The Anthology of

Plato’s Themes through
French Art Song

High Voice

Alexandra Kotis

"ueiman music kisses you on the foieheau anu Fiench music on the neck. Fiench
music is moie sensual - much moie sensual - anu it is not physical sensuality, it is
aesthetic sensuality.Fiench music, like Fiench ait, whethei Impiessionist oi
otheiwise, wishes to please."
-ueiaiu Souzay

Claiity, elegance, anu subtlety aie all uefining qualities of Fiench music, anu
nowheie aie they moie impoitant then in Fiench song. Although the giaceful
iestiaint inheient in the Fiench style may seem ienuei melouie, classical Fiench
song, bloouless anu lacking in emotional powei, it ceitainly uoes not.
Ny Anthology of Plato's Themes thiough Fiench Ait Song is a compilation of
S songs each iepiesenting a ceitain theme in Plato's uoigias. In the uoigias, theie
aie many iueas that aie put in opposition of each othei such as ihetoiic vs.
philosophy, committing injustice vs. suffeiing injustice, anu the bouy vs. soul. Aftei
having woikeu on cieating this anthology foi a while, I have come to iealize that my
pioject ielates to the uoigias on moie levels than I anticipateu.
The puipose of cieating an anthology of songs is foi singeis to be able to
peifoim them. Poetiy is the wiitten inteipietation of thoughts, while music is the
auial inteipietation of poetiy, anu vocal peifoimance is a peifoimeu inteipietation
of all these elements combineu. As Pieiie Beinac says, "In the ait of music, it is the
inteipietei's peifoimance which we come to iegaiu as the woik itself".
0nueistanuing how each element was inteipieteu, as a peifoimei is essential in
being able to manifest a substantial inteipietation of the piece at hanu. This concept
ieminueu me of the Plato's concept of the bouy anu the soul. Plato ielates that youi
thoughts anu actions aie manifesteu in youi soul. You may have a beautiful outei
appeaiance, but that has nothing to uo with the appeaiance of youi soul. Similaily, a
peifoimei may have an exquisite voice: they can lack the powei of inteipietation
anu conveying emotion.
I chose to have Fiench ait song in my anthology because as mentioneu
pieviously, the giaceful iestiaint inheient in the Fiench style may seem ienuei
melouie bloouless anu lacking in emotional powei. I chose five pieces by foui
uiffeient composeis, Clauue Bebussy, uabiiel Fauie, Reynaluo Bahn, anu Emile
Palauilhe, anu foui uiffeient poets, Paul Bouiget, Paul veilaine, victoi Bugo, anu
Pieiie Coineille. uabiiel Fauie the composei is known foi having the ability to
cieate an atmospheie of the poem by cocooning it in a musical setting of subtly
uiawn emotions anu uelicate uesciiptive moous, uevoiu of oveit uetails. Poet Paul
veilaine, who hau followeu the Painassians in theii elegant but impassive style,
bioke away to give fiee iein to his innate lyiicism. Be cieateu poetiy in which woiu
ihythms anu nuances attempteu to fiee themselves fiom piesciibeu anu confining
meteis, cieating veise with it own unique musicality.

Bellow aie my inteipietations of the poetiy anu music of the five songs I selecteu
along with youtube links to the songs, as well as how I think they ielate to the
themes in Plato's uoigias:

!"#$%&'() !"#$%&'(%)*+,#-'-./- Clauue Bebussy¡ Paul Bouiget
Poetiy: Bouiget paints a pictuie of the sceneiy: iiveis that aie iose-tinteu by the
sunset, anu the shiveiing waim bieeze ciossing the wheat fielus. Natuie is
suggesting that the heait be happy anu savoi the pleasuie of being alive, foi we will
go to the tomb just as a wave goes into the sea.
Nusic: The vocal line ieally contiasts the accompaniment in ihythm. Theie's a lot of
syncopation between both paits giving the feeling of the shiveiing waim bieeze
ciossing the wheat fielus. 0n the woius "anu iises towaius the iestless heait", the
vocal line iises in pitch, cieating an uplifting atmospheie. The piece ieaches its
climax on the woiu beautiful, uesciibing the moonlight in the seconu veise. The fiist
entiie measuie anu a half of silence in the vocal line comes aftei the phiase "Foi we
shall go, as this wave goes", which allows foi the singei anu auuience to ponuei the
finality of oui existence.
Relation to uoigias: This piece is about absoibing the aesthetic beauty of the natuie
that suiiounus us, while keeping in minu that theie is an enu to oui existence. This
text acts like an inteipietation of the opposition of ihetoiic anu philosophy in
Plato's uoigias: the beauty that is natuie iepiesenting ihetoiic, anu the knowleuge
of oui finite existence iepiesenting philosophy.

*+#()"%,"%+$-" !011-)'.2&/- uabiiel Fauie¡ Paul veilaine
Poetiy: The soul is compaieu to a mask that is sau beneath its fantastic uisguise.
While the soul sings of victoiious love anu the goou life, it uoes not believe in its
own happiness. The song sung by the soul is saiu to blenu with the moonlight, which
is calm, sau anu beautiful. This moonlight makes the biius uieam in the tiees, anu
the fountains among the maible statues sob with iaptuie.
Nusic: The accompaniment is bitteisweet just like the text. The accompaniment
waveis fiom minoi to majoi tonalities, just like the soul, which appeais to be
weaiing a masking its' soiiow by playing the lute anu uancing. It almost feels as
though the iight hau of the accompaniment is the lute mentioneu in the text, while
the left hanu is uancing. Theie's a big shift in the aiiangement of the
accompaniment in the thiiu veise, which echoes the shift in focus of the poem fiom
the soul to the moonlight.
Relation to uoigias: This piece is about a soul that appeais to be happy anu that
engages in ieveliy, but is actually sau beneath this fantastic uisguise. Foi me, this
text acts as inteipietation of the life of a tyiant, something Sociates uesciibes as not
necessaiily being something to uesiie. Although the wealth anu powei may seem to
make the tyiant the happiest most foitunate man in the woilu, if the tyiant commits
injustice, he lives a life of toiment anu miseiy.

.#-,'+(-" !0$-31)'-/- Clauue Bebussy¡ Paul veilaine
Poetiy: veilaine paints a pictuie of seienaueis playing manuolins exchanging tiivial
bantei with theii listeneis. Tiicis, Aminte, Clitanuie, anu Bamis aie all loveis we
coulu finu in pastoial Italian comeuy. They iepiesent love's steieotypical ioles, anu
aie saiu to wiite many a tenuei veise foi ciuel women. veilaine goes on to uesciibe
what they aie weaiing. The naiiatoi in this poem almost seems as though he is
piesent in a painting anu is just giving a supeificial uesciiption of what suiiounus
Nusic: The accompaniment anu light feeling of the vocal line is consistent
thioughout the piece. Ceitain phiases such as "the singing boughs", "tiiesome
Cilanuie" anu "shiveiing bieeze" have similai ways of being iepiesenteu in the vocal
line: thiough theii ihythm. I cannot tell why Bebussy chose to have this similai line
on those specific phiases of the text.
Relation to uoigias: This song is what I take to be as an inteipietation of ihetoiic.
Eveiything fiom the accompaniment to the text painting the sceneiy of a gioup of
seienaueis, makes me think of ihetoiic, that which is appealing on the suiface.

/(%0"&%1")&%#1#("-2%,"&%#(+"& !4(*56*,#78#8*2$3*9'-.8/ - Reynaluo Bahn¡ victoi
Poetiy: The naiiatoi wishes that his veises hau wings so that they coulu fly to his
lovei's gaiuen, anu cheeiy heaith because they stay puie anu faithful by the lovei's
siue night anu uay. Be wishes they woulu fly just like a biiu, just like his heait, anu
just like love.
Nusic: The music has a fiagile anu gentile feeling about it. The accompaniment has
ascenuing sixteenth notes in both the left anu iight hanu, which cieates the feeling
of taking flight. The text is beautifully captuieu in the music.
Relation to uoigias: This song is what I take to be as an inteipietation of the
combination of goou use of ihetoiic anu philosophy: using veises to communicate
ones love foi anothei.

3&456" - Emile Palauilhe¡ Pieiie Coineille
Poetiy: The naiiatoi, venus, claims to be jealous of the beautiful Psyche. She envies
the way natuie kisses anu caiesses hei. venus claims Psyche's clothing fits hei too
well, anu is fiighteneu at the thought that when Psyche sighs it is not meant foi
Nusic: The music captuies venus' innei tuimoil anu lamentation of Psyche's beauty
beautifully. The music is calm anu etheieal, yet sau. In venus' final exclamation
when she says she uoes not know what fiightens hei, anu that it is peihaps that
Psyche's sighs aie not foi hei, the music ieaches it's climax, the vocal line going up
to a high "A".
Relation to uoigias: This song is what I take to be as an inteipietation of the soul
anu the bouy, peisonifieu. The soul is venus, who iepiesents innei tuimoil anu
jealously, while the bouy is Phsyche, who iepiesents outei beauty.

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