Hand Concerto’s deliberately opaque opening of double bass and contrabassoon. It is likely that from 1896 forward, Ravel had Gustave Lyon’s borrowed, bizarre, “reverse” keyboard in at least the back of his mind, and we know that at some point he saw, too, the bizarre pages of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés. There should be no embarrassment about the implications of all this. Jankélévitch, for instance—knowing both Mallarmé and Ravel intimately—went to rather considerable pains in his 1939 monograph to suggest that the latter’s counterpoint in homage to Haydn was meant to be read visually, as much as received aurally.98 Notes, then, for one’s eyes, or, as Paul Claudel entitled a collection of his essays, “L’œil écoute.”99 A repaid debt to Liszt has been acknowledged, but, between Liszt and Ravel there were others interested in the “instrument-desk” proposed above, among them Ferruccio Busoni. Frustrated, even disillusioned at times with its unyielding division into half-steps, Busoni nonetheless realized its unique capabilities, especially of registration: Its disadvantages are obvious, great and irremediable: the impossibility of sustaining the sound, and the pitiless, sharp division of the keyboard into unalterable half-tones. . . . But its excellencies and prerogatives are little miracles. With it a single person can command a complete whole: and it surpasses all other instruments by producing the softest and the loudest sound in one single register. . . . It admits of the highest and lowest available sounds. The pianoforte should be esteemed.100

Busoni, like Baudelaire and Mallarmé, also translated Poe, and his recognition that the modern piano alone might realize the full dynamic range of musical sound in all registers was not new, but (along with his other enthusiasms over counterpoint, bitonality, and quarter-tone composition), it probably found its way to Ravel through Alfredo Casella, whom Ravel admired much and who, as Manuel Rosenthal tells us in his memoirs, was much enamored of Busoni.101 Alfred Cortot was finishing his book on French piano music about 1930 (before he became entangled with Ravel over a two-hand version of the Left Hand Concerto), and within it he provides some fruitful, closing insight:

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Just when one recognizes with astonishment the unexpected imagination of some detail in the writing, the ingenious audacity of an instrumental disposition, one also realizes that a secret, dense logic has led it to be used in just that spot, far from overloading or encumbering the development of the musical idea—the embellishment fuses with it, participates in its course, and contributes to its natural evolution.102

Cortot is clairvoyant here on at least two counts: first, in sensing that Ravel’s— like Mallarmé’s—“instrumental dispositions” issued from a dense logic not easily sorted out; and, second, in realizing that such dispositions—far from being superficial (as in stylistic “wagers” or compositional “pastiche”)—were “artificial” in the genuine French understanding of the word, that of building or creating something with the specific, technical acumen of one’s resources at hand.103 The matter is relevant, since one of the larger disagreements sparked by L’enfant et les sortilèges, with its musical cats, frogs, dragonflies, trees, and the like, revolved around age-old questions of musical “imitation,” some of which unfolded at the higher levels of public “discursivity,” between Arthur Honegger and the conductor and composer André Messager: Honegger was at the premiere in Monte Carlo in 1925, and found the cat’s duet, for instance, to be the most outstanding part of the entire work. Messager, however, waited for the Paris premiere (at the Opéra Comique, where he had conducted the premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902) and soundly—to use Roland-Manuel’s term in a letter trying to explain it to Ravel104—thrashed the work in Le Figaro: Ravel had deliberately rejected any semblance of either sensitivity or emotion, falling back on pure, virtuosic orchestration, tumbling, therefore, into one of the “least noble” kinds of music—imitative.105 But Honegger had got it soundly right at Monte Carlo: “Naturally, Ravel did not simply amuse himself by imitating the ‘Miaous’ of cats; rather, he took advantage of them in order to establish a melodic line, deriving from them. Therein lies the whole problem of so-called imitative music [Honegger’s emphasis].”106 To recall Cortot again, Ravel’s sonorous “audacities” never encumbered or weighed down his ideas, but rather expedited, and, on occasion, fused with their very development. As his hands wandered the registers of his “desk,” so, too, do his myriad instrumental combinations. Thematic, motivic, or accompanimental, they traverse their newly assigned, reassigned, even newly created registers individually, collectively, and interdependently, creating unsurpassed palettes of sonorous persuasion. Toward the end of his 1912 study of Mallarmé, Albert Thibaudet wrote “As much through poetry (retaining nonetheless solid roots in the Parnassien school), as from visions floating beyond the boundaries of his own art, [Mallarmé] brought music ironically alongside of poetry, achieving simultaneously its realization and negation, foreseeing that all would dissolve into something ‘identical with the ancient keyboard of word and verse.’”107 There is some

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resonance here with René Chalupt in the 1938 Ravel Tombeau: “If Mallarmé’s poetry passes for a kind of ‘alchemy of words,’ Ravel’s music through this poetry creates a true alchemy of sound, a search moreover for magic done away with upon discovery.”108 If the “displacement” of materials at hand was an important sphere—as Cortot put it—of Ravel’s “instrumental disposition,” of his dense musical logic, it appears to have been—at least once, in Un coup de dés—of similar inspiration to Mallarmé. One can imagine them at their respective posts: Mallarmé drawing words from his imaginary keyboard, Ravel notes from his imaginary desk, both visited, from time to time, by Thomas Mann’s profound and alluring problem of irony.

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Chapter Five

Plundered Sound: Ravel and the Exotic [Ravel] had no interests in the metaphysical. His music is not about some better, or other world. It is concerned, rather, with its own world, of sound. —Jules van Ackere, 1957

“Plunder” may unduly unnerve, previous aspects of Ravel’s style having been more gently intertwined. Ravel’s Exotic was characterized by a wide range of unusually successful appropriations of musical “others”:1 sensual, on occasion breathtaking, tinged with irony, parody, comedy, even tragedy, they have transcended their times and stand as puzzling musical mirrors to the great colonial conquests of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The panorama of the musically Exotic in European culture is, of course, vast. Félicien David’s “Ode-symphonie” Le désert, of 1844, was cited as a turning point in 1889 by a critic of central importance to this (and other) chapters, Julien Tiersot: With Félicien David the use of folk melody [mélodie populaire] became systematic. We remember the impression of surprise, then enchantment from the first hearing of Le désert: it seemed as if this music, so novel in character for its time, transported its French audience into an unknown world, not only full of seductions and charms, but above all a vibrant, living world. How was this achieved? By the direct use of Oriental folk melodies, by the imitation of their rhythms, their shapes, the sonorities of their instruments; everything having been so thoroughly assimilated by the musician (without betraying original qualities) he created a completely personal art. From the point of view of musical color obtained with the help of mélodies populaires, Le désert marks a date.2

First assimilations of “foreign” elements in Western music being impossible to trace, Richard Beyer chose three representative examples in France from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Lully’s “Ballet des nations” from Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670), Rameau’s opera Les Indes galantes (1735) and Grétry’s instrumental work La cérémonie du Turque (ca. 1770–90) in his analysis of the

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Exotic as a principal motivating force behind the use of organum-like musical textures by both Debussy and Ravel.3 The two composers’ early encounters appear at first blush to have been benign and captivating, Debussy’s reaction to the novel sounds of Oriental music at the World Exhibition in 1889 yielding, as Lockspeiser put it, “an inexhaustible gallery of exotic mirages.”4 Lockspeiser, too, attributed a certain technological wizardry to Debussy, in the Préludes: “[W]e are escorted on many novel journeys, the focus of Debussy’s musical telescope— surely the nearest approximation to the piano of these extraordinary pieces— continuously changing as exotic images are revealed of the Orient, Spain, Italy and (not less exotic for the French) Scotland.”5 The number of similarly inspired works grew exponentially throughout the nineteenth century;6 Saint-Saëns’s travels in North Africa and the Orient (unusually wide for his time) resulted in a large number of instrumental works,7 as well as a commission from the Paris Opéra for the opening of the World’s Fair affecting so many, including Debussy and Ravel.8 It is, nonetheless, an unfortunate—and dark—irony that the roots of such stylistic richness were sustained by a great deal of blood and incalculable human suffering.9 Relentless in conception, catastrophic in execution, European appropriations of the Exotic served many and diverse ends throughout the hundred or so years leading up to the spectacular Paris exhibitions of 1889 and 1899, then those of 1931 and 1937. As Edward Said has observed (reaching back to Schlegel and Novalis), whatever the disasters of Europe past or present, the lands and cultures of varying “others” were seized upon in the nineteenth century as tools of cultural regeneration,10 a “plundering,” then, to be sure, of materials beyond bauxite, rubber, spices, and the like. The roots of the word itself are clear enough: the exotic is that which is foreign,11 but a secondary and more treacherous definition—“the charm or fascination of the unfamiliar”12—had been in devolution for a very long time before Ravel’s adolescence and early maturity in belle époque Paris.13 Throughout his lifetime, in fact, “exotic” was a catchall term, used interchangeably with “bizarre,” “pittoresque” or, most often, “Oriental.”14 Certainly by the late nineteenth century, as Raymond Schwab demonstrated in his great study (to which Said and virtually everyone else is indebted), the terms exotic and Oriental were thoroughly intertwined,15 resulting in “a virtual epidemic of Orientalia affecting every major poet, essayist, and philosopher of the period.”16 The phenomenon reached far. Both Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis performed in the salons frequented by Ravel and Debussy,17 and when St. Denis returned to her native America in 1905, it was only just after Ravel had published the second of his two works entitled Shéhérazade. Suzanne Shelton, St. Denis’s biographer, may well have been correct that the “public appetite for exotica” in the New World was about to peak: “The longitudinal boundaries of this idealized Orient were hazy at best. In the popular imagination the Orient stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, encompassing the Near and Far East

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from Africa to Japan. Indistinguishable in their exoticism, all oriental cultures were synonymous with sensuality, latent cruelty, and the bizarre.”18 Lamentably similar on either side of the Atlantic, the vitality of such perceptions—and the huge repertories deriving from them—underpins any fair reconsideration of Ravel’s Exotic. In order to begin the untangling of such a topos, we may explore three of its categories contemporary to Ravel, the Oriental, the Bizarre, and the Pittoresque. Their mingling and overlapping appears to have been widely taken for granted, but what they shared in common was the representing (or misrepresenting) of various Others.

I. The “Oriental” Shéhérazade, Ouverture de féerie (1898); Shéhérazade, Trois poèmes pour chant et orchestre (1903) The historical ignorance found in New World conceptions of the Orient may be conceived of as a “willful innocence,” one that derived in great part from Ravel’s world. Tristan Klingsor, youthful Apache and Symbolist of sorts, described the atmosphere in which he worked:19 “I had begun a series of poems based on Shéhérazade. How was I led to the subject? It’s difficult to say. Choices of the spirit are always complicated. The Orient was in the air. Through Bakst, from Rimsky, and by way of Dr. Mardrus, who translated the Thousand and One Nights, . . . Oh! The wonder of such a time long past; what writer could ever forget it?”20 But Klingsor makes clear, too, that beyond the obvious Turkish exoticisms of Haydn and Mozart, his times were, in fact, grounded in its own continuing, “willful ignorance”: While the Symbolists sought to achieve a transformation of their sentiments under the guise of ancient legends, I strove to effect mine by placing them behind a veil of Persia. An imagined Persia, I confess. A single, well-chosen word, with a pleasing resonance, with a touch of color, is sufficient. Never did I trouble to consult a single source. I’m not sure I ever glanced through an anthology. Nor even a map. It wasn’t until later that I read Hafiz and Ommar Khâyam.21

Ravel’s understanding of the Orient ran more or less parallel to Klingsor’s. They shared the same enthusiasms (through the Apaches and several other cénacles and salons),22 and it was “in the heart” of such groups that Ravel conceived his first Oriental fantasies in sound,23 receiving and interpreting the fin de siècle through perceptual modalities difficult to reconstruct; the results of this may appear, in retrospect, to have been naive on varying planes. Yet subsequent judgments have also, on occasion, risked naive determinism, however attractive at the time:

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At the end of the last century, the culture of Europe was called into question as never before. The continual advances in technology discredited the rationalist viewpoint—the need was felt for a new approach more in keeping with the dynamism of modern life. . . . The artist, convinced he was living at a time of decadence, sought refuge in flight, a flight which took the form either of ‘inner emigration’ or of a genuine escape to far-off exotic lands. . . . It is within this context of scepticism towards one’s own European culture that the works of Debussy were written.24

“Skepticism towards one’s own European culture” was hardly a motivating factor behind either of Ravel’s two works inspired by the tales of Shéhérazade,25 and his first orchestral work,26 an overture from 1898, is conspicuous on several counts, including its “program,” distributed, in the manner of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, at the work’s premiere.27 In a devastating review of the work in Le Temps,28 Pierre Lalo seized upon Ravel’s own words,29 noting an earnest striving after formal principles, while hinting at some of the devices used more masterfully in the second Shéhérazade: Monsieur Maurice Ravel is still a student at the Conservatoire, and his friends and professors have made his talents known to others. . . . Shéhérazade is explained in the program by the following prose: “Constructed according to classical overture form this work is preceded by an introduction, in which the theme of Schéhérazade is first offered by the oboe, then taken up by the horns and trumpets. Then the overture proper, composed as follows: First section: principal motive in B minor; developments.—Episodic theme (muted trumpets leading to the second motive in F-sharp major, inspired by a Persian melody.—Conclusion of the first section. Second section: development of the four themes.—Pedal point based on the principal theme but extended.—Third section: return of the first and second motives heard simultaneously.—Return of the introduction, functioning as Coda.”30

Yet one can follow Ravel’s early promise a good bit by way (ironically) of Lalo’s disdain: “Shéhérazade’s theme” in the introduction by the oboe (ex. 5.1a), is clearly musical shorthand of what was “in the air,” as Klingsor had put it, and it presages the opening to the second Shéhérazade (below, ex. 5.2a, which unfolds in far more sophisticated fashion). Lalo notes the overture’s brief principal motive (seen, too, in ex. 5.1b, recast with an exotic, syncopated, second beat recalling, as others have noticed, the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso of SaintSaëns, since Ravel, too, punctuates his theme with the timpani, as in ex. 5.1c), then further “developments” (such as an “episodic theme” in muted trumpets echoed by horns, ex. 5.1d), and a second motive (“inspired by a Persian theme,” foreshadowing the poetry Klingsor’s veiled verses of “an imagined Persia,” soon to inspire the second Shéhérazade). Lalo’s signaling of an extended pedal point in the overture’s second section (ex. 5.1e) provides early evidence of a crucial

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style element moving from the keyboard (i.e., the “Habanera” of 1895, previous chapter, ex. 4.23a and b) into Ravel’s first orchestral work,31 but the pedal betrays, too—Lalo appearing here not to have noticed—an early “timbral template” for the astounding aural arabesques of the Rapsodie espagnole of several years later (above, ex. 4.26b). Looking back over more than a century, the collective chromatic, “sliding,” glissandi in the strings (latter part of ex. 5.1e) may seem a bit tame, but in 1898 they were indeed novel, and, more importantly, they were “exotic.” One might also keep in mind that during the short time between the two Shéhérazades, the Oriental Exotic permeated the governmentally enforced exigencies of the Académie des Beaux-Arts proper, where Ravel, the year after Lalo’s public derision, made the first of his five attempts at the Prix de Rome. The text for the required choral work in that year, Les bayadères,32 invoked the Orient in distinctively crude, representative terms. Consider Flaubert’s definition in his Dictionnaire des idées reçues: “All the women of the Orient are bayadères. This word carries the imagination very far.”33 The subject for the next year’s Prix de Rome cantata (drawn from Lord Byron’s journeys to the Orient) was even more “exotic,”34 and it seems reasonable to assume that among the purposes of the Academy’s required texts—to recall Flaubert’s words—was, indeed, to “carry far” the imaginations of its competitors, to transmit the sanctioned results of its prize winners to the widest possible public, which—at that time—would have been through live music.35 Some more material insights may be gained from examining Ravel’s second Shéhérazade of 1903, since the stylistic distance traveled in such short time between overture and song cycle is very great. In “Asie,” the first of three movements,36 the potent theme of imaginary travel reappears in sharpened fashion, through the “vehicle” of a small skiff. Having recently composed two distinct masterworks—the Jeux d’eau for piano and the String Quartet—Ravel begins to flirt brilliantly also (in 1903) with the subtleties of Debussy’s advanced orchestration, calling for tamtam, bells, three harps, and a celesta. One senses in these “poems for voice and orchestra” what Vuillermoz called the “trajectory” of his musical thought—the course of a musical line, whose obstacles he had intentionally courted. As noted in chapter 1, free verse, as much as the Orient, was “in the air,”37 and in the immediate wake of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (which Ravel and his fellow Apaches supported faithfully in 1902), it was no small challenge to transform words into—as Klingsor put it—“expressive recitation.” Rather than Symbolist “transformations through ancient myth and legend,” Ravel chose an imaginary journey to the Orient, his “recitative” carried upon waves of mutating orchestration, as opposed to what Nicholas Routley has more recently described as Debussy’s (evolving) style of floating recitative above a “continuous tissue” of sound.38 Ravel again invoked the generic, Oriental timbre with a solo oboe in the opening measures of “Asie,” and a typical swaying of minor and augmented seconds, but this time for a moment only, with extraordinary deviation: after a

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(a) Modéré Oboe, Solo

            3

p

   

   

(b)

                              R3

(c)

             Timp.

Oboe





   

(d)

             

1st Trumpet, mute

mp

  



         

3                  





      



1st Horn, mute

3

mp





  

3

                3

(e) R9

  



            

1st Vlns.



pp

  



2nd Vlns., div.





  

pp

  



 

  

 Violas & Vc., div.         

   

pp

Cb. pp pizz.

                  

  



   

 

     

          

 

  

 

  

  

                             

GLISS.

   







 

Ex. 5.1. Shéhérazade (Ouverture de féerie). (a) mm. 1–2. (b) “main theme,” beginning 4 before R3. (c) “main theme” highlighted with timpani, beginning at R3. (d) an “episodic” theme, beginning 5 after R8. (e) an alleged “2nd” theme with pedal, beginning at R9.

Zank.indd Sec1:188

9/24/2009 10:33:54 PM

plundered sound



189

single, gentle swing, the line dips down a fifth, and the solo voice enters at the same pitch an octave below (ex. 5.2a), in the more mysterious, alto range. In sketching Klingsor’s introductory line of an imagined Orient, Ravel “wagers” something here with a spectacular, sonorous divergence, the oboe plummeting a major seventh (through enharmonic regions removed from the opening key of E-flat minor), while the voice ascends—in three repetitions of “Asie”—the same distance through mirrored textures (m. 3 of ex. 5.2a). The two lines cross, coming to rest at opposite ends of the registers from whence they departed, in a nearly imperceptible half cadence in D minor but the moment shatters into a climax of acrid, altered seventh chords (m. 5 of ex. 5.2a). The ascent of the soprano’s line having been intensified, too, by the banishing of mute e’s (as in everyday speech, here the thrice-repeated “Asie”), it seems clear that Ravel’s melos in 1903 is not intent on floating above a “continuous tissue” of sound in the manner of Debussy. Unlike the opening to the 1899 Shéhérazade, much conspires in the 1903 introduction to Klingsor’s imagined voyages.39 Ravel’s advance in “painting” the Exotic nearly leaps off the pages of the fourteen episodes comprising the work’s essence, each commencing with the words “Je voudrais.” Klingsor’s remarks about Ravel’s choice of free verse—“those of a more descriptive nature which, like Asie, with its long, developing periods, did not appear to offer the possibility of a similar musical rendering”—return to the foreground. When the conspicuous introductory invocation of “Asie” has receded into a gentle 68 duple rhythm (again, in E-flat minor), the beginning of the journey is more fully prepared, here with a semblance of Debussy’s “continuous tissue” of sound. A pentatonic cushion of strings afford gentle motion (through a handful of ostinato cellos), and—with a remarkably mature touch of programmatic instrumentation—Ravel “punctuates” his floating cushion with a motive that will paint the work’s opulent culmination eight episodes later, as gentle, hedonistic clarinets reintroduce the solo soprano (ex. 5.2b). The motive persists in flutes and winds, beneath the soloist’s description of her vessel,40 rocking idly in an unknown port, and, as Klingsor prepares to unfurl his sails,41 Ravel follows suit atop his pentatonic cushion, adding a diminished fifth above the enharmonic root at R4, in order that the latter—upon the second syllable of “immense”—may become major third to dominant ninth (on B), completing Klingsor’s verbal transformation of boat to bird (ex. 5.2c).42 After a novel, strikingly contrapuntal introduction (again, hardly three years after the first, jejune Shéhérazade), Ravel has entered Debussy’s superb world of “floating tissues,” but not for long: the chord of the dominant ninth (hardly uncommon to Debussy), is rare to Ravel, and is done away with quickly in nearly open octaves (strings, at R5), in order to make way for further tale(s). Persia is invoked in the third episode, with a quicker tempo, touch of cymbals and basque drums, dissonant and pointed motives in the winds, and some fragments of stock Oriental themes (again in B minor, as in Ravel’s first Shéhérazade). And in the seventh episode— manifesting the work’s second of only three dynamic intensifications—Ravel

Zank.indd Sec1:189

9/24/2009 10:33:55 PM

(a) Très lent

 

Oboe, Solo

     

 Violins, mutes pp

pp pizz. Lower strings



 

  

p expressif

    

 



      

   













3

    



pp

sie,

A -

3

f

    

  

3

                                  3 

  

  

  

A - sie,

A - sie,



[Tutti]



(b) R2

Plus lent

   

Clarinets, Soli





 

      

pp ppp Lower strings

                  

        



     

         



         R3



[SOPRANO, Solo]



pp





[Clarinets]

      



     

               



    

       

  

  

 

A - sie,

   

            



       

ppp [Vlns., mutes]

        

  

Ex. 5.2. Shéhérazade (Trois poèmes pour chant et orchestre), “Asie.” (a) opening 5 mm. (b) beginning at R2.

Zank.indd Sec1:190

9/24/2009 10:33:55 PM



plundered sound (c)

191

R4

    



      

     

p

mense

Et qui

       

dé - ploie en - fin

       

ses voi - les

      

vi - o

-

let

-

      

 

tes

   

Comme un

      

im -

    mp

        

    

      



2

-

f

                          





seau

de

  

  

  



 

 

 

  

nuit

     

   



2

 oi





p

   

dans

 

 

  le

 



 

ciel

 

 





 

 

 

  

d'or

   

 



 







 

 



Ex. 5.2. Shéhérazade (Trois poèmes pour chant et orchestre), “Asie.” (c) beginning 1 m. before R4.

lumps together Persia, India, and China before dissolving all at their sonorous apogee into a merry, pentatonic cacophony of celesta, harps and upper woodwinds (ex. 5.3a).43 It is difficult to propose here an “irony of notes” (as might perhaps have been the case in the above, gentle trafficking in Debussy’s textures and harmonies), but an irony of the “things” of Ravel’s world circulates all the same, in his newly-found, ingenious, and willful reinforcements of the fin-de-siècle’s oriental and longitudinal haziness.44 Still, Debussy hovers: after a full-stop at (approximately) the midpoint of 9 chords (ex. 5.3b)45—Kling“Asie”—built upon the “haziest” of dominant 13 sor and Ravel depart again, on a carefully terraced and final crescendo, quadruple in design, and consisting of precipitous concatenations of the eleventh through fourteenth episodes of the poem. The eleventh bounces furtively about the lower regions of strings and voice alike,46 romanticizing imagined Oriental violence, swelling persuasively several times over in seven broad measures,

Zank.indd Sec1:191

9/24/2009 10:33:56 PM



192

plundered sound

(a)

Soprano, Solo

   

 

(Orch.)

     

 

    



p







 

mf

Je

 

 

 

  

 



 

Perse,

et

l'Inde,

et

 

vou - drais voir la



 

    f     



3

 

 

puis

la

 





  

 

 

R11

   

 



p

 



Chine

Les

f

            

 



 







man - da - rins ven

- trus

sous les

    3      3      3                           p

(Harp, gliss.)

  3    

       







 



 



om



 3  

 



(b)

                   ppp   (Orch.)

R13



  



             

 





      Je





Soprano, Solo

Modéré

  

ppp



(Orch.)

     

pp

   

   

vou - drais voir

 

 

 

3

 3     



des as - sas - sins

  

     



       

 

 

 

 



sou - ri -

 

 

 

Ex. 5.3. Shéhérazade (Trois poèmes), “Asie.” (a) beginning 3 mm. after R10. (b) beginning 1 m. before R13.

before leaping up through all of the orchestra, directly into the twelfth and thirteenth episodes of Klingsor’s “Je voudrais” (ex. 5.3c), the latter representing what is easily Ravel’s first true essay in vertiginous sound.47 The verses conjuring up extremes of paupers and queens and the iconography of the rose and blood are delivered in a single measure each, and the poem’s dreadfully superb climax, “I should like to see how men die for both love and hate,” is shorter stil

Zank.indd Sec1:192

9/24/2009 10:33:56 PM



plundered sound (c)

Soprano, Solo

 



ff

  Je

 

 

vou - drais

  

   

voir

mou - rir

 





d'a -

mour

193



 3

bien

ou

de

                                              

R15



                         haine.



 

  

  

      

         

ff

          

  

    

  

ff

    

 

   



 

-

(Tutti)

 



   

-

f





   

  

 mf

f











mf





   

  



(Orch.)

 

ff

Ex. 5.3. (concluded) Shéhérazade (Trois poèmes), “Asie.” (c) beginning 3 mm. before R15.

(two measures—thirteen vs. sixteen durations of the eighth note, ex. 5.3c). It invokes the darker irony of European appropriations, the willfully “innocent” solicitations of the imagined Orient that—if we have read Hugo, Flaubert, Raymond Schwab, Edward Said, and others correctly—betray in musical sound the assumed, “regenerative” destiny to the West of such commerce. Klingsor’s penultimate lines of peroration are treated in chords of the disguised minor ninth,48 and, as mentioned earlier, the soft and sensuous motives in the clarinets that signaled the original departure return, ff at the climax of “Asie” in the winds and brass, accompanied by glissandi and grand swells in the strings (brackets, end of ex. 5.3c). The crest of the imaginary journey having been attained, then, only a few lines remain to reflect upon the exotic, “Oriental” dream.49 Yet Ravel’s glistening mural has made no distinction between the longitudes of Persia, China, and India, and, as will be seen, the geographical, indeed anthropological ambiguities persist within the categories of the “Bizarre,” and the “Pittoresque.”

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II. The “Bizarre” Ma Mère l’oye, “Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes” (1911) As noted in chapter 1, one of the more surprising events in the scandal of Ravel’s fifth failure in the Prix de Rome competition of 1905 was the unsolicited and ironic intervention on his behalf by the Germanophile Romain Rolland. In a letter to Paul Léon (undersecretary of the Académie des Beaux-Arts), Rolland extended the outcry over Ravel’s rejection by suggesting that the government try to find other means of assisting him financially,50 and in a letter to Ida Godebska after the scandal, Ravel is clearly excited about such a possibility, especially of being posted somewhere in the “Orient,” which he freely confesses to having daydreamed about recently after visiting the salon of “Mme Benedictus.”51 A post for Ravel in the Orient never materialized,52 but while continuing to indulge the corners of imaginary travel underpinning his early orchestral overture and recent song cycle, Ravel twice mentions friends in the above letter by the name of Benedictus and Delage, the latter of whom tells us via correspondence with Ravel (during the Prix de Rome scandal),53 that the Apaches sometimes met at the residence of the Benedictus.54 Not much is known about the Apache Benedictus: Rollo Myers has claimed he was an artist, dandy, and inventor (apparently of safety glass);55 Orenstein tells us that he was also a composer,56 and in a letter posted only six days after the above one to Ida Godebska, Ravel tells us that Benedictus had given up theatre and stage decoration to pursue serious painting.57 More importantly, however, Édouard Benedictus may have been the nephew of Louis Benedictus (the Rosicrucian ‘mystic’ composer),58 and he was also the long-time companion of Judith Gautier, the gifted writer and daughter of Théophile, who was discussed in chapter 1 with regard to Baudelaire and Poe. Benedictus, in fact, claimed coauthorship with Judith in two works of great influence in their times, Les musiques bizarres à l’Exposition (1889),59 and Les musiques bizarres à l’Exposition de 1900.60 An important window, hence, opens on one of the most renowned “Oriental” circles of the time, those surrounding Judith Gautier and her companion. Ravel referred to both in a review of the Tableaux symphoniques of Fanelli in 1912, criticizing the latter’s “conventional Orientalism,”61 and Klingsor, in fact, claimed that his poetry owed much to Judith Gautier’s linguistic virtuosity.62 A remarkably gifted woman, Judith had been tutored in Chinese as a child, growing up in the atmosphere of her father’s literary circle that included Delacroix, Flaubert, and Baudelaire, all of whom she knew well. Henri de Régnier, Symbolist poet whose verse graces the title pages of both Ravel’s Jeux d’eau and the Valses nobles, described her famous salon a bit more colorfully than had Ravel to Ida Godebska: The windows [in the rue Washington] gave on to a wide balcony on which there were rows of flowerpots and boxes with climbing plants springing from them. It was there that Judith had her hanging garden, under the sky of the

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“modern Babylon”: the Carthaginian terrace of which, her arms encircled by her familiar snakes, she was the nonchalant Salammbô. . . . Apart from reading and writing, she scarcely had any occupations but playing with her domestic animals, cutting out materials, modelling and painting puppets. . . . At the rue Washington you saw passing guests who had come from afar, some from Persia, others from China, others still from Japan. For a time we used to meet a young Peruvian there who claimed to be descended from one of the ancient Inca kings.63

Together, then, it seems that Gautier and Benedictus authored one of the few ambitious accounts of music at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. The second chapter of their Les musiques bizarres à l’Exposition de 1900, was devoted to Javanese music,64 and Ravel, in an interview with De Telegraaf in 1931, paid homage in retrospect by recalling the most “Oriental” movement of his suite Ma Mère l’oye: “I yearn to see the country of the gamelan. . . . I consider Javanese music the most sophisticated music of the Far East, and I frequently derive themes from it: ‘Laideronnette,’ from Ma Mère l’oye, with the tolling of its temple bells, was derived from Java both harmonically and melodically. Like Debussy and other contemporaries, I have always been particularly fascinated by musical Orientalism.”65 The reference is to harmony and melody (Debussy, still, more than a decade after death, hovering) but it is truly the work’s instrumentation that first evokes Ravel’s “Exotic,” since among the other five movements of the suite, that of “Laideronnette” is the most complex. Through tam-tam, glockenspiel, celesta, and xylophone, Ravel amplified—with cunning registration and voicing—the Oriental effects first drawn from a single keyboard in 1908,66 delivering the main, pentatonic theme in piccolo (an aurally, registrally “doubled” effort, given the idea’s original timbral provenance) upon a new cloud of sound, a unique sheen of musical texture. Syncopations in the upper registers abound (cascading pentatonic chords, in fact), and the cadential sections framing the outline of the greater movement are in effect elongations of such “harmony.” There is more than a hint, too, of the surreptitious melos to appear twenty years later in the Bolero: the three-fold dovetailing of main-theme fragments from the downbeat, to the upbeat, then briefly into the flute (ex. 5.4a)—create enough rhythmic and melodic ambiguity to offset (at least for western listeners, ca. 1908) any potential pentatonic monotony.67 The contrivance of appropriated melos is echoed and condensed by a solo oboe (with punctuation from the English horn) between R4 and R5 (ex. 5.4b), as the succeeding measures become more focused rhythmically. A “full” pentatonic cadence is reached at R8, and, in the ensuing, trio-like, section, Ravel moves brilliantly to the opposite extremes of his established, programmatic timbres: a solo celesta and clarinet play against one another in the unexpected, paradoxically lower ranges, their sonorously ironic canons punctuated only by enharmonic grace notes in the harp, as the exotic “Affekt” of all previous syncopations is continued (ex. 5.4c). An evocative pedal stands out the more in this “trio” section, since in order to buttress the D♯ root, Ravel requires the bottom string

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plundered sound

(a)

R1

Piccolo, Solo

p

                              1st Flute                                  

                   

         

R2

                                   

    



        

    

(b) Oboe, solo                                            

R4

    

pp





 

 English Horn





  



pp



p

(c) R10

Clarinet, Solo

    





    



mp









 









 









Celesta, Solo

Harps

   



     

Tam-Tam









  

  







 

  

 







  

  







 

  

 





  



Ex. 5.4. Ma Mère l’oye, “Laideronnette.” (a) beginning 1 m. before R1. (b) beginning at R4. (c) beginning at R10.

of the double basses (E♮) to be tuned a half step lower,68 and he reinforces such “bizarre” instrumentation with the tam-tam. The composer’s remarks, then, to a Dutch critic in 1931 about having derived both melody and harmony from Javanese music become a bit less obscure. The bizarre tolling of temple bells in the middle section of “Laideronnette” provided a modicum of vertical orientation for the work’s modest melodic strata, as the “longitude” of the musically “Bizarre,” anchored in fin de siècle interpretations of the Orient, was extended artificially—in the constructive, French understanding

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of artificial—to (in this case) an imagined South Pacific. Likely purloined from the pavilions of the great Paris World Exhibitions, Ravel’s treatments are gracefully plundered reverberations of the ubiquitous, Oriental soundscapes and aural arabesques of his times.69

III. The “Pittoresque” Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (ca. 1905); Tzigane (1924); Jeanne d’Arc (1933) Manifesting both “latitudinal” and “longitudinal” variance, and associated with both the “Oriental” and the “Bizarre” at times, “Musiques pittoresques” may be the most peculiarly accessible of Ravel’s ‘Exotic(s).’ Roland-Manuel called the Rapsodie espagnole, for instance, Ravel’s most “pittoresque” work,70 and Judith Gautier’s Musiques bizarres of the 1900 World Exhibitions were rooted in “pittoresque” misappropriations of folk music, from as far afield as Africa and the Orient. The category, hence, is promising, since Ravel’s appropriations of the Exotic reached far beyond more-often cited “Spanish” examples,71 and since Klingsor has recounted to us that “in the air”of the fin de siècle—beyond free verse and the Exotic floated, too, the “chanson populaire” and its underpinnings of ancient myth and fairy tales. Ravel, then, “adrift” with many others in imaginary skiffs of the belle époque, struck the reservoirs of other musics. Julien Tiersot, librarian at the Paris Conservatoire during Ravel’s early years, and one of the best-known critics of the time (whose remarks from different sources about the exotic opened the present chapter), evinced great glee in mingling music from various longitudes in his account of music at the 1889 Paris World Exhibition, entitled Musiques pittoresques: Promenades musicales à l’Exposition de 1889: “Pittoresque,” isn’t that the word to describe all of the Exhibition?72 . . . Rome is no longer Rome, Cairo no more in Egypt, nor is the island of Java in the East Indies. Everything has come to the Champ de Mars, the Esplanade of the Invalides, and to the Trocadéro. So much so that without leaving Paris it will be possible for us to study, at least in principal outline, the ways and customs of the most distantly removed peoples.73

Tiersot was a large figure: in addition to accounts of the music at the 1889 and 1900 Exhibitions, his 1889 text on the “Chanson populaire” and French folk tradition was endorsed by the Institut,74 and his essay on African music in the authoritative Encyclopédie de la musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire exceeded twenty thousand words.75 He was also influential in another important and heretofore unrecognized event in the musical histories of his time—the First

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International Congress in 1889 on “Traditions populaires.”76 Viewed at least in part from the perspective of the international Congress (as well as from that of the Exhibition), the roots of another particular aspect of Ravel’s Exotic may be probed further, since, as Orenstein has put it, “Ineluctably attracted to Exoticism, Ravel willingly harmonized songs from many nations.”77 Enthusiasms of the First International Congress on “Traditions populaires” are revealed in its opening document, the participants viewing themselves as sharing in the previous century’s grand scientific discoveries,78 while carving out their own intellectual niches in an inexorable march forward.79 Several papers touching on music were delivered, among them one in the fifth session in which one Monsieur Blémont addressed the larger social functions of popular tradition in a modern society: Who does not know as well of the excellent chansons populaires of contemporary Greece, the new, revived Greece? Contemporary England, too, has heard from its mournful, psalmodic fashioners of foreign melodies. And Robert Burns in Scotland, did he not create a true rural poetry? Not an anonymous poetry, would we wish to say, but rather a personal poetry, possessing nothing of either the unconscious or the collective!80

There is some irony in such an early “academic” reading of Burns, since Burns was much indebted to folk music himself, and most likely concerned with more than only a “personal” poetry (i.e., early Scottish nationalism, as Nicholas Temperley has pointed out).81 In any case, Ravel in his very early “Chanson du rouet” (ca. 1898, published only in 1975),82 had used a text evoking Scotland, the Chansons écossaises of Leconte de Lisle, and in 1910 he turned directly to the poetry of Robert Burns for one of his seven entries in an international competition devoted to the harmonization of folk songs.83 But Ravel’s “first venture into the realm of folklore,”84 the Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (ca. 1905), was indeed intent on representing the “new, revived” Greece, and—tellingly, in view of the later Chansons madécasses—bore certain political implications, though not in this case, of Ravel’s agency.85 As Pierre Aubry, Calvocoressi, and Ravel soon learned, their newly “discovered” melodies would require accompaniments, for performance, circulation, and sale among the ensuing steady stream of competing examples were those from our previously noted devotees of “musique bizarre,” Judith Gautier and her companion, the Apache Benedictus. Their melodies were apparently taken down by Benedictus, the harmonizations most likely collaborated upon, and though they were characterized as bizarre, the accompaniments provided are in fact rudimentary, hardly departing from the tonic and dominant, and with rhythms and (most often) pitches of the vocal line duplicated (ex. 5.5). By contrast, even a cursory look at one of Ravel’s settings of the Greek melodies evinces far greater imagination. The accompaniment to the “Chanson de la mariée” appears at first glance bare, the outlines of a divided

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octave (ex. 5.6a)—but the quick triple meter (in opposition to the duple quality of the vocal line) and the deft divisi of hands impart a forward motion maintained to the very end, mitigating any absence of “traditional” harmonies so evident in the Judith Gautier, Benedictus settings. Ravel does indeed double the pitches of the vocal line beginning in measure 11, but he uses chromatically altered tones, and never surrenders the perpetuum mobile quality of the keyboard writing (ex. 5.6b). From measure 37 to the end, the figuration is carried to the lower registers, and Ravel even inserts a brief “arabesque” before concluding with his original outline of bare, divided octaves (ex. 5.6c). Whatever the evident differences between these realizations and the “musique bizarre” treatments of Gautier and Benedictus, Marguerite Babaïan (who premiered the second group of these songs), put them squarely within the realm of Ravel’s Exotic, shortly after the composer’s death.86 The Scottish element was returned to—confusedly—in the third session of the 1889 International Congress, when Charles Leland, President of the Gypsy Lore Society, read a paper extolling the relationship between Gypsies and “Traditions populaires” and their enormous influences over “three quarters” of the globe.87 The field work of Bartók and Kodály yet to be undertaken, Laland tells us in 1889 that he was unable to find a single study devoted to the origins and influence of Gypsy music,88 that the survival of their culture might not even be assured: “Gifted with talent and an extraordinary vitality of race, exercising even a religious influence upon millions of men, they exist today as always as if they had produced nothing, with their future perhaps in doubt.”89 Quite remarkably, more than twenty years after this first International Congress, it was to the gypsy “pittoresque” that Ravel returned in the midst of what he himself described as a new stylistic period.90 In 1922, at the height of his career, he met the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi at a private concert in London where she and Hans Kindler performed the new Duo sonate. According to Gaby Casadesus, Ravel then persuaded Mlle d’Aranyi to play gypsy melodies for the remainder of what proved to be a very long evening, and from this appears to have flown inspiration for the Tzigane.91 In Paris shortly thereafter, Ravel shared a program with both d’Aranyi and Béla Bartók (performing some of his solo works, as well as his first violin sonata with d’Aranyi).92 But when it came time to actually write his Tzigane (one cannot help wondering if he knew of Florent Schmitt’s attempt in 1913–14 cited below), Ravel consulted neither Bartók nor Jelly d’Aranyi, but sent out in confidence for the Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt (anathema to Bartók, of course), as well as the Paganini Caprices.93 The general aim in asking for such sources is obvious (three days later Ravel posted a letter to Jelly d’Aranyi asking for technical advice),94 but the intent puzzles some, since he appears more concerned with the “orchestration” of certain events intended to transpire upon instruments, than with musical identities and/or ethnicities a generation after the above noted conference from the 1889 Paris World Exhibition. As much is underlined by Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, who—like Mlle

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avec élan

  

f





    

les Fran - çais

     

Sous

   

f

   

  

    

 

   



nous vi - vons

  

 



  

  



sans con - train

     

 

 

 

-

Et

 

   

te

     

          

 

 





nous pou - vons

  

 

 

  

   

 

 

 



 

tous vo - ya - ger sans

    

 







crain -

 

  

   

 

te,

   

 

Ex. 5.5. Fragment from one of the transcriptions in Les musiques bizarres à l’Exposition de 1900 (by Gautier/Benedictus).

Pno.

    f      

Allegro mod.

   

CHANT À LA GLOIRE DES FRANÇAIS [Fragment]

Figure 5.1. Title page to Judith Gautier’s discoveries of the “Bizarre Exotic”

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(a) Modéré

   







 

 

 

Ré - veil - le

très doux

-

 

   

toi,

ré - veil - le

  -

 

     

 

toi,

per - drix

mi -

                                                               6

6

(b)

   

     

toi,

 

 

per - drix



 

 



  





 

    

 

 

de

tes

 

(c)

     [au-] tour

    



 





ai



  che -

 

 



 



 

-

-

 

  





 

Ouvre



 

-

  





 

 

 



 



 



  









  



 pour







 









 



les



ma -

 



 

veux,

 



 

au

 







 





 

 

  ne.

 









-



tes

   

 





tin

 



mi - gnon

 







 

le



 

nou -









Ex. 5.6. Cinq mélodies populaires grecques, “Chanson de la mariée.” (a) mm. 1–5. (b) mm. 9–14. (c) mm. 39–41.

d’Aranyi—received performing-practice inquiries from Ravel: “I remember a special-delivery letter about the Duo [sonate]: “Can one do this glissando?” etc., or better yet, this agitated inquiry: “Come quickly with your instrument and the 24 Caprices of Paganini! It was the same time that he was writing Tzigane, that forest of thickets for violinists; he thought that Paganini might provide him some secret insights, but I have to tell you that this was Ravel at his most maniacal.”95 The technical challenges of Tzigane are well known, their grounding in clichés of alleged Gypsy music acknowledged, and effective: an opening virtuoso cadenza

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203

of fifty-eight measures with exotically flavored repeated notes hovering around narrow intervals, proceeding through pyrotechnics lifted from the Paganini Caprices—double stops, glissandi, octave passages, harmonics, and slides—and a retreat into a quiet C-major tremolo. With a touch of irony—confounding expectations focused upon the virtuoso string player—the piano enters with its virtuoso cadenza, at the interval of a tritone (later reiterated), attaining, ultimately, the key of the dominant (A), in figuration nearly identical to that of the “Chanson de la mariée” of some twenty years before (ex. 5.7). Apart from the wider interval of the fifth, the instrumental writing does not much differ from that given to the voice by Ravel in his earlier Greek song (ex. 5.6a).96 The appropriations of virtuoso string effects from Paganini and the “sectional argument” of imagined Gypsy structures are evident throughout (if not gleaned, surely reinforced from reviewing Liszt’s Rhapsodies), but some caution may be in order, since a nod to Liszt in 1922 might not necessarily have been perceived as “reactionary,” or even conservative. The Liszt centenary in 1911 had passed largely unheeded in Paris, and its implications would hardly have escaped Ravel.97 And since the “pittoresque”—as described in the first International Congress on “Traditions populaires”—remained potent to Ravel well into the 1920s, one might revisit briefly Béla Bartók and the younger generation of French composers of the time. Bartók became acquainted with the music of Ravel quite late on, evincing as late as 1910 no apparent interest in it at all.98 By the time of the Tzigane, however, he had acknowledged Ravel’s Duo sonate as a “progressive” work, one that in its dissonance and rigorous linearity, resembled his own first violin sonata (which Jelly d’Aranyi was performing with great success), and he appears to have sincerely admired Ravel, placing him among other celebrated French composers in a letter to his mother of 1922.99 Among the “others” was Francis Poulenc, who at least once invited Bartók to meet with Satie and Auric, of Les Six,100 and one wonders if the reaction to Ravel’s Tzigane by Henri Sauguet, of the contemporary “École d’Arcueil,” might have contained in its sarcasm and disdain something resembling Bartók’s unknown reception of the work.101 Sauguet, however (and others of the younger French), may have missed some trees in the ironic “Ravel forest” proposed in chapter 1, those so vigorously “cleared” by Arthur Mendel in 1932 in Princeton. Whatever provenance in the early 1920s, Ravel’s virtuoso appropriations of Liszt and Paganini in the Tzigane have endured, “resisted,” like the G-major Piano Concerto excoriated by Mendel: neither work has ever been out of the international and active repertories. And even if the Tzigane were evidence in Cocteau’s influential decade of a “Reactionary Ravel,” the next work (the Violin Sonata) confounded expectations anew, by casting the linear independence and asperity of the earlier Duo sonate in fresh context, trumping Milhaud, Satie, Honegger, et al., nearly at once.102 As a final consideration of Ravel’s “pittoresque,” however, we may return to the fifth session of the 1889 Congress and the paper read by M. Blémont concerning the social functions of “Traditions populaires”:

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R5

Moderato

[Vln.]

   







Pno.

          

 





  



     

     



     

     

pp









R6

   

  



 

 





 





 











 

 

 



p

  

      

      



      



      



      



Ex. 5.7. Tzigane, beginning at m. 68 (R5). One cannot repeat it too often: the great thoughts and the great deeds come from the heart. . . . It is in the heart(s) of the people where poetry and art must be forever revivified, in order to remain green and flourishing. Only there resides the magic force capable of revitalizing the ideal and changing the face of the world. . . . In our history there is one figure, the purest, most resplendent of all, Joan of Arc, who appears as the symbolic incarnation of our popular legend. She represents admirably the people full of faith and common sense, who, at the decisive moment, regenerate the upper classes and save the nation at peril, receiving no gratitude, rather the outrage of being martyred.103

For a work not even sketched musically,104 Ravel’s Jeanne d’Arc leaves an unusual trail among the few others captive to his increasingly imprisoned imagination of the early 1930s, since its blueprints appear to have been more extensively premeditated.105 In an interview with Excelsior in 1933 Ravel said: I am not yet working on this piece. I am thinking about it, and have been dreaming about it for along time. Certainly, this project is becoming increasingly close to my heart, but I am working it out slowly, caressing it gently. . . . It is Delteil’s book that inspired me. The book! Is that the precise word? Rather,

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205

the lyrical epic. . . .106 It’s also the face, once again alive, of this touching child, cleansed from the legends which rendered her distant, almost foreign. It is not a statue more or less sanctified that we must adore, but a typical French girl, “a great peasant girl of France, molded by the soil, common sense, and by God,” as Delteil says.107

Ravel in 1933 is repeating the vocabulary used by Blémont in 1889: “faith, common sense,” and the like. He continues: “She is not even a daughter of France . . . she is the daughter of France, she is France, she is the permanent soul of France. It’s not a Joan of Arc for high school or Sunday school that I dream of creating, but rather a hymn of love which extols France, which shows it to be eternal through this young girl who incarnates our race.”108 To Blémont in 1889, Joan of Arc is “the symbolic incarnation of our popular legend,” to Ravel nearly a half century later she is “the permanent soul of France,” who “incarnates our race.” Such was Ravel’s penultimate appearance in the Paris press. An essay of his published two months later in the same journal described lucidly and generously the obstacles faced by the generation of French composers born around 1910 (including Sauguet),109 but it lacked the uncharacteristic passion of the interview in which Ravel had spoken of his Joan. By 1933, a creeping neurological disorder was whittling away at his brain, removing slowly any ability to communicate with the exterior world. Entombed, then, at the beginning of Ravel’s end, another of Denis Enright’s “flashes” of irony on dark skies: Debussy at the end of his life turns to absolute music, Ravel to the French “pittoresque,” for some kind of renewed, reconceived national, lyric drama.110 Notwithstanding the Tzigane, Bartók within three years would write: The appearance of an isolated genius, no matter how important, cannot be completely convincing in relation to the musical life of a nation: one might attribute it merely to chance. The discovery of two analogous cases is more convincing, and, in any event, one may conclude from it that a kind of crystallization of a phenomenon is taking place, produced by the social environment of a country. And that is why, from our Hungarian point of view, next to that of Debussy, the genius of Ravel is so very significant.111

The “Pittoresque,” then—highly “accessible”—was also a paradoxically innocent and wide-ranging species of Ravel’s Exotic: from the innocuous proliferations of virtually any appropriated folk music (such as the “Chanson de la mariée,” or the Tzigane) to the grandiose moral high-ground of nationalist myth (an unfinished Jeanne d’Arc), the “pittoresque” exercised its undeniable attractions. Inherent in them were, again, two of irony’s chief qualities, those of “distance” (imagined travel, i.e., Greece, Scotland, Hungary, even a transcendental France), and “negation” (authorial denial, confounding of expectations from that invoked and/or appropriated, i.e., Ravel’s return to Paganini and Liszt concerning Tzigane).

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plundered sound

IV. “Others” Chansons madécasses (1925–26) In 1890, the Belgian historian and composer François-Auguste Gevaert reached back to the newly rediscovered Middle Ages in Les origines du chant liturgique de l’église latine, in order, as Leo Treitler has put it, to “position plainchant at the head waters of the mainstream of European music”: The chant of the Christian church appeared precisely in an epoch when the intellectual activity of Greco-Roman society was in decline, and it reached the high point of its development at the moment when the aesthetic and literary sense of the West was in a sleep destined to last a long time. . . . As for the musical interest which the old melodies offered to the artist . . . that is not a matter of pure curiosity, as would be the music of exotic people—Chinese or Hindu—where we encounter bizarre melodies and rhythms, piquant perhaps but at bottom strange to our manner of feeling [my emphasis].112

From such a source, Treitler drew an appropriate conclusion: “As simply as that Gevaert identifies at once the absolute divide between what is ‘ours’ and some (bizarre, strange) Other [my emphasis].”113 In the wake of the “Oriental,” the “bizarre,” and the “pittoresque,” Ravel’s Chansons madécasses represent his most intense rendering of the Exotic, a peculiarly visceral representation (as with Klingsor’s “Orient”) of a doubly removed and imagined Other. The songs were commissioned in 1925 by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge of Washington, renowned for her many other commissions (Bartók, Hindemith, Copland, Stravinsky, and, as late as 1931, a requested second string quartet from Ravel).114 Ravel, however, in 1928, spoke about his songs for Mrs. Coolidge dryly, while also using the term “erotic.”115 Precisely how he came upon the texts of Évariste Désiré de Parny remains unclear, but it appears that Ricardo Viñes uncovered them,116 as he had discovered—twenty years earlier—Bertrand’s Gaspard de la nuit.117 The Chansons madécasses traduites en français, suivies de poésies fugitives first appeared in 1787 (with a short introduction describing Madagascar and its people), and though Parny never set foot on the island, one should mistrust the vitality of his imagined journeys no more than those inspiring Klingsor’s Shéhérazade cycle of twenty years before. Born in 1753, likely of mixed race on the island of Réunion (375 miles off the east coast of Madagascar), Parny made his career as a French naval officer on the high seas as the African slave trade flourished.118 He had first-hand knowledge of life in the eighteenth-century colonies, and he got much of it right about Madagascar: on the one hand, the gentle, musical, and poetry-loving nature of its people, on the other, the brutal reality of their having been colonized, then forced into the international slave trade.119

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207

Ravel’s rendering of Parny’s Chansons in final form comprised three songs, but for the better part of a year he had great difficulty in finishing even two of them, “Aoua” and “Nahandove.” In April of 1925, feeling lethargic, he confided to his proofreader that he had yet to even begin the work in earnest,120 and by time of the premiere (at year’s end), the Chansons madécasses indeed consisted of only one song, “Aoua” (eventually the second, and most controversial of the three). Ravel made the best explanation he could to Mrs. Coolidge,121 and the premiere of the one song was reviewed by Arthur Hoérée as “sonorously frugal” in materials so “jealously collected” over the course of a career.122 Whatever the imagined “excesses” of Tzigane (premiered only the year before), Hoérée could hardly ignore the exceedingly different and realist narrative of “Aoua”: “[T]he text of Évariste Parny required a harsh, bitter realization, exempt of seduction. It recounts to us the battles of indigenous peoples against the whites who seek to enslave them.”123 Much is at play in the first-composed and most conspicuous of the three Chansons madécasses, whose central irony is that of “voice.” The opening cry— “Aoua”—is not found in Parny’s poetry of 1787; Ravel either appropriated or invented it, for both his title and for the exigencies of the music itself. Moreover, the work’s opening measures are perhaps the most violent in all of his oeuvre, their only precedences being the far more satirical opening cries of “Le paon” from the Histoires naturelles, and the carefully designed, chaotic conclusion of La valse. Where might such “ferocity” have (otherwise) come from?124 If we consult the pages of the Encyclopédie de la musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, published hardly three years before the premiere of the Chansons madécasses, we find the work’s monumental goal set forth on its title pages: “The goal of this work is significant, conceived under an absolutely new design and with no prejudice to one school of thought or another, it is to document the state of musical knowledge at the beginning of the twentieth century [emphasis in original]. This is certainly the greatest literary monument undertaken in any time or any country concerning the musical art.”125 Keeping in mind the references to prejudice, the italics of authorial intent, and the adjective “literary” applied to “the musical art,” we find that a brief examination of the extensive chapter on African music by Julien Tiersot about the visiting “Pahouins” from Madagascar at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889 is instructive: Of them we can speak about a bit more confidently, since an indigenous group of this race figured among the exotic troupes who came to Paris in 1889 to participate. The Pahouins are to be counted, so tell us our explorers, among the most unsociable Negroes, cruel to themselves and others, dedicated to the most plebeian forms of work, living off their land, the hunt, and cannibalism. . . . Everyone could see them, sailing up and down the Seine, as they do on the rivers of their native land, in long, narrow vessels, coordinating the rhythm of their long oars with an incredibly simple spoken chant.126

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plundered sound

From such observations in Paris, Tiersot fashioned a rather astonishing and— for the moment—helpfully depraved universal: “We also find here some of the rhythmic and harmonic formulas which all Negroes in all countries of the world use to regulate the rhythms of their everyday labors. And here is one which I have already been able to capture: formed from only several notes but sung in two parts, it is repeated indefinitely.”127 Tiersot’s “universal” example bears a striking resemblance to the first measure of “Aoua!” (ex. 5.8a and b).128 Now, Ravel had surely not just run to Tiersot’s entry in the newly published Encyclopédie, but if—as Klingsor has told us—free verse, the Orient, and the chanson populaire were “in the air” of Ravel’s youth, so it would seem were the sounds of the “cruel, unsociable” Pahouins, sailing up and down the Seine. “Aoua” is their ironic echo, living on in a small corner of subsequent Western “Art Song” repertories. Ravel’s opening cry, and its enclosure-of-a-phrase, are perforated by what later came to be called “chord clusters” (in the piano), by harsh pizzicati in the cello, and by a bizarre, anticipatory grace-note figuration in the flute. Thereafter, the work unfolds in what might best be described as progressively condensed, bitonal intensifications. Following the violent introduction, the piano mutates from its role of brutal percussion to that of passive, “evil gamelan”:129 the writing is in the open fifths of one key signature (right hand), and dissonant major sevenths of another (left hand, at the bottom of the instrument), as a plaintive ostinato in the flute (that returns to conclude the work) hovers incessantly (ex. 5.8c). In the deceptively placid twelve measures devolving from R1 to R2, Parny’s dark story commences: “In the previous generation white people descended upon the island; we told them: here is some land, your women may cultivate it. Be fair, be kind, become our brothers.”130 Within only seven more measures, however, all begins to go awry: “The whites agreed, yet they built defenses. A menacing fort went up, thunder hiding within their brass cannons.”131 The fifths in the right hand of the piano move up a step, and the thirty-second-note rhythm underpinning the opening cries of “Aoua!” become a second ostinato in the left hand, as the ensuing verses tumble forth in a succession of crescendi and accelerandi striving towards the work’s climax: “Their priests wanted to give us a god we knew nothing of; in the end they preached servitude and slavery: better death!”132 A certain irony of instrumentation emerges at R3: upon the penultimate syllable of “slavery” (“-va-ge”) the right hand of the piano emerges from its lower “gamelan” registers, leaping upward an octave and a half with its open fifths doubled (the thirty-second note “Aoua” motive in the left hand moves upwards as well), and the cello—occupied with an uncharacteristically mindless ostinato since its aggressive opening pizzicati—erupts suddenly into hysterical slides and arpeggi (ex. 5.9). An ostensible climax of the work is impeccably “artificial,”133 the penultimate verses swept along in accumulating crescendi

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(a) Marqué E

oua

oua

       



 

Oua

    oua

Ex. 5.8a. Julien Tiersot’s “notational” example of the Pahouins, from “La musique chez les Nègres d’Afrique,” in the Encylopédie de la musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, ed. Albert Lavignac and Lionel de la Laurencie, part I, 5:3209.

(b) Soprano, SOLO A - - oua!

 

ff

A - - oua!

  

  

                [Piano] ff                  [Flute] 

 

 

ff

    

Vc., pizz.

 ( )

   









 



3

  

   

                                  

   



    



  

 



         

Mé- fi - ez vous                             

     

   

   

des blancs, ha-bi







Ex. 5.8b. Chansons madécasses. (b) “Aoua!” opening mm.

and accelerandi—“the carnage was long and terrible; but despite the thunder, the death which they dispensed, crushing entire of our armies, they were all defeated. Méfiez-vous des blancs”134—with all culminating in a recapitulation of Ravel’s war cry “Aoua!” as the octaves in the right hand of the piano fill with clashing thirds, and the first measure of the work returns nearly note-for-note in the left (m. 5 of ex. 5.9).

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210

plundered sound

(c) R1

Soprano, SOLO













p

                          Du tem[p]s de nos pè - res, des blancs des - cen - di - rent dans cette î - le;

Piano

           pp            

                       

Flute            pp

 

Vc.

   pp

  



                                   



    

    



    

         



  

    

  



  

   







  

Ex. 5.8c. Chansons madécasses. (c) beginning of the first ostinato at R1.

The drama is pushed still further as the flute, in military guise, is entrusted (again, Ravel’s instrumental irony, “quasi tromba”) with introducing what is left of Parny’s parable: “We have seen even more tyrants, stronger, greater in number, plant their settlements on our river banks: the heavens took our side in battle; they brought forth torrential rains, tempests and disease.”135 Even without the cello, and with the piano relegated again to ostinati, the ensuing seventeen measures (moving at a quicker tempo with the counterpoint of militant flute-piping, ex. 5.10a), prepare the final frenzy—the simultaneous appearance of the “Aoua!” motive in the piano underneath “empoisonnés” in the voice, amidst the screaming (trilling) flute (ex. 5.10b). The paradoxical proves again to be among Ravel’s great gifts. Like La valse, “Aoua” has a brilliant and violent climax, yet—unlike La valse, and with remarkably reduced forces—it “repents” of its delayed zenith in four measures of pentatonic decompression (marked molto ritenuto and decrescendo), from F♯ in the soprano to its dissonant leading tone a minor ninth below. Parny’s people are both exhausted and indomitable. “They are no longer here—the tyrants, and we live, and we live free” (end of ex. 5.10b).136 Ravel intervenes once more, gently, his war cry (pilfered, embezzled, or imagined) yielding muffled and pianissimo, to Parny’s last line, “Méfiez-vous des blancs, habitants du rivage.” The cello, having waited patiently for thirty-one measures since its earlier, bizarre outburst of slides and arpeggi, “takes back” (to remember Mallarmé) the soprano’s first melodic phrase, softly, and with echoes of the earlier mournful flute motive and the (restored) passive, piano-gamelan, Parny’s eighteenth-century miniature of French colonialism evaporates (ex. 5.10c).

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R3

Soprano, Solo



 

    

[d'escla] va

-

-

ge:

   

plu - tôt

la



3

   3          

 

3

   

mort!

La car - na - ge fut long

et

ter

    

 

 

 -

Piano

       









 

     



   

 

cresc.

mf

    

       



 

        Vc.                   

 

ri - ble;



   

     

     Flute



   

    

 

 

5             

 

 

mais, mal - gré la fou - dre qu 'ils vo - mis - saient,

 

 

   



        

 

     



 











  









 

 

   3        

   

 

 

 

     





  



 

en -

qui

     6           





é - cra - sait des ar- mées

et

 



   

      



 

 



 



 







 

  

6

 

  

Ex. 5.9. Chansons madécasses, “Aoua!” beginning at R3.

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   [-] tièr

 3      

  es,

ils

 







tous

   

  

 



 



 

 

 

 



   





 

      

 



  

   

ff

     

 

    





 

3

fi -











  ez -

  vous

 



   

 

pizz. ff

Mé -















oua! - - - -

A-

nés.

 

ff

  



      



-



Allegro feroce

 





     

  

 

A - oua! - - - -

     

ff

 

 

   

 

 

ex - ter - mi

 

    





ent

 

        

fur

 

  

   des





blancs!



 







  



Ex. 5.9. (concluded) Chansons madécasses, “Aoua!” beginning at R3.

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(a) Flute

R4

        

Piano

 ff 

     f

    



3

Quasi tromba





3

3

3

 

  

      

  



  



  



  



  



  









    3           

(b)

Flute

3

SOPRANO, Solo

       [em -] poi -

Piano

 



 



son - nés

-

-

 

    



-

  



          











-

 sf       

  





 sf        





Molto ritenuto

   









  

       



Ils ne sont

plus,





     

3       



et nous vi - vons,

 







et nous vi - vons

li

 bres.

-



 





 







Molto ritenuto







 



Ex. 5.10. Chansons madécasses, “Aoua!.” (a) beginning at R4. (b) beginning 6 mm. before R5.

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214

plundered sound

(c)

 

 

 

 

      

Flute p

  

   



espressivo Vc., muted / arco p



    







  

   

   



        



    

SOPRANO, Solo [ri -] va

 



 

 

 

 

-

-

ge

 

  



Piano            pp

   

  







            

 

 

    

   



   

 

  

ppp





   

Ex. 5.10. (concluded) Chansons madécasses, “Aoua!.” (c) the final 5 mm.

V. Irony and Style: “It is all a matter of longitude” Music’s contributions to imagined travel and geography obviously reached a high point in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The colossal irony latent in the title of an article in Vanity Fair of 1913—“Pearls: Causes and Effects”— was no doubt wasted on many of its readers: “To an Oriental, yellow pearls are choicer than white; to us the order is reversed; it is all a matter of longitude.”137 Though Malek Alloula does not specifically declare, it should be clear by now that music was among much else plundered: “For the Orient is no longer the dreamland. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, it has inched closer. Colonialism makes a grab for it, appropriates it by dint of war, binds it hand and foot with myriad bonds of exploitation, and hands it over to the devouring appetite of the great mother countries, ever hungry for raw materials.”138 An irony of yellow vs. white pearls would probably have been lost upon Ravel in 1913, his imagined, musical journeys to that point (as in the Shéhérazade songs) having only echoed and reinforced such notions. Yet something worth final review emerges in the Chansons madécasses of the late 1920s. Received judgments are again instructive, since in previous chapters we have reconsidered opinions of two leading Ravel scholars regarding counterpoint and registration (Rollo Myers and Norman Demuth). The work of two other distinguished

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215

authors is now helpful. Ravel biographer Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt has written that almost without fail the composer avoided the topics of love and death, echoing, clearly, Rollo Myers (see the end of chapter 1). But this is simply not true,139 certainly with regard to the Chansons madécasses (or other works, including the Shéhérazade songs), and it begs yet another judgment already mentioned. Edward Lockspeiser’s (and his metaphor of the musical telescope, invoked so enthusiastically over Debussy, persuades less when reflecting upon its vague transcendence in eclipsing what was proposed at the end of chapter 4 about Mallarmé’s keyboard and Ravel’s desk: “With the Estampes the piano not only leaves the practice-room and the drawing-room; it even leaves the concert-hall. It becomes the poetic instrument of a wandering imaginative spirit, able to seize upon and define the soul of far-off countries and their peoples.”140 Allowing for Lockspeiser’s enthusiasm lifelong preference for Debussy over Ravel),141 such a reading returns us to one of Said’s more obvious cautions: “Too often literature and culture are presumed to be politically, even historically innocent.”142 And music? It is, in fact, Ravel’s “telescope” that trumps, its treatments of the Exotic wider, deeper, and pushing the excursions indulged in by Saint-Saëns and so many others to higher imaginative and technical planes. One can certainly argue that over the course of a relatively short creative life (in present examples from the early Cinq mélodies grecques to the Chansons madécasses), Ravel’s conceptions of the Exotic changed considerably, while those of France (and, indeed, the West) remained much the same: by painting the point of view of an alleged “Other” in unique fashion for the time, Ravel recast in the Chansons madécasses— however briefly—the cultural “longitude” of contemporary musical discourse, as the great colonial empires were disintegrating. A bit of precedence may be traced to the dissonant opening of the much earlier “Le paon” of the Histoires naturelles, where Ravel convinces thoroughly in the role of a ridiculous peacock, by juggling, negating expectations from within his authorially conceived, “natural” world of barnyard animals. But however much individual moments in the Histoires may tug at our hearts (the deportments of the cricket or swan, for instance), those in the Chansons madécasses are less easily embraced. The darkness of colonialism found a musical realization of doubly removed irony, since (a) the eighteenth-century, neoromantic, literary voyages of Évariste de Parny were—like those of Klingsor more than a century later—imagined,143 and (b) their treatment by Ravel was, to say the least, surprising. The essential topic is inescapably death (in Madagascar, at the hands of the French themselves),144 and Ravel may well have been courting the fire storm to arrive soon enough. Parny’s muted manifesto of 1787 in the Chansons madécasses was forcefully echoed in 1931 by André Breton, Paul Éluard (both of whom Ravel knew),145 and others of the Surrealistes in their call for a boycott of the forthcoming Paris World’s Fair, the Exposition Coloniale, whose roots Ravel had painted provocatively enough:146 The 1931 manifesto read in part:

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plundered sound

We had so much money already that we sent boats, shovels, and pickaxes to Africa and Asia in order to create jobs whose salaries we then represented to the natives as outright gifts. . . . We demand an immediate evacuation of the colonies and the indictment of the generals and officials responsible for the massacres at Annam, Lebanon, Morocco and central Africa.147

But the Exposition of 1931 enjoyed an even greater success than those framing Ravel’s youth and early maturity (1889 and 1900),148 and during the several years of planning for this largest-yet event, a time when France had yet to recover from its war of the previous generation (Ravel’s), controversy was surely anticipated. It had arrived, in fact, immediately: at the premiere of “Aoua!” Léon Moreau, a lesser-known composer (and Prix de Rome winner [!]), stood up and announced that in view of French forces being in harm’s way in Morocco, his departure in protest from the evening was required.149 Irony, however, chooses no sides:150 René Chalupt preferred less complicated paradigms, crediting (in the 1938 Tombeau) Ravel’s stylistic virtuosity in Jeux d’eau (of 1900) with having presaged the water works of still the next Paris World Exhibition, mounted in the year of the composer’s death.151 The delights, the “collective custody”—of the Exotic were deeply entrenched: if Tiersot, Judith Gautier, and Benedictus had lived long enough to write accounts of the 1931 Exposition Coloniale (or Chalupt’s “Waterworks” event of 1937), they might well have remained faithful to the popular assumptions and interpretations informing their earlier studies. However sobering, Said is probably correct that only a collective, imaginative enslavement of the Exotic, “a kind of willed human work,”152 can account for the tenacity of both official and popular designs underpinning events such as the 1931 and 1937—perhaps all of the “World Exhibitions.” To be sure, Judith Gautier’s fascination with the ‘Orient’ had come from the closest of experience: her father had participated in the conquest of Algeria, “documenting” it for Metropolitan France,153 and such were the foundations upon which prominent writers of the century constructed their further, willful interpretations of the Exotic, the legacies of which informed and shaped musical discourse at large, and much of Ravel’s style. In a final glance at the Prix de Rome competitions, for instance, we may note that the author of the text for the required cantata in 1900, Les bayadères, remains unknown, in itself a mute and ironic testament: bayadère, after all, was a “word-vehicle,” something “to carry the imagination far,” as Flaubert had put it. Small wonder that the “Golden Age” of the colonial postcard paralleled that of Colonialism itself, as Malek Alloula (quoted earlier in this chapter; see p. 214) has sketched in his brilliant iconographic study of the colonial postcard:154 “Transient guests of the harem, the almehs and bayadères animate this locus of enclosure with their songs and dances, bringing much needed distraction to its inhabitants

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217

who, for the occasion, shake off their languor and set aside the appointed tasks of their idle existence.”155 Seemingly benign interpretations of pearls, postcards, longitude, and the Orient acquired lives of their own in the New World, too, leaving little doubt about their provenance. The year after the Vanity Fair quote of 1913, for instance, Musical America announced under “New French Music Heard,” a variety of recently premiered works in Boston, all by close colleagues of Ravel, and all sniffed at, save for Florent Schmitt’s “Parfum Exotique, . . . a piece with a curious dusky Oriental atmosphere, a piece that smells of the harem and the orient.”156 Schmitt, too, it seems, had written a Tzigane, and long before Ravel, “a harmless little piece in the gypsy manner, one of its virtues being its brevity.”157 The often uninhibited racism of everyday Parisian life and commerce that fueled aesthetic appropriations of anonymous Others like the bayadères (and their migrations) was indeed explicit. Romain Rolland, Ravel’s unlikely champion, again, in the 1905 Prix de Rome scandal, admired Vincent d’Indy’s search after the mysteries of plainchant—the “moral head waters” (as Treitler put it) of Western music.158 About d’Indy’s compositional treatise Rolland wrote: “We must consider a little this singular book, where living science and a Gothic spirit are closely intermingled. . . . In this book, Faith is shown to be everything—the beginning and the end.”159 No small matter, this, since little from the creator of the German “idealist” composer/conductor Jean-Christophe appears to have tempered the odd mixture of science and faith underpinning d’Indy’s open venom for Jews and Protestants alike.160 “Make war against Particularism, that unwholesome fruit of the Protestant heresy!” wrote d’Indy elsewhere.161 Everyday Parisian metaphors about various Others are not difficult to find. Jean Marnold, supporting Ravel fully alongside Romain Rolland in 1905, pulled no punches in denouncing the mediocrity of certain faculty at the Paris Conservatoire in the wake of such a scandal.162 But in denouncing elsewhere the mediocrity of Parisian orchestral concerts, Marnold turned easily to ‘another other’: “[O]ur great concert series are like black slaves: they never quit, they just keep going.”163 Even more choice virulence can be found in one of the obituaries of the widely traveled, “exotic” Saint-Saëns: The passing of Saint-Saëns is symbolic: It is an entire musical age, an entire system of aesthetics that has become part of the past. Saint-Saëns was the epitome of that which we call Tradition. He was the successor and universal heir of Haydn, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. His art is the unbreakable link in the chain that connects the eighteenth with the nineteenth century. His work is a mirror that reflects 100 years of music. Yet for several years Tradition has not fared well; young musicians behave like those impetuous and ill-bred hooligans who show no respect for old ladies. They have opted to oppose Tradition and embrace the customs of those African villages where, it is said, they drown old people, who are deemed useless encumbrances.164

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plundered sound

The richness of (by now) familiar vocabulary—symbolic, aesthetics, Tradition (in capitals), universal heir, unbreakable link, hooligans (like Ravel’s Apaches), and finally (with, one assumes, no irony intended given our previous Symbolist influences) “mirror”—all coupled up with the astounding assumption that old people in African villages were routinely drowned, was part and parcel of an especially fastidious intellectual and aesthetic racism reaching far back. Recall Tiersot on the Pahouins at the 1889 World Exhibition: “among the most unsociable Negroes, cruel to themselves and others, dedicated to the most plebeian forms of work, living off their land and from the hunt.” Tiersot’s remarks about still other Africans making music at the Exhibition are even more outlandish. Difficult as it is, we read him correctly in “The Negroes. 19 September”: To study the music of the Negroes; now there is an idea which will seem to more than one reader bizarre and perhaps useless. Some without doubt will wonder whether the collections of essentially primitive sounds which constitute the one art form of the Canaques, Pahouins, Senegalese, etc., are in truth worthy of carrying the noble name of ‘Music,’ and, moreover, if they even deserve our serious attention. . . . The truth is that if one considers above all the sensation produced by the sounds of their recreation, the Negroes must be acknowledged as being passionately interested in music. Naturally lazy, powerless before pleasure, they find in singing the most effective distraction to the indolence so dear to them.165

The marvel, then, endures: the importance of the Exotic—Oriental, bizarre, pittoresque, or “other”—is vested in its potential to be “of interest” to the West (and its music). But to what ends? Reaffirming designs exercised by Romanticism upon the Orient in the previous century, Tiersot concludes with great confidence: The modern school has learned well to judge what uses it may draw from the mélodie populaire: it has not been afraid to use it outside the theatre, not to exclusively folkloristic ends, but rather in view of revivifying the style of the symphony, that most elevated form of the musical art. [The modern school] has understood that the mélodie populaire comprises in itself enough vitality, enough musical pith, to inform works of extended design with points of departure for their developments.166

The interpretation of chansons populaires as a species of “musical sap” for invigorating the modern symphony brings to mind Treitler one last time on chant: “If there is a single word that can express what is for the modern period the essential attribute of ‘Western music’ throughout its assigned history, that word is ‘form,’ flanked by all its qualifiers (rational, logical, unified, concise, symmetrical, organic, etc.).”167 Across centuries and genres, then, the scraps

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of ‘Others’ may find their best fulfillment in Western formal “monuments,” such as the symphony.168 It would be erroneous and inelegant to cast Ravel in the role of “politically progressive” composer. His aspirations discussed earlier about writing a Jeanne d’Arc as late as 1933 correspond rather fully with the ardent petition comprising the final words of Tiersot’s above-quoted tome on the chanson populaire (in fact, with Tiersot’s final word—“race”),169 and even before the outbreak of the 1914–18 War, we can detect in Roland-Manuel’s praise of Ravel some traces of Said’s cultural “work” at play: “Through the artifices of our magician, the Orient of our dreams is objectified, devoid of any unseemly effects, through a kind of nostalgic reverie of bewitching charm.”170 When describing a projected balletspectacle based on the stories of Ali-Baba, Ravel did not hesitate to invoke the tired, conventional shorthand for the Orient: “It will be exceptional: there will be blood, sensuousness, and death. . . . I’m going to write some Massenet!”171 And at nearly the end of his life in North Africa, he insisted on reasserting his youthful powers of appropriation, stating that—if so wished—he could easily write a melody “more Oriental than anything Arab,”172 blurring and confounding yet again the “longitudes.”173 Indeed, the question of if ever Ravel had been capable of doing such a thing (and to what ends) is dwarfed here by his strange, reappearing confidence at being able to do so late in life, to—as Roland-Manuel had put it in 1914—“objectify” the Other (a talent required, as seen, in the practice of irony). Some more “gentle” precedence may be found in an earlier interview with Calvocoressi, when Ravel sought to justify the sophisticated technical intent behind his Bolero at the expense of other materials: Before its first performance, I issued a warning to the effect that what I had written was a piece lasting seventeen minutes and consisting wholly of “orchestral tissue without music”—of one long, very gradual crescendo. There are no contrasts, and there is practically no invention except in the plan and the manner of the execution. The themes are altogether impersonal [my emphasis]— folk tunes of the usual Spanish-Arabian kind.174

Paris was, indeed, the center of “Orientalism” in the West. Great Britain, however, dominated as colonial power in Africa, and few if any insights in Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow’s study of four centuries of British colonial writing can be unrelated to their work’s title, The Africa That Never Was. Two of these insights, among many, may attend us in conclusion: the importance, on the one hand, of myths to societies creating them, and, on the other, the often odd (and continuing) irrelevance of reality to their perpetuations. The greater, ugly realities of the appropriated Exotic were difficult to confront: to reiterate, enlightened and influential members of the artistic and intellectual classes such as Judith Gautier and Benedictus, whose influence reached

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so creatively into the cénacles of their time (including Ravel’s Apaches), participated brilliantly in such perpetuations, wittingly or otherwise. Indeed, one reads from a text in their transcribed efforts from the 1899 Paris exposition (see ex. 5.5 above): “Under the French we live without care, we travel without fear.”175 How to reconcile this with Évariste de Parny’s 1788 preface to his Chansons madécasses, describing—as would Klingsor and so many others—lands never visited: “[I]f we had not been there, these people would be happy and living in peace”?176 Ravel, having mixed longitudes with consummate skill and success in Shéhérazade in 1903, and entirely amenable to doing so again late in life, must nonetheless in 1925 have heard something of Parny’s whisper of the 1780s—“if we had not been there. . . .” In considerable musical detail, as described above, he provided at least one of our proposed “others”—French colonial Madagascar—with a starkly representative voice. A bit of encouragement for such a reading may be taken from Claude Lévi-Strauss, in a different work than the one cited in chapter 1 about the Bolero (see p. 68), since he went to the trouble of dividing all composers in his large study Le cru et le cuit into essentially three groups, among and across the following pairs: Bach and Stravinsky (to be uncoded, deciphered), Wagner and Debussy (musicians of mythology), and Beethoven and Ravel (musicians with “a message”).177 Often enough in life (and thereafter) Ravel was accused of being both a Jew and a “Swiss Clock maker,” the latter perhaps in part due to his father’s career as a mechanical and civil engineer. Pierre Joseph Ravel’s creation of a prototype automobile, patented, and driven about for short periods of time in what would become the industrial exurbs of Paris nearly thirty years before Henry Ford, was startling, to say the least.178 But the Franco-Prussian War intervened and Pierre Joseph was forced to look for opportunities elsewhere, including those offered by the emerging network of railways between France and the rest of Europe. The main line built between Paris and Madrid passed through St-Jean-de-Luz, and it was across the narrow river Nivelle, in Ciboure, where his two sons were born.179 By the turn of the twentieth century, the French automobile industry was well on its way to international success, but Pierre Joseph Ravel had only seven years to live. On the other hand, Alcanter de Brahm—inventor of the point d’ironie—was dilating at considerable and bitter length about recent French literary and economic models, in his newly conceived social philosophy (see above, chapter 1, pp. 36–38, 67). To collapse: far too much of life is corrupt and based on principles of slavery that Alcanter pins first—ironically—on the intellectual spheres of the French Academy and its aspirants, using the same language as that of Jean Marnold cited above in discussing the alleged impoverishment of ongoing Parisian concert series: “There are plenty of these black [literary] slaves in France,” says Alcanter, adding his newly invented punctuation point.180 As for colonialism, proclaims Alcanter, there is indeed irony in declaring a father “stoic” for sending a son off into harm’s way, to some useless colony in order to participate—for “love of country”—in the financial aggrandizement of grand, menacing

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business interests. Again using his newly minted point d’ironie, he writes “The riches of the automobile industry are rooted in Madagascar.”181 One should note, too, that beyond Julien Tiersot’s remarkable, institutionally perpetuated observations about the cruel, unsociable Negroes of Madagascar and the Pahouins plying the Seine in 1889, the only other influential musical “reinterpretations” of the 1889 and 1900 Paris World Exhibitions that have endured were those of Judith Gautier and Benedictus. As mentioned, Judith had been prepared for such ventures by those of her father in the post-Napoleonic decades, but her work with Benedictus must also have been informed by her former husband’s deep interests in the exotic German, dating from at least the late 1860s: Catulle Mendès’s Lieds de France (translations from 1867) were published in Paris in 1892, ten of them with illustrations and musical accompaniments by Alfred Bruneau that surpass those of Judith and Benedictus surprisingly little (the rest of them preceded by a title page in quasi-Fraktur typeface).182 And towards the end of her long life and unique career, Judith remained firmly committed to the exigencies underpinning the present chapter: “I often sat in a corner with Judith Gautier,” recounts one of Joanna Richardson’s many sources in her study of Gautier and Paris: “She vibrated with a great passion for the East. . . . She used to say to me: ‘The colonization of Asia will remain the great task of the twentieth century.’”183 The five chapters of her 1900 collection were published both individually and bound; they were devoted to China, Indochina, Japan, Egypt, and as noted briefly above, to Madagascar. As for Romain Rolland, Vincent d’Indy, Jean Marnold, and so many others dancing for decades delicately (clumsily) around the Jews, it is good to remember that Ravel repeatedly told the international press throughout his career that he was simply not Jewish,184 though he would have been proud, had this ever been so. The harmonization of a Jewish folk song in 1910 and the Deux mélodies hébraïques of 1914 would hardly have escaped notice, of course, but Ravel’s use of jazz elements from the 1920s forward (as in the above discussed “Blues” movement of the Violin Sonata), and his frequent advocating of the phenomenon for concert music venues probably helped fuel the repeated and misinformed inquiries, in that they were part of a much larger and dark corner of the Exotic that remains—one hopes—under continuing scrutiny. As late as 1930 one could read in Melos, for instance (among the most widely read of music journals in France): “The foundations of jazz are the syncopations and rhythmic accents of the Negroes; these have been modernized and given their present form by the Jews, mainly New York Tin Pan Alley Jews. Jazz is Negro music, seen through the eyes of these Jews.”185 Unlike Alcanter de Brahm and Romain Rolland, and perhaps mercifully, Ravel did not live quite long enough to learn of the developing anxieties in official French government circles over Jewish “Otherness.” The year after his death, with the Vichy government not far off, a proposal aimed clearly at ameliorating tensions with the Germans over what to do about refugee “others” in France was argued for at significant and repeated length. The Jews

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should be gathered up and deported to Madagascar.186 The mechanics of such a “bizarre” solution were discussed well into the occupation, and among French government ministers excluded from such planning were, of course, Jews. And among them was Jean Zay, the Minister of Education, subsequently imprisoned and executed,187 whose words at Ravel’s grave about the “weapon” of irony opened all of our inquiries.

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Chapter Six

Sound and Sense: Ravel and Synaesthesia . . . few composers have been so poorly understood as the creator of Daphnis et Chloé. —Roland-Manuel, 1921 . . . few poets, whose intentions have been more poorly understood than Mallarmé. —Suzanne Bernard, 1959

I. Provenance Among many influences of Ravel’s youth were clearly those springing from Baudelaire’s “doctrine of correspondences,” or (as the phenomenon became known later) synaesthesia, the simultaneous stimulation and/or perception of different senses.1 With deep roots in German Romanticism, synaesthesia found a culmination of consequence in the French Symbolist aesthetics of the fin de siècle. While Martin Cooper may have been correct in dubbing Debussy “supreme transliterator from one sense to another, . . . the musician who more than any other artist fulfilled Baudelaire’s theory of correspondence between the arts.”2 Cooper’s certainty resembles that of Edward Lockspeiser questioned in the preceding chapter concerning the peerless, “telescopic” nature of Debussy’s descriptive genius. Baudelaire’s correspondances permeated Ravel’s thought, too. Though the topic of Wagner and Debussy has been visited (and revisited), a relationship of issue with regard to Ravel has yet to be established.3 Since Ravel’s thought was reinforced by readings of Hoffmann, Poe, Baudelaire, and French Symbolists, Wagner’s influence on him was shrouded but significant—that of synaesthesia, the effects of sound upon varying senses, as expressed musically. In early works such as the Sites auriculaires, Jeux d’eau, and Miroirs, the correspondances unfold rather straightforwardly from the ideals of allusion and suggestion. In subsequent works, however, such as Gaspard de la nuit, the Symbolist legacies of Baudelaire and influences of Wagner accommodate those of Hoffmann, Poe, and nineteenth-century keyboard writing. The result is an uncommon absolute music that draws the listener into a unique landscape of Symbolist allusion and Romantic narration.

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As with irony, the more scholarly and methodological investigations addressing musical synaesthesia date from relatively recent times, and—as, too, with irony—it is likely that synaesthetically informed musical perception has been with us for a very long time, perhaps always. Josef Burjanek, among others, has suggested that musical experience is in itself rooted in correspondances,4 more than a hint of which, of course, may be traced to interpretations of the Greek musiké—unknown fusions of music and poetry, tone, and word—and to subsequent understandings of the phenomenon reaching into the decade of Ravel’s early maturation. In discussing Hartmann, Mussorgsky, Kandinsky, and Ravel, Herbert Schmolzi has noted that the relationships between differing arts have not always yielded “integrations,” that the possibilities must often have been overwhelming,5 and Thrasybulous Georgiades has reminded of the obvious— it is simply incorrect to identify musiké as music.6 Still, Suzanne Bernard, once again, has traced carefully enough the misunderstood complexity of one poet’s thought vital to Ravel, noting that Mallarmé used the word to mean at least two different things, with one having much to do with the Greeks.7 If Burjanek, then, is correct about the process of conceiving musical phenomena in itself being synaesthetic,8 then perhaps Jacob Burkhardt’s well-known admonition that one can generally begin at the beginning of things except when studying history is persuasive.9 With larger topical bibliographies and syntheses awaiting,10 Edward Lippman’s early work from around the previous midcentury endures,11 as does Jean Pommier’s study of the roots of Baudelaire’s alleged “original” realizations about synaesthesia.12 Some often-acknowledged examples having to do with the visual aspects of musical correspondances are helpful: as is well known, Leonardo devoted considerable attention to music in his Renaissance treatise,13 and Michelangelo characterized the good painting as both musical (harmonious), and melodious.14 Poussin, in the seventeenth century, attempted to link different styles of painting to the ancient musical modes by way of Zarlino,15 while Newton, building upon the work of Kepler, devoted considerable effort in his Optics (ca. 1704) to associating specific colors with degrees of the musical scale.16 As for the more illusive sense of “touch” in musically synaesthetic experience, Dr. Burney’s account of an evening at the residence of the celebrated castrato Carlo Broschi (Farinelli) in 1770 reveals much, since Farinelli had named all of his keyboard instruments after Italian painters of the time,17 and a more radical precedence for such fancy had already been described by (among others) Telemann in 1739—the “Farbenklaviers” of Père Castel,18 with which Castel wished to equip the entire population of Paris.19 Similarly extravagant inquiries were underway elsewhere in the eighteenth century, some of which are discussed below, and certainly by Liszt’s maturity, varying intents of interchange had evolved. Mindful of distinctions between the Greek musiké and Latin musica, Liszt contemplated an institution based on what he considered to be the potential of synaesthetic intercourse.20 Although there appears to be little evidence in representations of the everyday,21

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it is fair enough to say that painters of Liszt’s time increasingly conceived of their spaces upon canvas with both eye and ear, as Walter Salmen has suggested: “The temporal structure of forms like the fugue suggested to several painters the elements of a plastic correspondence. The pictorial invested the musical, hence, and music the pictorial.”22 Salmen’s reference to fugue is hardly capricious: Paul Valéry had characterized Mallarmé’s L’après-midi d’in faune as a polyphonic composition, a kind of “literary fugue” in which ideas interrelate profoundly.23 The roots behind our final chapter, then, may be traced to more than the admittedly powerful influences of Wagner. Ravel’s publisher pointed to as much in 1925, recalling the lighter (than Germanic) “North Winds” of the belle époque, and Jean Pommier has drawn their effects upon composers of Ravel’s generation in detailed fashion by charting the indebtedness of Baudelaire’s correspondances to Emmanuel Swedenborg and others, including early French socialists and utopianists such as Charles Fourier.24 The Renaissance “polyphony of proportions” has found some recent echoes in Roy Howat’s twentieth-century analyses of Ravel, Debussy, and Bartók,25 and the play of melody within aural space has been explored in synaesthetic terms by Peter Kivy: “Don’t we hear the melodic line droop in the oboe solo of the first Brandenburg? Let us see if we can make this musical sinaesthesia [sic] a bit more intelligible.”26 But, to remember, the French were greatly indebted to the Germans, an excellent array of which has been captured by Murray Schafer in his study of E. T. A. Hoffmann: the elder Schlegel, for instance—so important to subsequent interpretations of irony—was preoccupied, too, with a future for combined arts, declaring: “We should strive to bring the arts closer together and search for bridges from one to the other. Statues will come alive to become perhaps paintings; will become poems; poems will become music; and who knows, perhaps solemn religious music will rise up again as a temple in the sky.”27 We know that the effects of such thought found their way beyond Wagner and Baudelaire, to Mallarmé, and Ravel, and though it is doubtful Ravel ever read Schlegel, we do know that he read Condillac, in which the integral role of “statue” was conceived of in quite different, yet highly synaesthetic terms.28

Synaesthesia and Romanticism As pointed out by the Orientalist Raymond Schwab, Exoticism and Romanticism in effect coexisted. Both Weber, greatly admired by Ravel as “the Great Romantic,”29 and Hoffmann, whose Sandmann (like Gerhardt Hauptmann’s Versunkene Glocke) inspired unfinished work for the stage,30 have left much to consider. Nearly a century before Debussy, Weber used what would become the Art Nouveau and Symbolist term “arabesque” in a touchstone of synaesthetic intent, presaging what Mallarmé and others would soon struggle with. The serious intentions and curiosities of his youthful novel entitled Tonkünstlers Leben,

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eine Arabeske (comprising more than twenty chapters) were explored by Gerald Abraham, not long before Ravel’s death. Consider, for instance, . . . the C below the bass clef, which heads the first chapter. Weber intended that each chapter should have a similar note-heading; and at the end, when the hero looked back over his life, the headings were to join in a chorale. The notes were also to form a Cirkelkanon which would moreover sound the same backwards and forwards, and at the same time be “to some extent a picture of human life”!31

Abraham recalls, too, the larger theme of literary “canvas,” noting that “Undine proves that Hoffmann might have been a composer, as Künstlerleben demonstrates that Weber had at least the germs of authorship in him.”32 And Weber’s interpretation of country life might well be included as a synaesthetic precedence for Ravel’s confession about the “barnyard” roots of his twentieth-century, neoclassic violin sonata (and more): “With me,” writes Weber, “everything must conform to musical shapes. The sight of a stretch of country is to me the performance of a piece of music. I sense the whole, without dwelling on the details of which it is composed; in short the scene, curiously enough, moves in time. It is a successive pleasure.”33 Whether or not “exact” (as Abraham put it), Weber surely proved to be a counterpart to the only German author whose influence on French thought in the generations preceding Ravel rivaled that of Wagner—E. T. A. Hoffmann: “The essential stuff of their minds must have been strikingly similar.”34 Hoffmann’s infamous Kapellmeister Kreisler speaks of wearing a “garment that I had bought in a state of the highest depression over the failure of a trio, whose colour was C sharp minor, over which I wore a collar in E major, simply to pacify onlookers.”35 The number of synaesthetic invocations in German Romanticism is truly great, those by Hoffmann alone appearing to exceed six hundred (according to Schafer and his sources),36 and their influences migrated quickly into French thought in translations by those including Judith Gautier’s renowned father, Théophile: “Hoffmann is popular in France, more popular than in Germany. Everybody has read his tales.”37 As would be the case with Ravel’s “Scarbo” some eighty years later, Hoffmann’s verse graced the opening to Victor Hugo’s theatre-piece Amy Robsart in 1822,38 but in 1827 Hugo called more specifically for correspondances in his Préface to Cromwell, invoking (again) the literary metaphor of a keyboard: “So here is both the man and here is his time, as we have attempted to portray it. . . . [I] have allowed myself to indulge in the pleasures of a child, playing upon the keys of a grand instrument.”39 The metaphor is familiar, but for Hugo music was here means to larger ends: in Cromwell, each art was to retain its autonomy, while joining with others for “a greater adequacy of expression.”40 Almost as if taking a “cue” in the next century, certainly reinforcing his view of the coexistence of Romanticism and Exoticism, Raymond Schwab invoked a larger synaesthetic image in his

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judgment of Hugo and the Orient, that of the orchestra conductor with “royal” rights, those of marshalling all (colonial) resources.41 It seems, too, that Hugo had set an andante of Beethoven to text,42 but the practice (as already shown) was not uncommon, and it persisted well into Ravel’s maturity. Frank Thiess, for instance, in his 1914 study of the German poet Cäsar Flaischlen (1864–1920), took note of the latter’s propensity to name works after musical forms such as the rondo by drawing a parallel between one of them and the slow movement of Beethoven’s “Pathétique” Sonata, Op. 13 (fig. 6.1).43 More widespread, more “utilitarian” uses of music have long been observed in Balzac, whose clumsy treatments of terms and themes were nonetheless successfully embedded in an immense virtuosity (like that of Victor Hugo).44 But Herbert Hunt, while describing music as “ancillary” to Balzac, reminds that “Balzac makes his Massimilla adumbrate the theory of synaesthesia.”45 Martin Cooper put it rather plainly: French writers and poets before Baudelaire were simply less interested in music specifically than with the broader implications of its power to engender multiple correspondances,46 a fair judgment underpinned by others before,47 and Cooper was also correct in declaring that it was chiefly through Baudelaire that “music entered the consciousness of French poets as anything more than a repository for vague metaphors.”48 Yet Hoffmann’s influence on French musical and literary thought was immense, and it merged with (perhaps even touched) the work of another writer to whom Ravel often turned, Edgar Allan Poe. The expanding vocabularies found their echoes,49 since—again, as with Klingsor’s judgment of the Exotic—Baudelaire’s correspondances had been “in the air” for a long time by late in the century. Predisposed to his theory by Hoffmann and Wagner, Baudelaire was prepared, too, for such adventures by the dispossessed American Poe.50 Judith Gautier, whose salon became a vital center of interest in the Exotic, was asked by her father in 1864 to review some translations of Poe, and she was in fact thanked by Baudelaire for sympathetic notice.51 Her father, in translating the Fleurs du mal a few years later, invoked both Americans (Longfellow and Poe) and Germans (Weber, by implication Hoffmann),52 and her then husband, Catulle Mendès, in the tradition of her father’s Parnassien legacy, worked to advance the interests of “aesthetic” prose (versus poetry) by casting widely in translations of foreign verse (including his own hard-won of English, Scottish, and German sources) for evidence of couplets, refrain, and repetition.53 Mendès’s musical interests may well have exceeded those of the Parnassiens in general, as suggested by Albert Thibaudet in his early study of Mallarmé,54 but Judith’s father had nonetheless provided an impassioned and synaesthetic interpretation for the written word that must surely have been known to Mallarmé long before his “registration” of words and phrases on the pages of Un coup de dés: “I believe,” said Théophile, “that there must be above all in writing a visual rhythm. A book is meant to be read, not recited musically.”55 Gautier’s key phrase here is “rythme oculaire,” which, of course, has a certain resonance with

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Figure 6.1. Frank Thiess, 1914, concerning Cäsar Flaischlen and Beethoven’s Op. 13, mvt. 2

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Ravel’s “sites auriculaires,” with the exotic, musicoliterary time travels discussed previously, and with liasons drawn between Mallarmé and Ravel by those who knew him best: The “Sites auriculaires,” wrote René Chalupt, “strike at the heart of Mallarmé’s projections so well known to Ravel, at the relationships between perceived qualities of a landscape and music, as portrayed by an artist working in sound.”56 If the question of precise influence between Hoffmann and Poe remains clouded,57 there is little doubt about their collective influence upon Baudelaire and his uniquely impassioned reception of Wagner. Some irony in this, perhaps, since Baudelaire’s interest in music before encountering Wagner was unremarkable;58 but consider the title of his early translation—Edgar Poë, Histoires extraordinaires; Traduction de Charles Baudelaire magistrale et fidèle grâce à la rencontre exceptionnelle de deux natures semblables,59 and his very long introduction, in which he writes at length from the heart (with social bitterness, to be sure),60 invoking both Hoffmann and Balzac in enthusiasm for Poe, and presaging much later writing about Wagner: Poe is the writer of the nervous system, perhaps even something beyond,—the best that I know. No other man, I say again, has recounted with more magic the exceptions in human life and nature;—the vibrant curiosities of regeneration;—the ends of the seasons charged with enervating splendors, the hot, humid, and misty times when the wind from the south softens and caresses the nerves like the strings of an instrument, when the eyes fill with tears, that come not from the heart.61

Baudelaire first heard Wagner’s music in January of 1860, in a concert at the Théâtre Italien which included the overtures to Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser, the introductions to Tristan und Isolde and Lohengrin, and excerpts from Lohengrin. He did not write about the music, however, until the following year, after attending the premiere of the complete Tannhäuser. His essay of 1861 was in some measure a reply to Berlioz’s review of the performances at the Théâtre Italien in the Journal des Débats (9 February 1860):62 acknowledging Berlioz’s “technical language, a splendid encomium” (concerning Lohengrin), he then quoted at length both Wagner’s program notes (distributed at the concert, on Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Ravel’s first Shéhérazade), and Liszt’s essay on Lohengrin.63 From Wagner’s notes he underscored phrases such as “soars to the infinite spaces,” “yields to a growing beatitude,” “luminous apparition,” “depths of space,” and the like, explaining: “The reader will presently understand my purpose in italicizing some passages. But first let me take the book by Liszt, and open it at the page where the imagination of the celebrated pianist (who is both an artist and a philosopher) interprets in its own way the same piece.”64

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From Liszt’s essay, Baudelaire underscores similar passages, such as “mystical element,” “ineffable beauty of the sanctuary,” “with a blinding climax of color,” “faint celestial light,” “clash of the brass.” He was surprisingly concise in intent: May I, in turn, relate, express in words, what my imagination inevitably conjured up from the same piece of music, when I heard it for the first time, with my eyes closed, feeling as though transported from the earth. I would certainly not venture to speak complacently of my reveries, were it not useful to bracket them with the preceding ones. The reader knows the aim we are pursuing, namely to show that true music suggests similar ideas in different minds. . . . Moreover, a priori reasoning, without further analysis and without comparisons, would not be ridiculous in this context; for the only really surprising thing would be that sound could not suggest colour, that colours could not give the idea of melody, and that both sound and colour together were unsuitable as media for ideas; since all things always have been expressed by reciprocal analogies, ever since the day when God created the world as a complex indivisible totality.65

A confluence of susceptibilities, then, unfolds, as Baudelaire’s interpretations of 1861, shaped by readings of German and American talents such as Hoffmann and Poe, form a good bit of the underpinning to Wagner’s astonishing influence on French literature and music well into the twentieth century. Raymond Bouyer, one of the better-known critics of the belle époque, notes (in 1902) that Baudelaire—hardly schooled in music—was nonetheless the “perfect examiner,” most especially in matters of sound: He listens, he conjures up, and interrogates the sonorities, since he knows not one word of the libretto, nor has he read the program; he listens, eyes closed, and is transported from this world . . . a certain clarity of perception overwhelming him, knowing he has given himself over to experiencing “another spiritual world, a revelation.” . . . His discoveries make of Baudelaire the first “French Wagnerian,” and his ecstasy the beginnings of our musical education.66

André Coeuroy, better critic (and friend of Ravel), charted the generations of Wagnerian influence to the early 1920s in his essay on Proust,67 and in the Revue musicale issue dedicated to Ravel in 1925, he tells us that the Orientalist Raymond Schwab was in fact inspired enough by the synaesthetic qualities of the words Pavane pour une infante défunte to write a “fairy tale” of his own, entitled L’Infante Pourquépourqué (published in 1910, and dedicated to Ravel).68 All in all, then, an abiding and ironic triumph in France, long after Wagner’s death: sense over reason.69

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Synaesthesia and Symbolism As Ravel once noted,70 the terms Impressionism and Symbolism apply more suitably to literature and painting, but their use need not be unwieldy. Impressionist and Symbolist painting were quite different, of course, though the occasional distinctions drawn between “light” and “dark” aspects of the two terms remain useful.71 A vocabulary to distinguish Impressionist from “Symbolist” music, however, does not really exist, and though Ravel had personal contact with some of the most important Symbolist painters, literary influences appear to have predominated in his developing thought and style. The term was used freely in public discourse after 1886, as the Baudelairian, Wagnerian correspondances floating throughout public debate acquired something resembling theoretical frameworks,72 and, by 1898, Ravel went so far as to dub himself a “petit Symbolard,” probably in part to avoid being identified—as had been Debussy—with the “Impressionists.”73 As noted earlier, the literary Symbolists were those swept up most immediately in the aftermath of Wagner, but they acknowledged their debts to Baudelaire, and the latter’s notion of correspondances, thus, may be traced from Hoffmann and Poe to Debussy and Ravel, by way of Wagner. Paul Dukas described an environment rich more in confluence than confusion: Impressionism, Symbolism, poetic Realism—all melded in a great concurrence of enthusiasm, curiosity and intellectual passion. Everyone, whether painter, poet, or sculptor, “decomposed” their subject, bending over and around it, interrogated it, “deformed” and re-formed it according to their will, determined to render their words, sounds, colors, and design with new subtlety and feeling.74

Controversy over Wagner had commenced before Baudelaire’s essay. Fétis’s first comments had appeared as early as 1833, when Wagner was virtually unknown,75 and during Wagner’s first stay in France (September 1839–42), further discussion of the music was undertaken, especially in the Revue et Gazette musicale after 1840. But these notices refer to performances outside of France.76 When Oper und Drama appeared in Germany (1852), Fétis attacked it in Paris, opening up what proved to be the opposing (and quite vicious) school of thought to Baudelaire’s raptures: if Baudelaire was the “first Wagnerian,” Fétis was the first “anti-Wagnerian.”77 The conflict sustained a surprisingly shrill level of argument between the Paris premieres of Tannhäuser in 1861 and Lohengrin in 1887, an apex of sorts attained in the mid-1880s with the appearance of the Revue wagnérienne, the short-lived (1885–88), influential journal that developed and disseminated the perceived, received aesthetics of Wagner through various

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Symbolist poets and writers devoted to Mallarmé. Christian Goubault does not much overstate the case in telling us that from the time the first notes of Wagner sounded in France, a kind of “psychosis” developed: virtually no composer escaped comparison with him.78 Baudelaire did not live to see his convictions about Wagner bear fruit, but by the mid-1880s his “Temple of Nature” in the Fleurs du mal had metamorphosed into a new form of contemporary worship.79 In the Revue wagnérienne “Chronique” of 1885 one reads: “To understand that the operas of Wagner are really drama is all well and good, but it is not enough: one must come to grips with them as religious dramas as well, and, in the end, one must hear them as [Wagner] intended them to be heard: one must become his follower, in his theatre.”80 Mallarmé, in the closing to his famous contribution of the same year, wrote: “At least—for I want my share of the ecstasy—you will allow me to enjoy a moment of rest in your Temple, half-way up the holy mountain, whose sunrise of truths, the most comprehensive yet, fills the dome with its fanfare and invites, as far as the eye can see from the parvis, lawns trodden by the feet of your chosen brothers.”81 And Raymond Bouyer, having described Baudelaire (however incongruously, above) in Le Ménestrel in 1902 as the “first Wagnerian,”82 revealed two years later in the same journal the extent to which related influences had penetrated French thought: But there is more to all this: all of painting, painting itself, strives today to become musical; painters openly call themselves “musicians of light” or “musicians of silence”; followers of impressionism, Wagnerians of high noon, or Debussysts of moonlight, . . . all of them gladly refresh their transpositions, their mysterious analogies, their correspondances [his emphasis] whether mystical or exotic, from Swedenborg or William Blake, Hoffmann or Balzac, Théophile Gautier the “master-magician” or Franz Liszt, Baudelaire, or Mallarmé. Musicians speak of song that radiates, painters invoke light that sings. . . . They explore the physiognomy of musical tones, the “orchestration of colors.” . . . Hearing in colors, and seeing melodically are no longer considered to be hidden neuroses or morbid secrets. Art, in itself, is becoming a larger harmonic entity.83

Here—especially in view of Baudelaire’s conviction that “all things have always been expressed by reciprocal analogies, ever since the day when God created the world as a complex indivisible totality”—was the triumph of what the French perceived as Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, a reconstructed ideal, spilling beyond the domains of painting into literature, influencing (as Ursula Eckhart-Bäcker has argued) three generations of French poets,84 and to such an extent that by the time of Proust, to quote André Coeuroy’s 1923 essay again, “The Wagnerian element had become second nature. A critic cannot analyze others’ work but by way of this dominant element.”85

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Amid such heady interactions, of course, music threatened to overwhelm, and Mallarmé—despite his desire to “share in the ecstasy”—betrayed some ambivalence about Wagner’s synaesthetic legacy in the mid 1880s: “What a unique challenge for poets, whose task he has usurped with the most candid and splendid bravura, this Richard Wagner!”86 Paul Valéry (with Ravel) discovered Mallarmé about this time, and though formalized later (ca. 1920), his well-known definition of Symbolism appears to have descended from similar trepidations: What was christened as Symbolism may be summed up very simply as the common intent among several groups of poets (some opposed to one another) to reclaim from music their own resources. The secret of this movement is nothing more. Obscurity, bizarreness, . . . all can be understood once the principal is acknowledged. It is unfortunate that observers, as well as practitioners of such convictions, were taken in by this poor word symbol. It represents only what one wishes for it; if one confers upon it aspirations, well, then, there they are!—Still, we were indeed nourished by music, and our literary spirits dreamed only of drawing from language something approximating the effects that pure sound produced upon our nervous systems. Some adored Wagner, others Schumann.87

Valéry’s deeper indebtedness to Poe, Mallarmé, and J.-K. Huysmans is revealed in a letter of 1889,88 and it was most likely the latter’s “decadent” novel À rebours (1884) that led him (and Ravel) to Mallarmé’s work.89 Having read by 1891 L’après-midi d’un faune, Valéry realized how sharply Mallarmé’s ideals differed from the many attributed to Wagner (including, of course, “leitmotif”), that Mallarmé’s universe was one of transcendental suggestion,90 that, indeed—as he expressed in writing to Mallarmé—L’après-midi d’un faune “alone in France had realized the ideal aesthetic of Poe.”91 Valéry then quit writing poetry for twenty years. There existed, then, a peculiar estate between the arts of the early and later nineteenth century, whether described in terms such as “romantic” or “symbolist,”92 a legacy, embodied in the correspondances of Baudelaire and the many readings (or misreadings) of Wagner. As the poet Klingsor made clear, Ravel and his circle of friends were more than pleased to identify themselves at the turn of a new century with the Symbolists, and in a telling essay written near the end of Ravel’s creative life, the Italian critic Guido Pannain recalled the vanishing world inherited in such terms—Baudelairian and Wagnerian—“etching” inadvertently, in 1928, some of the outlines of Ravel’s musical correspondances: How fantastic were the colours and patterns of the new music that greeted the dawn of the twentieth century in Europe! It was a music that seemed to the listener at times like a mere drift of sound that stunned the senses, at times like the unearthly flowering of a world yet undiscovered.93 The orchestra might

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have been a bed of exotic blooms in the garden of dreams.94 The strange landscape of sound was perceived rather than heard;95 the listener quivered as to the blows of some great bell sunk in the ocean of ineffable pleasure, where reality and its perception were fused into each other.96 This orgy of the senses, in which words were envisaged as sounds, sound in terms of light,97 had been transferred from life into art: in Rimbaud, as in Debussy, the reality of beauty had become detached from its natural surroundings. As the poets had written words devoid of logical connection, yet alive with the sensual beauty of mere sound, so the musicians now planned notes which should exist graphically, almost architecturally as parts of a structure. . . . They translated that frenzy of lyrical sensibility into a pictorial image, and tone became for them almost a visible thing, a symphony of curves,98 of friezes, of arches built on the ideal ground of a future tonality. The swarming arpeggios of those scores were like the flight of birds across the sky,99 as they clustered, separated;100 and the violin parts, divided and subdivided in superimposed planes,101 exemplified the cloudy interaction of the harmonic planes.102

II. Synaesthesia and Ravel However vital the nucleus of artistic confrères in the period between the fin de siècle and the First World War, Ravel’s predisposition to correspondances may be traced to earlier times, since both he and his best friend, Ricardo Viñes, were “adolescent autodidacts” of continuing commitment in painting, literature, and theater throughout the 1890s.103 Viñes’s journal entry of 10 August 1892, for example, tells of mutual interests in Poe, and of Ravel’s notably dark interpretative drawings for the Maelstrom and the Manuscript Found in a Bottle.104 Their passion for Poe—and for Baudelaire—continues in June of 1893: Ravel must replace Viñes’s Poe (Histoires extraordinaires), having worn out the borrowed copy.105 In October, Viñes describes going for a walk, studying, meeting a friend from Barcelona, and returning to Ravel’s to copy Baudelaire’s L’albatros from the Fleurs du mal; walking home, he then memorizes the poem.106 In July of 1894, Ravel is prowling the quais of the Seine for still more Poe;107 Viñes returns his borrowed copy of the Fleurs du mal not long thereafter, discovering (at Ravel’s home) six poems recently banned from publication, the best of the lot, in his opinion.108 The two agree to copy the forbidden poems in collusion, and finish off the day by playing four-hand keyboard transcriptions.109 Interests fan outwards from Baudelaire and Poe: Ravel introduces Viñes to recently published works of Rimbaud, while making him listen to “new and strange compositions,”110 and the two read and discuss Montesquiou,111 Régnier, et Jonçieres.112 Ravel takes Viñes out one day to show him the Church of St. Séverin, described by Huysmans in the notorious A Rebours, but before visiting the church, they play through some recent compositions including Viñes’s new songs, set to Baudelaire.113 One Friday afternoon is spent discussing art, music, and literature, the following Ravel and Viñes read

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together—again—Bertrand’s Gaspard de la nuit, which was not to find its way into Ravel’s music for more than a decade.114 A youthful ardor, then—filtered through enthusiasm for the works of Poe and Baudelaire and explorations of fin-de-siècle art, literature, and music in Paris—could not help but weave further correspondances among perceptual faculties of the young Apaches. Their first meetings, after all, had been in the studio of a painter (Paul Sordes), whom Klingsor characterized as “a kind of Ravel of the palette”;115 Fargue, in fact, characterized him as an “extinct” species.116 Meeting sometimes more than weekly,117 bringing as much poetry and literature as music to a painter’s flat, fellow Apaches sensed something extraordinary as the synaesthetic aspects of Ravel’s éducation sentimentale unfolded along with his precocious technique: “The more he matured,” says Klingsor, “the more he became convinced of the supremacy of form, and of the need to bind it up with the effects of musical sonority. From early on, we felt him to be predestined.”118 By the early years of the twentieth century, synaesthesia held secure ground in the sanctioned Parisian musical discourse,119 and Georges Jean-Aubry (in the same article in which he used “irony” five times) linked Ravel in 1907 to younger painters like Matisse and the influence of Cézanne.120 In 1909 the Times of London attributed Ravel’s success in his Histoires naturelles to a talent akin to “pencil sketching,”121 and by 1913—beginning to sense a bit of security in career and reputation before the outbreak of war—Ravel was only too delighted to invoke the kind of environment to which he owed so much, publicly excoriating criticism of Debussy by appropriating an entire generation of composers as if they had all been fellow Apaches: “As for me, I, too, am nothing more than a poet and a painter; and along with me, Messieurs Igor Stravinsky, Florent Schmitt, RogerDucasse, Albert Roussel, and a raft of other young composers, whose accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at.”122 The evidence for such conviction is hardly isolated—at the end of his career Ravel recalled the influences of Chabrier and Manet on his early development,123 and his lifelong publisher, Jacques Durand, in recalling the 1890s in 1925, has left some other important signs: “It was a curious time musically when I arrived on the job. ‘Wagnerism’ appeared to be triumphant. Nonetheless, a different tide from the North broke over us with Grieg and Ibsen, and we reaped a diverting scent from Scandinavia, less heavy than that from Germany.”124 This “other” wind from the North (alluded to earlier) has best been traced in its spreading of different shades of synaesthetic influence upon Ravel’s world by Lionel Carley—“Strindberg, Ibsen, Bjornson, Grieg and others enjoyed an extraordinary vogue,” peaking in the mid-1890s.125 Through fellow Apache Florent Schmitt, Ravel found his way into a different group of writers, artists, and musicians that included the Scandinavians, Gauguin, and Frederick Delius. Delius had settled in Paris in 1888, having known the Griegs even earlier, and he formed strong friendships with Strindberg, Munch, and Gauguin. Schmitt completed several transcriptions for Delius between 1893 and 1897, when he

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and Ravel were classmates at the Conservatoire,126 and Delius eventually turned to Ravel (once, in 1902) for a transcription of his one-act lyrical drama Margot la rouge.127 Through Schmitt and Delius, then, Ravel entered the differently Bohemian salons of Gauguin and the Franco-Norwegian composer William Molard, a government clerk and composition student of Émile Pessard,128 with whom both Schmitt and Ravel were studying at this time. A variety of influences would have come to play here: both Gauguin and Molard had pianos at their disposal, and both Ravel and Schmitt played them.129 Ravel met Grieg on one of these evenings (playing for him),130 but, according to Schmitt, Molard’s musical theories were of greater interest, and perhaps greater influence.131 Gauguin’s comments in a letter to Molard in 1902—“I have always had a mania for relating painting to music, which, since I cannot understand it scientifically, becomes a little more comprehensible to me through the relationship I discern between these two arts”132—echo correspondances sought out by others long before. As Philippe Junod has pointed out, when Delacroix was refused permission to paint at the Saint-Sulpice on Sundays, he went elsewhere, writing in his Journal from 1854 “The music of the Offices inspired me profoundly, . . . I accomplished a great deal at Saint-Denis du Saint-Sacrement.”133 Junod, too, reminds us that Delacroix, in order to complete his famous portrait of Chopin, installed a piano in his studio.134 All of this imparts an “alluring” authenticity to Debussy’s later sketching of arabesques to music of the offices at the Église St. Gervais,135 and—in a differently conceived, “sacred” Sunday setting—to Mallarmé’s sketching of his arabesques (as Henri de Régnier put it), inspired by symphonic music:136 taking, regularly, only one afternoon off from writing, he told his daughter on the way to the Lamoureux concerts, “I’m going to Vespers.”137 Ravel appears to have visited the Gauguin/Molard group until the outbreak of war,138 and at one point Delius considered his own Gesamtkunstwerk, discussing with Edvard Munch a “joint creative synthesis which would also comprise a literary element: the work of Jens Peter Jacobsen,”139 but the work was never finished. Of at least equal interest was a project undertaken with an alleged leader of the “Parisian Occult” of the 1890s, Dr. Gérard Encausse, or, as he was known, “Papus.”140 In 1894, a twenty-four page pamphlet entitled Anatomie [et] Physiologie de l’orchestre was published in Paris, under the joint authorship of Papus and Delius (fig. 6.2), and Carley has uncovered press advertisements for the work that read: “A cabalist and a musician have come together to publish this original thought: the orchestra is analogous to a living being composed of a body, a doubly-polarized soul and a mind.”141 A striking thought, indeed, but the association of orchestration with the supernatural or superhuman was probably not received with great surprise in 1894. Among many visitors to the celebrated and “exotic” salon of Judith Gautier was Charles-Marie Widor, whose treatise on orchestration Ravel had used from student days. It appears that Widor was quite interested in the “unearthly,” enquiring of a guest one evening “Do you believe in metempsychosis? . . . Personally, I

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Figure 6.2. Title page to Anatomie et physiologie de l’orchestre, by Delius and “Papus”

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remember having been a duck!”142 To much regret, as noted earlier, Ravel never completed the treatise on orchestration that he may have at least sketched, in the early 1920s, for the Oxford University Press,143 but Manuel de Falla, having met Ravel through Viñes in 1907, specifically used the word “occult” in describing events behind Ravel’s orchestration of the Rapsodie espagnole of that same year, citing what he believed to be Ravel’s “unconscious reserves” of spirit.144 Further indication of Ravel’s interest in the occult may be presumed as well, since Viñes saturated himself in it,145 pursuing astronomy, astrology, number mysticism (which he associated with Poe),146 and, above all, the occult.147 According to Fargue, the Apaches included at least one mathematician,148 and they were all surely at least familiar with Baudelaire’s hair-raising “Poème du Haschisch”: “Musical tones become numbers, and if one is gifted mathematically, the melodies and the harmony that one receives—all while retaining their voluptuous and sensual qualities—transform themselves into a vast arithmetical proceeding where numbers beget numbers, their phrases and generations followed with the inexplicable agility resembling that of the performing artist.”149 As noted in chapter 4, the technical and stylistic distance traveled between Ravel’s two works entitled Shéhérazade was very great, certainly in terms of orchestral mastery, yet both were conceived in the midst of the “passionate disorder and colliding ideas and senses” described above by Fargue, and if we consider the prolific criticism of Raymond Bouyer for a third and final time, we sense some of the excitement and authority with which the orchestration was vested. It was judged to work, literally, “both ways”: It is only in our time . . . that poetry, Wagnerised like everything else, requires from the orchestra new effects. Dream of the orchestra! Imitate the orchestra! Here is to be found the “new wave” of the new dawn, where eyes perceive the nuance of vowels and feelings, where seeing ears perceive “the color of sounds”!150 . . . Since Verlaine and Mallarmé, our decadent poets are all musicians. . . . Is not the free verse of Symbolism no more than continuous melody?151

Multiple correspondances, then, coming to Ravel through the Apaches, were complemented by those gained from others like Gauguin, Delius, and the Scandinavians,152 not to mention the volatile and gifted Viñes. The affekts of the relationship between “sound and sense” are unmistakable in Viñes’s account of Wagner and the Concerts Lamoureux in November of 1896: We heard the Prélude from Tristan, and by coincidence just as I was telling myself, terribly moved, that there is nothing in all of creation so sublime and divine as this superb Prélude, just at this moment Ravel touched my hand gently and said: “It’s always like this for me, every time I hear it. . . .” And he, Ravel, who can appear so cold and cynical, Ravel the “super-eccentric Decadent,” trembled convulsively and cried like a child, deeply, shaking with sobs. . . . I,

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too, was affected similarly by this Prélude; but as for me, I cried on the inside! . . . And I affirm that the Prélude to Tristan is the most splendid—the most superhuman, marvelous, colossal, tender, sumptuous, religious, immense, full of God, full of the heavens and space and grandeur and eternity and love that has ever existed since the heavens were the heavens, since the most distant stars turned upon their axes—that will ever exist, for all eternity. . . . Oh, Wagner! Oh, Leonardo da Vinci! Oh, Edgar Poe! Oh, Baudelaire! . . . But Wagner contains them all, as does this eternal, eternal, eternal, death of Isolde, and its “infinite” Prélude.153

Within only a decade, the next grand Parisian world’s fair arrived, and though the pace of technological growth and change spawning mysticism and interest in the occult of the fin de siècle had accelerated, the general public became increasingly interested in the “progress” itself, rather than aesthetic means of fleeing it.154 After Mallarmé and the painters Burne-Jones, Gustave Moreau, and Puvis de Chavannes all died within the same year (1898), the Symbolist movement quickly unraveled. Its rich legacy of correspondances, however, brought to feverish heights in the 1890s, lingered on in Ravel’s imagination. As Vuillermoz tells us, “It was, in effect, through his delicate inner ear that the composer of so many masterpieces was able to record the most complex messages of universal life, and then project them in striking images upon the canvases of our imagination.”155 Ravel paid direct homage, of course, to Mallarmé’s Symbolism by setting three of his songs in 1913,156 but his ironic candor about them is at once too clear and too ambiguous to advance, here, much of an inquiry:157 on one occasion he stated “I have a predilection for my Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé, . . . whom I personally consider France’s greatest poet,”158 on another, when asked to illuminate the songs, he replied “Useless. . . . The poetry speaks to you or it does not. It is very obscure, and if once it seizes you—marvelous!”159 Yet nearly all of Ravel’s keyboard works before 1907 solicit a synaesthetic response of some kind. The titles, topics, and epigraphs alone invoke myriad correspondances of Romantic and Symbolist provenance. An early example is ironically the purest, yet least “musical,” since one need only consider the title of the Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899) to “sense” the Symbolist aesthetic of musical words, within a modest work for which Ravel publicly expressed serious misgivings.160 Having freely admitted that the title was chosen for alliterative purposes, for the pleasure or “music” of its sound,161 Ravel once fortified his admonishment of a student playing the work too slowly with related “synaesthetic” humor: “Look, this is not a “Dead pavane for a princess” (i.e., as opposed to a “Pavane for a dead princess”).162 The joke need not be taken too lightly, since, as Klingsor says in 1925: “In order to understand truly the composer of the Pavane pour une infante défunte, one has to remember that our musical group was looking for rare harmonies, rare sonorities, like those described by the poet Albert Samain in Au jardin de l’enfante, or like the muffled tones and colors with which Vuillard and Bonnard furnished the interiors of older buildings stuffed

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with carpets and old furniture.” The title of the Orientalist Schwab’s short work inspired by the title of Ravel’s Pavane has already been mentioned, but among the limited series of works by the gifted Symbolist poet and Apache Jules Laforgue (he lived only twenty-seven years), were also a series of Complaintes, one of which is entitled Complainte de la bonne Défunte, containing the following lines: “Oh! oui, rien qu’un rêve mort-né, / Car, défunte elle est devenue.”—and—“Sans toi, défunte devenue.”163 The attention with which the sounds of words were treated on either side of the fin de siècle (epigraphs, too) is difficult to reconstruct. The title, however, of the Sites auriculaires (a projected suite of three pieces for two pianos, only two of which were completed—the “Habanera,” 1895, and “Entre cloches,” 1897), carries a more pronounced Symbolist message, that of “space travel,” the physical displacement of aural perceptions, two “places” remembered through sound. On the title page of the first work, Ravel included an epigraph from Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal—“Au pays parfumé que le soleil caresse.”164 Roland-Manuel thought the work’s poor public reception might in fact have had to do with its “Symbolist” title,165 but it seems that the premiere was not altogether successful: Ricardo Viñes and his partner were unable to keep common tempo in the “Entre cloches,”166 not so surprising in that they were reading a difficult, new work from manuscript. Three registers of bells compete in ostinato patterns for the “auriculaire” space (ex. 6.1a), and a short melody is heard when one player falls back from the fff dynamic. After a brief development (in the middle section), the pealing bells return, some in diminution (ex. 6.1b). Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt noted the work’s Romantic associations,167 and the Sites auriculaires was indeed written not long after Ravel had been swept into convulsive tears by Wagner. But Vuillermoz perceived more closely what Ravel was trying to do in this first serious work for the keyboard—“to affirm that all of our senses permit us to enter into direct contact with nature, and that in this domain, the ear is no less sensitive than the eye.”168 Though it was never completed, Ravel undertook in the Sites auriculaires a triptych embracing both Romantic and Symbolist associations, one anticipating the synaesthesia of that which he did complete (Gaspard de la nuit). Between the Sites and Gaspard, however, falls the suite of five pieces whose deceivingly simple title eclipses even that of the Sites as “ultra-symboliste.”169 All five movements from Miroirs (1904–5) were dedicated to fellow Apaches, some of whom heard the works for the first time before premiere or publication. As noted in chapter 1, the subject of the first piece, “Noctuelles,” came from one of Fargue’s poems, and Ravel’s microcrescendi were plotted carefully in little “clumps,” to convey the ungainly flopping of wings and meandering course of night moths (ex. 6.2). But, as Jean-Michel Nectoux has noted, the portrait has a bit of a subtext, in that such “harmless” creatures would have been associated at the time with the more sinister, nocturnal, and thoroughly Symbolist topic of bats, with which Ravel would have been familiar through Poe and the illustrated collection of poems Les chauves-souris by Montesquiou (published in 1892).170

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(a) Allegrèment                                                         fff très marqué                             

Allegrèment

     

 fff

     



                                                      

                                 très marqué



   



  



                        



 

 



(b)

                                                      sempre simile

simile

                                                fff

     

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

  

   

   

   

 

 

      

Ex. 6.1. Sites auriculaires¸ “Entre cloches.” (a) mm. 1–4. (b) mm. 30–31.

When the young Henriette Faure went to study “Noctuelles” personally with Ravel, she was led to a highly synaesthetic interpretation of the work: “immaterial presence, rustling of wings, dust made out of sound,” in the “surreal atmosphere of the night, mysteriousness, dampness.”171 The rustling wings of Ravel’s microcrescendi have been noted in chapter 2 (ex. 2.10a), but his “sound dust,” too, may be observed in the work’s sudden changes of texture, where sharp staccato dashes of major seconds offer unexpected punctuation to the asymmetrical phrasing of early measures (m. 2 of ex. 6.2), and its “immaterial presence” is to be found at the very end, in Ravel’s effervescent, aimless cadenza of “small notes.” The Symbolist topos of the bell, painted in the clangorous, “ocular” landscape of “Entre cloches,” appears again in the final movement of Miroirs, “La vallée des cloches.” These bells, however, do not surround or “trap” the listener in a

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                                                         p

    

                pp



            pp

    

  

ppp

Ex. 6.2. Miroirs, “Noctuelles,” mm. 5–9.

tumult of synaesthetic association, they approach gently, insistently, stratified from the distance in the different registers of sound discussed in chapter 3 (see pp. 136–71). Mlle Faure described this work, too, in highly synaesthetic terms: In this final piece Ravel places us from the very beginning completely outside reality. It begins with a carillon-like, regular sounding of bells, pure and veiled, in the upper register of the piano, punctuated regularly by octaves skimming along the top. Ravel indicated, showed me the means of executing them fleetingly from above, without emphasis. . . . This beginning is truly a musical chloroform, transporting us immediately outside of ourselves, to more foreboding planes of thought and sound.172

The seemingly casual reference to scent and its powers of psychological transport must not be passed over. Vuillermoz considered certain chords of Ravel so powerful and seductive that they might be “inhaled”;173 Huysmans, whose notorious A rebours was taken by so many (including Ravel) as an aesthetic “Bible,”174 cultivated the olfactory along with other senses,175 and chloroform itself, along with ether, was a topic of considerable controversy at the time, especially in fashionable and artistic circles.176 It is well worth recalling the extraordinary atmosphere of this last piece in Miroirs, created by the gentle oscillation of fourths and fifths within a tottering yet measured rhythm, awash in simultaneous pedal points and modal ambiguities, Ravel “frustrating” not the dominant—to recall André Suarès’s acute comment of 1925, but the tonic: the softly sudden E♯ against E in the middle register (see above, mm. 6–7 of ex. 4.19a, p. 161) pierces, an acrid wisp of chloroform, amidst other of Ravel’s sonorous “clouds.” During these first years of a new century, when virtually all were still susceptible to Symbolist topoi such as the bell, “La vallée des cloches” represents a midpoint of exploration for Ravel; “Le gibet” in Gaspard de la nuit would be the culmination.

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III. Gaspard de la nuit (1908–9) Ravel’s keyboard music before 1905 manifests correspondances from primarily Symbolist topics and influence, but in Gaspard de la nuit the roots of his success are as much Romantic as Symbolist, and reveal common ground. Epigraphs of Symbolist poetry are often found on the title pages of Ravel’s music but, as Roger Nichols has noted, Gaspard is Ravel’s only work with extended literary pretensions.177 The work can be viewed, as Daniel Hertz has suggested, as a “tone poem,”178 but it should be read more in Lisztian than Wagnerian terms, the outer movements indebted to thematic transformation, the inner “slow” movement conceived again around the Symbolist topos of the bell, whose incessant ringing might even be interpreted as an ironic comment on the attraction of Wagner’s leitmotif to French writers and musicians of the time.179 As noted in chapter 1 (pp. 32–33), Aloysius Bertrand’s Gaspard had an impact out of proportion with the reputation of its author, who remained virtually unknown apart from this one collection of poems (written between 1832 and 1836, first published by Saint-Beuve in 1842, from which Ravel eventually drew three). Yet in his preface to Spleen de Paris (1869, which both Viñes and Ravel knew) Baudelaire revealed how much Bertrand’s poetry had meant to him: I have a slight confession to make. In thumbing through for at least the twentieth time Aloysius Bertrand’s famous Gaspard de la nuit (a book known to you, to me and to some of our friends—so does it not deserve to be called famous?) that the idea came to me to attempt something similar to it, to apply to the description of modern life, or rather to a more abstract modern life, the process he used in painting life earlier that is so strangely characteristic.180

Gaspard was read by Ravel (and Viñes) as early as 1895, a good dozen years before he began to compose the music,181 and the entire collection was known by other members of the Apaches as well. Shortly after gaining the baccalaureate in literature and philosophy, Klingsor enlisted in the army, then copied down the entire suite: “I loved the theme, the images, so vibrant and alive, the style of writing, the usage of vocabulary. . . . I found straight from the beginning my two masters: Nerval and Bertrand.”182 Here, once again, is “in the air,” the synaesthetic phrase informing chapters 5 and 6—on the one hand Nerval’s Exotic (he had first translated the Thousand and One Nights), and, on the other, Bertrand with his romantic rattling of bones, skeletons, and—as Baudelaire put it—“strangely characteristic . . . modern life.” In more recent times, Vlado Perlemuter has remembered a lighter side of reading Gaspard: “When I studied ‘Scarbo’ with Ravel he once told me: ‘I wanted to make a portrait of Romanticism’; then he added in a very low voice, ‘But I think I let myself get carried away!’”183 Henriette Faure’s earlier experience

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of studying the work with Ravel was more penetrating. Only once over several months in 1922–23 was she able to penetrate the composer’s exterior reserve, and it was on the occasion of discussing Romanticism and Gaspard: [O]ne always sensed the impossibility of touching upon certain more important subjects, and he insisted furiously, one could say, on adhering to superficial topics. One time only, I took the chance of forcing the barrier. We were supposed to work on Gaspard de la nuit and I remarked to him how seductive the three poems of Aloysius Bertrand were! He responded immediately with an enthusiasm poorly concealed: I should read the entire collection—“it’s marvelous, all the Romanticism of the nineteenth century is found in this little old book.”184

Quite aware of the delicacy of the moment, the young woman pushed further: And, since I had forced the door of Bluebeard, I continued with enthusiasm: ah! You are, then, at times a Romantic? And then an astonishing and sad thing happened: Ravel looked at me without really seeing in a vague, detached manner, far away, with an annoyed expression upon his face. One might have said that he was speechless; this lasted quite a long time, and since we were seated at the table I saw him turning his sugar spoon in the jam over and over . . . and still the annoyance persisted. Finally, the housemaid burst into the dining room to serve dessert and cried out: But Monsieur Ravel, you’re getting jam in the saucers! Ah, yes, of course, said Ravel, do excuse me, finding his quicksilver personality once again.185

The combination of enthusiasm, melancholy, and confusion described here from the early 1920s is convincing—to write a work of absolute music for the keyboard in 1907–8 doing justice to “all the Romanticism of the nineteenth century,”186 had been a feat of considerable stylistic “transmogrification,”187 but it had come at a certain price. The pieces were, after all, gaspard[s], visions of the night, indeed nightmares.188 We accord them individual attention.

“Ondine” “Ondine” is the movement of Gaspard with the most distinguished literary “pedigree,” and with the strongest associations to German Romanticism. General literary use of “ondine” appears to date from a small book, the Livre des nymphes, by Paracelsus, self-educated, mystical Swiss physician of the Renaissance. The subject fascinated many throughout the nineteenth century, not the least of whom was E. T. A. Hoffmann.189 Hoffmann’s opera Undine (after Friedrich von Fouqué’s treatment of the legend and subsequent libretto) was premiered in Dresden in 1816, and Weber, deeply influenced by it, wrote a long and favorable

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essay, stating in part: “With a rare self-denial . . . Herr Hoffmann has refrained from enriching single parts of the work at the expense of the remainder. . . . Despite such an obvious challenge he moves consistently forward, striving only to be true to the dramatic life of the work, and to elevate it.”190 Through Weber, then, we propose traces of Hoffmann’s influence upon Ravel’s reading of Bertrand and, consequently, his understanding of Ondine. In 1894 Ravel had chosen keyboard works by Schumann, Chopin, and Weber for his examination at the Paris Conservatoire, and he received criticism for a certain Romantic excess in his playing (“Talent, warmth, overly enamored of violence . . . ).”191 But Ravel remained acutely aware of Weber’s legacy throughout life, “the great Romantic” to whom even Wagner (as his friend Hélène Jourdan-Morhange put it) owed everything.192 Several years after Henriette Faure’s disquieting experience over Gaspard and German Romanticism, Ravel addressed the Rice Institute in Houston, Texas on the topic of contemporary French music: Perhaps one of the most curious cases of exchanges of influence is that of Hérold,193 Weber, and Rossini; these three composers were strongly influenced in turn by a common characteristic of their respective works—namely, their romanticism; but each of the three held these interchanges of influence subservient to his own respective national consciousness. It was French romantic music that Hérold wrote, Rossini’s romanticism was obviously Italian, while Weber remained to the end a German romanticist. Such influences enlarge the horizon of the aspiring artist without contracting either his personality or his heritage.194

Ravel’s perception in 1928 of a constructive confluence of styles and aesthetics from the previous century was no doubt shaped by his own experiences of the fin de siècle, and, as René Chalupt has told us, German Romantic topics in the tradition of Hoffmann interested Ravel greatly in the years prior to completing Gaspard.195 They could not help but converge with Symbolist influences— Vuillermoz, for one, seems a bit puzzled by Ravel’s chasing of naiads and water sprites196—but Ravel’s models for Gaspard were as much his own as any drawn from Hoffmann, and certainly nothing resembling the latter’s grand-scale treatment for the lyrical stage. Yet his treatment was on a grand scale pianistically, filtered through “condensed” texts of Bertrand, the poet who had proven (posthumously) to have been of such importance to Baudelaire, and to the development of prose poetry and free verse. The “preparatory” models were Jeux d’eau and “Une barque sur l’océan” (from Miroirs), the departures from which are revealing. Jeux d’eau and “Une barque” were obviously grounded in programmatic representation, and both made significant, even revolutionary contributions to twentieth-century keyboard writing. Yet both were more suggestive in the Symbolist sense than narrative (even allowing for the epigraph of Jeux d’eau).197 Such is not the case in

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Gaspard de la nuit: if not precisely, Ravel adhered closely to the course of Bertrand’s poetry, most especially in “Ondine.” The first page of each movement carries a poetic epigraph, but—unlike Jeux d’eau—the epigraphs preface the poems, not the music.198 The epigraph of “Ondine” (by Charles Brugnot) reads “I thought I heard / during enraptured sleep a vague harmony, / an unfolding around me of murmur of broken songs, / from a sad and tender voice.”199 Brugnot’s lines prepare as much a reading of the poem as an experience of the music, and they imbue Ondine’s plainte with the atmosphere of a dream-like synaesthesia often, and vividly. evoked by Hoffmann.200 A responsible reading of the work, then, may evolve from narration, the “reduction” into free verse of her story, its overt and covert lyricism (deriving in turn from the topos of supplication), and the stunning instrumental writing—keyboard realizations (in Lisztian terms) of Ravel’s “poetic idea.” Ondine’s core theme of integration (she seeks to “merge” with, rather than seduce, dominate, or destroy a mortal) unfolds in a relatively short time, through lyrical evocation. But the mysterious and elaborate underpinnings of her story—the description of supernatural worlds, Ondine’s rejection by a mortal, her departure beneath settling waters—are brought to life by more covert lyrical means: thematic manipulation and transformation of her song; extension and prolongation of her asymmetrical, even antisymmetrical motives in continually elasticized rhythm and novel figuration; and juxtapositions of major and minor modalities and various chords of the seventh. Her story is told in five stanzas, the first three of which entreat a mortal to join her underwater, in transmuted existence. The last two are in the voice of the mortal, describing his rejection of Ondine, and her return home, back beneath the waves. There is little development in architectural terms: the musical structure of the work follows the binary condensation of the story, her final plea coming in measures 84–87, and, upon rejection, her petulant plunge underwater that fills the final page. The work, in an important sense, then, is through-composed: while there is a continual thematic development of essentially two ideas (A and B, variants of each; see ex. 6.3a and b), there are no true, internal repetitions. Ondine’s principal theme is sinuous, peculiarly Ravelian in length, tessitura, and rhythmic elasticity, recalling—among few others—the sunrise theme of Daphnis et Chloé or the middle section of “La vallée des cloches” in Miroirs. Despite the plethora of B♮s, Ravel manages to adhere to the traditional notion of a tonic, focal point (the work begins and concludes in C-sharp major), and to a point of departure (the second theme on the “dominant,” G♯). The tonality, however, is befogged from the beginning by neighbor-note figurations of the minor sixth (discussed in chapter 3 under “Mixed modalities”), a tremolo that permeates the entire work and portrays Ondine’s shimmering essence. Ravel obfuscates the tonal center even further by submerging his main theme in ironically claveciniste, virtuosically “unmodern” fashion,201 within harmonies of the dominant ninth, yet another—surely intended—irony, since the latter is inevitably engendered by pairing Ondine’s theme (centered around a minor triad) with her major-triad,

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neighbor-note figurations of virtuosic decoration. A second theme, on the dominant of G♯ (above, ex. 6.3b), is similarly, ingeniously precarious: if extended only one note downward, the conjuration of whole-tones becomes inescapable. Averse to such collections (or, indeed, either the pure major or—especially— pure minor modalities), Ravel backs away, and yet—with the consummate and deceptive irony noted in chapter 3 (pp. 51–55)—returns to it in disguise, for Ondine’s grand interior climax. Slow tempi do not abound in Ravel, to whom the choreographic element was so important,202 but he attains in “Ondine” an ironic measure of Wagner’s alleged “endless melody” by weaving all into a gently relentless fabric of rhythmic and metrical ambiguity. Ondine’s lyricism, itself consistently asymmetrical, floats upon an even greater rhythmic elasticity: in ninety-one measures there are fifty-two changes between the 24, 34, 44, and 54 meter. Personal instructions to Mlle Faure in 1922 about performing the work leave little doubt about the composer’s sonorous and synaesthetic intent: As for me, I insist on a certain style; one with no rhythmic enervation, following closely the course of the poem, especially on the final page (as he flipped through these final), look, here—a magic, suggestive glissando vanishing into the extremes of silence; then afterwards, here, the naked melody in a white, diaphanous sonority.203

“Le gibet” Ravel’s treatments of bells, from the Sites auriculaires, through years of struggle with Hauptmann’s Versunkene Glocke, to “La vallée des cloches” from Miroirs, attains an ironic apex in “Le gibet.” An indebtedness to the “Schauerballaden” tradition has been suggested by Hirsbrunner,204 since the work is dark and forbidding, and (as with “Ondine”) the printing of the poem volte face of the music would seem to indicate that Ravel intended a reading, intoned or not, one that would prepare his fusing of Romantic horror with the nocturnal and spectral through the tolling of a Symbolist bell, before its musical realization.205 The work’s short epigraph (from Faust, “What do I see stirring over by that scaffold?”)206 is fitting, since “Le gibet” is compact—six short stanzas of free verse, the first five of which pose increasingly gruesome questions about a mysterious, recurring sound heard from the start. As with the Sites auriculaires, travel to different “sites”—whether reading or first hearing the text read—is solicited. But one’s perceptions in “Le gibet” are consigned, too, as it were, “to and fro” between shifting perceptual realms: is it (all round) the sound of the night wind? Or (closer in), a cricket trying to chirp on a bed of moss? Or (closer, closest), a wobbling beetle, plucking a bloody hair from the corpse’s bald head? No: back out, again, finally, into the distance—“It’s the bell, sounding at the walls of a city on the horizon, where a hanged man glows in the setting sun.”207

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(a)

                        





     

(b)

           

    

    

     

 



Ex. 6.3. Gaspard de la nuit, “Ondine.” (a) mm. 3–8. (b) mm. 33–36.

A relative correlation between music and narrative, however imprecise in “Ondine,” is not really possible in “Le gibet,” as Ravel fulfills Mallarmé’s ideal— “to suggest”—with music that is intentionally monotonous. As noted in chapter 3 (pp. 160 and 162–63), the B♭ octave of the first and final measures is the “perpetual pedal” sounding throughout, as other elements of Ravel’s bleak, “auriculaire” landscape slowly coalesce. The incessant tolling on the dominant, in the middle register, impedes movement away from the tonic (E-flat minor), as does the oft-intoned and organum-like leitmotif of the work. The bell, hence, lives amidst, indeed “between” (registrally), the repetitions of a thematic idea— marked expressif both times—that is too fragmentary (one measure and a half in length), and too narrow in range (encased within only two whole steps), to generate significant “hope” of further events (ex. 6.4a).208 The result is a stark tapestry of musical irony, oscillating between the “negative” movement of the music and the “positive,” indeed hallucinatory “time travel” required between the shifting, morbid images invoked by reading or—ideally—hearing the poem before (and, then, again in one’s own memory) as the music unfolds. With the preservation of horrific allusion being paramount, a dampening of significant harmonic rhythm is called for: even the pointed series of altered chords of the thirteenth, converging creepily from the outer reaches of the keyboard upon Ravel’s hapless “bell” in the middle, do little more than recall Mlle Faure’s comments about the “veritable chloroform” of the predecessor of “Le gibet.”209 In a brief enharmonic section of the interior, Ravel recasts his narrow melodic fragments in three phrases that seem to hold a bit of promise as they touch, briefly, upon the key of G minor; but before the last of them can acquire any life of its own, it is swallowed up and disappears, back into the thick, six-flat reiteration of the work’s organum-like “leitmotif” of stacked, open intervals (ex. 6.4b). Still other designs have conspired: the dynamics of “Le gibet” fluctuate almost exclusively within the hushed ranges of ppp and p,210 and amidst the stifled, strangled dimensions of melody and harmony, a rather more bizarre species of “endless rhythm” than that of “Ondine” is spun out: at the lower spectrum of quarter note pulses, the seamless web of 44, 34, 64, and 54 measures is knit together by Ravel’s bell, weakening any sense of meter, of “strong” vs. “weak” pulse. All hope is vitiated. What Jankélévitch called Ravel’s “fascination with immobility,”

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sound and sense (a)

                      

             

       

p expressif

            

  

           

(b)

expressif

   

                                                                  

  

    

                            

                                     

                                                  

     

    

 



   

   

   

                                            

pp un peu en dehors, mais sans expression

  

  

249

                                             

                                          

   



 

                                                                               

     

Ex. 6.4. Gaspard de la nuit, “Le gibet.” (a) mm. 4–11. (b) brief, interior interlude, mm. 28–36.

his trade in pedal points, here found its purest expression211—a dense musical hypnosis, fulfilling the synaesthetic genius of Bertrand’s literary imagination that Jankélévitch in fact characterizes as a “placed bet.”212 How seriously Ravel took all of this is betrayed by the unhappy fact that the unfulfilled exigencies of Gibet’s musical “execution” engendered a definitive rupture with his close friend and mystical pianist, to whom so much was owed. Among very few sources, Mlle Faure’s account is essential:

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I had just finished playing “Le gibet” and I heard silence, an extended, ominous silence—Ravel’s silence. Suddenly he reemerged and said to me coldly: Well, you play this like Ricardo Viñes. He’s a good artist, but he never understood a note of this piece. And I, how am I to understand this piece, I said with immense effort? If you help me I will follow, I will do it. He reflected for a while . . . thinking, I suppose, that I was very young and easy to influence. Then, with great patience he began to explain to me the “thinning-out” of his works, even if they remained in Romantic disguise, and the conscious and subservient impersonality which would be required of their interpreters. . . .213

By this time, 1922, much had changed—the Apaches were long gone, and Ravel was clearly disturbed by the implications of being perceived as a “Romantic” in the aftermath of the Great War; he was also disturbed, it would seem, over retaining influence in the performing practice of works rapidly being absorbed by emerging technologies such as cylinder/disc recording and short-wave transmission. No matter: however delivered, “Le gibet” remains another of Ravel’s sites auriculaires, conceived in musical irony.

“Scarbo” In his 1927 interview with Ravel in Paris, Olin Downes of the New York Times mentioned the “Hoffmannesque ‘Scarbo,’”214 having noticed, no doubt, the work’s epigraph. Hoffmann’s words do indeed set the stage: a hapless mortal must suffer Bertrand’s horrors, visited late at night (in bed) by Scarbo, that satanic, ghost-of-a-dwarf.215 As opposed to the genial, calculated monotony of “Le gibet” one finds in “Scarbo” an unremitting, highly “orchestrated” frenzy.216 In the first of six stanzas, the fearful victim recalls previous visits, on nights of the full moon. From stanzas two and three one learns that Scarbo “buzzes” from different corners of the room, scrapes his nails across bed-curtains, leaps, bolts, and vaults about at will, like a lit fuse. From Ondine’s “white magic,” then, to black.217 The Symbolist aesthetic of suggestion again predominates, but it is given freer rein than in “Le gibet,” where it is not really possible to correlate text to music (save for the obvious tolling of the bell). And Ravel’s anxiety over Romanticism surfaces once again, in coaching Henriette Faure’s mammoth concert devoted to his complete piano works, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in January of 1923. In recounting her final arrangements, Mlle Faure remembers a small joke, made at brief, unexpected expense: I was presented to [the concert manager] Herbetot by the Artistic Director of the Maison Gaveau, Pierre Blois. He remarked that I was so small no one would see me on the stage and I quickly responded, “Well, if they can’t see me, they will surely hear me.” But this appeared to disturb [Ravel]. “You’re not going to play my “Scarbo” like a Liszt Rhapsody, are you?” “Oh, no!” I said,

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“I have too much respect, not for an instant would I betray you!” A kind of unease returned to him; emotion once more had gotten the better of me.218

Confusing “Scarbo” with a Liszt rhapsody may, in retrospect, seem implausible, but it touched a nerve with Ravel. The sheer pianism of the work is both Lisztian and “Romantic”—sweeping crescendi and arpeggi, massive chords, leaps and bounds, alternating octave passages, wide ranges and sudden changes of dynamics, and grateful exploitation of the entire and extreme ranges of the instrument. The writing, however, diverges from Liszt in a number of respects, first of all harmonic. “Scarbo” is the most tonally ambiguous of the triptych comprising Gaspard, its “key” mercurial at best, manifesting neither the illusions of function, as in “Ondine,” nor the required inflexibility and ironic irrelevance found in “Le gibet.” Beginning ostensibly in G-sharp minor, “Scarbo” twitches through several tonal areas, very nearly concluding in the key of the relative major, before—hardly Lisztian—Ravel sacks all unceremoniously (and programmatically) with a quick, nearly atonal arabesque (ex. 6.5a). To recall as well, the enormous, singular crescendo in “Scarbo,” which commences on a tritone and constitutes a major architectural event, is hardly representative of Liszt’s rhapsodies. Nor are Ravel’s leaps and bounds about the keyboard: short-lived, resembling the microbursts of Scarbo’s energy described in Bertrand’s text, they have little or no harmonic direction, and do not evince the sustained (or repeated) rhythmic, rhetorical patterns and gestures that inform Liszt’s virtuosity. Ravel’s crescendi, great swells across the registers (recalling Liszt, to be sure), are rendered eerily “hyper-Romantic” in “Scarbo”: fettered sometimes within hardly a measure or two (Mme Jourdan-Morhange having noted the precedence in “Noctuelles”), they sometimes reverse conventional expectations, crashing ironically, hysterically downward to the bottom of the instrument, then vanishing back upward, to the very top, as if sucked into some “black hole” of aural space.219 When Ravel paints the scraping of Scarbo’s nails on bed-curtains, he entangles the hands, as had Liszt in “Feux-follets” of the Transcendental Etudes,220 but in a newly maniacal fashion: in interweaving them, Ravel adds “grace” notes to both (some requiring a flattened thumb), and displaces the right-hand figuration over two octaves, requiring a skewed, kinaesthetic transposition of conventional practice (ex. 6.5b). In “Scarbo,” then, one experiences an abrupt reversal of expectations from Gibet, resolute, hallucinogenic movements within a quick, fixed 3/8 meter, as opposed to the quiet landscape presided over by the ironic perpetuum mobile of a hanged man. Mlle Faure stated the obvious: “So it’s a nightmare: bounding, jumping about, rapid displacements on the keyboard, without breaking up the headlong rhythm; crossed hands, exploding chords, mute chromaticisms, percussive tricks by slight of hand, dare I say.”221 We must persist some, with regard to gesture (difficult to invoke in “Ondine,” nearly impossible in “Le gibet”), since “slight of hand,” in Scarbo, acquires a specific relevance. The programmatic

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(a)

     



ppp



 







pp

   

 

 Sans ralentir

                      



      

     



  

  

 



    

       

     





pp

            







pp

 

  







 



  



   

       

     

   







  

   



 



  



 



 





 

  





   



          fin



  



   

 







 





  

 

 

  

  



  

   

      







   

 

 

  



 

 



 

  









  

(b)

    











 





       



  







  

Ex. 6.5. Gaspard de la nuit, “Scarbo.” (a) the final 13 mm. (b) a virtuosic section, mm. 256–67.

ending of the work “—and suddenly he vanished.”222—is a visual arabesque upon the page, but it is also a Symbolist aural gesture, a sudden dwarf-of-an arpeggio, washing away in a split second the quasi-telegraphed (awkward, high “trills” in the right hand, the opening measure of “Scarbo” in the left), feigned conclusion in B major. Yet Ravel’s wager here requires assistance, as Mlle Faure recounts: Ravel explained in great detail the resources, the manipulation of the instrument and its sonorous palette; . . . everything required to “furnish,” to portray

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his works, and he had certain “devices” which could describe in exact and minute detail the most fleeting of ideas. For example, he made me do the last measure of “Scarbo” over and over again to convey the effect of a candle going out, using a kind of muted but quick and oblique pirouette of the hand towards the outside of the keyboard.223

Even without such testimony, one can deduce a good bit from Gaspard de la nuit about Ravel’s early twentieth-century, synaesthetic thought. His evident anxiety at being perceived as “Romantic,” Lisztian, or otherwise as late as the 1920s, merely emphasizes the importance of earlier experiences filtered through a wide variety of encounters flowing from Hoffmann and Weber through Poe, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and many followers of Wagner. The music, therefore, is both Symbolist and Romantic, and its uniquely successful transformation of French and German heritages represents an enduring aesthetic irony.

Irony and Style: Hands and Keyboards, Skulls and Thumbs More than a few references to the keyboard as inspiration to other arts (especially literature and poetry), have been observed, and Roland-Manuel’s remarks about Ravel’s hidden compositional process certainly buoy our opening chapter’s thesis with direct reference to the conjuring, the “juggling” of one’s materials (as Jankélévitch put it in his literary study of irony). But the nub of RolandManuel’s 1925 metaphor has to do with the hands (Ravel, somehow manipulating Durand’s printing presses from a secret, personal “keyboard,” removed at great distance). Marc Pincherle, one of the first French musicologists, knew Ravel from the Belle époque forward,224 and in a lecture in which he discussed the composer’s style at the Library of Congress in Washington in 1961, he noted a certain, long-acknowledged, musical “royalty”: Three centuries ago the Reverend Father Mersenne wrote, with regard to the lute: “The art, or science, and skill of the hand are so great that some people have called it one of the principal instruments of wisdom and reason. . . . Without dwelling on all of its accomplishments, it is sufficient to consider the way it moves on the lute and on all the other instruments; because these movements are so wonderful that reason often must admit that it is unable to understand their lightness and swiftness, which defy the quickest imagination in the world.”225

Though likely, we do not know specifically that Ravel read Mersenne. But we do know that he read and admired Condillac’s treatise, a work that advances in more detail a kind of “royalty” of the human hand, as well as an early sense of the word virtuosity (in which Pincherle was much interested).226 Albert Thibaudet, in his study of Mallarmé conveyed to Ravel at the front of the war, agreed

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with Condillac, going so far as to suggest in his chapter on poetic “Images” that all sensual perceptions somehow derived from the tactile (especially, it seems, those concerning intimacy).227 Viñes, after his rupture with Ravel, used a verb with resonance that turns up enough to be of interest, in describing with great enthusiasm the difference between Debussy and Ravel: “Debussy effleurait [touched lightly] le clavier.”228 Viñes’s notion that one composer was more subtle tactily than the other is mitigated by Henriette Faure’s description of working with Ravel—the octaves in La vallée des cloches” discussed earlier with regard to “punctuation” were, indeed, to be “effleurées du haut”229—but Jankélévitch leaned towards Viñes: Ravel was more affected by the new, intense influences of eroticism, sport, worship of machinery, and the like, all of which had somehow passed over his teacher, there being no evidence of Gabriel Fauré’s ever being touched, even lightly (“effleuré”) by them.230 In his book on irony, however, Jankélévitch uses the verb to much larger synaesthetic ends, defining the intelligence, the talent capable of irony, as in itself “L’art d’effleurer.”231 Suzanne Bernard may have been right in choosing “Nénuphar blanc” as the most beautiful of Mallarmé’s prose poems,232 but Thibaudet described the work in its larger context—the poet’s later years on the Seine, at Valvins, where Ravel would spend much time after Mallarmé’s death, with Mallarmé’s daughter and her husband: “le poème de ses journées d’été, de la rivière lumineuse qui porte la yole comme le rêve qui l’effleure.”233 Thibaudet’s speculations, too, about the origins of Un coup de dés, are important in view of the confluence of French and German aesthetics in synaesthesia (never mind earlier-proposed issues of the “will”), since he makes a case for Mallarmé having been inspired by excerpts from Zarathoustra, all of which begin in consecutive verses with “Si” (as in the opening of Un coup de dés). The first of these reads: ‘Si jamais je fus effleuré d’un souffle du souffle créateur et de cette divine nécessité qui force encore les Hasards à danser des rondes d’étoiles.”234 In these times, as Ravel read Thibaudet, the brilliant Jacques Rivière (to whom we turned in chapter 1 about Debussy, Stravinsky, and Alain-Fournier; pp. 18– 19) vanished into the abyss of the war, along with Marguerite Long’s husband, the four other dedicatees of Le Tombeau de Couperin (including one of Madame Dreyfus’s sons, Roland-Manuel’s brother), and countless others. Rivière, however, managed to survive serveral years of imprisonment, and returned to French literary and cultural life in 1918, though all too briefly (he died in 1925). Before his initial disppearance in 1914, Rivière left a marvelous example of critical thought deriving from the imaginative iconographies of the human hand, one with some irony, in that it sought to inform from the influential pages of the Nouvelle Revue française on a topic that he freely acknowledged knowing nothing about—the “mechanics” of music:235 modulation, in the music of César Franck, wrote Rivière, is “always like a hand opening slowly, revealing the unexpected, imperceptible revelation of further insight, the inevitable, sifting of parallel clarity gaining more and more recognition.”236 Rivière was correct, on levels

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yet to be sufficiently plumbed. As has been noted, Paul Valéry, in 1902, after struggling with much including Mallarmé’s L’après-midi d’un faune, Debussy, and Edgar Alan Poe, stopped writing poetry for twenty years. A similar, extended interval followed 1922, but in 1937, the year of Ravel’s death, he composed a monumentally condensed work engraved in stone, four “stanzas” of five lines each, for the newly constructed Palais de Chaillot that replaced the lost Trocadéro (comprising most prominently, nowadays, the Musée de l’homme). Valéry’s third of four groups of words echoes Father Mersenne, and Roger Shattuck’s tranlsation and thoughts about such an “etching” are helpful: “Within these walls devoted to marvels / I welcome and protect the work / Of the artist’s miraculous hand / Equal and rival of his mind / The one is nothing without the other.” This building houses the handiwork of men we call artists because they, more than anyone else, are aware of what they do. Their very awareness makes their acts more entire and confers on them a lucidity that is both painful and consoling. The works housed in these walls all flow from a man’s hand, most marvelous of organs; the direct extension, instrument, and agent of his thought. Ears, eyes, mouth—these organs behold and confront the world. Only the hand makes. And the rare or beautiful things the hand makes teach us to see everything else in the world afresh.237

The one composer Rivière may have admired as much as Debussy also echoed Mersenne, though by way of Pincherle’s proxy at the Library of Congress in 1961: Strawinsky echoes Father Mersenne when, speaking of his Piano-Rag-Music, he says: ‘What interested me especially was the fact that the various rhythmic episodes of this piece were dictated to me by the fingers themselves. . . . We must not despise the fingers: they are great inspirers and, being in direct contact with the raw sound itself, they often awaken in you subconscious ideas which otherwise would not, perhaps, have been revealed.”238

Stravinsky, then, restores our departure points: (1) sound (indeed, “raw sound itself”), and (2) sense (i.e., a long line of “color” keyboard experiments over several centuries, all associated most directly, of course, with the sense of touch). Unfortunately, as with synaesthesia itself, the “subordinate” topic of color keyboards has yet to be comprehensively studied. Wilton Mason has traced the topic in English, with attention to Wellek’s earlier work on Castel (as with synaesthesia), to Newton and his Optiks (published 1704, though underway for some time), and to the experiments of Père Castel in Paris mentioned earlier (and their influence upon many including Telemann, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, and Goethe).239 But the more detailed investigation is that by Helmut Christian Wolff, whose essay includes a facsimile of Telemann’s description of Castel’s

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“color keyboard.” The fact that Weber’s librettist in Der Freischütz freely acknowledged Castel as a source of inspiration long after Mersenne would be in itself reason enough to reach further into sources known to Ravel,240 were there not others, and long after Weber. Rimbaud—introduced to Ricardo Viñes by Ravel (as Viñes gratefully acknowledged)—knew little about music, yet invented a “coloration” theory of vowels in his famous Sonnet des voyelles, a work indebted to Baudelaire and Verlaine, and one that circulated quickly and widely among all interested, including René Ghil. Ghil, in his 1885 Traité du verbe, in full throw of Wagner’s influence (and referring to Mersenne, as well), attempted to “correct” Rimbaud concerning some vowels, and to extend his insight into musical instrumentation and to the orchestral families of sound (see fig. 6.3). Again, some irony may be noted, in that neither of these systems—or the others preceding them—actually “works”: Rimbaud himself backed away from his enthusiasms, and Mallarmé (who wrote a generous introduction to Ghil’s study) wasted little time in “recanting” within the year, telling Ghil specifically that “Sound will not be enough.”241 Yet Mallarmé, too, had once proposed that “in words, vowels and diphthongs present themselves as flesh, consonants as fragile skeletons to be dissected,” a conceit also quickly withdrawn.242 The precedents, then, however scientifically problematic, were significant, as were their reverberations. Baudelaire admired Gaspard de la nuit’s author, but so did Huysmans, who (in 1885, the year of Ghil’s treatise) echoed Baudelaire on Bertrand by way of previous examples in the visual arts: “That incredible Aloysius Bertrand . . . transferred Leonardo’s procedures into prose, painting in metallic oxide his smaller portraits, with vivid colors shimmering like translucent enamel.”243 And in chapter 4 of À rebours (also 1885), Huysmans’s perverse protagonist—the privileged, decadent Des Esseintes—provides a rather unnerving description of his personal “mouth organ,” a series of little barrels, small liquor casks built into the recesses of a wall in his home, all connected by conduits with tiny cups underneath. “Stops” labeled “flute,” “horn,” or “vox humana,” were pulled, “thus playing symphonies on his internal economy, producing on his palate a series of sensations analogous to those wherewith music gratifies the ear.”244 Moreover, the fictional Des Esseintes—like René Ghil—extends sense— taste, here, mixed with imagined keyboards—into musical instrumentation (i.e., dry curaçao corresponding to the clarinet, kümmel the oboe, anisette the flute, etc.), and then even further, to what can only be described as—if there can be such a thing—a performance practice of one’s palate (“palatal arch”), where various rums and liquors correspond to the instruments of a string quartet, or even a quintet with harp (for this, a touch of dry cumin required).245 Small wonder, then, that Ricardo Viñes, having taken Ravel out in 1896 to see the “reverse register” piano mentioned at the end of chapter 4 (pp. 179–80), is completing the final movement of a vocal “tétralogie” entitled Fleurs, Parfums, Couleurs, Sons.246 Small wonder then, that when Ravel’s family moved in 1901, he wrote from the

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new address, too, and in the same letter in which he used Alcanter’s new point d’ironie—about the “warbling” of train locomotives, of sensing his “next Sites auriculaires.”247 Viñes, as noted earlier, used the metaphor of touch (effleurer the keyboard) in distinguishing Ravel from Debussy, but others employed analogies more reminiscent of Huysmans’s “mouth organ” into the twentieth century. Camille Mauclair, in 1906, invoked—opposite Debussy—even the mixed olfactory, the “humidity” of Ravel’s music,248 and—as if to reiterate the power of correspondances over time—Jacques Février, nearly a half century later, repeated in 1939 what he claims Ravel had once told him: “Do not play my music like Debussy.” He continues, “The Impressionism of Debussy is one of fragrance, that of Ravel is visual.”249 Viñes’s more specifically tactile metaphor, however, betrays an interest in synaesthesia and keyboard practice not yet studied in depth. Consider, for instance, the work of Marie Jaëll, whose performance career was well underway by the time of Viñes’s reference to Ravel (Le Ménestrel noted her completion in 1889 of six concerts devoted to all of the Beethoven sonatas).250 Her greater efforts were indeed shaped by Mersenne’s “royalty” of the hand, and they extend from the 1890s to “Neoclassicism” after the war, to the time of Bolero and the late 1920s.251 From the period in between, her extensive studies of the tactile, psychomusical aspects of what she obviously conceived of as the foundation of a life’s work (Un nouvel état de conscience: La coloration des sensations tactiles, 1910), should be acknowledged, since her arguments have overwhelmingly to do with matters of touch and color (figs. 6.4 and 6.5).252 Jaëll’s cycle of the thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas in 1889 may have escaped Ravel’s attention (at the time, he was an adolescent, wandering about the exhibitions and pavilions of the Paris World Exhibition with Viñes), and there is, to date, no direct evidence of his awareness of Jaëll’s work in the coming decades. But the embedded correspondances of her long-lived devotion to touch and color run remarkably in tandem with Ravel’s early development, and though Jaëll’s 1910 monograph was received with condescension in Revue musicale,253 Ravel, the next year, participated in a series that had been underway since 1907 in the SIM Revue musicale of hand “portraits,” a series reflecting, obviously, the interests of Mme Jaëll’s more advanced work. This in itself is noteworthy, but the fact that Ravel acceded to yet another imprint of his hands more than twenty years later, is quite striking.254 In the latter case—as both Marcel Marnat and Michel Delahaye have noted (Delahaye’s essay is aptly entitled “Jeux de mains,” or, roughly, “Placing Bets”)255—a set of imprints was obtained in 1933 for a German doctor’s contribution to the avant-garde journal Minotaure, just as Ravel was beginning to suffer severely from the neurological malady that would slowly kill him.256 Marnat and Delahaye agree fairly that Lotte Wolff’s conclusions about Ravel’s hands are hardly revelatory; but they do reveal at least one aspect helpful to our final thoughts about the works from the time of the 1907 SIM series, including Gaspard de la nuit.

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pour n’en plus sortir en son Travail et son silence : cet Mais, du rappel de mes consonnes (spirantes, stridulentes, vibrantes et explosives), qui à mes Timbres selon des vues dénoncées tout à l’heure se marient, élargissons : F, I , L , S

P, R , S

R, S

L, R, S, Z

OU, IOU, OUI

O, IO, OI

A

EU, IEU, EUI

F, L , R , S , Z

D , G , H , L , P, Q , R , T, X

LL, R, S, V, Z

U, IU, UI

E, È, É M , N, G N ( e )

I, IE, IÈ, IÉ

Or, par ordre croissant d’harmoniques (et ne savons-nous pas que de mode spécial de production de son proviennent, spirantes, susurrantes, vibrantes, explosives, mar’elantes et stridentes, des rumeurs), voici les Instruments principaux et les consonnes propres à représenter ces rumeurs qui par elles-mêmes sont incolores : F, J , L , S les Flûtes longues, primitives

P, R , S

R, S

L, R, S, Z

la série grave des Sax

les autres Sax

les Cors, Bassons, Hautbois

F, L, R, S, Z les Trompettes, Clarinettes, Fifre et petites Flûtes

D,G,H,L,P,Q,R,T,X les Violons par les pizzicati, Guitares, Harpe

L L , R , S , V, Z les Contrebasse, Violoncelle, Alto, Violon

Que si, désormais, l’on se rappelle les curieuses et évidentes remarques de P. Mersenne (á la note XXII ), résumer m’est permis : et, par une triomphale unité l’on me voit avéré, car si, selon ma version primitive revue pour l’A, les couleurs sont rapprochées aussi (ce dernier rapprochement, il est vrai, précedant de notoires et suprémes expériences, mais!), c’est dans l’essentielle lumière de sa gloire et plus intense selon la hauteur de l’onde harmonique, le spectre solaire qui se déroule, Interrompu seulement, ce spectre, par, entre le jaune et le bleu, l’apparition d’un blanc Figure 6.3. René Ghil’s extensions, 1885, of Rimbaud’s “orchestral” speculations

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espoir vague espéré, qui vers des certitudes s’elargit équivoque quasi et qui doit se lever là cependant, me paraissant provenir : suit de ce que ces deux coleurs complémentaires se neutralisent en partie, soit de ce que c’est là le moment de perception maximum des harmoniques, le mélange de sensations lumineuses produites donnant sensiblement le blanc.... Ainsi disons : les divers Instruments assourdis par M, N, GN, l’Orgue nuits mouvantes des sensations, sentiments et idées

Noir-roux

Rouge

Vermillon

F, I , L , S

P, R , S

R, S

OU, IOU, OUI

O, IO, OI

A

L, R, S, Z

EU, IEU, EUI

les Flûtes longues, primitives

la série grave des Sax

les autres Sax

Monotonie, Doute, Simplesse

Souveraineté Gloires , Ovation

Gloires Tumultes

Jaune

Jaune-blanc et Blanc-bleu

Rose-orangé

les Cors, Bassons, Hautbois Gloire, Amoor (avec doute et appréheusion, diésés

Bleu

F, L , R , S , Z

D , G , H , L , P, Q , R , T, X

L L , R , S , V, Z

U, I U, U I

E, È, É

I, IE, IÈ, IÉ

les Trompettes Clarinettes, Fifre et petites Flûtes Ingénuité, Soutire, Heur

les Violons par les pizzicati, Guitares, Harpe

les Contrebasse, Violoncelle, Alto, Violon Passion, Prière (à l’aigu)

Sérénité

Figure 6.3. (concluded)

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Figure 6.4. Marie Jaëll, illustration, ca. 1910, from her “Theory” of the tactile for pianists

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Figure 6.5. Marie Jaëll, proposed synaesthetic influences, ca. 1910, of color upon a pianist’s thumb(s)

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Dr. Wolff—borrowing briefly from William James and Carl Jung, and seeking to advance chirognomie (the scientific study of physical subtleties of the hand, as she puts it)—presents in both archetypal (“collectif,” “imaginatif inconscient,” “égocentrique”) and individual example (Gide, Ravel, Breton, Huxley, etc., with Ravel as sole musician) what amounts to a rather strange, small-scale, psychological “phrenology” of the human hand. Wolff, then, in 1933, more than twenty years after the first SIM series (including Ravel’s imprints), touches on topics that, like synaesthesia, are deeply rooted in the early nineteenth century—phrenology and physiognomy. These were topics about which both Viñes and Ravel were informing themselves during the 1890s, when Marie Jaëll (and, no doubt, others) were attempting to construct sophisticated systems of performance practice related to multiple, simultaneous sense perceptions. In the year of Tristan’s vividly described effect upon Ravel, Viñes also recounts their reading of Julien Leclercq’s Physionomie (with which Ravel was already familiar), and the Phrénologie of “Cuti.”257 Leclercq’s work is essentially a detailed encomium to Eugène Ledos’s Traité de la physionomie humaine,258 with archetypal examples of the human skull and face, its parts, alleged “attributes” (i.e., sophistry, circumspection, male vs. female, stupidity, etc.), animal resemblances (eagle, cat, cow, crow, etc.), and several dozen specifically analyzed examples in photographic portrait, including both Ledos and Leclercq (analyzed by one another), all representing a topic of considerable popular and “scientific” interest in the belle époque. Among Leclercq’s many examples are those of Massenet, Grieg (and his wife), Augusta Holmès, Sarah Bernhardt, Ibsen, Zola, and the critic Ferdinand Brunetière, whom we proposed in chapter 1 as being representative of the times (though for reasons having more to do with the interior than the exterior of his skull).259 It would be felicitous to find Ravel’s hands and skull in some such kind of study, but such is not the case (to date). Books dating from the 1880s do, however, combine the study of both head and hands,260 and independent references to the phrenology of Ravel’s head are not rare. André Suarès, for instance, once said that Ravel’s head made him think of a younger relative of Baudelaire,261 and Armand Machabey argued in his 1947 monograph against deriving stylistic or personal interpretations from Ravel’s physical characteristics, including head and hand.262 Yet Rollo Myers, who must surely have read Machabey’s book before publishing his influential study of Ravel in 1960, advanced the following, long after Lotte Wolff’s 1933 phrenological study of hands: With Maurice Ravel the parallelism between the physical man and his art seems even more complete. His small, taut frame, neat and precise movements, large head with its high cheek-bones, long nose and straight, tightlipped mouth, suggest iron self-control and intellectual integrity—both

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qualities that are conspicuous in his music; while the dry and rather distant manner we are told he affected seems to indicate a non-emotional approach to people and things, combined with a certain fastidious reserve. . . . Ravel could never have been in an “unbuttoned” mood.263

There are evident traces here of the kind of writing found repeatedly in Leclercq’s voluminous 1884 photo-library of alleged aesthetic and character analysis that may have influenced Myers’s judgments cited at the close of chapter 1.264 Leclercq’s advanced folly offers, all the same, an odd touch of promise in such matters, since, in passing over the potential of “other” external, corporeal aspects in determining human nature, he accords (with regard to hands) greater prominence to the physical member than to its graphology: one can, after all, says Leclercq, better tell a criminal by his hand than by his handwriting.265 Some phrenological evidence related to the jocular embracing by Ravel and his colleagues of a “criminal” label such as Apaches for their “wandering” salon, has been eschewed by others in favor of speculating over body size, cheek-bones, nose, lips, mouth, and the like, evidence that advances interest in Mersenne’s “royalty of the hand” into more specific realms of Ravel’s uniquely extended thumbs. (This may easily be observed in the examples of the SIM revue musicale and Minotaure imprints from 1911 and 1935). Condillac surprises a bit here, arguing, beyond Mersenne, that ten fingers (with or without large thumbs, one assumes), is well enough—more (i.e., twenty) might only dilute the efficacy, never mind the latent genius and creativity of one’s allotted five.266 On the more contemporary fields of play, Henriette Faure probably puzzled a bit over Ravel’s coaching in “Ondine,” since he was anxious about the means of conveying the “latent light” of his melody,267 advising a lightened weight of her thumbs, in order to realize a less “worldly” effect.268 Closer to the century’s end, Vlado Perlemuter and Hélène Jourdan-Morhange represented Ravel’s thumbs as part and parcel of a transcendentally benign, tactile genius, as in the double glissandi of “Alborada” from Miroirs, or the drum-like, percussive sonorities required to bring to life the later Sonata for Violin and Piano.269 Most recently, Delahaye has shown from unpublished sources that Maurice Delage (Apache from the 1890s) was interested in the stylistic and performing-practice aspects of Ravel’s thumbs,270 and we may return once again to Stravinsky (from a different source than above): concerning the conscious, indeed subconscious powers of the hands and fingers in sonorous inquiry, one must—again—not mistrust them!271 Yet in remembering the nineteenth-century roots of phrenology (and, again, synaesthesia), Ravel’s “Great Romantic”—Weber—offered caution to those “trusting” one’s fingers so implicitly. The principal of his earlier-mentioned novel of youth was clearly anxious about them getting out of control, perhaps even betraying a composer’s gifts:

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The very position I had taken up to work at the piano was, as my last resource, a bad sign. The composer who gets his material from there is almost always born poor or well on the way to handing over his mind to the banal and commonplace. For these hands, these damned “piano-fingers” which from constant practice acquire a sort of independence and self-willed intelligence, are quite unconscious tyrants of the creative power. They invent nothing new, in fact everything new is uncomfortable to them. Quietly and cunningly, like true mechanics, they botch old, familiar limbs of sound into whole bodies, which look almost like new figures, and which, because they sound clear and euphonious, are accepted at a first hearing by the corrupted ear.272

Weber’s hero reconciles all quickly enough, trusting in the larger canvas, if one’s “inner,” “spiritual” ear prevails,273 as appears to have been the case in our one, final example from “Scarbo” (ex. 6.5), where Ravel does justice to both Stravinsky’s mid-twentieth-century enthusiasm for the subconscious and Weber’s early nineteenth-century, “Romantic” anxieties over the control of one’s members, in an example of programmatic phrenological inspiration. As noted in chapter 2, the penultimate stanza of Bertrand’s “Scarbo” constitutes the poetic idea behind Ravel’s grand programmatic crescendo, the terrified insomniac beginning to trust in reprieve only to suffer the reappearance of his ghoul, swelling up against the moon in the outline of a huge (Symbolist) bell. Yet Ravel’s realization of the text (the crescendo and hyper-compressed denouement approaching forty measures) was written in a fashion entirely novel to the keyboard virtuosity of its time, a relentless succession of steadily increasing, vertiginous intervals of the second that can be executed only by grasping each and all with—for virtually any player—a consciously and unusually “flattened” thumb. And the novelty and success of the event, as noted by Ravel’s closest friends, was indeed underpinned by something broadly synaesthetic, perhaps even subconscious,274 a special sensitivity slighted (if even recognized) by others, interested in other body parts: “He sat very low at the keyboard,” said Manuel Rosenthal on French Radio in 1985, “his hands almost beneath it. His hands were not only flat but the palm was below the keyboard, . . . he took advantage always of an extraordinary thumb, both thumbs, of course, which seemed to be detached from the rest of his hand and almost level with his index finger. All of us, his closest friends, said that he had ‘the thumbs of a strangler.’”275 More benign, yet complex ideations of the keyboard persisted in French letters to the middle of the twentieth century and beyond, sustained surely, by sources yet to be considered. Collaborating with Darius Milhaud in 1933 (Christophe Colomb), Paul Claudel was, curiously, another of Ravel’s designated “Romantics.”276 In dense, beautiful (nearly undecipherable) prose from the 1930s, Claudel painted upon the larger canvas of perceptual modalities that echoed Father Mersenne, Condillac, and many of the nineteenth century:

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The true course, the true path of the soul is to be found in the four strings above the fingerboard, offering themselves to the nails and to the bow; it’s the parallel of misery and love, of life and the E string. It is also the keyboard—that horizontal staircase of black and white steps, whose corporeal ivory runs from octave to octave, unraveling beneath it the endless thunder of virtuosi, furnishing to our comportment, to that mysterious and unknown angel so tightly coiled within all of us, every nuance of attention, of speed and retard, of languishing steps one after the other, of distracted course, too, when not those of furious attack and grand victory gained through great leaps and bounds!277

Claudel’s confidence in metaphors such as the open strings of a violin, or an allegedly “horizontal [keyboard] staircase,” were not isolated among those known to Ravel. Wanda Landowska, having survived the 1914–18 War, managed to escape the next—which, of course, Ravel did not live to see—by fleeing the German occupation. In her collected memoirs from 1964, she makes a series of intriguing, obviously synaesthetic observations, attempting to link seventeenthcentury composer Louis Couperin and lutenists such as Denis Gaultier to jazz artists of the twentieth century,278 all of which was of interest to Ravel (indeed, Landowska claims she often played Couperin for Ravel).279 She then, however, straightaway marries some of the imagery of Huysmans’s “palate” to Claudel’s keyboard “staircase,” in order to comment upon Ravel’s largest, sole, ironically symphonic work, his densely argued work for only two instruments, both stringed: the Duo sonate’s champions “find the means of being everywhere at once, thanks to a serpentine agility and suppleness. They graze quickly and with precision the essential nerve centers of a chord at all levels of the sonorous ladder.”280 In spite of Landowska’s faltering use of metaphors (opposite, in this case, Paul Claudel), the larger point would be that neither can be reproached as unrepresentative of their times. At the Concerts Lamoureux in Paris in 1930, more than a few slivers of Père Castel’s dreams had been realized—Bolero was interpreted with newly synaesthetic, “electric” assistance, and with seeming approval.281 Much remains to contemplate further,282 but, to conclude, Wagner’s importance to Ravel was more literary and removed than directly musical. Shrouded and powerful, to be sure, it was ironically so, in that its effects predisposed Ravel to wider, mitigating “affects”: those of fellow Apaches (including Viñes, of course); those circulating from different venues (Durand’s “North Wind” of Delius, Grieg, Ibsen, even Gauguin); those deriving from Baudelaire, Poe, Mallarmé, and other Symbolist poets and writers of the fin de siècle, including “decadent” literature and its related occult, pseudoscientific, and sundry mysticisms (as exemplified in phrenology and Huysmans’s “performing palate”); and those of a few other areas heretofore (to some degree) recognized.283 Ravel managed to transcend the overwhelming influences of Wagner and German Romanticism and the remarkable discoveries of Debussy, while welcoming all other encounters, from the young Stravinsky to the followers of Cocteau

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and beyond. Remembering his impassioned and tearful reaction to Tristan, Adorno’s judgment in 1928, the year of the Bolero, bears repeating: He is the ultimate enemy of Wagner, because his conception of erotic music is both so close to, yet so perilously opposed to Wagner’s. He is scolded for being both artist and aesthete—how could it be different for one abandoning himself to the beauty of the beloved? He is wise and clear, straight to the bottom—how could it be otherwise, schooled as he is in the unconscious and impenetrable? His greatest virtue, however, is his devotion to the image, to the model.284

Here, perhaps, is Ravel “wagering” at his best: conjuring up, juggling—to remember Jankélévitch’s reading of the practice of irony—myriad possibilities of conveyance, negotiating the delicate dialectic between technical virtuosity and meaningful representation while—as Adorno says—remaining true to the model(s).285 Wagner, then, was actually Ravel’s best friend, generating an enormous amount of musical and aesthetic controversy through which everyone had to “swim,” and for a very long time. As much was indicated by Charles Malherbe, only a few months before the above-mentioned “electrification” of Bolero, in his review of the ballet rejected so summarily by Diaghilev in 1920: We find ourselves on the banks of the Danube, in a marble swimming pool surrounded by huge columns, covered by a ceiling of blue drapery stirred by the winds. Men and women in gold bathing suits and gold caps float about, wander, emerge and disappear in harmonious formations. Mme Ida Rubinstein, in silver costume and a crown of gold plumes, creates from La valse a certain aquatic divinity.286

Though a place for Gaspard within the larger, emerging histories of color keyboards and their inspired repertories has been recommended, one might remember that the work’s essence was often described in terms of black and white by those who knew Ravel best.287 Henry Prunières, too, praised Ravel as the “master of white magic” at the premier of L’enfant et les sortilèges in 1925,288 and at least one encyclopedia contributor has described Gaspard as “three fantastic subjects rendered in terms of black and white etchings.”289 We return, therefore, to the colors of “clavier” keys themselves, for a final image of the years surrounding Gaspard, those of Ravel’s unconventional, and hard-won successes before the “Great War” overtook all, the years, too, of a very large institutional wager—the founding of a new music society in 1910 to challenge the entrenched power of the venerable Société nationale. A vivid account of opening night at the Société de Musique Indépendante has come down from the pages of the influential journal Comoedia, in terms a bit less colorful than those

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describing Ida Rubinstein’s later Rheinmaidens of La valse—no blue, no gold, no silver—but in terms invoking water, color, and touch (as did Mme Rubinstein), and (as had Huysmans) “taste.” It seems that among the evening’s most important guests was a large, musical mollusk: isolated, surrounded on stage by rows of the illustrious in formal (black and white) attire, spilling over from the packed hall roiled by the foaming (white) currents of (white) high-society expectations, sensing a gathering, incoming tide of the evening’s new works, the new, New Music Society’s great (black) “oyster-of-a-piano” waited patiently.290

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Chapter Seven

“Secrets of Modernity”: Irony and Style I have a hundred and fifty letters from Ravel. . . . They reveal no aesthetic or personal creed, no philosophy of art. . . . No disappointments, either; Nor any recriminations. . . . At most, some irony, and without malice. —Roland-Manuel, 1939 It is not in measuring the height of a tree that one begins to penetrate the mystery of its forest. . . . Clearly, one must walk around and about, throughout, and judge accordingly. —Maurice Ravel, ca. 1931 (and ca. 1922) Now that a good bit of time has revealed the aggregate of Ravel’s contributions, it would appear, clearly, that it remains of great significance. . . . In the end, Ravel did not compose all that much over the course of a relatively long life. And, precisely because of this, it is good to remember the words of Paul Valéry: “The true measure of an artist should be taken in view of what was not attempted.” —Jules Van Ackère, 1957

Some final associations remain between the touchstones of deception, wager, and style, and our one proposed intermediary and theoretical exemplar, inspired by Jankélévitch’s text on irony alone: that of “juggling”—of what a composer might (or might not) have been negotiating, before putting into place negations that excite to this day irony’s classic effect: “What? But how can this be so?!” To play the tables at Monte Carlo would be one thing, wagering notes in the concert hall quite another, as Roland-Manuel realized at the premiere of L’enfant et les sortilèges in 1926. Presaging Jankélévitch’s aesthetic, he declared that of all Ravel’s wagers to date, L’enfant numbered among the greatest,1 and upon finishing his biography (the first), he recast the idea on a larger canvas, as Jankélévitch was publishing his study of Ravel. “During my twenty years with Ravel,” writes Roland-Manuel in 1938, “[I] gathered up the secrets of modernity, the means of going against one’s times, from a man of iron will, who, like most creators of enduring wealth, sought perfection less in the exceptional than in playing strictly by the rules of the

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game.”2 The reference to modernity is important, beyond Roger Nichols’s comments quoted early on—“[The] feeling that Ravel could have been more adventurous if he chose, is widespread, as is the feeling that on the occasions he did choose to be adventurous, it was in the wrong directions.”3 Questions about what might constitute “right” vs. “wrong” in being adventurous—or, as Nichols implies more uncomfortably, whether this has ever much been considered—have yet to gain much ground. But they lend weight to Roland-Manuel’s locution. Whatever “secrets” were learned, irony surely counted among them, conferring—in and of itself—a discrete and distinguished modernity upon Ravel, since irony has perpetually been received as “modern.”4 Marcel Marnat was plainly correct about Ravel and Stravinsky having had to confront concurrently what it meant to be “modern” in unusually rich musical times,5 and he was right, too, that Ravel’s legacy has remained underrecognized, especially that of the 1920s.6 But such was not really the case until about the midcentury past. Discussions prior to this about Ravel’s modernity and style were often “in the air,” and by 1925, André Suarès (though caught up a bit later in speculation over “skulls”) had not only set Ravel up opposite Stravinsky as the “other” model for young composers, but as a unique example of perfection in taste and style: “If there is henceforth such a thing as French musical style, Ravel bids fair.”7 Henry Prunières, having sat alongside Roland-Manuel the same year that the “wagers” of L’enfant were placed at Monte-Carlo,8 echoed Suarès the very next, pointing to the leader of “modern French music,”9 an opinion reiterated forcefully from abroad in 1934.10 Modern,11 ultramodern,12 even “sane-modern,”13 were all used to describe Ravel and his music over a good four decades around the world. Some of the newer generation of French composers, however, were not sympathetic, which had consequences. Henri Sauguet’s disdain in 1924 for Tzigane and Ravel has already been noted, and Georges Auric (Cocteau’s most preferred in the group of Six, and to whom he dedicated Le coq) was similarly unsympathetic.14 Milhaud’s contempt was even more widely circulated, and freely acknowledged by Ravel with remarkably good humor.15 Stravinsky, too, turned away early on, significantly inflecting later judgments. According to his Boswell (Robert Craft, writing during the Ravel centenary in 1975): “Ravel never regained his path after the War, when he became the influenced rather than the influencer,” suffering, it seems, from a “failure to evolve.”16 But Stravinsky had already made this point elsewhere, more than a dozen years before (also via Craft): “My acquaintance with Debussy’s piano music and songs in my St. Petersburg days was very slight. The piano music of Ravel was better known, and not only the piano music. Most of the musicians of my generation regarded the Rapsodie espagnole . . . as the dernier cri in harmonic subtlety and orchestral brilliance (incredible as this seems now).”17 As always, irony chooses no sides. Working back another two dozen years (shortly after Ravel’s death), Stravinsky’s Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard—addressing matters of his evolution and influence, of course—were in

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fact, cobbled together and “ghost written” with several others, chief among them Roland-Manuel.18 Marnat again has it correct: however generous Ravel remained over the years,19 he was routinely ignored by Stravinsky.20 Serge Prokofiev, on the other hand, who had actually met Ravel through Stravinsky in 1920,21 made a short, surprisingly inflammatory statement during his years in Paris that he never backed away from: “Only Ravel knew what he was doing in France.”22 His notice of the composer’s death from Moscow in Sovietskoye Iskusstvo was detailed and heartfelt, and within it he alluded to the cross-currents of style and modernity: There was a time shortly after the war when a group of young musicians in France—Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc and several others—declared that Ravel’s music had outlived its time, that new composers and a new musical idiom had appeared on the scene. The years passed, the new composers have taken their allotted place in French music, but Ravel still remains one of the leading French composers and one of the most outstanding musicians of our time.23

Prokofiev plainly saw the larger canvas, and Honegger and Poulenc were actually among those few of Cocteau’s vanguard willing to acknowledge the good will Ravel had shown to all (even Milhaud and Auric).24 Germaine Tailleferre gained Ravel’s vote in her unsuccessful attempt at the Prix de Rome, and Honegger struck some attentive middle ground in 1938 (as would, soon, Poulenc during the approaching Second World War),25 Honegger distinguishing Ravel from Debussy in his “modern” synthesis of style, a style achieved through both “wager” and “will.”26 Charles Koechlin, close to Ravel over the decades, was also close to Honegger and Les Six, and was invited at one time (by Louis Durey, it has been suggested) to think about joining the group before they were so designated.27 Torn or not,28 Koechlin acknowledged—in a letter to Sauguet, no less, during the war that Ravel did not live to see—the common ground, all around, of influence.29 In another source he went to the trouble of denouncing the vulgarity and “primitivism” of contemporary French musical life by invoking the Germanic idealism of the author coming to Ravel’s defense in the Prix de Rome scandal of thirty-five years before: “As Romain Rolland said: the people must be raised towards great masterpieces.”30 Koechlin, then, in the midst of the next monstrous conflagration, invokes what Cocteau and his followers had railed against before, during, and after the first—the cultural authority of the “masterwork”: German, Impressionist, or otherwise. Some final encouragement for rereading the opinions of Roland-Manuel, Poulenc, Honegger, and Koechlin in view of those more critical (Sauguet, Auric, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and others),31 may be elicited from the last words in the title of Jankélévitch’s study on irony, L’Ironie, ou la bonne conscience, written nearly concurrently with his style study of Ravel. “Good conscience” may imply the pursuit of moral goodness, of course, but Jankélévitch argues on different planes—

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for “goodly” being aware, as it were, of one’s self-awareness in striving towards critical judgment. Irony, for Jankélévitch, then, is also a weapon. Whether or not Ravel’s verbal (notational) irony “pales” before the edifice of Thomas Mann’s greater fears32—the irony of the things of the world, of life and situations, of fate—Jankélévitch’s title clearly beckons. Irony, an instrument of the mind, tethered at times to those of musical creation, is also a tool of good conscience in analysis. At work’s end, then, two brief proposals and reflections inspired by Roland-Manuel’s alleged “secrets”, by Jankélévitch’s confidence in the intertwining of irony and conscience, and by the evidence of previous chapters. First of all: the absence of a given composer’s “school” need not indicate the absence of “modernity.” That Ravel left no “school” has been widely noted for a long time, often with a pejorative undertow. Yet the premise itself is not really true. Following the 1914–18 War (and the accelerating dissolution of cénacles like the Apaches), a group of composers quite cheerfully called themselves the “School of Montfort” (after Ravel’s suburban Paris home),33 and there is considerable evidence before this. Most prominent among those who gave evidence of his teaching were Roland-Manuel, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maurice Delage, Manuel Rosenthal, Nicolas Obouhow (least known), perhaps even Lennox Berkeley.34 But Vaughan Williams was seeing Ravel on a regular basis long before the teens and the twenties; in a letter to Gustav Holst in 1908, he claimed to be gaining much in Paris, “four or five times a week.”35 And Roland-Manuel was receiving private instruction from 1911.36 At Harvard, in the spring of 1914, Edward Burlingame Hill (having written favorably about Ravel and the larger “French School” from Boston for the Mercure musical in Paris as early as 1906),37 recommended study abroad to at least one student (Roger Sessions), specifically with Ravel.38 The war intervened, but we do know that in 1915 Roland-Manuel’s most recent efforts were dragged about by Ravel, from post to post at the front,39 setting the stage for another “flash” of Enright’s irony upon dark skies: Gustav Holst (in the correspondence cited above) writes back to Vaughan Williams in 1914 “You have really done it this time. Not only have you reached the heights but you have taken your audience with you. Also you have proved the musical superiority of England to France. I wonder if you realized how futile and tawdry Ravel sounded after your Epilogue. . . . As a consequence of last Friday I am starting an anti-Gallic League the motto of which shall be ‘Poetry not Pedantry.’ More when we meet!”40 One assumes jest on Holst’s part about Vaughan Williams, in 1914, having surpassed his teacher and having inspired the kind of organization that Ravel would very soon oppose from one side of the trenches, and that (from the other) Thomas Mann would embrace. In any case, after the war’s end, many sought Ravel’s guidance, and most, it appears, were referred to important figures such as Koechlin or Nadia Boulanger.41 Second, and touching upon a continuing “riddle” (to recall both Kierkegaard and Jankélévitch) of Western musical aesthetics: the popular success of a

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given composer need not indicate an absence of “modernity.” In his memoirs, Arthur Honegger reproduced more than a few Ravel statistics: between 1907 and 1913 the Histoires naturelles sold some 500 copies; between 1910 and 1912 the figures were roughly equivalent for Ma Mère l’oye. In 1929 alone, however, some 2,000 copies of the Bolero were sold, which Honegger found quite extraordinary and unable to fully account for.42 The daily Nice Matin, in 1992, informed how little the situation had changed over another half century: according to the French composers’ union, remunerations from Ravel’s music in 1992 led by far and away those of 1) film composers, 2) long-established popular and vernacular singers, and 3) composers of the following generation (i.e., Messiaen, Dutilleux, and Xenakis).43 The frustrations, then, felt by Milhaud, Sauguet, Auric, and others are understandable, especially when noting that Roland-Manuel himself, in 1921, long before the Bolero, had made a point of declaring in the Revue musicale that Ravel’s influence upon younger French composers was simply undeniable, and that it extended beyond France.44 In May of 1922, an exhibition opened at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, devoted to the works of the (second) husband of Ravel’s lifelong friend and Parisian doyenne “Meg,” Madame Charles-René de Saint-Marceaux, to whose salon Gabriel Fauré had taken his entire composition class from the Paris Conservatoire in the 1890s,45 and to whom Ravel had dedicated both his youthful devotion as a “Little Symbolist,”46 and the pages of his more mature “Flûte enchantée” (from Shéhérazade). Ravel attended the Saint-Marceaux exhibition,47 and the event was previewed in Le Figaro in deceivingly simple aesthetic terms that would have echoes in this final decade of his creative life: “[Charles-René de] Saint-Marceaux has surmounted the difficult problem in Art of becoming truly popular, while remaining truly sophisticated.”48 Writing only two years before the German invasion of France, and from Princeton, as had Arthur Mendel six years before (and, like Mendel, invoking George Gershwin, who had expressed sincere interest in joining Ravel’s “School” in 1928),49 Father Joseph Brennan judged that the immense popular success of the Bolero placed it within the second and larger categories of irony: “At present Ravel’s Bolero is as much of a household word in the United States as is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and it has gained for its composer popular recognition of dimensions all out of proportion to the importance of the work. This is the irony of Destiny, for Ravel was the last man one could imagine courting public opinion.”50 In Paris, not long thereafter, George Pioch sketched similar thoughts: “Having known Ravel well enough, I cannot help wondering how he might have interpreted all this, especially given the virtue of his biting, informal, and charming irony.”51 But Pioch’s account replaces Father Brennan’s rather limp phrase “household word” with an image more worthy of Thomas Mann’s respectful fears, since it derives from his memory of repeating Bolero’s theme incessantly (in itself an irony?) with coworkers, throughout the nights of fifteen months of German occupation, a rather fine example, to be sure, of irony exercised as “weapon,” upon ground

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that many (including Jean Zay, of course) were unable to reoccupy, never mind hold or, perhaps, “ironize.” Brennan’s conclusion—“We must not overestimate the importance of the composer, we must not place his name beside those of Titans like Bach, Beethoven or Wagner, any more than we would place a delicate and perfect little water color with three great oil-paintings”—presages that of Myers in the conclusion to his influential Modern French Music of 1960, “in the hierarchy of great creators the place of Maurice Ravel is not among the Titans.” If none of this refutes the topos of titans framing Ravel’s formative years— Beethoven and Wagner—it solicits, all the same, further analyses of “good conscience.” Suarès and Rolland were both unwarmed by Ravel’s music, one greatly sympathetic to the Wagnerian literary and musical “schools” of influence proliferating around Mallarmé, the other not. Rolland’s call early in the century for French reinforcements in his “battles” against aesthetic mediocrity (to include “that ironic poet, Maurice Ravel),”52 appears to have struck some nerves, perhaps even leading to Suarès’s later pairing of Ravel and Stravinsky, which, however galling to Stravinsky’s devotees (and likely Stravinsky, himself),53 has been convincingly corroborated by Manuel Rosenthal, the sole, twenty-first-century survivor of Ravel’s “School of Montfort”: Ravel crafted a world in which Stravinsky had little interest, a world in which the perfection of form, of what was “risked,” prevailed. Stravinsky, accordingly, preferred Debussy, since nothing in his world was predictable, whether or not “perfect.” All of which, perhaps, engendered a degree of envy for such precision: as long as Stravinsky lived in France there was a competition of sorts between the two that no other (foreign or otherwise) could challenge. . . . Such were the two poles . . . without a doubt, Stravinsky and Ravel.54

Rosenthal, too, has left some fine evidence of Ravel’s (in this case) shared “negotiations”—juggling, again—before “negations” might be put into place by a composer (in this case his student), whose ideal it must be to deny, to negate expectations: Forgive me if I belabor this, but it took Ravel years to make me understand what orchestration consisted of. He never explained anything at all, he simply told me “You instrumentalize very nicely, but you are not orchestrating.” The difference? It was nearly by chance that I grasped it, from a remark that might well be misinterpreted. One day Ravel avowed to me, “In the end (and don’t repeat this) we must try to dupe the listener. He must be led astray, made to believe in things to which we alone are privy. If, for example, you wish to assign a certain melodic line to the clarinet, anyone can do that well enough: ‘Right, how nicely that works in the clarinet.’ But if you wish to seduce the listener, then beneath the clarinet you will put something else, something that the listener will not straightaway notice: only you can know, for instance, the possibilities of pizzicati in the ‘cello. No one will hear them, since you will have placed them

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pianissimo, underneath the mezzo forte clarinet; but it will be just enough to gently reshape the sound of the clarinet, creating behind it a kind of strange haze, a halo. So, that is how one orchestrates: it is what I call ‘fooling the listener.’”55

Pressed for a more concrete example, Ravel was quite happy to describe how he arrived at “having his way with the listener,” in a work opening with, as his student nicely put it, a bit of “timid counterpoint”: Ravel explained: Flute and horn, fine; well chosen. But if I wish to “fool” the listener, which is to say, to lead him where I wish, and how I wish, something else that he will neither suspect nor notice must be introduced, something that will confuse and transport him elsewhere. So I will change nothing in the flute, but rather intervene [my emphasis] around and about the horn (already a bit in the background), surrounding its notes with pizzicati in the violas. They will be the same pitches, but by introducing such a soft nuance, the horn will “shelter” the violas’ pizzicati within its cloud of sound, and one will hear, then, something more than a horn, without knowing quite what. Voilà: that’s what it means to orchestrate.”56

As another student had put it in 1925 (after commenting on the irony of L’heure espagnole): “[H]is returning of themes or timbres descend from the same kind of paradoxical juggling. No one plays more delightedly with surprise. One is led to expect a trumpet; we wait; and there it is . . . but not at all—it’s rather the vestige of a trumpet, evoked by the flute.”57 Roland-Manuel’s “aesthetic of deception” is obvious enough, but so is that of Jankélévitch, since one must, in the end, choose between possibilities entertained, and the final choices—words, notes, colors, gesture, whatever the materials of a chosen “canvas”—will represent by default a wager (unless, of course, the artist chooses to deny such a thing, in essence another kind of wager). Traces here, then, of shared ground between two contemporary, philosophical interpretations of one composer’s musical style, first in general and pedagogical terms, and—when pressed—Ravel’s specific handful of “negotiations” (clues to what he had been juggling, “tossing about in the air,” as Jankélévitch put it) when conceiving how to intervene, how to “negate” listeners’ expectations from the very first bars of Ma Mère l’oye. René Dumesnil, in his Tombeau contribution to the Revue musicale, noted much the same about a different work, written in the midst of the 1914–18 War: “It was as much humor as the subtle pleasure of a kind of verbal juggling that, I think, inspired Ravel to write his ‘La ronde.’”58 He also noted the synaesthetic nature of the talent: “Extraordinary how Ravel is able to write upon such a literary canvas, . . . toying with sounds, as a painter does with colors.”59 All considered, however, the view that Ravel was an unattractive, even dangerous influence for younger composers was growing by the 1920s, and after his death

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in 1937, his example became increasingly irrelevant. The reasons for this have little to do with “secrets,” some with “modernity,” rather more with the matter of “schools.” Consider, for instance, Reginald Morris, who acknowledges in Music and Letters, 1921, the overarching premise of our study, yet judges Ravel severely: Music is for him a kingdom of sound, in which elusive rhythms and subtle harmonies clash faintly for the ravishment of those whose ears are attuned to hear them. . . . He is a typical Frenchman; . . . French in his technical virtuosity and his love of delicate effects . . . Yet, though himself so French, he is a dangerous influence for any young French composer. He is too freakish an individual to be a maître d’école, and the disciple who yields to the spell will do no more than reproduce the mannerisms of his master.60

Some gentle echoes may be intuited in The Musical Quarterly in 1927, when E. B. Hill, having traversed the Atlantic from Harvard for an interview at Montfort, leaves the impression that Ravel might have missed one of Nichols’s “more adventurous” boats: “If he cannot assume the place of a pioneer, he may at least claim the rewards of legitimate expansion of method.”61 Percy Scholes, in his two-volume history The Mirror of Music, 1947, wrote that, despite some few successes, “there is not much evidence in The Musical Times of any really wide public acceptance of the composer.”62 David Drew’s self-proclaimed “mid-century stock taking” (1957, entitled “Modern French Music,” within another large survey, European Music in the Twentieth Century) was even more blunt: it seems that along with other minor composers after Debussy’s death, Ravel simply lost his way, due to a lack of “competition.” His oeuvre, therefore, was “too small to provide a starting-point for a lifetime of creative work. Music so idiosyncratic and yet so limited is not such as might provide a basis for a healthy ‘school.’ . . . [The two late sonatas] seem very puny when placed beside those of Debussy,’” Ravel’s “diletantist strain was hardly a desirable example for younger French composers at that juncture.”63 Drew reassures that Ravel’s “diletantist strain” will at least assure him a place in history alongside Puccini. This seems unnecessarily condescending, since Ravel admired Puccini greatly and used his scores in teaching (second only to those of Richard Strauss).64 In 1957, as well, the more renowned Lockspeiser published a collection of letters by Ravel and Debussy (and some others) within which we may read: “The music of Debussy strikes a very serious blow at tonality; he went far into a world of disintegration. . . . The art of Ravel, for all the wonder of its detail—here Mozart was one of his ancestors—is never adventurous [my emphasis] in this way. It sounds to us today like some twentieth-century offspring of Mozart and Liszt.”65 Among clues to Roger Nichols’s interest a half century later about Ravel’s “adventurousness” are some others concerning “schools” in the 1920s, since Lockspeiser was himself a composer of these times, a student of Alexandre Tansman,66 who, in turn, belonged to the École de Paris (yet another “school” to

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which Ravel showed characteristic kindness and generosity). Tansman had solicited and received both friendship and guidance from Ravel over a long period of time,67 and the premiere of his student’s (Lockspeiser’s) music in Paris in 1926—including a piano concerto—was received favorably in La Revue musicale, yet again in comparison with Ravel, and alluding to the dyad of influence noted the year before by André Suarès: “M. Lockspeiser knows how to be ‘modern.’ He has a splendid sense of movement and of the intense rhythm of everyday life. The influence of Ravel and of Stravinsky remains very strong.”68 Some ironic echos may be detected, too, in Jean Cocteau’s nebulous and ironic reception of Daphnis et Chloé: “Daphnis is the archetype of those works which belong to no school; one of those works that land in our hearts like a meteorite, from a planet whose laws will remain forever mysterious and beyond our understanding.”69 The irony, here, however, has less to do with Cocteau’s own enthusiasms (i.e., cultivating his school), than with his use of the noun “archetype,” since his description of the provenance of such works as Daphnis—planets “whose laws will remain forever mysterious and beyond our understanding”—applies as much to the vagaries of schools and their alleged influences as to any understandable bewilderment over Ravel’s ballet. An important performing-practice aspect of school archetypes indeed awaits more careful attention, that of the salon, whether grand (as in the final scene of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, where Ravel’s music is gently poked fun of), modest (the mobile, more impoverished Apaches of Ravel’s youth), or the vast “middle ground” of evenings like those presided over by Madame de Saint-Marceaux, where Ravel met many if not most of the figures to whom he became indebted in his early decades. Salons were, of course, centers of enormous social, political, and artistic influence,70 providing a réseau, a network of regularly recurring events in which both the active repertories and new music premieres of the time played indispensable roles, and their decline, dating from approximately the same time as that of Ravel as a model for new music, has yet to be traced in detail. Their influence as an archetype of “school” is undeniable. Vuillermoz, for example, in 1939 contrasted the unhealthy, stifling influence of small cliques or coteries of influence, “petites chapelles,”71 with groups like the Apaches, which, for Ravel, had functioned like a “protective cocoon.”72 Jean Roy’s interpretation, hence, of Ravel’s canal trip in 1905 through Holland and Germany, rings out the more brightly: “Better this, than two years at the Villa Medici!”73 The term “chapel” could be used positively, as in Jean Godebska’s recollections of his parents’ “petit salon” of the 1920s, a chapel frequented only by artists (including Ravel) and a small number of devotees,74 but Stravinsky’s gentle derision of Ravel forty years later offers the larger hint, since however much he and Robert Craft may have chuckled in 1962 over the regressive progressiveness of Ravel’s 1908 Rapsodie espagnole,75 the work—Ravel’s first on a large orchestral canvas—was received in Paris as well as St. Petersburg as modern, and modern

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enough to inspire caution. Calvocoressi wrote of its wildly positive reception as representative of “the modern French school,”76 while Paul de Stoecklin (in Le Courrier musical) warned that the work marked enough of a divide with Debussy that Ravel ought guard against becoming “head of his own school,” or—worse— his “private chapel.”77 Among promising composers surely aware of such criticism was Déodat de Séverac (included, too, in Romain Rolland’s vanguard of French composers fighting aesthetic mediocrity). Déodat was graduating from the Schola Cantorum just as Ravel was orchestrating his Rapsodie (in 1907). The two were on good terms, Jean Marnold having praised both at once, in Le Mercure de France the year before—“cause for rejoicing in French music,” as he put it, so soon after Pelléas!78 The title of Déodat’s graduating thesis? “Sur la musique moderne: La centralisation et les petites chapelles.”79 Paul Dukas, Déodat’s confrère at the Schola, published an essay the same year suggesting (a bit apocalyptically) that there had been no real schools since the seventeenth century,80 and even André Gédalge, the Baroque wizard who had taught Ravel, Koechlin, and Milhaud counterpoint, took some arrows in the “School Wars,” when he published seven songs in 1910.81 In the same essay in which he put forth his famous aesthetic of suggestion, Mallarmé was explicit about how much he detested schools and all they might entail, and it will be difficult to advance future discussion of the issues surrounding his literary brilliance and fascination with music—i.e., who is trying to take back what, from whom, when, to what ends?—without reflecting upon what he claimed to disdain. Did not his famous “Tuesdays” (over some fourteen years) constitute a “chapel,” a source of aesthetic influence like those of the Apaches, of the Godebskas large and small, of Mme de Saint-Marceaux, of Winnaretta (“Winnie”) Singer (to whom Ravel’s Pavane was dedicated),82 and many others?83 Mallarmé denied it, forcefully, yet not without betraying some of the continuing ambiguities over school “archetypes” betrayed in Cocteau’s judgment of Daphnis et Chloé: “I reject anything that might be construed as ‘professorial’ when it comes to literature, which, after all, is an entirely individual endeavor. . . . What has conferred upon me the appearance of the head of a school is, chiefly, my perpetual interest in the ideas of the young; as well, no doubt, my honest recognition of what truly matters amongst their recent contributions.”84 A parallel with Ravel’s later convictions about young composers and their future is clear, yet time and again in the vast secondary literatures one encounters reference to the “school” (or its cognates) of Mallarmé, rarely to Ravel, the perceived lack thereof, again, often interpreted as a sign of historiographical or stylistic weakness. The following would seem to be more reasonable: “[He] founded no real school, had few imitators and fitted into no easily identifiable stylistic category. He was to make no attempt to compromise with the changes in musical thinking and expression that Stravinsky and Schoenberg, for example, were ushering in at the time of his own period of high maturity. He remained his own man, original, alone.” But this refers to Delius.85

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In the 1938 Ravel Tombeau, Edward Dent argued in some detail for Ravel’s continuing centrality. Acknowledging the predominance of German music in France throughout the nineteenth century, he wrote: “The ‘New Music’ began with Debussy and Ravel”: it will be impossible to imitate Debussy, but “Ravel, quite the opposite, may turn out to be the founder of a ‘School.’ His techniques, followed by some, will be developed even further by others. Such is the continuation of the art of Rameau, Méhul, Lesueur, and Berlioz, an essentially French art, one that owes nothing to the music of [our] more impassioned neighbors. . . . It will be incumbent upon the music of Maurice Ravel to lead us into the future.”86 Why this did not happen might—one hopes—be of continuing interest. Perhaps Ravel’s example might benefit from being, at least, “reinserted” in various discursivities of twentieth-century music, a splendid, illusory precedent for which may be found in the year of the above-mentioned dismissals by David Drew and Edward Lockspeiser. As noted in chapter 1, the first of precious few studies addressing Proust and music was published in 1926 by Jacques Benoist-Méchin, a work descending from his youthful passion for Proust’s great novel, and a brief literary relationship with Proust shortly before the latter’s death in 1922. On page 18 of La musique et l’immortalité dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust one reads: The period covered by the some fifteen volumes comprising La Recherche du temps perdu runs from Fauré and the “school of Franck” to the last works of Debussy; from Wagner and Reynaldo Hahn to the “post-impressionist school.” It is, therefore, alongside Debussy and Fauré, Monet and Renoir that one must interpret the painter of Balbec and Venice.87

In the 1957 reprinting of this work (retitled La musique du temps trouvée) the above sentences have been replaced by the following (with no notice of painters): This continuous narrative, as if it were written up in a single draft, covers around thirty years of French life, thirty years that correspond in music to the extraordinary flourishing of great works from César Franck to Maurice Ravel, by way of Fauré and Debussy.88

Though Benoist-Méchin makes no further mention of Ravel, he has, at least, “put him back” into the historical context of Proust’s life, however posthumously. And we remain grateful to him for virtually the only account of Jean Zay’s dismaying martyrdom.89 Irony hovers: shortly after his brief literary interactions with Benoist-Méchin (over the first German translation of À la recherche du temps perdu),90 Proust died, and in the following months his personal assistant and housekeeper of ten years, Céleste Albaret, began looking for another position. Benoist-Méchin, during the interwar years, was living with his mother, who brought to him one morning a personal note from the recently deceased

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Proust, recommending for employment a woman waiting in the adjoining room. It seems that a neighbor had mistakenly posted an employment notice in Le Figaro,91 and Mme Albaret had troubled herself to respond, in person, to the wrong flat. Albaret was looked after by others following Proust’s death,92 and she did, indeed, find another, more significant post than one “in the service of” Jacques Benoist-Méchin and his mother. Before final retirement, she was appointed steward for several years of a newly created French national museum in the suburbs of Paris, the Musée Maurice Ravel, in Montfort l’Amaury, where she freely admitted to speaking with visitors more about Proust than about Ravel.93 As for Benoist-Méchin, younger than Ravel, he did not serve in the 1914–18 War. In the next war, rather, he collaborated in the Vichy government that disposed of Jean Zay and many others.94 A final nod to Jankélévitch and his Ravel aesthetic is in order, since certain “time wagers” on the part of some might be acknowledged. In this, Debussy was clearly interested: his famous remark “Je travaille à des choses qui ne seront comprises que par les petits-enfants du XXe siècle,” graces the title page of Myers’s Modern French Music, and it was taken up by many as an aesthetic, or, perhaps better put, a “renewable” aesthetic.95 Lockspeiser’s opinion of certain late works by Debussy that, in fact, proved to be more sophisticated than popular—notably the piano etudes—betrays the obvious from a curious perspective: “Perhaps Debussy was more conscious of this final triumph of idealism and independence represented by the studies than might be imagined.”96 As early as 1949 Pierre Boulez minimized the relationship between Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Ravel’s 1911 Mallarmé songs,97 and as Nichols notes, he has had little to say about Ravel over the decades.98 Boulez did acknowledge Ravel’s mastery of sound and technique sketchily in 1987 (in Le Figaro, on the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death),99 but again by way of allusion—nearly seventy years later—to the stylistic “pole” broached at the beginning of the 1920s: Stravinsky, not Ravel, in his view, possessed the greater powers of orchestration. Fair enough. But Boulez’s irritation in 1987 over the more fashionable, “salon” aspects of Ravel’s style carries some irony, since Hirsbrunner, in his Ravel monograph of the same year,100 alludes to an alleged, late twentieth-century continuity of what we have suggested as an underexplored, performing-practice aspect of an under-studied phenomenon: it seems that Boulez and his Domaine musical concerts benefited greatly from their own “Muse du dodécaphonisme,” who was kind enough to throw luxurious dinners along the previous lines of Mme de Saint-Marceaux and many others.101 But a network of “Twelve-Tone” salons (and/or “muses”) resembling in scale and cultural relevance the rich réseau of previous opportunities stretching from the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries has yet to be demonstrated. The title of Hirsbrunner’s chapter, then, “Maurice Ravel—Genius or Only Master?” surprises a bit less, in that it casts (as elsewhere in his text) Ravel’s chief import as having been the anticipation of, and/or historical link between Claude Debussy and the works of Messiaen and Boulez.102

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In 1961, André Hodeir, one of the better-known French music historians of the time, proposed an idea that (one assumes) might have been of interest to Messiaen, Boulez and their followers. In his text La musique depuis Debussy, Hodeir was so bold as to proclaim that only serial music was capable of confounding irony— capable, in effect, of rendering it impotent: within such a world without compromise there could be no allusions to the “gentleness” of a Ravel, not the least hint of a Satie-like humor, irony itself would be “banished from a world in which it could have no purpose, where it would not know what—or what not—to attach itself to.”103 The idea is rather large, but appears to have had no reverberations. Debussy’s oft-noted interest in arabesques (indeed, his description of J. S. Bach’s music as such) has most often been attributed to interrelationships with Art Nouveau.104 But Debussy had, too, acknowledged the deep influence of Gregorian chant on the development of his melos,105 and Leo Treitler has suggested that the attractiveness of such a notion might lie (at least in part) in European musical “authority,” with reference—again—to Beethoven’s genius (see above, pp. 20, 220, and 273). Anton Webern’s finding, for instance— within one particular chant—of “already the full structure of the large symphonic forms, expressed exactly as in the symphonies of Beethoven” makes Treitler’s point, that the “power of Gregorian chant as the earliest embodiment of Western musical principles under Greek inspiration could then be reflected back in legitimation of later music. . . . This time it is the “new music” that is legitimated by showing it to be in direct line from that ancient music.”106 But can such imagined time warps—indeed wagers—be expected to bear reliable results? Laurence Davies proves a rare exception in having expressed some structural interests in the matter.107 Like Myers, he wrote a larger study (similarly entitled, actually, Paths to Modern Music, 1971), but in Davies’s introduction we find some occasional echoes of that delicate dialectic “truly popular / truly sophisticated”: The great difficulty (and it seems more of a difficulty than ever in the present age) is to discover forms of art that will preserve the element of subtlety without either baffling the common man or lulling him into a shameful sense of complacency. . . . Perhaps one reason for the timidity of music critics lies in what Mr. Felix Aprahamian has referred to as “the Hanslick complex.” What he meant was the fear so many critics have of seeming to appear dull or bigoted in the gaze of posterity.108

Arnold Whittall also argued at about the same time (though leaving the critics out of it) that “the strongest case is not for discouraging complexity, or promoting foolish shotgun weddings with utterly incompatible pop techniques, but for encouraging both the more positive development of perceptible hierarchical qualities within complex music, and also the establishment of simpler kinds of serious music.”109

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It is impossible, of course, to chart the future without juggling the past. Inevitably, some composers and their examples will remain “in the air,” others tossed aside, still others “dropped.” Ravel’s music was perceived as both popular and sophisticated by a very large public throughout all of his career, and continues to be perceived as such. Though major scholarly interpretations from midcentury forward have most often discounted what was once more generously, indeed generally allowed of his “modernity” and import to twentieth-century music,110 Ravel’s was a contentious and successful aesthetic, one of surprising, unpredictable, even transcendental synthesis, an aesthetic acknowledged by some in the next generation like Honegger (with specific mention of terms framed from chapter 1 forward such as wager, will, and “modern”), by many before, by rather few since. Sufficiently radical to generate debate over irony, style, and modernity for several decades, yet not having fared well in the second half of the twentieth century, Ravel has been revisited. If not a mature theory, a critique of one composer’s ironic musical aesthetic has been advanced, in originally conceived detail and in good conscience, a critique derived from Ravel’s will to musical ambiguity, shaped and informed by the rich legacies underpinning Mallarmé’s and his followers’ “will to suggest,” as virtually all grappled with Wagner’s sudden and severe impact. Several related categories creatively aggravating Ravel’s imagination on such a scale (dynamics, registration, counterpoint, the exotic, multisensory perceptions) have also been addressed,111 but all were informed by—as Ronald Woodley put it about the composer who suggested only Ravel knew what he was doing in Paris in the 1920s (Prokofiev)—a “strategy” of musical irony. Richard Hammond, writing from New York in the late 1920s in Modern Music, perceived what Cocteau could not quite about Ravel, about the conundrum of school archetypes: comparing Debussy, Stravinsky, Satie (and several others), Hammond remarked that the subtlety of Ravel’s work made him difficult to imitate, thereby inhibiting his immediate influence on younger composers, yet insuring the survival of his music.112 It took Virgil Thomson a good while,113 but, in the end, he, too, seems to have understood that Ravel’s survival depended precisely on not aiming for contemporary (or received) interpretations of grandeur, nor for impressing posterity: “Maurice Ravel was not interested in posing as a prophet, as a poet, or as a writer of editorials. He was no sybil, no saint, no oracle nor sacred pythoness.”114 One would like to imagine the composer entertaining at least a few of our previous “points,” with his wry smile and pirouette, the gentle reification of Alcanter de Brahm’s failed effort to formalize irony in literary punctuation with a “whip” of graphics. But irony—like music—is transcendental. In order to flourish, it must solicit as much within the moment (any “modernity”) as with imagined befores and beyonds. It must place its bets where it can, not in some unknowable future. Hence, as in our previous examples, never mind the not-so-gentle reification of Alcanter’s symbol in order to open his last-completed work—the aural, indeed “musical” employment of the concrete object itself—Alcanter’s

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failure, Ravel’s success. Roland-Manuel wrote about this in his proffered Ravel aesthetic of 1925, about the advantages—and risks—of using notes, rather than words, to shape attention: “In order that our expectations be at once satisfied and denied, the musician must exercise both evasion and ambiguity. Such are the instruments of deception, and they are dangerous, often fatal weapons to those taking them up.”115 Among such instruments, as we have seen, is irony, a weapon in Ravel’s case, as Jean Zay saw it in burying the composer in 1937, and, too, perhaps—according to Zay—“the most profound evidence of French genius.” The chapter title, again, hence, of Theo Hirsbrunner’s representative monograph on Ravel half a century later—“Maurice Ravel—Genius or Only Master?”—invites further discussion. Jankélévitch came quite close to dubbing Stravinsky as an incarnation of the spirit, or even the “conscience” of irony.116 But this would have been unfair. In order to triumph, irony cannot have a conscience, “good” or otherwise: it hovers, awaits, intervenes, intimidating those as far removed as Socrates, Kierkegaard, and Thomas Mann. A verbal weapon for millennia before Maurice Ravel—the punctuation, to remind, of his musical thought—it is, too, for those interested in the recurring riddles of musical historiography, a quintessential weapon against time. Such a thing as modernity will always “exist,” of course, yet can probably never be, with or without secrets. Irony will see to it; with or without music.

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Appendix Ravel’s 1902 Prix de Rome Fugue     











       

S                

  









   









  



R



 C.s.



          













7



 

          

         

      



 



S





          



   

  

  

   

  

          

      

  



 

   

 

       c.s.



      

            

    



 

     

     

 



     

   

Frag[ment] du S.

  

  

C.s.

          

R 13





 

Frag. du S.

           

 



Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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284



appendix

19     

  

  

 

                ( F.

      

     

   

C.S.

        



         

   



  

Frgt. du S.



 

S. au relatif

               

   

   

  

   Frag du S.

25     



R





            

  



        

      









     

C.S.                                                         

    

      

  

  



Div[ertissemen]t sur un frgt. du S.

31        



             

                    



Frgt. du S.

 



  

       

        

                  

  



 

Ft. du S.

           

Frgt. du S.

 

 

   

Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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appendix



Fgt. du S.

  

  

     

            

       

    

   

   

         

                C.S.

         

                          C.S.

                     

       

        



             49      



 





Frgt. du S.



    



Ft. du S.

  



        

  



          

     

    



Fragt. du S.



   

      

S. à la sous-domt.

 

  

S. au 2me degré

    

                         43    

 

Fragt. du S.

37         

285

 

      

Fgt. du S.

                          

             (?)

Frgt. du S.

                                              



  



  



 



   

 

Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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286



appendix

          55

      

  

    

          

  

                                   

A                               

       

         

   

  



      

       

1re Strette

   61







                           



 S





R



S      





      

        

   

  



      

        

      

 

Divt. sur la tête du S. (Canon à la 8ve)

R

67       

        

   

 

        

  

 

        

  



Tête du S.





   

      

      



Tête du S.

          

 

    

                 

Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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appendix

287

Tete du S.

73       

                       

              

Tete du S.

 

 

  





             79

    

  

                     85     

 

     

      

S

  

               C.S. par augmentation



  

 

R

        

      

  



     

  

 

     

 

   



    

Réponse réelle à la sous-domt.

S

  

C.S.                    

   

             



   



 

 

       

   

C.S.

 

  

 

   



         

  

   



  

    





S

        



      

         



   

Tête du S.

      

         

        

Tête du S.

 

  

Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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288



appendix S.

Tête du S.

      



91

   

Tête du S.



  



   

     

        97        

  

?

        

  

        



           

c. s.

 

 

 

            R.

       

    

 



S. 

  

  

 

   

par augmentation

par augmentation

 

4me Strette

         

         

    

R

  

       S.     

  

   c.s.        

                            



        

  

   

   

                 

 S.     

        



 

  

  

Appendix: 1902 Prix de Rome fugue. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la musique, Ms. 1051.

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Notes Introduction Epigraph 1. “Quel que soit le langage qu’il adopte, Ravel lui fait rendre des sonorités extraordinairement neuves et où triomphent toujours un goût implacablement sûr, une science et une autorité prestigieuses. . . . Car Ravel possède une arme qui est l’ironie, c’est-à-dire l’intelligence se connaissant elle-même et jouissant d’elle-même en même temps qu’elle se domine. Tout ce qu’elle peut faire, elle le tente. Et ce qu’elle ne peut faire, elle y renonce, non point parce que ce n’est pas possible, mais parce que ce ne serait pas humain. Et en ceci je veux voir le trait le plus profound du génie française.” Jean Zay, “Discours de M. Jean Zay, Ministre de l’Education Nationale aux obsèques de Maurice Ravel.” Fleeing the subsequent occupation of France, Zay was betrayed, imprisoned, and executed. Some other remarks by Zay may be found in Orenstein’s Ravel: Man and Musician, 108–9. See, too, Marcel Marnat’s brief comments in his annotated, reprinted version of the Revue musicale Tombeau, in Maurice Ravel: L’hommage de la Revue musicale, décembre 1938, ed. Marnat, 64. Epigraph 2. “La musique est l’art d’atteindre le sensible avec des sons.” Henriette Faure, Mon maître Maurice Ravel: Son œuvre, son enseignement, souvenirs et légendes 7. Epigraph 3. Calvocoressi, “Les histoires naturelles de Maurice Ravel et l’imitation Debussyste,” cited in Roland-Manuel, Maurice Ravel, 47. 1. Writing about words as music was an important theme for Mallarmé and the Symbolist movement. 2. One of, if not the most comprehensive efforts here is Freedman’s Laurence Sterne and the Origins of the Musical Novel. See also Bonds’s related comments in his “Haydn, Laurence Sterne, and the Origins of Musical Irony,” for instance, 86: “To be effective, irony must be used sparingly. There is just enough of a plot in Tristram Shandy to allow the countless digressions to be perceived as digressions. Devices like unprepared modulations or false endings, if used too frequently, would undermine the contextual, rhetorical base by which these techniques secure their meaning. Nevertheless, these techniques are present in Haydn’s music to a sufficient degree that they challenged the composer’s contemporaries to reconsider some of the more basic premises of the listener’s relationship toward the musical work.” 3. Some sense of lacunae may be noted in the term’s absence in the (continuing) musical lexicography Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie. 4. Enright, The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony, 6. 5. Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, 43. Bloom’s famous study, grounded as deeply in Freud as it is, is darker (and more complex, of course) than Enright’s, and it touches upon irony from time to time (e.g., Shakespeare and Marlowe). But Bloom’s goal of being useful to “the practical critic, seeking a newer and starker way of reading poems” (58), is important in a number of aspects yet to be more fully explored

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notes to pp. 2–3

in present, more focused context, i.e., his larger conviction expressed in thoughts about Wordsworth and Milton: “The prayer, then, is to be an influence, and not to be influenced, and the precursor is praised for having been what one has become” [Bloom’s emphasis]. Consider, for instance, Robert Craft’s severe criticism of Ravel during the composer’s centenary: “Ravel never regained his path after the War, when he became the influenced rather than the influencer,” in “The Nostalgic Kingdom of Maurice Ravel.” The essay first appeared 1 May 1975, in the New York Review of Books. 6. See Pierre Schoentjes’s comparisons in Poétique de l’ironie. Not appearing in Eggebrecht, Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie, irony is treated in the Deutsches Handwörterbuch of Brockhaus and Wahrig, as Schoentjes notes (20–21). His work is the more comprehensive of recent times, and the sole to propose a convincing interpretation of irony at large since Wayne Booth’s A Rhetoric of Irony. 7. Bonds, “Haydn, Laurence Sterne, and the Origins of Musical Irony,” 67; or earlier, in Muecke, The Compass of Irony, 5: “What can be said, putting it very simply, is that the art of irony is the art of saying something without really saying it.” 8. Bonds, “Haydn, Laurence Sterne,” 5. 9. The entire third section of Jankélévitch’s monograph is entitled “Des pièges d’ironie,” L’ironie ou la bonne conscience. 10. Muecke, Compass of Irony, 14 and 3 respectively. 11. Longyear, “Beethoven and Romantic Irony,” 648. 12. Ghéon, “L’heure espagnole,” 136. 13. Poulenc, “Maurice Ravel,” 175. 14. Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel ou l’esthétique de l’imposture,” 17. 15. Roland-Manuel, “Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique—L’enfant et les sortilèges.” 16. Vuillermoz, “Maurice Ravel,” 247. 17. “A defense of objectivity is found in Diderot’s Paradoxe sur le comédien, which Ravel often praised. In brief, the paradox is that to move an audience, the actor must himself remain unmoved and possess ‘a cool head, a profound judgment, an exquisite taste—a matter for hard work, for long experience, for an uncommon tenacity of memory,’” Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician, 128. 18. Letter of 8 March 1907, quoted in Debussy, Debussy Letters, 178. 19. Deriving from the Greek “Eiron”; see Schoentjes, Poétique de l’ironie, 31–32. 20. Consider, for instance, the reception of Ravel’s La valse as an apotheosis of both humor and parody in Antoine Banès, “Concerts Lamoureux.” 21. See the definitions of “ironie” in recent editions of the Petit Robert: “(1) Manière de se moquer [de quelqu’un ou de quelque chose] en disant le contraire de ce qu’on veut faire entendre. Humour, persiflage, raillerie. Une pointe d’ironie. Ironie amère, mordante. dérision, sarcasme. Savoir manier l’ironie. Faire de l’ironie. Je le dis sans ironie (cf. Au premier degré). Figure de rhétorique apparentée à l’antiphrase. (2) Disposition railleuse, moqueuse, correspondant à cette manière de s’exprimer. L’ironie de Voltaire. Les Français ‘chez qui le plaisir de montrer de l’ironie étouffe le bonheur d’avoir de l’enthousiasme’ (Stendhal). Une lueur d’ironie dans le regard, une nuance d’ironie dans le ton. Moquerie.” See also René Chalupt “Maurice Ravel,” 315. 22. Prokofiev, of course, went so far as to entitle his Opus 17 Sarcasms. 23. Peter Schatt has suggested that the audacity of the “bitonal”middle movement in Ravel’s violin sonata was grounded in the composer’s attraction to parody; see his “Maurice Ravel,” 72. Another reference to sarcasm and Ravel may be found in a general survey of his music after the 1914–18 War addressing the orchestral works: see Guido Salvetti, “I Ripensamenti dell’ultimo Ravel.”

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notes to pp. 3–4



291

24. Here I think Muecke best describes some of the potential “traps” (to recall the final section of Jankélévitch’s L’ironie): “The concept of irony is also obscured by the frequent and loose conjunction of irony with satire and with such phenomena as the comic, the grotesque, the humorous, and the absurd. As a result there is a tendency to define irony in terms of the qualities of these other things, some of which defy definition even more successfully than irony. But irony is not essentially related to satire, and when it is related in practice it is a relationship of means to end; and although irony is frequently found overlapping with the absurd or the comic it may also be found overlapping with the tragic.” Muecke, Compass of Irony, 5. 25. “While some [still employed] forms of irony are as old as Western civilization—to be able to be ironical is perhaps a part of the definition of our civilization—we shall see that in the Romantic and post-Romantic period irony becomes the expression of an attitude to life.” Ibid., Preface, ix. 26. From her chapter entitled “Beware of Irony,” noting the difficulty of reconciling the semantic and theoretical dimensions of the term over long time: “What is worth noting here is that as far back as the Ancient Greeks irony was already a slippery concept.” Furst, Fictions of Romantic Irony, 6–7. 27. “It is told well by Muecke in the final chapters of The Compass of Irony, building on Knox’s detailed reconstruction of the first stages in The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500–1755.” Quoted in Booth, Rhetoric of Irony, 175. 28. “For Schlegel, the universe as experienced by man is ‘an infinitude which cannot be reduced to rational order, a chaos, a complex of contradiction and incongruity, for our limited intellects cannot fathom the order of the absolute. We may at times catch a glimpse of this order, but once we try to realize it for ourselves or express it to others we are involved in contradiction and paradox.’” Immerwahr, “Subjectivity or Objectivity of Schlegel’s Irony,” 177, cited in Bishop, Romantic Irony in French Literature, 1. 29. Schoentjes puts it this way: “Even a quick survey of recent research allows one to conclude there is no unified or agreed-upon conception of irony, each author borrowing from his predecessors that which seems useful to his own purpose.” Poétique de l’ironie, 9. 30. The most recent analysis of the primary European sources may be found in ibid., 18–27. 31. See Bonds, “Haydn, Laurence Sterne”; and idem, Wordless Rhetoric; Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration, in which he explores musical rhetoric in depth. 32. Longyear, “Beethoven and Romantic Irony.” 33. Woodley, “Strategies of Irony in Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata in F Minor, Op. 80”; and Kaminsky, “Vocal Music and the Lures of Exoticism and Irony.” 34. Nectoux, “Notes pour une esthétique de Maurice Ravel,” where he argues for, essentially, Ravel’s style as being one of sophisticated contradiction. See also his “Ravel– Fauré et les débuts de la Société musicale indépendante”; and idem, “Maurice Ravel et sa bibliothèque musicale.” 35. Bonds, Wordless Rhetoric, 5, referring here to John Henry Freese’s 1947 translation of Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, I.II.2. 36. Booth, Rhetoric of Irony, Preface, ix. Or, too, as Bishop puts it: “Irony for Schlegel, as it was for Tieck, Solger, and Adam Müller, is not simply a stylistic or rhetorical device but a vision of the universe at large.” Romantic Irony and French Literature: From Diderot to Beckett, 1–2. 37. Chronicled, marvelously, by Knox in The Word Irony and Its Context, 1500–1755. 38. Both Schlegels, as Knox notes in his more general essay, “Irony,” in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, esp. 2:630–31; among their models, Laurence Sterne.

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notes to pp. 4–7

39. Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates, written ca. 1840, was defended publicly in Latin on 29 September 1841 in Copenhagen. 40. Schoentjes, Poétique de l’ironie, 21. He conceives of the matter in a fresh theoretical sense, however, Socratic irony on the one hand and, on the other, Romantic irony, acknowledging the enormous, more “programmatic” aspects of the latter while casting them in a more modern “panorama.” 41. “This does not take us far but it gives us a start since it distinguishes the two kinds of irony most familiar to English-speaking people, Verbal Irony and Situational Irony. . . . Verbal irony implies an ironist, someone consciously and intentionally employing a technique. Situational irony does not imply an ironist but merely ‘a condition of affairs’ or ‘outcome of events’ which, we add, is seen and felt to be ironic.” The “this” to which Muecke refers is the Oxford English Dictionary definition cited in his preceding paragraph. Compass of Irony, 42, and see also 49: “How then, and why and when did Situational Irony, originally distinct from Verbal Irony and for so long unrecognized as irony, come to be called irony?” 42. See below, chap. 1, pp. 27–28. 43. See, for instance, references from Ravel’s close friend Fargue, p. 17, from Alcanter de Brahm (more oblique), 37–38, Honegger (individual), 26, and chap. 7, pp. 271–72. 44. Schoentjes’s chapter devoted to this in Poétique de l’ironie (“Pratique de l’ironie,” 137–57), is excellent. 45. Nichols, “Ravel and the Twentieth Century,” 241.

Chapter 1 Epigraph. “Mais ne vous y trompez pas: ce sourire qui se dissimule n’est pas d’un paysan, mais d’un psychologue retiré qui observe encore, et s’amuse en secret, et caresse tout ce qui l’entoure d’une ironie attendrie.” Laloy, “Le Mois—Concerts, Société nationale . . . Histoires naturelles, de Jules Renard, par Maurice Ravel,” 155–58. 1. See also Laloy. “Les Histoires naturelles de M. Maurice Ravel,” 613. 2. Chalupt and Gerar, Maurice Ravel au miroir de ses lettres, 11. 3. Albrecht, “Der fremde Ravel: Zum 50. Todestag des Komponisten.” 4. Bidou, “Les fantômes de Ravel,” 236–37. 5. At the turn of the new century Klingsor, in mentioning Ravel, is preoccupied with larger literary and aesthetic issues of the time (i.e., the indebtedness of French mélodie to German Lied). See also his later contributions in “Ravel et l’art de son temps” (1925); idem, “Maurice Ravel” (1929); and idem, “L’époque Ravel” (1939). 6. See below, too, for further references to individual members of the group. The Apaches took their name from an epitaph hurled by a news merchant, disturbed one evening by the group. Maurice Delage, “Les premiers Amis de Ravel,” 99. 7. Consider in the daily press, for instance, a front page notice in Le Temps, 5 April 1907, touting the greater safety of cities such as London, Berlin, and [!] New York: “Les Apaches . . .” Consider, too, an unpublished letter to Madame Schirmer (wife of the New York publishing magnate) from Charles Martin Loeffler in 1905, wherein the composer links Debussy’s ex-wife—subject of the recent scandal of attempted suicide—to a certain lower class of Parisian society, Apaches, who live in the Villette quartier. Unpublished letter of 8 Jan. 1905, from Hamburg, to Elizabeth Schirmer in New York; Koussevitsky Collection, general correspondance, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Some touch of irony, perhaps, in that the Paris Conservatory has been relocated most recently to La Villette. Loeffler’s Cantique au soleil was among works commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, premiered on 13 June, 1926 along with Ravel’s Chansons madécasses.

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notes to pp. 7–9



293

8. See Schoentjes, Poétique de l’ironie, 177, concerning the larger “paratextual” elements of irony underscored by a particular choice of psuedonym in examples as far removed as Chrétien de Troyes (from the twelfth century, juxtaposing Christianity with Antiquity) and Georges Colomb (who signs his work “Christophe”). Klingsor’s real name was Arthur Justin Léon Leclère. His early poetry first appeared in major literary journals such as the Revue blanche and Mercure de France, and his collection of one hundred poems entitled Shéhérazade was completed in 1903, the title derived—ironically from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian (rather than Ravel’s, previously conceived “Persian”) music. See Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician, 40 and passim. 9. Klingsor, “L’époque Ravel,” 125–26. 10. From here descended an unfortunate historiographic model that persists to present times. 11. Gauthier-Villars, “Garçon l’audition!” 125. 12. Lalo, “La musique . . . Concert à la Société nationale de Musique: M. Ravel.” 13. Fargue, “Autour de Ravel,” 155–56. 14. Vuillermoz speaks here in retrospect: “La musique ne laisse échapper aucune nuance de ces petits octosyllabes et passe de l’ironie à l’attendrissment avec une souplesse, une aisance et une mobilité qui portent déjà la signature d’un maître.” Vuillermoz, “L’œuvre de Maurice Ravel,” 68–69. 15. Babaïan, “Maurice Ravel et les chansons populaires grecques,” 303. 16. Georges Jean-Aubry, “Histoires naturelles,” 362–63. 17. See Laloy, “Le mois: Musique nouvelle. 18. Laloy discusses, with interesting reservation, quite a number of Ravel’s newer works here, including the String Quartet, the Pavane, Jeux d’eau, and Miroirs for piano, and the Introduction & Allegro, and he is clearly interested in the composer’s future, suggesting that Ravel might even consider returning to the more recent model of his Histoires naturelles. Laloy, “Musique nouvelle—Maurice Ravel,” 279. 19. “Quant à Ravel, je reconnais là votre ingéniosité habituelle. . . . S’il ne me parît pas absolument qu’il ait trouvé ‘sa voie,’ il pourra vous remercier de lui en avoir montré une.” Debussy, quoted in Lesure, “‘L’affaire’ Debussy—Ravel: Lettres inédites,” 231. See also Brenstein, A Ravel Reader, 86–87. 20. Marliave, “Revue musicale, les concerts” (1907), 139. 21. Enright, The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony, 5. 22. In the same notice where he recommends Bonheur to Ravel (see above, note 20), Marliave finds the new orchestration of “Une barque sur l’océan” to be an impoverishment on all fronts; see also his reception the previous year of the premier of Ravel’s entire suite (Miroirs), which he characterized as “frozen Debussy,” lacking in both inspiration and emotion. “Quelque concerts” (1906). 23. The first complete edition of Marliave’s papers (along with his Beethoven study) were published in Paris by Félix Alcan in 1925. An English translation appeared in 1928, Beethoven’s Quartets. In his preface, Fauré tells us that Marliave and colleagues at the Eastern front of the war would gather to read the Beethoven quartets on a weekly basis. 24. Orenstein’s translation of an excerpt of Ravel’s letter of 9 May 1916 unpublished elsewhere, Bibiothèque nationale de France. See his Ravel Reader, 168, and 158–82 for the larger context. 25. See Mme Long’s reminiscences of touring with Ravel, “Souvenir de Ravel,” in the memorial issue of Revue musicale (December 1938); her modest overview of the piano music in general in Maurice Ravel, 3–8; and her separate monograph, Au piano avec Maurice Ravel.

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notes to pp. 9–11

26. Laloy, “Les Histoires naturelles de M. Maurice Ravel.” These are actually reprints from Laloy’s 1907 review of the Paris premier and were issued, one senses, with some anxiety over what might be the effects of the Histoires naturelles upon audiences in Lyon. 27. Laloy, “La musique: L’heure espagnole,” 628. 28. Hahn, “L’heure espagnole” (1911); a reprint may be found in the SIM Revue musicale, 15 June 1911, and in Lesure, “Pour ou contre Ravel,” 80–81. 29. Pierre Lalo, son of the composer Édouard Lalo, remained consistently opposed to Ravel’s music from 1899 to the early 1920s; his negative sympathies of the time seem to have been equalled only by Gaston Carraud in La Liberté. 30. Lalo, “L’heure espagnole.” 31. Miomandre, “Concerts de danse données par Mlle N. Trouhanowa. 32. Vuillermoz, “L’œuvre de Maurice Ravel,” 45–46. 33. The manuscript of Adélaïde remains unrecovered. 34. Vuillermoz, “Les Théâtres—la grande saison de Paris [Daphnis et Chloé]”; excerpts were reprinted in Revue musicale 1925, 101. 35. Chalupt, “Le mois du musicien. . . . les grands concerts [Shéhérazade],” 188–89. 36. Daniel Gregory Mason, “Maurice Ravel and Mother Goose.” 37. Marnold, “Musique. . . . Opéra-Comique” (1914). Bit of an echo, here, of Reynaldo Hahn (above, note 28) in “backtracking,” since Marnold—one of the truly fierce, unflappable supporters of Ravel—had made an exception nearly three years earlier in expressing serious “moral” reservations about L’heure espagnole (i.e., the text). See “Musique; Opéra-Comique: L’heure espagnole” (1911). Marnold’s “conversion,” as it were, was reinforced the following year in his remarkable and, no doubt, conflicted defense of German music (indeed, Wagner) in the midst of war. “Le cas Wagner” (1915). His first press notice of Ravel appears to have been in July of 1904. 38. Chalupt, “Maurice Ravel,” 317–18. 39. “Astre qui rayonnait d’un si pur éclat à notre firmament musical, c’est vers Maurice Ravel qu’il faut désormais se tourner pour considérer la figure la plus représentative de la musique française contemporaine. . . . Au pays de Montaigne, il faillait bien que vînt un jour le musicien sans vautour prométhéen au flanc qui fît place dans son œuvre, en même temps qu’une honnête sensibilité, aux droits à la malice, de l’ironie, du scepticisme et même de l’esprit, au sens mondain du mot.” L’amour de l’art 7 (November 1920), 255, quoted in Rodriguez, “René Chalupt: Un serviteur de l’art,” 98. 40. The lecture was given by Cocteau in Brussels, 19 December 1919; see Durey, “Maurice Ravel.” The reinforcing comments appear on 423, and find something of a lyrical, “gently” ironic echo in Suzanne Bernard’s introductory chapter to her study of forty years later: concerning the second “wave” of Symbolist poetic “musicalisations” that had transpired during Ravel’s youth, as she writes: “Après la mélodie, l’harmonie; après la chanson naïve, l’instrumentation savante; après Verlaine, René Ghil.” Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 15. 41. Roquebrunne, “La musique de piano de Maurice Ravel,” 495–96. 42. Lalo, “La musique; À l’Opéra: L’heure espagnole . . . Daphnis et Chloé.” 43. Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel” (1921), 16. His more specific review of the Brussels performance may be found in the previous month’s issue, “L’heure espagnole de Maurice Ravel à Bruxelles,” 266. 44. This is a creatively cruel essay, attempting to crush others beyond (indeed before) Ravel: Roland-Manuel is incompetent; the French are (as were the Greeks!) unmusical, Stravinsky a barbarian, etc. Gray, “Maurice Ravel.”

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45. Rohozinski, ed., Cinquante ans de musique française de 1874–1925. A very fine source in two volumes, totalling some 800 pages, beautifully edited with many excellent photographs and unique musical facsimiles. 46. Hermant, “Musique de chambre et piano: M. Maurice Ravel et les élèves de M. G. Fauré,” 121. 47. Aguettant, “Maurice Ravel.” Aguettant’s lectures on keyboard literature were hardly narrow in context (covering the sixteenth to the early twentieth centuries), and well worth perusing since they represent one of the few larger French syntheses of keyboard literature of its time, excelled (concerning Ravel) only by Cortot’s slightly earlier and more dedicated volume, and by more focused studies by Henri Gil-Marchex (1925, 1938) and then (much later, at the end of the 20th century) by Roy Howat. 48. Ibid., 428. Jankélévitch, though without direct mention here of irony, preferred to invoke Ravel’s middle movement from the Sonatine. See Maurice Ravel, 33. 49. Chalupt, “Maurice Ravel et les prétextes littéraires de sa musique.” 50. Ibid., 70. 51. Ibid., 74. 52. Suarès, “Pour Ravel,” 7. 53. Ibid., 8. 54. Hoérée, “Les mélodies et l’œuvre lyrique,” 47. He notes, too, on 54, the crafting of the piano part in “La pintade,” as being even more evidently (aggressive and) ironic. 55. Brillant, “L’enfant et les sortilèges.” 56. George, “L’enfant et les sortilèges.” 57. The first of these is Roland-Manuel, “Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique—L’enfant et les sortilèges.” The second, idem, “La critique; L’enfant et les sortilèges,” is more extended, but for some reason—ironically—does not use “paradox” at all. Both, however, contrast the orchestration of L’heure with that of L’enfant. 58. Hill, “Maurice Ravel.” 59. Weil, “Outstanding Concerts in the Metropolitan Area.” I am indebted for several citations pertaining to Ravel in America in 1928 to Norman Dunfee’s 1980 performance dissertation, Maurice Ravel in America—1928. This quote is drawn from his reprint of Weil, pp. 112–15. 60. Parker, “A Concert with Many a New Sensation,” quoted in Dunfee, 73–75. 61. Cox, “Maurice Ravel Makes American Debut Conducting Boston Symphony Orchestra,” quoted in Dunfee, 77–78. 62. “Ravel Artistry Is Applauded at Appearance Here,” quoted in Dunfee, 138–39. 63. Redfern Mason, “Ravel Shows Mastery in Leading Symphony,” quoted in Dunfee, 135–36. 64. Gunn, “Ravel Lionized in Great Recital Here,” quoted in Dunfee, 82–83. 65. At least one of the judges in the 1905 competition expressed public indignation at having been “taken for fool” by Ravel (as in intentionally outrageous part writing); see Orenstein, “Some Unpublished Music and Letters by Maurice Ravel”; and Macdonald, “Ravel and the Prix de Rome.” 66. Berkeley, “Maurice Ravel,” 15. Gunn was not by any means the only critic to notice Ravel’s problems in performing. For something of a background to this see Helleu, “Ravel Pianiste,” Musical 4, no. 10 (June 1987): 31–35. 67. The richest source here is Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel. See also Helleu, “Le Boléro”; and editor Mawer’s Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Ravel, 1–2. 68. Adorno, “Ravel” (ca. 1928), cited in Hommage à Ravel 1987; Ravel und sein Umfeld, 47.

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69. Ibid. An interesting echo here of Suarès in 1925, commenting on Ravel’s “transformation” of classical forms, through ironic possession. See above, note 52. 70. Pannain, “Maurice Ravel” (1928). 71. Ibid., 38. 72. Save the Don Quichotte songs, Ravel’s “Swan Song.” 73. Mendel, “Golden-Haired Standard: New Ravel Piano Concerto.” 74. “Hommage à Maurice Ravel,” Revue musicale 19 (December 1938). See, for instance, Gaston Rageot’s “Hommage,” 228, and that of Tristan Derème, 231. The entire issue, as noted earlier, has been reprinted with excellent editorial attention by Marnat in Maurice Ravel (1987). See also Abbate, “Outside Ravel’s Tomb.” 75. Dumesnil, “Maurice Ravel Poète,” 319. 76. Among more gentle, specific treatments regarding literature, see Gil-Marchex’s references to Valéry’s L’âme et la danse, about the slow movement of the concerto which Mendel excoriates: Gil-Marchex, “Les concertos de Ravel,” 286. 77. Bruyr, “Un entretien avec . . . Maurice Ravel.” The interview was reprinted in the front matter of Bruyr’s monograph on Ravel, Maurice Ravel ou le lyrisme et les sortilèges, and later in translation, in A Ravel Reader, 479–84. 78. The phrase was borrowed by Enright from Mann’s Bemühungen, for (in part) the title of his more recent study, The Alluring Problem; An Essay on Irony, to which we have already referred in passing. See also Enright’s preface, vii. 79. Samazeuilh, “Maurice Ravel.” 80. Vuillermoz, “La carrière et la fin du grand musicien.” 81. Mirambel, “L’inspiration grecque dans l’œuvre de Ravel”; Mirambel, here, takes a darker view of Ravel’s irony than had Jean-Aubry, proposing that it had been a means of reconciling the negative aspects of the composer’s life. Marnat’s editorial comments in his reprinted version of the essay in Maurice Ravel (1987), 203–14, are helpful. 82. “On a déjà beaucoup écrit sur Maurice Ravel, et plus d’un s’est laissé prendre à l’apparence. Parce qu’il était trop fier, trop pudique pour montrer à nu un cœur d’une exquise sensibilité, on a vite fait de prétendre qu’il en manquait. On l’a vu comme un ciseleur minutieux, sans plus. On a oublié qu’un ciseleur pouvait être Cellini. Ravel certes ne maniait pas le stylet. Mais l’ironie.” Klingsor, “Maurice Ravel et le vers libre,” 313–14. 83. “Les jeux d’eau dans le parc et la ribambelle / Des fous, / Le cœur troublé des belles / Et le cœur ironique et tendre qui bat sous / Le gilet de velours de Maurice Ravel, . . .” Klingsor, “Maurice Ravel.” 84. Vuillermoz, “L’œuvre de Maurice Ravel,” in Maurice Ravel par quelques-uns, 3. 85. Vuillermoz specifically invokes the ancient metaphor of “tombeau” as well on his first page. 86. Thomson, “Maurice Ravel,” Herald Tribune (New York), 30 November 1947, repr. in Thomson, Music Right and Left, 128. Vuillermoz may have been the first to use this vocabulary (which Suzanne Bernard also uses, below, n233, with regard to Mallarmé); Vuillermoz, in 1925, writes “L’orfèvre Ravel aura ciselé dans le métal fin et brillant de la musique de France les arabesques les plus souples et les plus incisives qui aient jamais orné les flancs d’un brûle-parfums harmonique. Et il semble devoir emporter son secret avec lui.” “Le style orchestral,” 27. And between Vuillermoz, then Klingsor, Thomson, and Bernard, one finds the distinguished Italian critic Guido Pannain, in 1932: “A point of considerable interest in Ravel is the relation between instrumental and vocal music. Ravel is an etcher in writing for the voice. His line is an arabesque of sound.” Pannain, “Maurice Ravel” (1932), 156.

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87. Cornelia Petersen has sketched some of the background to this in her study of the vocal works. See, for instance, pp. 22–23 (“Literatur und Lyrik im Schaffen Ravels”), and, especially 31–38 (“Literarische Vorlieben”), in her Die Lieder von Maurice Ravel. 88. Ghéon, “L’heure espagnole,” 137; Ghéon here defending one of the works that Jean Marnold offered as evidence when opposing French reactionary efforts to ban German music (and composers) during the war. 89. Concerning Ravel and trees, see below, end of chap. 4, and ex. 4.28. 90. “Mon dessein n’était pas d’y ajouter, dit-il, mais d’interpréter. / Mais quel rapport? / Dire avec de la musique ce que vous dites avec des mots quand vous êtes devant un arbre, par exemple. Je pense et je sens en musique, et je voudrais penser et sentir les mêmes choses que vous.” I quote Renard’s journal of 1925–27 from Basil Deane’s fine study of 1964, “Renard, Ravel and the Histoires naturelles,” 177. 91. Robert Bernard, “Cinquième conférence: Maurice Ravel,” in Les tendances de la musique française moderne, Cours d’estihetique [sic]: Huit conférences prononcées au Conservatoire International de Musique de Paris et en Sorbonne (Paris: Durand et fils, 1930), 83. 92. “La Sérénade interrompue devient ainsi l’école du dégrisement, car elle exprime en somme la dégringolade de l’idéal dans la vie; tandis que le Grillon représente l’ironie finalement transfigurée en poésie.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 143. 93. Fargue, for instance, wrote of the decades spanning the Belle Époque: “Ravel partageait nos prédilections, nos emballements, nos faibles pour l’art chinois, Mallarmé et Verlaine, Rimbaud et Corbière, Cézanne et Van Gogh, Rameau et Chopin, Whistler et Valéry, les Russes et Debussy.” Maurice Ravel (1949), 57. 94. “Le totalisme de Ravel, il n’est que d’énumérer les noms des écrivains et des peintres les plus purement français pour l’éprouver et le prouver. Marot, Ronsard, La Fontaine, Racine, La Bruyère, Diderot, Chénier, Nerval, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Valéry, Giraudoux; Clouet, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Watteau, Ingres, Courbet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, pas un de ces noms qui ne trouve un écho dans l’œuvre de Ravel.” Crémieux, “Maurice Ravel,” Revue musicale 19 (December 1938): 348. Crémieux wrote regularly for the Nouvelle Revue française (and translated both Pirandello and Goldoni). 95. With some sophistication in 1922, for instance: consider both Ravel’s interview in the Morning Post, London, 10 July (repr. in A Ravel Reader, 421–22), and his thoughts on Fauré’s songs, in Roland-Manuel, “Les mélodies de Gabriel Fauré,” 22–27. Among other examples both before and after this time, see Ravel, “Parsifal”; idem, “Contemporary Music”; and idem, “Mes souvenirs d’enfant parasseux,” 1. All except the last are translated and reprinted in A Ravel Reader. 96. See also, from the same year, and in more general terms, the introduction to the previously cited Bremen Hochschule’s collective volume, Hommage à Ravel, 9 (“In öffentlichen Bewußtsein, in der Repertoirepflege und in der wissenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung ist das Ravel-Thema in der Bundesrepublik bisher eher vernachlässigt worden.”) See also Serge Gut’s preface to Teboul’s Ravel, in which he says much of the same. 97. There is more than a hint to this in one of Ravel’s all too rare public essays, where he decries (and even traces in some detail) the overpowering, deleterious dimensions of literary influence upon the musical life of France with regard to Wagner: to paraphrase, there simply was not much left for musicians to do after all the writers had appropriated him. See his “Parsifal.” 98. The year before Ravel’s death, in describing the lost riches of their shared youth, Fargue wrote: “On avait l’éternité devant soi, et il n’y avait pas trop de concerts. Parmi ceux qui ont écrit sur lui, ô ironie de la plume et du sort, seul Jules Renard l’avait remarqué.” Fargue, “Maurice Ravel” (1936), 15. See also his contribution to the literary tombeau

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published by Colette et al., in 1939, “Autour de Ravel”; in his penultimate sentence of the latter, Fargue says essentially the same thing with regard to Ravel and Renard, though without direct reference to irony. Two years later Poulenc informs that Ravel spent virtually every night between 1925–28 at the Grand Écart in Montmartre, often with Fargue: Poulenc, “Le cœur de Maurice Ravel.” 99. Said, Musical Elaborations, 40. 100. The most recent OED citations date “discursivity” at best from 1940, referring us to the previous “discursiveness” (from the early nineteenth century), found in various dictionaries agreeing with, for instance, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged (2nd ed.) “the state or quality of being discursive,” 523. 101. Huebner’s “Thumbnail Sketch” chapter in his recent comprehensive study of French opera on either side of the fin-de-siècle is excellent, and provides a good introductory bibliography (French Opera at the Fin de Siècle). Huebner points to the best contemporary and synthetic study of its time by Léon Guichard, and some of the relevant documents concerning Baudelaire and Wagner may be found in good translation in Miner, Resonant Gaps: Between Baudelaire & Wagner. 102. Suzanne Bernard’s synthesis of this enormous bibliography remains excellent: in her Mallarmé study from 1959 she embraces the primary sources (including, of course, those writing for and/or around the short-lived but influential Revue wagnérienne), and uses—unavoidably, it would seem—the phrase “une littérature ‘wagnérienne.’” Mallarmé et la musique, 19. 103. Lechleitner, Klangfarbenétude: Studien zum Bolero von Maurice Ravel. 104. Meylan’s convictions, for instance, that Satie’s music would have remained forgotten, that Ravel’s would never have had such impact save for Cocteau, seem a bit extravagant. See his Les écrivains et la musique, vol. 2: Les modernes français, 117. 105. Viñes was a Catalan-born pianist whose family arrived in Paris at about the same time as Ravel’s (the mothers became close friends), and whose influence in the early stages of Ravel’s career was significant. 106. One of—if not the oldest—of Parisian literary journals, the Revue des deux mondes, was conservative in outlook and claimed by the end of the nineteenth century a circulation of at least 30,000. It was managed by Ferdinand Brunetière, an academic and Catholic writer of distinction, though other well-known critics such as Léon Blum and Léon Vallas—both known to Ravel personally—appear to have poked some fun at it from the mid-1890s. See Trillig’s notes and quotes in his excellent study of Debussy reception in France (for which there is no equivalent concerning Ravel): Untersuchungen zur Rezeption Claude Debussys in der zeitgenössischen Musikkritik, 92 and 133. Blum received favorably Ravel’s orchestration of parts of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar at the Odéon (“Théâtre Nationale de l’Odéon: Antar,” 1); and Vallas wrote positively about Ravel from 1907 forward in both the Revue musicale de Lyon and in the Revue française de musique. 107. Until his death in 1906 (and in addition to writing individual articles and essays and managing the Revue des deux mondes), Brunetière published many books on French literature, philosophy, religion and morality, even the development of genres, the last of which has had some significant echos in music history and musicology. See Haraszti, “Science et critique; La musicologie, science de l’avenir” 2:1577; and Samson’s most recent New Grove article on the development of musical genres. 108. “Dès 1890, Brunetière soulignait avec clairvoyance les intentions ‘musicales’ des jeunes poètes; et par des emprunts faits au vocabulaire même dont ils usaient, il rendait sensible l’évolution de la littérature qui, architecturale et ‘construite’ aux époques classiques, picturale ensuite au xixe siècle (le Parnasse compris), s’emparait

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maintenant des procédés de la musique.” Suzanne Bernard, Le poème en prose de Baudelaire à nos jours, 383. 109. Brunetière, “Revue littéraire, Symbolistes et Décadens [sic],” Revue des deux mondes (1 November 1888): 220. 110. “Développer un sujet, c’est maintenant exécuter des variations sur un thème; et on ne passe plus d’une idée à l’autre par des transitions, mais par une série de modulations.” Ibid. The musico-literary topos of “Theme and Variations” had, of course, circulated for some time; Gustave Kahn, for instance, had so entitled his contribution to the 3rd volume of the short-lived and influential journal La Vogue (edited by Kahn), as Bernard points out, 396. 111. Leo Schrade cast Brunetière’s convictions within larger contexts, France having long since accepted the transcendental influences of Beethoven, not yet those of Schopenhauer: “The eighties, indeed, were a decisive decade, decisive and momentous despite all apparent flagging of energy and will. . . . The pessimism is there. We do not ask how it came about. . . . Many Frenchmen, then, gave their allegiance to art, many others to Catholicism. . . . There were a great many such converts. Ferdinand Brunetière, full of hatred condemning the ‘bankruptcy of science,’ fled into the arms of the Catholic Church. One cannot assume that it is altogether a matter of conviction. No other way of escape was open to those who could not bear the burden.” Schrade, Beethoven in France, 126–27. Schrade’s judgments on pessimism rest, in part, on an 1890 essay of Georges Pellissier, “Pessimism in Contemporary Literature,” that claim that Schopenhauer’s philosophy was hardly yet known. 112. Ravel, before being posted to the front of the war, used “troupe” tongue-in-cheek (letter of 26 September 1914), in referring to Cocteau (and a close friend, Pierre Haour) as they lead cows about the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. The letter is reprinted in Roy, ed., Lettres à Roland Manuel et à sa famille, 25–27, and in A Ravel Reader, 154–55. 113. Rivière uses the word himself in a letter to Alain-Fournier, 1906, cited in Christian Goubault’s study of the French musical press: confessing to be ignorant of the technicalities of musical style, Rivière writes that he senses such complexities “par une vague intuition.” Goubault, La critique musicale dans la presse française de 1870–1914, 140. 114. Rivière began writing from Bordeaux for the Mercure musical; see ibid., 141. 115. Rivière, “La Rapsodie espagnole.” 116. Rivière was so affected by Le sacre that in his first attempt to write about the event, he asked readers for more time to reflect and prepare. “Le sacre du printemps” (1 August 1913), 312. 117. Rivière, “Le sacre du printemps” (1 November 1913), 708. 118. See Palmer, “Debussy, Ravel and Alain-Fournier,” though Palmer mentions neither that Rivière was Alain-Fournier’s brother-in-law, nor that Alain-Fournier was taken prisoner of war by the Germans for nearly four years. 119. Orenstein informs that it was likely a concertante work, for cello and symphony orchestra. 120. Palmer, “Debussy, Ravel and Alain-Fournier,” 269. In neither this source or his later monograph, Impressionism in Music, does Palmer provide a specific reference for provenance or location of this letter, but given his wide perspective and work, we take him at his word. 121. A “Godmother” during times of war, in this case Mme Fernand Dreyfus, mother of the often noted Roland-Manuel; the latter is a pseudonym for Alexis Manuel Lévy, Belgian-born musicologist, composer, critic, and Ravel’s first biographer, who had met Ravel (through Satie) in 1911. Mme Dreyfus had two other sons in the war as well, one of whom

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was killed. The letter in which Ravel requests Alain-Fournier’s novel, 1 October 1916, may be found in Roy, ed., Lettres à Roland Manuel, 90–91. 122. Ravel, letter of 8 October, 1916, quoted in A Ravel Reader, 178–79. Garban, trained at the Paris Conservatoire, became a “tutor” before the war at the highest levels on the opposite side of the Rhine, then a proofreader at Durand. 123. In his second letter Ravel acknowledges that Alain-Fournier is likely lost; see A Ravel Reader, 178–79. Rivière was held prisoner until 1917, then sent to Switzerland because of poor health; in 1919 he assumed leadership of the NRF, but died prematurely in 1925, having championed Proust fiercely. 124. “A une heure de l’après-midi, le lendemain, la classe du cours supérieur est claire, au milieu du paysage gelé, comme une barque sur l’Océan.” Quoted in Palmer, Impressionism in Music, 141. The entirety of Meaulnes was, in fact, published on either side of Rivière’s review of Le sacre. 125. This is one of the few works that Ravel appears not to have had much confidence in retaining, in part because of the reaction of critics. The manuscript has never been found. 126. See above, notes 20 and 22 in this chapter. To be fair to Marliave, he disliked both the keyboard and orchestral versions of the work intensely. Alain-Fournier’s remarks, of course, in his letter to Rivière, were not published at the time. 127. One thinks of Lockspeiser’s Debussy: His Life and Mind, of course, both volumes. 128. Palmer, Impressionism and Music, 18. 129. “Presque entière son œuvre se déroule sur un arrière-plan de lettres qui, vaguement ou précisément, propose des motifs à son inspiration.” Chalupt, “Maurice Ravel et les prétextes littéraires,” 65. 130. See above, note 88 in this chapter. 131. “La musique a été une des plus grandes passions de ma vie. . . . Elle m’a apporté des joies et des certitudes ineffables, la preuve qu’il existe autre chose que le néant auquel je me suis heurté partout ailleurs. Elle court comme un fil conducteur à travers toute mon œuvre.” Cited here in Benoist-Méchin, Retour à Marcel Proust, 192, a reprint with corrections of his 1926 study of Proust and music (the first, as far as I have been able to determine), La musique et l’immortalité dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust, followed by reminiscences of the interwar years, his service therein, and the interview with Proust in June of 1922, from which the above quote is taken. Another modest study appeared in 1939, Abatangel, Marcel Proust et la musique; and, in 1979, an attempt to cull Proust’s correspondence regarding music, Mayer, “Marcel Proust et la musique d’après sa correspondance.” A synthesis of work to about 1984 may be found in Nattiez, Proust musicien, for which there is an excellent English translation by Derrick Puffett (Proust as Musician). 132. “Jonglez-vous toujours avec l’Absolu, l’Être et le Néant qui sont vos couleuvres de poche?” Mondor, Eugène Lefébure, 221, cited in Bernard, Le poème en prose, 265n61. Mallarmé confirmed, the next year, in correspondence (to Cazalis), his “longue descente au Néant.” Mallarmé, Propos sur la poésie, recueillis et présentés par Henri Mondor (Monaco, Éditions du Rocher, 1946), cited, too, by Bernard, 265. 133. Sartre, L’être et le néant, 134. Joubert, Le fil d’or: Étude sur la musique dans “À la Recherche du Temps perdu.” 135. Despite many shared venues of social and artistic interchange, I have yet to find any evidence of significant communication or relationship between the two (even within the correspondence of both). Only Marcel Marnat and Roger Nichols appear to have commented upon the matter at length—see Marnat, “Vinteuil, peut-être”; and Nichols’s comments in “Ravel and the Twentieth Century.”

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136. “Au labyrinthe des accords complexes qui se font si aisément aimer pour euxmêmes, Ravel tient, l’un des seuls, et ne lâche jamais, le fil d’or de la tonalité. Combien d’imprudents, à le suivre, sont déjà tombés de la griffe du Minotaure, dans le goufre sans fond du Hasard?” Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel ou l’esthétique de l’imposture” [1925], 21. 137. Coeuroy, “Maurice Ravel.” 138. Coeuroy, “La musique dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust.” 139. Coeuroy refers to a central essay within the first of Du Bos’s ongoing series of published works entitled Approximations; see pp. 58–116, addressing Proust in three parts: “Marcel Proust: I. Le courage de l’esprit. II. Quelques corollaires du théorème fondamental. III. L’observateur”). 140. “Il savait que le souvenir même du piano faussait encore le plan dans lequel il voyait les choses de la musique, que le champ ouvert au musicien n’est pas un clavier mesquin de sept notes, mais un clavier incommensurable, encore presque tout entier inconnu, où seulement, çà et là, séparées par d’épaisses ténèbres inexplorées, quelquesunes des millions de touches de tendresse, de passion, de courage, de sérénité, qui le composent, chacune aussi différente des autres qu’un univers d’un autre univers, ont été découvertes par quelques grands artistes qui nous rendent le service, en éveillant en nous le correspondant du thème qu’ils ont trouvé, de nous montrer quelle richesse, quelle variété cache à notre insu cette grande nuit impénétrée et décourageante de notre âme que nous prenons pour du vide ou du néant.” Coeuroy quotes here from Proust’s À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleur, in his “La musique dans l’œuvre de Marcel Proust,” 208. 141. I am grateful to Roger Shattuck for pointing out the relevance of this paradox, since there remain other examples concerning Ravel (i.e., André Gide, who shared with Ravel a love, indeed practice, of Chopin’s music, and Paul Dukas). 142. Rolland wrote his thesis on European opera before Lully and Scarlatti (Sorbonne, 1895). Only Jules Combarieu appears to have previously completed a formal degree in musicology (the year before). Rolland held the first “chair” at the Sorbonne, Combarieu at the Collège de France. See, among other sources, Goubault, La critique musicale, 107, and Haraszti’s essay “Science et critique: La musicologie. . . .” 143. Jean-Christophe came out in ten separate volumes in Paris, between 1904 and 1912. Rolland, a committed pacifist, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1915, and spent most of his life in voluntary exile in Switzerland. His protagonist, Jean-Christophe Krafft (German composer/conductor modeled after Beethoven) lives much of his life in exile (in France and Italy), decrying societal injustice before a late triumph. 144. S.I.M. Mercure Musical was the monthly journal of the Société Internationale de Musique, Paris. 145. Mercure de France was the literary and arts journal most sympathetic to the Symbolists. Concerning Marnold, see Goubault’s La critique musicale, and the indexed citations in my Maurice Ravel, A Guide to Research. 146. To paraphrase: Could not the government somehow find an appropriate post for such an unfairly denied, scorned talent such as Ravel? 147. Marnold, “Le Conservatoire et La Scola,” Mercure de France 43 (July 1902): 105– 15. 148. Marnold, “Un Quatuor de Maurice Ravel”; and idem, “Shéhérazade.” In the former of these, Marnold offers the equivalent to Schumann’s famous “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius.” The only alternative to generally accepted interpretations of Ravel and the Prix de Rome scandal that I have been able to locate may be found in Sophie Bres, “Le scandale Ravel de 1905.”

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149. Rolland, “Richard Strauss et Romain Rolland: Correspondance, fragments de journal,” 155 and 158–59. The remarks about Marnold are from Strauss’s journal entries of 15 and 22 May 1907. 150. Consider some aspects of Vincent d’Indy’s musical idealism consigned, in this case, to the footnotes of this one text (117–18 of the first English translation, 1915) referring to both Prostestant “heresy” and to the Jews, descending from d’Indy’s body of text—“religious antipathies” and—with regard to Judaism—“the absurdities of its customs and the weakness of its moral sense.” Romain Rolland, Musicians of To-day [sic]. The book was first published as Musiciens d’aujourd’hui in 1908, and the 6th French imprint, 1914, claimed 10,000 copies to then. 151. Rolland, Musicians of To-day, 113. 152. This was, at the very least, a large corner of Rolland’s early training. “Malwida von Meysenbug lui apprit l’héroïque grandeur des anciens penseurs allemands, annonciateurs de l’humanité idéale.” Digeon, La crise allemande de la pensée française (1870–1914), 521. Malwida also taught him “l’intime parenté de la vraie France cachée et de la vieille Allemagne.” Rolland, Le voyage intérieur, 210, as cited by Digeon. 153. Rolland, “Richard Strauss,” 166. 154. Digeon, La crise allemande, 523–30; the brief quoted phrase here is from JeanChristophe, La Révolte, 32. 155. See Digeon, La crise allemande, 467, 497, 519–33. 156. To my knowledge, there is still no major comparative study of these two very large works, Jean-Christophe and À la recherche, written at nearly the same time, in Paris, by two very different Frenchmen. 157. Digeon, La crise allemande, 526. 158. It appears that Ravel worked on Die versunkene Glocke from at least 1906: see Orenstein, Ravel: Man and Musician, 48–50; and idem, “Some Unpublished Music and Letters by Maurice Ravel,” in which he discusses what shreds of the work (“sketches and facsimiles thereof”) have survived. 159. Ravel tried repeatedly to enlist in the early months of the conflict, but was refused because of his diminutive size. He was especially keen on getting into what there was of an “air corps” (in part because of his size), but one assumes the French government was not eager to commit its greater musical talents to newly developed arts of warfare. 160. He circulated about this area as a transport and ambulance driver, often dodging German shells and bullets. 161. He received a medical discharge in 1917. 162. One simply has to acknowledge the remarkable quality of an admitedly smaller numbers of works issuing after 1917 (the year, too, in which Ravel’s beloved mother died). 163. As Orenstein has noted, after this time only about one work per year was completed (as opposed to the pre-war years, when Ravel’s imagination had been stirred by Hauptmann). A Ravel Reader, 7. 164. From Orenstein’s research we know that at least some of an envisaged five acts were completed, since a detailed contract was issued by the publisher Durand et fils in 1909. See Orenstein, Ravel: Man and Musician, 50–51. 165. See Marnold, “Le cas Wagner.” 166. Marnold had previously expressed some “moral” misgivings about the work (its text), in “Musique; Opéra-Comique: L’heure espagnole,” then softened his stance a bit three years later, in 1914, in “Musique . . . Opéra-Comique.” In both notices he specifically mentions Ravel’s “ironie.”

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167. The history of the Ligue nationale pour la défense de la musique française is best followed, I think, still, by reading the correspondence of Marnold and Ravel; see Marnat’s style study, Maurice Ravel (1986), 401–21, and A Ravel Reader, 151–83. 168. Marnat, Maurice Ravel (1986), 418. 169. Dubois was forced out of his directorship of the Conservatoire as a result of the 1905 Prix de Rome scandal; he had manifested consistent distrust and dislike of Ravel’s work over the preceding years. 170. Both Ravel’s reply and (as Ravel acknowledges it) the “notice and statutes” may be found in translation in A Ravel Reader, 169–71. A more recent version of both original texts in French has appeared in Marnat’s edited memoirs of the late Manuel Rosenthal; see Rosenthal, Ravel: Souvenirs de Manuel Rosenthal, 194–98. 171. The following from Ravel tells all: “I am unable to agree with you when you assert as a principle that ‘the role of the art of music is economic and social.’ I have never considered music, or any of the arts, in that light.” As reproduced in A Ravel Reader, 169. 172. “Sollicité, Ravel voit rouge. Si dans un premier temps, il se contente d’ironiser (‘Il est moins utile d’empêcher ou d’ignorer la production d’autrui que de faire aussi bien’), l’outrecuidance des ‘planqués’ le porte vite à l’exaspération: ‘Je crois qu’on fera bien de nous laisser nos armes après la guerre’ (à Roland-Manuel, 12 juin 1916).” Rosenthal is referring to Ravel’s contemporary correspondence from the front to Roland-Manuel. See Rosenthal, Ravel: Souvenirs, 196. 173. A copy of the letter was reprinted in the 1938 Ravel Tombeau issue of the Revue musicale, 69. 174. “Doit-on jouer Wagner après la guerre? Enquête publié avec des réponses d’Alfred Bruneau, Camille Chevillard, Vincent d’Indy, André Messager, Camille SaintSaëns?” La Renaissance, 5 February 1916, according to Poueigh’s bibliography in Musiciens français d’aujourd’hui; 4 February, according to A Ravel Reader, 173–74. 175. Marnold, “Polémiques.” 176. Marnold, Le cas Wagner: La musique pendant la guerre; the appendix may be found on 246–61. 177. Poueigh’s Musiciens français d’aujourd’hui was published, ironically, by Mercure de France in 1921; it comprised 455 pages, though deriving from a much earlier version (ca. 1911), both with many useful press and edition citations. 178. Marnat, Maurice Ravel (1986), 419. 179. This is, in fact, how Rolland concludes his essay on Strauss in Musicians of To-day, 166–67. 180. See, for instance, Rolland’s remarks included with those of thirteen other composers and critics concerning French and German music and musical nationalism in the new century, in Revue musicale 3 (January 1903), 56–57 (e.g., no nation can really be supreme any more in such matters). The excerpts here stem from a larger and continuing examination of the topic in (Marnold’s) Mercure de France of the same month and year. 181. See especially 522–23 of Digeon’s concluding chapter in La crise allemande (i.e., “Mais curieusement la musique allemande, lorsqu’il l’écoute en Allemagne, le déçoit souvent. . . . Dans les années 1900–1905, il affirme de plus en plus fort sa conviction que les musiciens français prennent l’avantage sur les maîtres allemands”). Among several other sources cited here is M. Schierer’s essay “Jean-Christophe et l’Allemagne dans la crise de la Révolte,” Revue de littérature comparée (July–Sept. 1948): 347–48. 182. Like Debussy, Strauss was a bit more than eleven years Ravel’s senior. 183. Rolland, “Richard Strauss et Romain Rolland: Correspondance, fragments de journal,” 157–60; it appears that Strauss was delayed by a rehearsal, entered after act 1,

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and sat directly between Rolland and Ravel. Marnat tells us that Ravel met Rolland in 1904, probably about the same time that he met Strauss (Maurice Ravel [1986], 205); Orenstein, along with a description of this evening, has reprinted one brief letter from Strauss to Ravel in 1922, in A Ravel Reader, 232. Upon Ravel’s death, Strauss claimed to be insufficiently familiar with Ravel’s work to contribute to Tombeau in the Revue musicale. Strauss, “Un hommage de Richard Strauss,” 479. 184. Consider, for instance, the divergence between Rolland and Charles Péguy in the years leading up to the war, when the two—Péguy, like Rolland, an adamant socialist and subscriber to visions of recovery through French national identity (via Beethoven, in part)—were forced, like Ravel, to choose between going to the front or not. Along with Alain-Fournier and Marliave, noted above, Péguy was killed early on in the war. See Digeon, La crise allemande, 498–514; and Schrade, Beethoven in France, 143–58. 185. Suzanne Bernard has noted the movement’s beginnings (in reaction to the Germans and Romanticism) in the introduction to her chapter in Le poème en prose inspired by Rimbaud, “Trouver une langue,” 97–101: Nerval first, then the French pursue their own supernatural and metaphysical trajectories inspired by Rimbaud: “On est frappé de leur obstination à ‘trouver une langue,’ suivant l’expression de Rimbaud (qui est aussi celle de Mallarmé), à comparer le maniement savant du langage à une ‘sorcellerie évocatoire, à retrouver par la poésie ‘l’alphabet magique, l’hieroglyphe mystérieux qui permettront le triomphe de l’Esprit.” She refers here (after Rimbaud and Mallarmé) to Baudelaire and Nerval; see esp. 97–98. 186. This notion must surely have circulated, but I have yet to find it advanced with regard to music, certainly Ravel’s. 187. Schrade’s charting from primary sources (in Beethoven in France) of the shifting implications of Beethoven’s influence from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1927 centenary is quite revealing. 188. Deane, “Renard, Ravel and the Histoires Naturelles,” 184. 189. Among several sources, Roland-Manuel, Maurice Ravel (1947), 24, from the author’s original “Nouvelle Revue Critique” edition of 1938. 190. “The Great Musician Maurice Ravel Talks about His Art,” interview with André Révész, in ABC de Madrid, 1 May 1924, 19; repr. in A Ravel Reader, 433. 191. Downes, “Maurice Ravel, Man and Musician,” interview with Olin Downes in the New York Times, 7 August 1927; repr. in Orenstein, Ravel: Man and Musician, 450. 192. Thibaudet, La poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé: Étude littéraire. 193. Ravel requested Thibaudet’s book in a letter of 28 September 1916, according to Orenstein in A Ravel Reader, 177n5. 194. To work backwards: Mallarmé had a small house in Valvins near Fontainebleau on the river Seine, where he spent much time, especially during the later years of his life. His next-door neighbors, the Polish expatriate family of Godebska (to whom Ravel was introduced as early as 1904, according to Orenstein in A Ravel Reader, 74) numbered among the closest of Ravel’s lifetime friends. The earliest correspondence from Ravel to the Godebskas (at Valvins) appears to date from ca. 1905. In 1901, however, two years after her father’s death, Geneviève Mallarmé married Dr. Edmond Bonniot (from Paris), who became Ravel’s personal and family physician until shortly before he died in 1919 (see Marnat, Maurice Ravel [1986], 367–69, and 454–55). But the dedication of Ravel’s Sainte— written in 1896—had already gone to Geneviève Mallarmé long before our documented evidence. Bonniot went on to publish the first edition of Igitur, Mallarmé’s problematically reconstructed (by Bonniot!) “conte fantastique,” a work inspired—ironically—by Poe and German legend around the time of Mallarmé’s visit to Wagner’s Tribschen ca. 1870. See

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the most recent critical apparatus concerning Igitur in Stéphane Mallarmé: Igitur, Divagations, Un coup de dés, esp. 463–65. 195. Ravel, “Neuf lettres de Maurice Ravel à Marguerite Baugnie de Saint-Marceaux,” 24n55. 196. Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 37. Her treatment, also in this chapter, of Schopenhauer and Hegel under the rubric of “La conception idéaliste de la musique” (37–43), is quite convincing, as is her separation of Mallarmé from Wagner in aesthetic terms in both the preceding and the following chapters (e.g., “Le défi à Wagner,” 55–80). 197. Mallarmé, “La musique et les lettres,” in Stéphane Mallarmé: Igitur, Divagations, Un coup de dés, ed. Bertrand Marchal (Paris: Nrf/Gallimard, 2003), 378. See Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 38. Bernard (and others) have repeatedly acknowledged their indebtedness to Thibaudet. 198. See Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 149–50. On the extended crisis and depression suffered by Mallarmé—the basis, according to Bernard, for his idealist aesthetic—see her larger study, Le poème en prose, 264–67. 199. Thibaudet, La poésie et la musique, 276. 200. Thibaudet pursues such a challenge to Mallarmé (or, as he puts it, “concours de la musique”) by trying to isolate it in three categories (ibid.). 201. Consider two examples (with my emphasis): (1) Mallarmé, letter to René Ghil, 7 March 1885: “Il y a lieu de s’intéresser énormément à votre effort d’orchestration écrite. Je vous blâmerai d’une seule chose: c’est que dans cet acte de juste restitution qui doit être le nôtre, de tout reprendre à la musique, ses rythmes qui ne sont que ceux de la raison et ses colorations mêmes qui ne sont que nos passions évoquées par la rêverie, vous laissiez un peu s’évanouir le vieux dogme du vers.” Propos sur la poésie (Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 1953), 139–40, cited in Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 74; and (2) from 1892, in far more transcendental terms, working toward an ideal of his unfinished “Livre”: “Je me figure par un indéracinable sans doute préjugé d’écrivain, que rien ne demeurera sans être proféré; que nous en sommes là, précisément, à rechercher, devant une brisure des grands rythmes littéraires . . . et leur éparpillement en frissons articulés proches de l’instrumentation, un art d’achever la transposition, au Livre, de la symphonie ou uniment de reprendre notre bien: car, ce n’est pas de sonorités élémentaires par les cuivres, les cordes, les bois, indéniablement mais de l’intellectuelle parole à son apogée que doit avec plénitude et évidence résulter, en tant que l’ensemble des rapports existant dans tout, la Musique.” Mallarmé, “Crise de vers,” in Stéphane Mallarmé: Igitur, Divagations, Un coup de dés, 258, cited by Bernard, in ibid., 73. 202. As early as 1892; see Viñes, “Le journal inédit de Ricardo Viñes,” 183–85. 203. 1893, ibid., 185. 204. 1896, ibid., 189. 205. 1892; see Orenstein’s “Some Unpublished Music and Letters by Maurice Ravel”; and Klingsor, “L’époque Ravel,” 127, where he reminds us that among the greater differences between a young man of the late 1890s (referring specifically to Ravel) and those of ensuing decades was that “our gods were Verlaine and Mallarmé.” 206. 1895 Viñes, Journal, 188. 207. See the first page of this chapter and note 4. 208. “N’est-ce pas alors une gageure que de faire du poète un voyant, lui pour qui le problème de l’expression est fondamental?” Bernard, Le poème en prose, 157. 209. Roland-Manuel’s 1914 Maurice Ravel et son œuvre, the first monograph on Ravel, begins with an epigraph from Poe: “An elevating excitement of the soul—quite independent of that passion which is the intoxication of the Heart—or of that truth which is the

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satisfaction of the Reason.” (Eng. trans., p. 7). The work is dedicated to Calvocoressi and Vuillermoz. See also idem, “Maurice Ravel” (1921), in which he associates Poe and Ravel’s oft-received criticism as “gageure.” Some irony, perhaps, in Calvocoressi’s dedication of an essay in 1909 on Poe to Ravel, since it does not mention the composer in text. See his “Les idées d’Edgar Poe sur la musique.” 210. Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel” (1921), 20. 211. Witkowski (1867–1943), student of d’Indy and director of the Lyon Conservatoire for nearly twenty years. See Ravel, “Concerts Lamoureux,” S.I.M. Revue musicale (15 February 1912); a translation may be found in A Ravel Reader, 340–43. 212. Ravel, “Comptes rendus des Concerts Lamoureux et Colonne,” S.I.M. Revue musicale (15 March 1912), wherein Ravel argues aesthetics for the first and larger portion of the essay (translated in A Ravel Reader, 344–48). 213. “It is not surprising that in Germany, just as in France, Brahms and Franck were singled out in order to combat Wagnerian influence—they whose flaws often elicit reactions of indiference and boredom.” Ravel, quoted in A Ravel Reader, 345. 214. Ibid. 215. “Haine de l’indécis, mépris de la facilité et des procédés déclamatoires, volonté, parfois, que l’œuvre d’art apparaisse comme le gain d’une gageure, la réussite d’un tour de force.” Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel” (1921), 20. 216. “Désir, avant tout, de rechercher non point l’intoxication du cœur, mais la pure satisfaction de l’esprit par le plaisir de l’oreille, telle sera donc, l’esthétique de Maurice Ravel.” Ibid. 217. “Ravel fait volontiers l’insensible, uniquement préoccupé de problèmes techniques; il professe que le musicien n’a aucun besoin d’éprouver l’émotion qu’il veut communiquer. Ce qui importe, c’est qu’il produise, par des moyens musicaux, un effet déterminé. Peut-être irait-il jusqu’à dire qu’un musicien sans émotion, gardant un parfait sang-froid, sera un artiste plus infaillible et plus sûr de son effet. C’est le Paradoxe du comédien de Diderot, appliqué à la musique.” Aguettant, “Maurice Ravel,” 428. 218. “Tout chez Ravel est volontaire et ignore le ‘hasard’ qui prend, complaisamment aujourd’hui, figure de critère universel.” Hoérée, “Les mélodies et l’œuvre lyrique,” 63. 219. “Le mobile des deux ouvrages—le mobile profond—est donc bel et bien dû à sa seule intelligence et à sa seule volonté.” Capdevielle, “Deux poèmes chorégraphiques de Maurice Ravel,” cited in Stavroula Marti, “Le Boléro,” 94. 220. Belvianes, here, praises the conductor Pierre Coppola in “Concerts Pasdeloup”: “Je trouve Schopenhauerien l’art de Ravel dans le Boléro: le même motif revient trente fois, quarante fois, cinquante fois et, chaque fois, il nous apparaît comme un univers nouveau”; cited in Marti, “Le Boléro,” 93. 221. “Aucun artiste n’a moins laissé parler son subconscient que Ravel. Virtuose, comme seul peut l’être un Picasso, il est plus conscient que lui, il se maîtrise avec une volonté plus souveraine, il laisse moins de part—(en laisse-t-il jamais?)—à son instinct.” Bernard, “Cinquième Conférence: Maurice Ravel,” 83. 222. Jankélévitch refers chiefly here to both composers’ predilections for eighteenthcentury France. “Le décor ‘bergamasque,’ qui exprime chez Fauré la nostalgie de l’irréel traduit chez Ravel, et aussi bien dans la Pavane pour une infante que dans Ma mère l’oye, la volonté de la feinte, de l’alibi et du dépaysement.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 125. 223. “Et pourtant, malgré la mobilité de ses visages, l’art de Ravel n’a pas eu la folle sensibilité de l’art debussyste; dès le début il est évident que ce jeune homme sera plus volontaire et moins réceptif que Debussy. Aucune influence ne peut se flatter de l’avoir conquis tout entier.” Jankélévitch casts this in even larger terms later on: “Humain, trop

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humain Debussy! Ravel, plus encore que Fauré, a connu ces délicieuses défaites de la volonté.” Ibid., 5, 51–52. 224. “Se moque-t-il de nous, ou joue-t-il tout simplement, à l’exemple de Satie, la comédie de l’indifférence? Plus son émoi est vif, plus Ravel affecte un ton incolore et gentiment uniforme. . . . L’anti-romantisme de Ravel a donc été une réaction contre le romantique qu’il aurait pu redevenir si sa volonté avait fléchi.” Ibid.,, 146. 225. “Cette audace ravélienne s’exprime d’abord dans le goût de la difficulté vaincue et la recherche opiniâtre de l’effort; ensuite dans l’esprit d’artifice. Une ‘esthétique de l’imposture.’ L’expression est de Roland-Manuel, qui a pénétré plus profondément que quiconque le secret de cet art. Et nous préférerions dire, quant à nous: une esthétique de la gageure, parce que dans Gageure il y a l’idée du tour de force et de la volonté de fer.” Ibid., 66–67. 226. Bernard makes it quite clear in her chapter on Aloysius Bertrand (upon whom, of course, Ravel conferred deserved “musical” justice), that the notion of constructive “will” was alive and flourishing amidst French poets of the early nineteenth century; see Le poème en prose, 63–64. Simon’s The Prose Poem as a Genre in Nineteenth-Century European Literature (a reprint with new introduction to his Harvard 1959 dissertation), explores and analyzes the genre beyond France (i.e., Germany, Austria, and England). Both of these works were written about the same time, around the mid-century, and are of similar size and depth (over 700 pages). The authors, however, appear to have been unaware of one another’s work at the time. 227. Robert Bernard, “Maurice Ravel,” 2. 228. Honegger here unites the two terms in his own peculiar way, as had both RolandManuel and Jankélévitch. Honegger, “Ravel et le Debussysme,” 258–59. 229. “La volonté de Maurice Ravel était de n’employer au service de la musique rien que de l’intelligence. . . . dans ce strict exercice atteint-elle des contrées extrêmes où règne l’ironie.” Cassou, “La lumière de Ravel,” 233. One is reminded of the opening to Klingsor’s (and Ravel’s) “Asie”—“Je voudrais me . . . dans une goélette.” Cassou worked closely with Zay in the Ministry of Education until the Vichy government, and would likely have known Zay’s remarks about Ravel’s “weapon of irony.” 230. As we mentioned earlier, Bernard has convincingly synthesized musical influences (Beethoven, Wagner, other symphonic music) with those literary (Schopenhauer, Hegel, Wagner, the Revue wagnérienne writers and Symbolists), in order to separate Mallarmé from Wagner, philosophically and aesthetically, the former’s “idealist” aesthetics, hence, being uniquely French. 231. Circa 1808, regarding Beethoven’s well-known inscription of his “Pastoral” Symphony, “mehr Ausdruck der Empfindung als Malerei.” 232. “Nommer un objet, c’est supprimer les trois quarts de la jouissance du poëme qui est faite de deviner peu à peu: le suggerer, voilà le rêve. C’est le parfait usage de ce mystère qui constitute le symbole: évoquer petit à petit un objet pour montrer un état d’âme, ou, inversement, choisir un objet et en dégager un état d’âme, par une série de déchiffrements.” Mallarmé, “Réponses à des enquètes: Sur l’évolution littéraire,” in Stéphane Mallarmé: Igitur, Divagations, Un coup de dés, 405–6. 233. “Mallarmé est orfèvre, il défend la littérature comme il peut devant l’offensive victorieuse de la musique—et en effet il s’est senti profondément, personnellement engagé dans ce débat.” Bernard, Mallarmé et la musique, 149. 234. Actually, what was heard in 1912 was an orchestration from 1910 of the Pavane pour une infante défunte, which was originally a keyboard work 235. A Ravel Reader, 340. Ravel uses the term again later in the review, concerning students of Franck and Liszt.

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236. Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel (1939) and L’Ironie ou la bonne conscience (1936). 237. The detail in which Jankélévitch addresses individual works of Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel is most impressive. 238. The most specific reference to irony and Ravel’s music may be found on p. 106 (of the later, 1956, Maurice Ravel), where Jankélévitch discusses the question of “leading tones” in Ravel’s harmony and their unique effect upon his cadences. 239. Concerning artifice, see Ravel’s interview with Redfern Mason in the San Francisco Examiner, reproduced in Dunfee, “Maurice Ravel in America,” 153–54; Cooper, French Music from the Death of Berlioz to the Death of Fauré, 178–80; and Burnett James, Ravel: His Life and Times, 137–38. Concerning “masques,” see Gil-Marchex, “Les concertos de Ravel,” 279; Helleu, “Le Boléro,” Musical 4, 10 (June 1987): 106–7; Souillard, “Argument . . . [Livret intégrale original, Commentaire littéraire et musical],” L’Avant-Scène 127 (1990): 84–113; and Mawer’s introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Ravel. Concerning “gageure,” see below, pp. 29–30, 68 and 155, and notes 244 and 253 in this chapter and note 13 in chap. 2. 240. Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 66. 241. Quoted in Schoentjes, Poétique de l’ironie, 43; Schaerer, writing in the Revue de la métaphsyique et de morale in 1941 (“Le mécanisme de l’ironie dans ses rapports avec la métaphsyique”), found himself writing in between the two editions of Jankélévitch’s larger work on irony, relying upon and quoting the first edition (1936), finding himself quoted in the second. Schöntjes dubs this “borgésienne.” 242. The term “sincerity” was used enthusiastically by examiners to describe Ravel’s progress at the Conservatoire in 1900—“June 16, 1900: Very good student, hardworking and punctual. Musical nature very taken with innovation, with a disarming sincerity!”—as he was being booted out of the institution. Rolland, about the same time, described the young Ravel as “crystal-clear, sincere, objective and unselfish”; see Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician, 28–29, and below, chap. 3, p. 121. 243. The notion of Ravel as “gambler” had been in circulation before Jankélévitch’s formalization; see Roland-Manuel’s “Maurice Ravel” (1921), 20–21, and Crémieux, “Maurice Ravel.” The “aesthetic of deception” found its way in more elevated fashion into Roland-Manuel’s 1938 second and definitive monograph of the time, A la gloire de Ravel. 244. “Une ‘esthétique de l’imposture.’ L’expression est de Roland-Manuel, qui a pénétré plus profondément que quiconque le secret de cet art. Et nous préférions dire, quant à nous: une esthétique de la gageure, parce que dans Gageure il y a l’idée du tour de force et de la volonté de fer.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 66. 245. I acknowledge using “discourse” in place of Zay’s original “langage,” since it appears in both primary and secondary cognate references of the Petit Robert. 246. Calvocoressi claimed to have met Ravel in 1898, when he would have been thirteen. See Calvocoressi, “Ravel’s Letters to Calvocoressi,” Musical Quarterly 27 (January 1941): 1. 247. Calvocoressi is hardest on Jankélévitch here, criticizing his chapter titles “Artifice” and “Masques” and claiming that he “surely overshoots the mark” in suggesting an “affectation” on Ravel’s part in composing to commission. Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, “When Ravel Composed to Order,” Music and Letters 22 (January 1941): 54. 248. “Whence his interest in special problems, in new resources that provided him with opportunities to exercise his craftsmanship in fresh directions. . . . In other words, the main thing was for the technical notions concerning form or texture to come to him—whether from within or from without did not matter in the least.” Ibid., 59. 249. “Toute œuvre de Ravel représente en ce sens un certain problème à résoudre, une partie oû le joueur complique comme à plaisir les règles du jeu; . . . C’est la richesse

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de la pauvreté.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 67. This is a remarkable discussion of Ravel’s alleged “poverty”—melody, harmony, and polyphony—extending to several pages. 250. Especially chap. 1, but also pp. 64–73 and 111–16 of the first (1936) edition of L’ironie. Kierkegaard’s Concept of Irony, 1841, in three parts, was, of course, of monumental influence. It has been characterized recently by Candace Lang in her book growing out of it as “a religious-political polemic leveled at the impious egotism of certain German romantics and the complacent authority of contemporary Hegelians. It is a search for the true Socrates in view of establishing his role as prototype and harbinger of Christ, thereby making Socratic irony an instrument of Truth—and romantic irony a perversion of it.” Lang, Irony/Humor: Critical Paradigms, 1; her first chapter (pp. 18–36), is entirely devoted to Kierkegaard’s Concept. 251. One detailed mention of Ravel may be found in L’ironie, 121 (regarding the Jeux d’eau), but it is framed in a larger, nearly metaphsyical context, Jankélévitch’s concern for the potential “degeneration” of meaning amidst irony’s inevitable discontinuities (as reflected in Ravel’s notation vs. that of Liszt’s Jets d’eau de la Villa d’Este). 252. Kierkegaard, quoted by Enright, in The Alluring Problem, 3, and appears to underpin his metaphor of “flashes of lightning.” Kierkegaard, of course, says a great deal more about irony in his study, and, as Wayne Booth notes, ends up by defining it as “absolute infinite negativity.” A Rhetoric of Irony, 59. 253. “Toute œuvre de Ravel représente en ce sens un certain problème à résoudre, une partie où le joueur complique comme à plaisir les règles du jeu.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 67. 254. There is something (intendedly) encouraging, of course, in Booth’s statement that Kierkegaard’s study is one that “one can learn something from,” but he later argues for a danger inherant in its conclusions: “If irony is, as Kierkegaard and the German romantics taught the world, ‘absolute infinite negativity,’ and if, as many believe, the world or universe or creation provides at no point a hard and fast resistance to further ironic corrosion, then all meanings dissolve into the one supreme meaning: No meaning!” The entire middle section of Booth’s study (91–231), hence, is entitled “Learning Where to Stop.” A Rhetoric of Irony, 93. 255. “[Irony] is a term that can stand for a quality or gift in the writer, for something in the work, and for something that happens to the reader or auditor. . . . one need only assume—and I think it is an assumption that most of us should be able to share—that one important question about irony is how authors and readers achieve it together.” Ibid., xiv. Booth, ironically, also paired his thesis with another figure attractive to Ravel: “I think of the book as in part as an attempt to do with irony what Longinus did with another literary quality, the sublime. Irony, like the sublime, can be ‘used’ or achieved in every conceivable kind of literature.” Longinus, of course, underpins Ravel’s single largest work, Daphnis et Chloé. 256. As D. C. Muecke put it “Verbal Irony implies an ironist, someone.” Muecke, The Compass of Irony, 42. 257. That is, Socrates’s well-known, “willful” and feigned interventions in argument, trying to lead youth (and others) to truth and/or reality, against much of which Kierkegaard argued so forcefully in the early nineteenth century. 258. “Friedrich von Schlegel saw in romantic irony a ‘progressive,’ ever-expanding, upward-striving conciousness that moves ever closer to (but never reaches), the infinite (God).” Bishop, Romantic Irony in French Literature: From Diderot to Beckett, introduction, x–xi. 259. Bernard’s Le poème en prose is an enormous study, running to close to half a million words, and written, it appears, in tandem with her other study of Mallarmé.

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260. Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés is discussed further below, and in chap. 4. 261. “Aujourd’hui ou sans présumer de l’avenir qui sortira d’ici, rien ou presque un art, reconnaissons aisément que la tentative participe, avec imprévu, de poursuites particulières et chères à notre temps, le vers libre et le poème en prose. Leur réunion s’accomplit sous une influence, je sais, étrangère, celle de la Musique entendue au concert. On en retrouve plusieurs moyens m’ayant semblé appartenir aux Lettres, je les reprends.” Mallarmé”Préface de l’édition Cosmopolis; Observation relative au poème,” reprinted in Stéphane Mallarmé: Igitur, Divagations, Un coup de dés, 443. 262. Simon’s study, Prose Poem as a Genre, addresses Ravel several times, more specifically so, than does Bernard, i.e., “Ravel, who in the case of the Chansons madécasses had fitted his music to the words, in the case of Gaspard merely improvised freely in the spirit of the texts,” 98, and, again later, concerning the Chansons madécasses, 220 (though I disagree with the characterization of Gaspard as more improvisatory). 263. Klingsor here, too, interestingly, distinguishes Ravel from both Debussy and Fauré. “Ravel et l’art de son temps,” 11–12. 264. Bernard is surely correct in suggesting that Mallarmé—as expressed to Paul Valéry—understood some of the public would receive his new work as “deranged.” “Mallarmé, qui savait bien que son œuvre allait paraître à bien des gens un ‘acte de démence,’ insiste encore une fois sur la similitude qu’on peut trouver entre ses recherches et celles des jeunes écrivains de son temps.” Le poème en prose, 318. 265. “Le vers libre. . . . Peu importe qui l’ait inventé: Il était comme l’Orient, comme les chansons populaires, comme les contes de fées et les légendes, dans l’air du temps.” Pierre Menanteau, Tristan Klingsor: Une étude et un choix de poèmes, 40. 266. Bernard, Le poème en prose, 13. 267. See Ravel, “Finding Tunes in Factories”; repr. in A Ravel Reader, 398–400. 268. Ravel to de Falla, 6 March 1930, repr. in Orenstein, “Ravel and Falla: An Unpublished Correspondence, 1914–1933,” 349; and in Jean Roy, “Correspondance adressée par Maurice Ravel à Manuel de Falla,” 21. 269. “On peut certes, discuter sur la valeur proprement littéraire du Coup de Dés, et se demander si ce n’est pas une tentative icarieene, et par conséquent vouée à l’échec, que de vouloir dépasser les possibilités normales du langage: et en particulier que de développer simultanément plusieurs motifs, comme dans une partition car si l’oreille peut percevoir ensemble plusieurs thèmes, l’esprit, en revance, ne suit guère plusieurs idées en même temps.” Bernard, Le poème en prose, 328. The emphasis is original. 270. “L’ironie est pouvoir de jouer, de voler dans les airs, de jongler avec les contenus soit pour les nier, soit pour les recréer.” Jankélévitch, L’ironie, 9 (1950 edition). 271. “II usera de procédés semblables dans l’ordre de la pure technique: ses rentrées, ses réapparitions de thèmes ou de timbres ressortissent à la même jonglerie paradoxale.” The context alluded to here is Ravel’s virtuosity in transforming characters, indeed objects (i.e., clocks, in works like L’Heure espagnole), with imbued human qualities of tenderness and the heart, and he also refers to instrumental works. Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel ou l’esthétique de l’imposture,” 20–21. 272. Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel” (1921), 18. 273. “Pendant toute sa vie, on a criblé Ravel d’éloges délicatement empoisonnées, exaltant son élégance, de ‘petit-maître,’ son idéal quintessencié, son étourdisante virtuosité d’écriture, sa dextérité de jongleur et son astuce de prestidigitateur . . . une perfide légende qui pêut faire le plus grand tort à sa mémoire en nous masquant son vrai visage qui est celui d’un très grand musicien classique.” Vuillermoz, “Défendons Ravel.”

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274. Ravel’s first documented public performance, at the age of fourteen, was in the piano class of Émile Decombes, 1889, which included Reynaldo Hahn and Alfred Cortot; see Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician, 11. 275. See Cortot’s reminiscences in his “Maurice Ravel,” 2:23. 276. Cortot conducted the premiere of the orchestral versions of Ravel’s early song cycle Shéhérazade, a rather “busy evening” of it, as Orenstein has noted in Ravel, Man and Musician, 40. Reception of the event may be found in L. L. [Louis Laloy], “Concerts, Société nationale 17 mai”; and Marnold, “Shéhérazade.” 277. Cortot, ironically, came to considerable grief with Ravel during this latter period when Ravel threatened legal process in order to dissuade him from publishing a twohanded version of the Concerto pour la main gauche. The only traces of his intent may be found in a sketch long since (one assumes) sold at auction. See the Exposition Alfred Cortot (1877–1962): 17 Mai–21 Juin 1988, 8. 278. “Sensible à tous les perfectionnements de notre art, sachant discerner sous les apports de nouveautés excessives, la part qui pouvait y revenir à la logique et à la clarté d’expression; habile à décanter, sous les paradoxes d’opinion ou de tendances, le pur breuvage des sonorités définitives, c’est, au cours d’une évolution sans cesse perfectionnée, l’esprit français dans ce qu’il a d’irrémédiablement transparent et lucide, qui de plus en plus, et d’année en année, accusera d’un relief plus apparent la signification de son génie.” Alfred Cortot, “Dans le Souvenir Maurice Ravel.” 279. “Si l’on peut dire de Ravel qu’il lui arrive de ponctuer sans écrire dessous, on peut dire, par contre, d’Erik Satie, qu’il lui arrive d’écrire avec les gros bâtons de l’enfance et d’oublier la ponctuation. Le miracle de Debussy était sans doute de réunir le tout, bien que son écriture soit, à mon sens, un peu trop féminine, et ses ponctuations trop molles.” Cocteau, “Ravel et nous,” 397. Cocteau’s remarks in 1938 were neither newly conceived nor opportunistic, as a quick glance at his essay for the collective volume of the Thomson recording company of a decade prior in which he said virtually the same thing will demonstrate; see Cocteau, “Ravel salué par Jean Cocteau.” 280. Ravel, “Finding Tunes in Factories.” 281. Ravel went so far as to suggest particular gestural means of rendering such moments; see Henriette Faure, Mon maître Maurice Ravel, 78. 282. See, for example, the “sarabandhaft punktierte” main theme of the Left Hand Concerto and rhythmic essence of “Le paon” (Histoires naturelles), as noted in Beyer, Organale Satztechniken in den Werken von Claude Debussy und Maurice Ravel, 157 and 230, respectively. 283. Ravel’s rhythm and polyrhythm is in effect a “discourse,” and its “punctuation” is sometimes too difficult to scan. “Expressive ou prosadique, la polyrythmie n’est autre chose chez Ravel que la fidélité scrupuleuse à la nature, la versatilité d’un discours qui vibre aux moindres mouvements de l’âme; les notes, dans leur vivante sensibilité, devancent la vérité même des paroles. . . . Parfois la liberté et la complexité rythmiques se font si grandes que toute scansion toute ponctuation semble s’effacer.” Jankélévitch, Maurice Ravel, 96–98. 284. “La doctrine mallarméenne du Théâtre et du Ballet imaginera précisément un passage immédiat de l’écrit à la pensée et au rêve, sans l’intermédiaire, sans la douane âpre de la parole. . . . De sorte que la ponctuation, présence de ce qui, dans la pensée, ne cristallise pas, la ponctuation se conçoit presque, pour qui écrit, comme antérieure aux mots.” Thibaudet, La poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé, 272. 285. Simon, The Prose Poem, 399.

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286. Ibid.; “L’Orphelin” (1864) and “Réminiscence” (1888) are reprinted side-by-side on p. 394; his analyses of the two versions (and their implications, musical and otherwise) proceed to the above-mentioned conclusion on p. 403. 287. “Now the dash is a tricky punctuation mark, and in Novalis it is even trickier. With him it can take the place of the period, semicolon, colon, comma, or parantheses, and we cannot, at any given time, be quite sure of which. Traditionally it suggest a considerable break, the frequency of its use in Novalis automatically devaluates it and makes us almost, but not quite, ignore it . . . and we should perhaps consider even the visual aspect of the dash: it is like the thread showing through, that thread on which the word and thought-pearls are strung.” Ibid., 554–55. 288. See ibid., 575ff., where his argument has to do with French influence upon the Germans: “The endeavors of a Hölderlin and Novalis, in short, parallel those of Mallarmé and Rimbaud in many ways, and it is of no small significance that the prose poem should have beckoned to all four of these brilliant experimenters in extremism.” His unfolding analysis of the German prose poem (from 575 to at least 590) demonstrates in more detail the influences of Bertrand, Baudelaire, and Mallarmé upon Max Dauthendy, George, and Rilke, and includes many musical references. 289. “Bertrand use, systématiquement, à peu près comme les poètes en verse usent du changement de ligne, pour créer une pause, un suspens:—en marquant ici l’importance d’un procédé typographique dont Bertrand use, systématiquement, à peu près comme les poètes en verse usent du changement de ligne, pour créer une pause, un suspens: c’est le tiret, dont l’usage sera fréquent aussi chez Rimbaud et chez Mallarmé.” Bernard, Le poème en prose, 64. 290. “[C]onstruction plus complexe et pour ainsi dire polyphonique dans Un rêve, où trois actions se poursuivent parallélement, grâce aux tirets, chaque couplet reprenant successivement les trois thèmes.” Ibid., 64, referring here to Bertrand’s larger (and only famous) collection, Gaspard de la nuit. 291. “Ailleurs, et en accord avec le sens, le tiret viendra au contraire briser le rythme, produire un effet de rupture: ‘Mais bientôt son corps bleuissait, diaphane comme la cire d’une bougie, son visage blémissait comme la cire d’un lumignon,—et soudain il s’éteignait.’ Dans ce dernier cas, le tiret, agissant à la façon d’un rejet, permet aussi de détacher une brusque conclusion; . . . Que le rythme de la phrase soit ou non souligné par des tirets, il faut en tous cas remarquer sa variété, sa valeur expressive; par là Bertrand se montre un véritable technicien de la prose, habile à suggérer l’idée par le rythme.” Ibid., 64–65. Bernard’s quote here concerns the remarkable conclusion to “Scarbo,” which Ravel “set” instrumentally in 1907. The dash, here, acts, as she puts it, like a “carriage return,” reminding of Ravel’s fondness for all things “mechanical” (both his father and only brother were engineers), and his attraction to the “modern” typewriter,” evident in his later correspondence. 292. Albert Doppagne, La bonne ponctuation: Clarté, précision, efficacité de vos phrases (Paris and Gembloux: Duculot, 1978), 8–9. His four categories are: “I. Les signes pausaux (le point, la virgule, le point-virgule, le tiret, la pause); II. Les signes mélodiques (le point d’interrogation, le point d’exclamation, les points de suspension, les deux points, le trait); III. Les signes d’insertion (les parenthèses, les diverses sortes de crochets, les tirets, les guillemets, les virgules, les barres); IV. Les signes d’appel (le paragraphe, l’alinéa, l’appel de note, l’astérisque, le tiret, le point abréviatif, les points, les barres, les pieds de mouche et quelques autres).” 293. “C’est à propos de La belle Dorothée précisément que le poète écrivait au directeur de la Revue Nationale, qui avait osé aporter à son texte ‘d’extraordinaires changements’:

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‘Je vous avais dit: Supprimez tout un morceau, si une virgule vous déplaît, mais ne supprimez pas la virgule; elle a sa raison d’être.’” Bernard, Le poème en prose, 133. She quotes the specific verse later on, suggesting that Baudelaire probably wished to avoid appearance of an alexandrine, especially at the end of a paragraph (137). 294. “De fait, le ton d’ironie glacée dont j’ai parlé d’abord tient une part de sa vertu de la banalité, de la transparence que Baudelaire impose volontairement à son style, relevant seulement la platitude habituelle des termes par quelque expression chargée d’humour, ça et là, et généralement soulignée (comme chez Poe): ‘une expérience d’un intérêt capital’ (car elle porte sur un condamné à mort).” She refers here to Baudelaire’s Une morte héroïque. Bernard, Le poème en prose, 127. 295. “‘Monsieur,’—“avec gravité”—’aucun sujet certainement n’est plus imposant. L’emploi ou le rejet de signes convenus indique la prose ou les vers, nommément tout notre art: ceux-ci s’en passent par le privilège d’offrir, sans cet artifice de typographie, le repos vocal qui mesure l’élan; au contraire, chez celle-là, nécessité, tant, que je préfère selon mon goût, sur page blanche, un dessin espacé de virgules ou de points et leurs combinaisons secondaires, imitant, nue, la mélodie—au texte, suggéré avantageusement si, même sublime, il n’était pas ponctué.’” “Solitudes” was first published as “Variations sur un sujet” in Revue blanche, 1 November 1895; the above version is that surviving (with a few changes from the author) within Grands Faits divers of Mallarmé’s collected works, 321. An earlier version (which Ravel must have read first, perhaps uniquely) may be found quoted in Thibaudet’s book, requested from the war front, p. 272: “Tant, que je préfère selon mon goût, sur page blanche, un dessin espacé de virgules ou de points et leurs combinaisons secondaires, imitant, nue, la mélodie—au texte, suggéré avantageusement si, même sublime, il n’était pas ponctué.” 296. Mallarmé’s final work derives in considerable part from his exploration of punctuation. See Bernard’s chapter on Un coup de dés—she finds a clear justification for the work’s opacity in our previous example of the “imagined interview,” though I suspect the matter may be further explored; Le poème en prose, 303. 297. See the editors’ introduction to The Book of Masks: An Anthology of French Symbolist & Decadent Writing Based upon “The Book of Masks” by Rémy de Gourmont, the second in an important and continuing series of historical archives. The “author symbols” do not actually appear in Rémy’s text, but have been collected and published in another recent volume, Justification de tirage du Mercure (Paris: Éditions du Fourneau/Cymbalum Pataphysicum, 1992). 298. See Deane’s account and splendid interpretation of the meeting of Ravel and Jules Renard, ca. 1906, earlier in this chapter (pp. 16, 33). 299. Fénéon, editor at the powerful Revue blanche, was one of the best-known anarchists in the intellectual classes of his time; he supported “bomb throwing” in a wide variety of essays and articles, and was in fact arrested and tried (though not convicted) for such sympathies. 300. A fine example of both—in Ravel’s own hand, no less—may be found in Jean Roy’s edition of the latter’s correspondence with Roland-Manuel, Lettres à Roland Manuel et à sa famille. 301. Among larger contexts, again, influence well into the early twentieth century of Wagner’s music, and (however interpreted) his theories. Mallarmé’s interest in typography has long been acknowledged. See, for instance, Bernard’s Le poème en prose, 316, where she notes the poet’s attraction to newer modalities of popular (poster) advertising: ‘Souvent elle me fit songer comme devant un parler nouveau’), quoting Mallarmé, and following up with a confirmation about typography from Paul Valéry. See also Thibaudet—long

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before, read by Ravel—concerning Un coup de dés: “Toujours c’est par des analogies musicales qu’il a justifié ces conceptions de typographie” (La poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé, p. 279). 302. “Qu’il nous soit permis de rendre hommage à la Compagnie Française Thomson-Houston et de la remercier: en patronnant cet ouvrage, elle a témoigné une fois de plus son attachement aux choses de la Musique et et de l’Esprit. Il a été possible, grâce à elle, de donner à cet ‘In Memoriam’ la forme et la parure qui ont semblé le mieux accordées à l’expression typographique de style ‘ravélien.’” Maurice Delage, in Colette et al., Maurice Ravel par quelques-uns de ses familiers, ii. 303. Thibaudet informs more specifically about this and Un coup de dés: “Il avait fait des recherches dans les imprimeries pour les caractères appropriés, les avait trouvés enfin chez Didot.” La poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé, 338. 304. Alcanter is described in what few sources one can find as “minor,” “unknown,” and the like, but this may be a bit uncharitable, especially over the turn of a new century. 305. Among Alcanter’s more ambitious and important works are a rather bizarre tripartite philosophy of morals, L’ostensoir des ironies: Essai de métacritique and a potted history of poetry, Cent ans de poésie, 1830–1930. The first of these is nearly impossible to find, and we are therefore grateful to Pierre Schoentjes for his gathering of the text over time, and his excellent extended critical introduction and commentary upon it in Alcanter de Brahm, L’ostensoir des ironies, précédé de ‘Le point sur l’ironie,’ par Pierre Schoentjes, referred to henceforth as Le point sur l’ironie and/or L’ostensoir des ironies. Alcanter’s Cent ans de poésie, nearly as difficult to find, includes an indication—to 1933—of his previous work including poetry, historical inquiry (i.e., pertaining to Paris, Le IVe Arrondissement, vision rétrospective, the Musée Caranavalet), criticism (pertaining to Ibsen, Apollinaire, Michelet, painters centered in Toulouse) and other works. 306. Alcanter’s contribution (among many others, to be sure) was solicited in 1902 by the editors of the journal L’Hermitage, as an assumed challenge from Rémy de Gourmont in Mercure de France, “Who Is Your Poet?” (recalling the previously noted example of Mallarmé, ca. 1895, “So What Do You Think About Punctuation?”). Alcanter also contributed (among many fewer) to the Hommage à Henri de Régnier (1928, about the time Ravel was touring America), and to Au temps de Guillaume Apollinaire (1945); he wrote introductions to various popular texts of the time, such as Arnaud d’Agnel’s Monticelli: Sa vie et son œuvre 1824–1886 (1926), and Marie-Claire Maguelonne’s Rhapsodie sentimentale (1942). 307. “Symbole et poésie sont tout un, à vrai dire. Quiconque est un poète, doué de la grâce, un poète-né et non un rhétoricien du vers, s’affirme, bon gré, malgré, un chercheur de symboles.” Alcanter, Cent ans de poésie, 49. 308. Sense, here, I think, means “meaning”: “Si, en poésie, le son prime le sens, selon le mot de Rémy de Gourmont [dans son Esthétique de la langue française], le vers qui exige avant toute chose une idée, soit directement exprimée, soit enclose dans une image ou un symbole, veut aussi de la clarté.” Alcanter, Cent ans, 35. 309. On three occasions in April and May of 1897, Ricardo Viñes recounts in his diary that Ravel loaned him different works of Barbey; after visiting Ravel in October of 1898 Viñes stops on the way home to purchase Barbey’s La bague d’Annibal (for 2.5 francs!). Viñes, “Le journal interdit,” 192 and 198. Suzanne Bernard makes it clear that—however less historically significant than Baudelaire—Barbey and others including Champfleurry, Houssaye, and Claudel, contributed forcefully to “‘le ton moderne’: ironique, aggessif.” Le poème en prose, 89, 92, and 121. Ravel must, too, have read Barbey’s Du dandysme et de Brummell.

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315

310. Alcanter discusses “orchestration” on the larger canvas of poetry, symbols and sound, in Cent ans de poésie, 48–51. 311. “Ils parvinrent à déclancher sur eux les ressorts de la critique, dans les grands quotidiens: Montorgeuil, favorable; Henry Fouqier, hostile; Ferdinand Brunetière, rebelle à toute compréhension.” Ibid., 50. 312. Alcanter dates several groups from the 1880s forward, including the betterknown Zutistes, the Hydropathes, and the Hirsutes, and illuminates some of the journals, their attached authors and editors, and their various persuasions. See ibid., 50–60. 313. L’ostensoir des ironies, 1899, later parts never completed, is a rambling, sometimes incoherent yet interesting work in two sections and some fifteen separate chapters. Alcanter’s “point” may first be observed opposite his first preface page (following a brief dedication), then increasingly throughout the text. Interestingly, he does not explain it until the final page of his book, opposite the table of contents, where he makes the case for such a device—“a small sign of the whip”—as absolutely necessary to modern punctuation and discourse. 314. Schoentjes notes at least three attempts, from 1534 (textual annotation, actually, in the margin of a work translated into English), 1668 (an upside-down exclamation point, proposed by John Wilkins, in turn from Norman Knox’s earlier-mentioned study), and, later, that of Rousseau et Wieland. Le point sur l’ironie, 33. Orenstein has noted the eye-catching example of Ravel actually using the symbol in a letter of 1901 to Lucien Garban; see A Ravel Reader, 59–61. 315. The entry on irony with Alcanter’s sign “Ironie,” in Nouveau Larousse illustré (1897–1904, 5:329) is reproduced in Schoentjes’s edition of Le point sur l’ironie, 39 (and the 1960 citation may be found on the next page). 316. Quoted in Le point sur l’ironie, 40: “L’érudit Alcanter de Brahm avait bien imaginé le point d’ironie—en forme de fouet—pour alerter le lecteur. Mais l’ironie risque de s’émousser, ou même de s’évanouir, quand on la souligne.” 317. “Le moyen d’accéder au terme culminant du voyage, à cette terre promise, réside en l’arme de Volonté, par quoi l’homme se rend maître de la science qui le rendra au néant.” Quoted in L’ostensoir des ironies, 51. 318. “Le moteur de ces œuvres, levier qui les élève par delà l’horizon éternel: la Volonté. Quoted in ibid., 55. 319. The vast majority of examples have to do with irony in the world, as oppposed to verbal irony. See Le point sur l’ironie, 44–46. 320. Muecke, The Compass of Irony, 56. 321. Schoentjes, Le point sur l’ironie, 47. 322. “Ravel, malgré ses origines méridionales, n’avait pas d’accent. Il parlait d’une voix un peu sourde, douce et précautionneuse, aussi éloignnée de la précipitation que de la lenteur. Mais il avait une façon particulière de laisser tomber légèrement la voix sur les fins de phrases. C’était, si l’on peut dire, son ‘point d’ironie.’ Lorsqu’il lançait un de ces propos aiguisés dont il avait le secret, il exécutait un geste bien caractéristique: il glissait rapidement le revers de sa main droite derrière son dos, amorçait une sorte d’ironique pirouette, abaissait les paupières sur ses yeux brillants de malice, et imposait brusquemnet à sa phrase une chute finale à la quarte ou à la quinte inférieure.” Vuillermoz, “L’œuvre de Maurice Ravel,” 59–60. 323. Consider, for instance, Jules van Ackere on the linear aspects of Ravel’s melos in “Aspekten von het melos bij Ravel,” in Miscellanea musicologica Floris van der Mueren, 157–65, Nichols’s Ravel, 76–77, and Green’s, “Ravel and Krenek: Cosmic Music Makers.”

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324. To recall from much earlier, Laloy is worried, in 1907, about Ravel’s developing style: perhaps he might revisit the elements of his recent Histoires naturelles, wherein one observes “a clearer construction and tighter agreement of parts, a serious and precisely expressive style determined and sustained by an ever-present sense of emotion. Emotion sharpened to a point through ironic allusion, to be sure, but precisely suitable to one who— like his poet Renard—remains forever the observer.” Laloy, “Musique nouvelle,” 280. 325. Letter of 26 July 1901, to Lucien Garban, in which Ravel is discussing his recent failure in the 1901 Prix de Rome competition. “It’s great to be young! [point d’ironie]” Alcanter’s symbol is inserted just after the exclamation point; the letter (and the point) are reproduced in A Ravel Reader, 59–61. 326. “Ensuite que la ponctuation sert, comme la distribution de la lumière dans un tableau, à mettre en valeur les mots.” And a bit more to think about here, since the latter comprises the second of Thibaudet’s two cardinal points about Mallarmé’s punctuation: “Les differences de cette poncutation avec la ponctuation commune se ramènent à deux principes: d’abord qu’il n’y a pas lieu à ponctuation là où les idées sont nées associées, quelle que soit la divergence grammaticale des termes qui les expriment; ensuite . . . [as quoted previously]. Thibaudet expands on both of these points, 268–69, noting—with regard to our first quote—both irony, and the quality often associated with it and with Ravel (as in Louis Laloy’s quote at the beginning of our chapter), the smile: “La ponctuation garde à exagéré [sic] la fraicheur vive de la conversation, la réticence ironique derrière le sourire courtois, alors qu’avec la ponctuation ordinaire il est soudé au nom par une habitude de cliché.” Thibaudet, La poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé, 269. 327. “J’ai appelé Mallarmé un prose-libriste.” Ibid., 271. 328. “La ponctuation est une part, libre elle-même, de cette prose libre. Elle transmet le reflet que le mot, pierrerie, échange avec les pierreries voisines. Elle accentue ce caractère de la prose mallarméenne qui la fait répugner à la lecture à haute voix: elle n’exerce pas, pour la voix, une fonction oratoire de distribution et de repos, mais elle note le rythme intérieur de la pensée, comme une musique de marche.” Ibid. 329. “Le vers libre s’est constitué contre ce qui, dans la poésie régulière, n’existe pas pour l’oreille. Les poètes lyriques veulent non plus seulement être lus, mais surtout être récites, requièrent des ‘salons.’” Ibid. 330. “Doit-on écrire comme on parle? s’est demandé Mallarmé. Et il est peut-être le seul qui entièrement, consciemment, et sur toute la ligne, ait répondu: Non. Il y mit d’autant plus d’héroïsme qu’il était un des plus merveilleux parleurs de son temps, et que parler de la plume (il montra qu’il s’y entendait) l’eût affranchi de gagner du pain par un métier douloureux. Et dans ce Non! tient tout le paradoxe mallarméen, tout ce qui éveilla autour de lui tant de dérision et de stupeur.” Ibid. I play a bit loose with the noun here, recalling evidence from this chapter and from our Introduction (i.e., Francis Poulenc) about the closeness of irony and paradox in Ravel criticism. See ibid. 331. Michel Faure has linked Ravel’s fourths to psychological and psychosexual “complexes.” See his “La sexualité perturbée de Saint-Saëns et de Ravel,” esp. 46. 332. On the larger canvas(es), see Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician. 333. Robert Bernard, “La gloire de Ravel.” There is a hint of despair in Bernard’s editorial here—he is clearly worried that Ravel’s style may never be fully appreciated: “Non seulement l’art ravélien n’est pas compris—au sens plein de ce terme—ni par la foule, en France, ni par les élites étrangères, mais il ne le sera jamais, et, sur ce point, nous nous associons au point de vue de ceux qui voudraient garder jalousement la gloire de Ravel et ne pas l’exposer aux conviction que, par certains côtes [et qui ne sont peut-être pas précisément ceux qui ont le plus touché jusqu’ici l’esprit et le cœur de la

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masse, ni ceux de l’étranger], l’art de Ravel peut être beaucoup moins méconnu qu’il ne l’est présentement.” 334. Nichols, “Ravel and the Twentieth Century.” 335. Myers, Ravel, Life and Works, 214–15. 336. Myers’s convictions here, from Ravel, Life and Works (1960), 215, were elaborated upon in his later book (1971), entitled Modern French Music: Its Evolution and Cultural Background from 1900 to the Present Day; see esp. 103–4.

Chapter 2 1. Debay, “L’anémie,” 463. 2. Though disposed toward Ravel in the 1900 Prix de Rome competition, SaintSaëns called the Jeux d’eau “cacophonous” when Demets published it in 1902. See Orenstein, Ravel, Man and Musician, 36. 3. Laloy, “Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Ricardo Viñes,” 846: “Explorateur du monde sonore, il n’aime rien tant que d’en côtoyer les limites”; and Vuillermoz, “La Schola et le Conservatoire,” 238. Excerpts of the latter may be found in Michel Duchesneau’s “Maurice Ravel et la Société musicale indépendante: ‘Projet mirifique de concerts scandaleux,’” 251–81. 4. In discussing Ravel’s participation the previous year in founding the new Société musicale indépendante (along with Koechlin and Fauré); Vuillermoz, quoted in Duchesneau, “Maurice Ravel.” 5. Vuillermoz, “Le style orchestrale,” 26. 6. Lindenlaub, “À travers les Concerts. 7. Faure, Mon maître Maurice Ravel, 25. 8. See Kuhn-Schließ, Klassizistische Tendenzen im Klavierwerk von Maurice Ravel, 71; and Martin, “Die Instrumentation von Maurice Ravel,” 43. 9. See Lévi-Strauss, L’homme nu, 590–96; and idem, “Bolero de Maurice Ravel,” 5–14. 10. Consider Gerda Lechleitner’s Klangfarbenétude: Studien zum Bolero von Maurice Ravel, a technical and psycho-acoustical study. 11. Ravel, “Une esquisse autobiographique,” 209–15; trans. in A Ravel Reader, 29–37. 12. See Suarès’s characterization of the work as the sonorous image of a sickness tormenting Ravel his entire life, in his “Ravel, esquisse autobiographique,” 244. 13. Ravel’s first English biographer, in a bit more detail than cited in chap. 1: “The word gageure is constantly associated with Ravel. Literally translated, it means ‘wager’ or ‘bet.’ In Ravel’s case it meant a bet he made with himself—a hard nut (musically speaking) which he was determined to crack; and the harder it was the better he liked it. In this sense the famous Bolero was a gageure—a wager with himself that he could make an entire composition out of one theme and a single modulation.” Goss, Bolero: The Life of Maurice Ravel, 244–45. As noted, too, in chap. 1, Jankélévitch constructed his Ravel “gageure” aesthetic with precedence; beyond examples of the “contemporary currency” of the term previously cited (before Bolero), one might note Coeuroy’s comment: “Sur le public, sur l’auteur peut-être, ces rapides morceaux font l’effet d’une gageure.” See his “Images de Ravel au miroir des lettres,” 75; and, for a later, lucid discussion, Hoérée’s article “Maurice Ravel” in the Dictionnaire de la musique 2:895–97. 14. Jankélévitch, “La sérénade intérrompue,” 343. 15. “Telle est encore l’Alborada, cette aubade ambigue où géométrie et passion, comme chez Pascal, s’associent en d’étranges contrepoints. Comme il connaît bien, cet

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horloger, les pièges qui le guettent! Voici quelques précautions qu’il prend contre les démons de la complaisance: d’abord la ‘sérénade intérrompue,’ c’est-â-dire le développement étranglé.” Ibid., 342. 16. Both Messiaen and Boulez have accorded Debussy more importance in the development of their respective styles. 17. See Mooser, “Maurice Ravel: Concerto pour piano et orchestre (Genève, 1er mars 1933),” 188–92. 18. Engel, Das Instrumentalkonzert: Eine musikgeschichtlichte Darstellung, vol. 2, Von 1800 bis zur Gegenwart, 111. 19. In Rolland, “Les concerts,” 610. Rolland, here, excoriates Massenet’s new concerto (well fashioned, yet coarse, useless), while praising Louis Diémer’s performance (why such effort for such a work?). 20. “Aux concerts: Concertos—sifflets—œuvres modernes,” 213. 21. Stegemann, Camille Saint-Saëns and the French Solo Concerto from 1850–1920, 55. 22. A scathing review of Saint-Saëns’s Third Concerto in 1877 discloses the confusion surrounding the genre: “For the gentlemen virtuosos, no matter how talented they are, there is every reason to fear that the good old days of the solo concerto in the Salle Bergère are gone forever. The orchestra of a solo concerto cannot come close to competing with even the lowliest symphony, if the composer decides to sacrifice as much as possible of the solo part. Yet this is precisely what Mr. Saint-Saëns has done in his Third Concerto. . . . In spite of the forceful performance and clever orchestral effects, the work failed. It should also be said that this piece, conceived in the style of the new school and subtitled ‘The Last Judgement’ in the concert hall, is probably destined to hasten the death of virtuosity at the Conservatoire.” H. M., in Le Ménestrel 43, no. 9 (21 January 1877), as cited by Stegemann in Camille Saint-Saëns, 55. 23. Alfred Cortot claimed that the other concerto Ravel was working on simultaneously (the Concerto in G) was one and the same, and originally intended for him: “In Ciboure, M. R. had undertaken to compose a work for me entitled ‘Basque Rhapsody,’ which would become his dazzling G Major Concerto. It turned out that I was not to be the official dedicatee of the Concerto.” Cortot, quoted in Gavoty, Alfred Cortot, 126. 24. See Stegemann, Camille Saint-Saëns, 55. 25. Behavior preciptating such a crisis presumably included the following: “[I]t seems to have been common practice for the soloist not to step onto the stage until some point during the orchestral prelude and to be greeted with a storm of applause even though the concerto had already begun. . . . A few virtuosos adopted especially ‘effective’ mannerisms aimed at steering the audience’s attention to themselves; one soloist . . . is said to have established the habit of entering wearing white kid gloves and making a big show of stripping them off during the prelude. During lengthy orchestral passages, he carried on loud conversations with the guests of honor.” See ibid., 299. 26. Which, of course, they clearly are; see, for instance, Mäkelä’s study, Virtuosität und Werkcharakter: Zur Virtuosität in den Klavierkonzerten der Hochromantik, indebted to Stegemann, yet pushing the matters of solo and concerto virtuosity into philosphical, sociomusical, and aesthetic realms. 27. An example that—ironically—may warrant some reconsideration on more “determinist” grounds. In an era lacking copyrights it was to Paganini’s advantage to retain control of all parts, meaning, in turn, as few sheets as possible on each player’s stand, and, consequently, short, uncomplicated concerto introductions. Berlioz, however brilliant in criticism, appears not to have been interested in such notions concerning Paganini’s

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great contemporary: “Dans les compositions de Chopin, tout l’intérêt est concentré sur la partie de piano; l’orchestre de ses concertos n’est qu’un froid et presque inutile accompagnement.” Berlioz, Mémoires 2:296. 28. See Rolland, Musicians of To-day [sic], 282–83. 29. See Stegemann’s account of scandal surrounding the 1904 Concerts Colonne in his Camille Saint-Saëns, 56. 30. Fargue, Refuges, 197. 31. As noted in the previous chapter, Ravel was an ambulance and truck driver at the front near Verdun; Wittgenstein was posted close by. 32. Reinforced several times over by Ravel; see, for instance, Pierre Leroi, “Quelques confidences du grand compositeur M. Ravel [Interview],” Excelsior, 30 October 1931, trans. in A Ravel Reader, 485–86. 33. Ravel used the term himself: “The Concerto for the left hand is in one movement, and very different . . . the writing is not so light. . . . I resorted to a style which is much nearer to that of the more solemn kind of traditional Concerto.” “M. Ravel discusses his own work; Two contrasting concertos,” Daily Telegraph, 11 July 1931, quoted in A Ravel Reader, 477. 34. “Quelle originalité, quelle vie, quelle force, quel brio, quelle couleur dans cette œuvre qui est devenue à juste titre le morceau le plus joué de ce temps,” Isidore Philipp, quoted in Prod’homme, “Camille Saint-Saëns,” 132. 35. Saint-Saëns was organist at the Church of the Madeleine, and his student, Philipp, was convinced that the work originally had been intended for the pedal piano. See Servières, Saint-Säens, 135–36. 36. “Il travaille ‘sur le motif,’ comme un peintre. Il s’installe devant une sonate de Mozart ou devant un concerto de Saint-Saëns comme un paysagiste devant un bouquet d’arbres. L’œuvre achevée, il est généralement impossible de trouver trace du modèle.” Roland-Manuel, “Maurice Ravel ou l’esthétique de l’imposture,” 18. 37. See above, note 33 in this chapter, Ravel’s own use of the terms. 38. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Ms. 17647, fragments of Ravel’s early thoughts about how to reduce his orchestration to a second piano, for rehearsal purposes. 39. A foreboding pianissimo roll in the bass drum, as well as the nearly imperceptible “perpetual pedal” over E in the double bass, mitigates the perception of a precipitous harmonic change. 40. Pfann, Zur Sonatengestaltung im Spätwerk Maurice Ravels [1920–1932], 140. 41. The phrase arrière-pensée is of considerable literary import, and used more than once by Ravel; see, for instance, his criticism of Chopin in 1910, in Maurice Ravel, “Les Polonaises, les Nocturnes, les Impromptus, la Barcarolle—Impressions,” 31–32; trans. in A Ravel Reader, 335–37. 42. The followers of Les Six scorned (to varying degrees) the seriousness of all recent musical traditions, including Debussy and Ravel, while the “Second Vienna” composers, grouped around Schoenberg, of course, insisted upon dispensing with tonality and its functional implications, chief amongst them, established paradigms of expectation. 43. “Mon seul désir . . . a été d’écrire un concerto véritable, c’est-à-dire une œuvre brillante, mettant pleinement en valuer la virtuosité de l’exécutant, sans chercher à montrer de la profondeur. J’ai pris modèle pour cela auprès des deux musiciens qui, à mon avis, ont le plus illustré ce genre de composition: Mozart et Saint-Saëns. C’est ainsi que ce concerto, que j’avais songé tout d’abord à intituler ‘Divertissement,’ comprend les trois parties habituelles: à un allegro initial, d’un classicisme serré, succède un adagio avec

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lequel j’ai voulu rendre un hommage particulier à la scolastique et que je me suis efforcé d’écrire le mieux possible; pour finir, un mouvement vif en forme de rondo, également conçu selon les traditions les plus immuables.” Leroi, “Quelques confidences du grand compositeur Maurice Ravel” [Interview], Excelsior, 30 October 1931; repr. in Ravel, Lettres, écrits, entretiens, 369–70. 44. Cited in Ravel, Lettres, écrits, entretiens, 369. 45. In 1931 Ravel may well have been gibing Stravinsky, perhaps even Satie (i.e., both Petrouchka and Parade); the concerto concludes with these same chords. 46. Sonate pour piano et violon [sic] (1897), published only in 1975 (Salabert, A.R.I.M.A.) as Sonate posthume pour violon et piano. See also Wen, “Rare Ravel,” 614–18. 47. Ravel, “Esquisse autobiographique,” Revue musicale 19 (Dec. 1938), 212. 48. Ibid. The “Esquisse” was written ca. 1928 but only published in 1938. 49. The recapitulation is rendered even more ambiguous by a G♯ pedal throughout, as opposed to the (implied) tonic root of E, found in the first and last measures. As Orenstein has pointed out, the event is surely informed by Mendelssohn’s treatment of retransition and recapitulation at the end of the cadenza to the first movement of his incomparable Violin Concerto. 50. Criticism heretofore has concentrated chiefly on the crystallization of Ravel’s harmony in these waltzes, rather than their peculiar individual forms. 51. About these works Roland-Manuel wrote: “On trouvera sans peine, chez lui, des pages plus brillantes et plus accessibles d’abord; on n’en découvrira point qui portent à un plus haut degré la condensation de la matière et l’acuité d’une forme elliptique et serrée.” Roland-Manuel, quoted in Kuhn-Schließ, Klassizistische Tendenzen, 147. 52. Ravel obviously preferred gapped, even pentatonic, to whole-tone scales. For a more complicated explanation of these particular measures see Smith, “Exempli gratia: A ravelled labyrinth or 3(5) = 3 (mod 12)”: “The chromatic circle-of-fifths progression in measures 57–61 of the first of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales is among other things, an elaborate contrapuntal structure which is dependent upon a particular fact of modulo-12 arithmetic.” 53. “La sixième fait songer aux Papillons de Schumann. Le commencement est découpé par mesures en sorte de petits bonds gracieux qui se terminent dans une retombée nostalgique et attendrie demandant un très léger cédé, elle se poursuit dans la même grâce mouvante.” Faure, Mon maître Maurice Ravel, 41. 54. There is the matter of the double bar, as well, at the end of measure 16. 55. As in, for instance, registration of the opening bars of the Sonatine or of “Ondine” (though without dynamic relevence). 56. Ravel edited the Durand edition of Mendelssohn’s piano works during the war. 57. To take Ravel at his word (even reluctantly!), no more certain example of his fascination with the world(s) of sound(s) may be found than here, the genial example at a critical moment amidst the opening movement of his last completed work, inspired, as he so claimed, by the recognized capabilities of the “Musical Saw.” See Perlemuter and Jourdan-Morhange, Ravel d’après Ravel, 86–87; the editors also publish an account by Milhaud of novelties of the “instrument,” performing practice, and short life (i.e., at the Bœuf sur le toit cabaret, in Montmartre). 58. On both the G-Major Concerto and Debussy’s Faune, see Leroi, “Quelques confidences,” and Zogheb, “Souvenirs ravéliens,” 171–75. 59. The two chords are nearly the same, though here representing the supertonic rather than dominant.

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60. Consider the Pavane pour une infante défunte, 1899, ironically in the same key of G major, though the crescendo in Daphnis et Chloé is terraced over a dozen pages. See below, chap. 4, on registration (pp. 147, 149, and 151). 61. The Concerto in G was finished shortly after the Left Hand Concerto, followed only—incompletely—by the three Don Quichotte songs. 62. Secondary dominant, actually, II7/9 in E major. 63. The G7 harmony in the penultimate bar of the opening crescendo is a “pseudopreparation” given the underlying pedal on E, carried from the first measure, which (finally) becomes the root of the dominant 4/3 resolution. 64. The soloist’s first enormous cadenza commences in the key of A and remains grounded therein for a very long time, yielding only to the tonic. The programmatic dimensions, of course, are all too obvious (i.e., horrors of a remaining generation of crippled souls on either side of the trenches, musicians or not). Recall, too, the stylistic degeneration of the piano concerto, and its waning sociocultural relevance noted above. 65. “Night moths depart their rafters, / In serpentine flight, / To promenade, circulate beneath other beams.” As Vuillermoz commented, “Le titre des Noctuelles a été dicté par le souvenir d’un poème de Léon-Paul Fargue à qui l’œuvre est d’ailleurs dédiée: ‘Les noctuelles des hangars partent, d’un vol gauche, cravater d’autres poutres.’” Vuillermoz, “L’Œuvre de Maurice Ravel,” 31. 66. Faure, Mon maître, 72. 67. Willy Tappolet, perhaps, has noticed this most specifically: “In den ‘Noctuelles’—’Nächtlicher Spuk’—zeichnet der Ton-Maler Maurice Ravel das ruhelose Flattern der Nachtfalter, die in der Dunkelheit herumschwirren. Gebrochene Rhythmen, bald verschleirte, bald transparente Klänge huschen scheinbar willkürlich vorüber, obwohl das Stück den strengen, zweithematischen Aufbau eines Sonatensatzes besitzt.” Tappolet, Maurice Ravel: Leben und Werk, 67. 68. Perlemuter, in Ravel d’après Ravel, 24. 69. Jourdan-Morhange, in Ravel d’après Ravel, 24. 70. Faure, Mon maître, 72. 71. Faure, Mon maître, 72. 72. To remember from chapter 1 the fraternity of words and notes in Ravel’s world, Henri Gil-Marchex recalled Ravel having suggested two words, three syllables for this opening to “Scarbo” (“Quelle horreur!”), and two words, four syllables for the second theme of the G-Major Piano Concerto (“Vous m’ennuyez!”) Gil-Marchex, “Les concertos de Ravel,” 281. 73. The reference here is to Jankélévitch’s “précautions . . . contre les démons de la complaisance,” above note 15, concerning “Alborada del gracioso.” To recall, the “deceptive” retransiton in diminuendo (and ascending pitches) of Jeux d’eau. 74. Faure, Mon maître, 80. 75. Ibid., 63. 76. Ibid., 66. 77. Cortot, La musique française de piano, 40–41. 78. Ravel may have absorbed Liszt more closely here than is often acknowledged: consider Weiss-Aigner, “Eine Sonderform der Skalenbildung in der Musik Ravels,” 323– 26. 79. “Le croyais-je alors évanoui? le nain grandissait entre / la lune et moi comme le clocher d’une cathédral / gothique, un grelot d’or en branle à son bonnet pointu!” 80. Cortot, La musique française, 40–41; Faure, Mon maître, 66.

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81. See chap. 1, the quote on p. 24. 82. See chap. 1, note 305. 83. Saint-Point was an editor of the literary journal Montjoie!. 84. Ravel dedicated his Frontispice (1918) to Canudo; the title of Canudo’s poem, S.P. 503: Le poème du Vardar, referred to his postal sector at the front. 85. “La danse n’est donc qu’un art plastique, une matérialisation exotérique, un rythme charnel, instinctif ou conventionnel, de la musique . . . je dus, pour éviter