To Be or Not to Be: Notes on the Muted E, Part 1

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Publication: Journal of Singing
Author: Néron, Martin
Date published: March 1, 2012

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


THE TOPIC OF the muted e in French versification and lyric diction has always been a problematic one, but never did it stir so much passion as it did at the close of the nineteenth century. The rise of experimental phonetics and the work of L'abbé Rousselot1 and Paul Passy,2 among others, imposed an objective approach on issues that had traditionally been discussed subjectively, le bon goût oftentimes being the sole argument. In addition, the first publications of free verse poetry by Arthur Rimbaud and Gustave Kahn in the 1880s, which was quickly imitated by other symbolist poets, challenged the conservative tenet of the older literary elite of the time.

Setting the muted e as accurately and elegantly as possible has always been a priority for French composers. They all agreed on the principle, whereas they found themselves divided on how much of that accuracy could be transposed into a musical line. Composers such as Gounod, Franck, Saint-Saëns, Delibes, Fauré, and Duparc represented the standard and accepted manner: setting the muted e preferably on a weaker beat, on a lower pitch and a shorter note value than the preceding syllable, or as the resolution of an appoggiatura. Infrequently, they would suggest its apocopation (dropping the final schwa) by setting it on a note tied to the preceding syllable.

Concurrently, other composers such as Bizet, Debussy, Hahn, and Ravel experimented a great deal in their treatment and transcription of the muted e, although nowadays little attention, if any, is paid to their directives, as James Bricoe's memo to his edition of Debussy's songs suggests.

Final, unaccented e's in French words customarily are not spoken but are sung in music. Often but not consistently in Debussy's autograph manuscripts and first editions, the final tone setting the e was joined to the penultimate tone by a tie. Current practice discourages such ties into final e's. In the present edition, they are eliminated except when an actual slur is in question.3

Should all muted es found in the French vocal repertoire be carried out uniformly regardless of composer, genre, or notation used, and the composers' idiosyncrasies looked upon as trivial? In truth, uniformly applying a formal declamation to lyric diction may not always result in the best characterization, and often may contradict the connotation of the text.

The present article will first explore the political and social context of late nineteenth century France and the social and esthetic connotations of the treatment of the muted e. It will then document the reception of the work of the early phoneticians, French and foreign, by the literary elite.

The innovative transcriptions of Bizet, Debussy, and Hahn will be presented, as well as Pierre de Bréville's "Note on the muted e," the only known document from the period, which supports a performance practice consensus. In the second part of this article, thanks to recordings made in the early 1900s, it will be possible to assess if the different ways of notating muted e resulted in a different way of singing them. The performers surveyed will be Reynaldo Hahn himself, singing or accompanying his own songs; Debussy accompanying soprano Mary Garden, who was the first Mélisande; Charles Panzéra, Jane Bathori, and Ninon Vallin, who have together collaborated and premiered works with and by Fauré, Debussy, Satie, Hahn, Ravel, Roussel, and Honegger, among others.


Richard Strauss's observation, in 1905, "why do the French sing differently than they speak," is true today as well, but would apply to more than liaisons and muted es.4 Modern linguists have long discarded three IPA symbols from their charts of spoken French vowels, /.../ and /.../ have merged into one sound, and /.../ is represented as /.../ in current transcriptions. Although the difference is still observed in southern France and outside of continental France, it is regarded as a regionalism. Charles Aznavour rhymes quelques-uns with voisins in his song "La bohème" (1966), and indisputably sings them alike. Linguists have also relegated the symbol /oe/ to the museum of defunct phonemes. They use the symbol /ø/ to represent the mid-high French mixed vowel, since they consider that there is not much difference in spoken French between the vowel in coeur and the vowel in feu.5 Once again, this is a phenomenon observed mostly in Parisian conversational French. The third and last phoneme to become archaic is the dark French /a/. Vowel length is no longer carried out in speech, and the difference between /a/ and /a/ is no longer observed. Yet they are still taught and used in classical singing, along with old-fashioned handlings of liaison and oversights in vocalic harmonization. In a way, lyric diction takes a crucial part in preserving traditions of the French language that would otherwise be lost.

The situation was different at the end of the nineteenth century. The phonemes used in singing were the same as the phonemes used in speech (in Parisian French), and liaisons were carried out in singing in a manner similar to the way educated people would speak in society. The only aspect of French speech that differed significantly to singing was the muted e.


Camille Saint-Saëns, in an essay published in 1904 endorsing the proper usage of the muted e, associates the carrying out of feminine endings as a sign of sophistication: "To pronounce alike bout and boue, bal and balle, will never be for me the feat of a well-read man, even less of a poet."6 He continues to reinforce the idea that the muted e holds a critical esthetic value in arts, and that the concept of eliminating it was "very much opposed to those of art, which are to elevate always in potency the usual means for the conquest of beauty."7 Saint-Saënss credo recalls the tenets of the Parnassian poets, a literary movement that thrived thirty to forty years earlier. For him, the refinements of art are not eligible to all, and reaching out was never an option. He praises the muted e's "fine nuances, sensitive solely to the delicate persons."8 He adds,

[B]ut for whom then, if it is not for the delicate ears, is poetry made? Don't you fear, by authorizing those liberties [i.e., not pronouncing final schwas], to hasten the decadence of the language, which so many causes rush to its ruin? It is dangerous to lower the barrier that protects the sanctuary by abolishing difficulties. In art, a vanquished difficulty is an element of beauty."9

Saint-Saëns regards art as an aristocratic privilege, and considers the muted e one of its attributes. Not pronouncing it in singing is no less than a profanation, and brings art to the level of the masses.

[T]ry to abolish this so-called muted e from lyric diction; or rather save yourself the trouble: go to a cabaret, and there, throughout the whole evening, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of this system. The result is a horrible vulgarity, sought after in those artistic establishments.10

When Richard Strauss originally adapted his Salome in French, he recomposed the entire vocal line to Oscar Wilde's text instead of hiring a translator to adapt French lyrics to his music. While doing so, he contacted French writer Romain Rolland, and a fruitful correspondence followed. Most of their exchanges focused on the issues of setting the muted e, for it proved the most problematic to Strauss. Rolland advised Strauss to acquire a score of Pelléas et Mélisande and to learn from Debussy's "marvels of spoken French in music, the true model of the genre . . . the beautiful language of an elegant conversation."11 Although not as radical as Saint-Saëns, Rolland expressed the same principles regarding a proper declamation and a respectable treatment of the muted e as sign of higher social status, therefore better esthetic value. Speaking of Debussy's declamation, he comments:

[I] t is perfect as a French declamation that is refined, aristocratic, and chic. Of course, it has nothing to do with the masses . . . but it has led the way to the true French musical declamation.12

Rolland does not share any specific example of Debussy's setting of feminine endings with Strauss; however, specific references to Debussy's rhythm of declamation and syllabification abound in their exchange. Yet, there are scores of unsung schwas throughout Pelléas (see Example 3), and each of them is a blunt contradiction to Rolland's initial instruction to the German composer:

One must absolutely refrain from getting rid of it [the muted e]: it is the main charm of our poetry . . . if you get rid of it, there are only dry bones left . . . it is no longer French. It is slang.13

It may have been what the writer alluded to when commenting on Debussy's occasional negligence, hailing him as a "great but lazy composer."14


Saint-Saëns, in his same article of 1904, does not acknowledge any value, nor show any respect, to the reforms that are affecting the pronunciation on stage and the setting to music of the muted e. He does recognize, however, that his position is no longer forward looking: "this dreadful muted e sets an insurmountable barrier between the conservative, of whom I am, and the amateurs of neo-poetry [sic]."15 By calling the avant-garde creators "amateurs," he candidly discredits their work. Writer and music critic Michel Calvocoressi16 quickly reacted to Saint-Saëns's article and published his answer in the same journal a few months later.

Such statements, I repeat, are of an extreme seriousness. They carry within themselves the condemnation, not of only one or two isolated tentative, but truly of the common trend of the greatest, of the most interesting among the French musicians of today.17

Calvocoressi was among the group of composers and writers who assisted and actively supported every single performance of Debussy's Pelléas during its opening season.

In 1894, French philologist of Greek origin Jean Psichari wrote a letter to Francisque Sarcey, prominent French critic of the highest readership newspaper of the time, Le Temps, in which he astutely links the fact that muted es were increasingly left out in both declamation and syllable count in verse to an imminent and more profound linguistic revolution. Although radical, his insight proved accurate within years. Sarcey published the letter in his column only to scorn at its content. Psichari wrote:

The fact remains that a transformation or a reform in the actual prosody seems imminent to me; precisely because of the general question that I was pointing out at the beginning [the pronunciation of muted e in verses]. Although in France literature has always had, in short, a tendency to be aristocratic, although it has never been intended directly for the masses in a way that one has always written in accordance with literary theories; a school [symbolism] which seeks at least to come closer to everybody's pronunciation-if it is not at least to the understanding of each and every person-makes me think.18

Sarcey's ensuing commentary discredits Psichari's view: "I could not stop smiling while reading those last lines. What! Mr. Psichari . . ."19 He goes on by negating the legitimacy of the symbolist movement and ridicules their innovations in terms of prosody by equating their work to the jingles of Pierre-Jean de Béranger, a famous French songwriter who wrote catchy lyrics in vernacular French in the 1840s and 50s: "Quoiqu'tai le ventre gros / Et la fac' rubiconde. / N'saut' point-z-à demi, / Paillass' mon ami . . . There it is, the symbolist poetry! There it is truly!"20 Although categorical, Sarcey's argument is not quite consistent with his own writing. Two weeks earlier, in his same column, he praises the importance of the muted e in verse declamation, citing two verses from Lamartine's Le crucifix.

Symbole deux fois saint, don d'une main mourante Image de mon Dieu!

Who does not feel that the voice must raise imperceptibly on the syllable bole of the word symbole, that the muted e, without being pronounced [!], acts as a transition-and how it is gentle and charming, this transition!-to à deux fois saint; and the same thing for image.21

How can a sound be present and silent at the same time? This example represents well the subjectivity of the conservative faction's arguments.

Louis Brémont (1852-1959), a prominent French actor, shared Sarcey's disagreement with Psichari's discourse in his treaty on the art of declamation.

One could not, in regards to poetic diction, fight too energetically Mr. Paul Passy and Mr. Psichari, when they seem to preach not only the elimination of the muted e in the future, but yet its constant elision in the poetry of the past.22

Further, in his book, Brémont adopted a stance similar to Saint-Saëns's belief that only the elite can appreciate art: "If everyone must read it so poorly, it is that apparently this poetry is not intended for everyone."23


Through the late 1870s and 1880s, German phoneticians developed an enthusiasm for French phonetics. Adolf Mende24 and Eduard Koschwitz25 are among those who studied in depth the issues of the muted e in French declamation and vernacular speech. Koschwitz made an invaluable study of Parisian speech in 1893, Les parlers parisiens, in which he asked ten literary personalities to declaim an excerpt from either their work or their repertoire. He assiduously wrote down the phonetic transcription of their reading, and the result is an unbiased example of the pronunciation of the time. Among the volunteers were Leconte de Lisle and Sully Prudhomme, and Koschwitz took notice of their muted es. About Leconte de Lisle: "he always brings out the unstressed e (muted) within the verses; but they are absolutely nonexistent at their ending."26 He found that Sully Prudhomme also left out many muted es.

Mr. Sully-Prudhomme [sic] disregards the unstressed e, within the verses . . . they are always replaced by lengthening, always by the lengthening of the preceding syllable. At the end of the verses, Mr. Sully-Prudhomme has only once voiced the muted e, then again very faintly.27

It is interesting to see how the pronunciation of those poets was in agreement with the assessments of the phoneticians.

Théodore de Banville, in his poetry treatise, advocates the abolition of all feminine endings: "It is an absolute rule that, in feminine verses, the last syllable of the verse, therefore the muted E, by itself or followed by the letters s or nt, is not pronounced, does not count."28

Such accounts were dismissed by Saint-Saëns.

Some [the phoneticians] dare pretend that the words in ée must, like those in é, make up a masculine rhyme, the e being fictional, and no difference in pronunciation being possible between é and ée (sorry for this cacophony, it is not from me).29

Indeed, the research and findings of the early phoneticians, French as well as German, met with downright refutation from the old school constituents: "Today the discussion has reached a new height; under the intransigent attacks from the phoneticians, it is almost roused with violence."30 As Robert de Souza puts it, they felt as if the whole world wanted to set the fate of their muted e: "And the whole of Europe steps in: English, Danish, Swedish, and German above all, wage big tournaments against this little muted e."31 One must realize that France had lost a war and two provinces to Germany in 1870. The humiliation as well as the resentment was real. Francisque Sarcey coined the German phoneticians as phonétiqueurs, a pejorative twist on the French phonétistes, and equivalent to the English shmoneticians.32 His sarcasm shows no mercy.

Oh! my God! yes, the German scientists . . . have discovered that the muted e was not pronounced, that it only plays an insignificant role in diction, that it will disappear soon (the word is from them, I beg you to believe me) from writing as well as from speech.33

Ten years later, Louis Brémont recycles the same arguments in his treatise, although the German linguists are no longer singled out.

And here it is, that for about twenty years now, some foreign phoneticians, some French reformists, taking the name of the muted e in the strict sense of the word, have the pretentiousness to discard it into the void; they are backing themselves up on the highly uncertain, very erratic, highly questionable habits of contemporary speech, they speak about trickery and illusions, as if everything, in those matters, was not an illusion, the shape of a word, its sonority, its meaning, as if the role of an artist was not precisely to communicate to others the illusions he is most particularly delighted about! . . . but do try to discuss of those things with people who offer us recording devices to measure a vowel whose character is to be imprecise and elusive! We might as well attempt to put the blue of the sky into a bottle!34


Although it may seem a long stretch from the current issue of pronunciation of the muted e, understanding the ethical principles of the conservative artistic elite of the time will put their point of view in perspective. At the same time, it will shed light on the motivations of younger generations of composers to innovate and distance themselves from the traditions.

Théophile Gautier, one of the pioneers among the postromantic writers, articulates the core of what would become the Parnassian philosophy in his foreword to his novel Mademoiselle de Maupin: "Is truly beautiful only what cannot be used for anything. Everything that is useful is ugly."35 The concept of art for art's sake promotes an art that can only be accessible to a privileged minority. Parnassians strongly reacted against the social engagement of the romantics and their ideas that art could be shared with the less privileged spheres of society. Beauty can only be rare, and is not compatible with democracy. As Vincent Vivès puts it:

The hostile attitude from the majority of writers towards the common people (and very particularly from those who evolve within the camp of the art for art's sake and of the Parnassian) becomes more radical as the pressure from the masses increases and that their gained social benefits bring a lurking thread over the middle-class world. With each single democratic step forward, the common people become more and more strangers to them, and become less and less eligible to the realm that they value: the one of Beauty.36

Unsympathetic, often ruthless comments against the "uncultured demographic" abound in letters exchanged between writers in the second half of the nineteenth century. The author of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, leaves no room for compromise.

[W]hat we need above all, it is a natural aristocracy, in other words legitimate. We cannot do anything without a leader, and the universal suffrage, as it is, is more stupid than the divine rights of kings. You are going to see a mess if we let it live. The masses, the greater numbers, are always idiots.37

Leconte de Lisle prefers the term "stupid," and sees in the masses an "eternal race of slaves who cannot live without packsaddle and without yoke."38 The loathing of the collectivity and of everything that sets its differences apart from the creative elite was fueled by the latter's fear of seeing the integrity of their own art jeopardized.

For all of them (Gautier, Banville, Baudelaire, Leconte de Lisle), one same creed: the hatred of the middle-class, of how it has developed, in the wake of its productivity, a prevailing mediocrity which struck the arts.39

As Flaubert explained it to George Sand, an equitable hierarchy must be safeguarded among people.

[E]very man (in my opinion), however infinitesimal he may be, is entitled to one vote, his, but he is not the equal of his neighbor, who may be a hundred time his worth . . . I must certainly be worth twenty voters from Croisset [Flaubert's hometown in Normandy]. Money, intellect, and even race must be taken into account, in short, all the strengths [!]. Yet, till now, I only see one: the number.40

French composers may not have expressed themselves as explicitly,41 but as part of the same artistic elite, those contemporaries of the postromantic writers did not challenge their philosophy.

The muted e is the quintessential symbol of an aristocratic use of the French language. Preserving its pronunciation in verses and in singing inhibits any correlation between the vernacular and the language used in those higher forms of arts. Old guard composers and critics at the end of the nineteenth century put all of their effort into guarding the specificity of their art, of their culture. They would not bear the disgrace of seeing the degradation of their art to the level of the culture of the masses.


The younger generation of composers however did not abide by the same principles. As Roland Barthes said so well, "There is degradation because there is no invention."42 In a way, composers such as Bizet, Debussy, Ravel, and Hahn prevented the language used in lyric forms to become a dead language, disengaged from the listeners. Calvocoressi, in his reply to Saint-Saënss invective, envisioned how the muted e should ideally be set to music. His point of view suggested a multitude of nuances in the treatment of the schwa. His argument also included the concepts of bon goût and of beauty, but his concept of beauty is no longer associated to the doctrine of the Parnassian poets. It is simply common sense.

In the current language as well as in music, may it be prose or verses, there are some muted e that we do not pronounce, others that we half pronounce, others that we frankly pronounce. According to the general meaning of a phrase, a particular muted e, in a same word, will be completely concealed, halfpronounced, or emphatically stressed. Neither prose nor poetry will make a difference to the matter. Thank God, music is supple enough to notate all the inflections of language, to obey to the laws of eurhythmy of the words, as well as to those of the expressiveness of all thoughts; it freely associates the beauty of sounds to the beauty of the words, and this beauty of words is the sole condition that the musician must demand from the text that he chooses for himself.43

Bizet is one of the first to systematically use an innovative notation for the carrying out of the final e. In his opera Carmen (1875), the composer preferred a conservative approach similar to Gounod and Saint-Saëns when setting the characters of Don José and Micaëla. Most of their final es are set on a tone different from the preceding syllable and there are no ties connecting both syllables. For Carmen however, he sets most of her final es on the same tone as the preceding syllable and uses a tie to link both notes. The contrast between Carmen's more natural and popular tone and the more formal declamation of José and Micaëla can be quite effective in terms of characterization, for example with the duet following the "Habanera" (Example 1). Bizet is also the first composer to frequently join the tone setting final muted es to the penultimate tone by a tie in his mélodies, as in "Pastorale," "Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe," "Chanson d'avril," and the six Feuilles d'album published in 1866.44

Massenet was among the few genuine supporters of Bizet at the first representation of Carmen, and both composers held each others' work in high regard. Overall, Massenet's approach to setting final muted es remained conventional, but there is one rare instance in his songs where he opted for an innovative notation. "Vous aimerez demain," from Poème d'avril (1866), was included in 1875 in his first collection of twenty mélodies. In addition to changing the original meter from 2/4 to 4/4 (thus doubling note values), Massenet systematically tied all final schwas to their preceding syllables in the 1875 version, the same notation used by Bizet (see Example 2).45 It is, however, impossible to establish if Massenet was momentarily influenced by his friend's carrying out of schwas in Carmen, or if the date is coincidental.

Part of the younger generation, Debussy makes frequent use of tied final es in his mélodies and Pelléas, as well as apocopation of postvocalic schwas. It is common knowledge that Debussy did not receive the same classical training in literature as most composers of his time. He was never drilled to respect the constraints of metrical verses. Nevertheless, Debussy was no ordinary intelligence, and what would have been an impediment for anyone else became a blessing for him. A blessing also for the generations of composers who followed him, benefited from his innovations, and adopted his approach to setting final muted es (Example 3). As he clarified his prosodic style in Pelléas, he dissociated himself from the conventions and committed to an intrinsic approach: "The characters from this drama [Pelléas] try to sing like natural persons, and not in an arbitrary language made of obsolete traditions."46

In his early setting of Mallarmés "Sainte," written as a student at the conservatoire, Ravel already used tied-over notes to notate final muted es, while the last one is simply apocopated. He used the same notation system as Debussy, although more consistently. Ravel brought the concept of emulating spoken declamation close to perfection in Histoires naturelles (1906), five settings of texts in prose (Example 4). The "direct and clear language" of Jules Renard compelled Ravel to elaborate "a particular declamation narrowly linked to the inflections of the French language."47 Never before had a French classical composer dared to integrate so radically colloquial speech in the aristocratic art that is mélodie. Ravel did it masterfully, and although his groundbreaking ingenuity provoked the wrath of his contemporaries, he applied the same conversational style and the same notation system to L'heure espagnole, which he composed months later.48 Ravel did not write other mélodies on texts in prose after Histoires naturelles; he maintained, however, his way of notating final feminine es as tied-over notes or apocopated in his subsequent settings of verse poetry.

One year older than Ravel, Reynaldo Hahn is not remembered as a trendsetter. Yet in his vocal works, he incorporated appoggiaturas and rests in addition to tiedover notes in his notational system to capture with better precision the natural inflection of final es at the end of a verse as well as within a phonetic word (Example 5).49 His handling of prosody was highly innovative. In a letter written when he was only seventeen years old to his friend pianist Édouard Risler, Hahn explained:

The more I proceed, the more I feel stronger about my ideas on declamation and prosody . . . nothing is trickier than to accentuate the voice in a way to make believe it is spoken, since singing cannot emulate speech exactly, and to make one sing as if one was speaking.50

In the introduction to his Rondels, published in 1899, the same emphasis on text declamation is conveyed.

I devoted myself, in this little book, to solve one of their [declamation and musical prosody] most subtle problems: I attempted to demonstrate the mystifying relationships between the natural inflection of the voice and harmony.51


Bizet, Debussy, Ravel, and Hahn left no specific commentaries or instructions pertaining to the carrying out of their notation of the muted e. There is however a onepage essay, entitled "Note on the muted e" published in 1913 by French composer Pierre de Bréville as an introduction to his first volume of mélodies.52 Bréville explains with specific examples the different ways of notating muted es and suggests how they should be carried out. Figure 1 replicates the essay in its entirety.

After reviewing a conventional notation, Bréville introduces the concept of a deliberate notation system to decrease the value of the sung e in favor of the preceding syllable. His first examples correspond to the most common notation used by Bizet, Debussy, Hahn, and Ravel: the final tone setting the e is joined to the penultimate tone by a tie. Then, he illustrates instances when the muted e is meant to be apocopated. Bréville notates it within parentheses, a method rarely used by any other composers.53

Bréville asserts that there are several ways to carry out muted es, and that their rhythmic value will vary depending on how the composer chose to notate it. Such a concept represents the musical equivalent to Calvocoressi's argument on the nuances in declaiming muted es in his answer to Saint-Saëns. However, Breville's note implies that there is only one way of carrying out each specific notation.


The treatment and the perception of the muted e in vocal music underwent a profound transformation after 1880. Those attached to the traditions fought a vicious battle against the thriving avant-garde. Their arguments, essentially rooted in their fear of seeing unwanted progress disturb their system of value, rested mostly on subjective bias. Common practice, or le bon goût, is a dangerous argument to use in order to inhibit changes. However, a new system of notating muted es had become the norm by the second decade of the twentieth century. The second part of this article will survey the performance on recordings of singers that collaborated closely with the composers who established those changes. It will be instructive to evaluate in the second part of this article how accurately the performance practice of that era reflected the composers' innovations.


1. Jean-Pierre Rousselot (1846-1924) is considered the founder of experimental phonetics, and published the two volumes of his Principes de phonétique expérimentale in 1897 and 1901.

2. Paul Passy (1859-1940) founded the International Phonetic Association in 1886 and took part in the development of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

3. James R. Briscoe, Songs of Claude Debussy: A Critical Edition (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, 1993), 5.

4. Richard Strauss and Romain Rolland, Correspondance. Fragments de journal (Paris: Albin Michel, 1953), 43.

5. The merging of /oe/ and /ø/ is a phenomenon that has been acknowledged only recently, as in the research published by linguists such as Winifred Strange and Erika Levy.

6. Camille Saint-Saëns, "La question de l'E muet au double point de vue littéraire et musical," Le Figaro no. 232 (19 August 1904): 1.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Strauss and Rolland, letter of Romain Rolland (9 July 1905), 41.

12. Strauss and Rolland, letter of Romain Rolland (9 August 1905), 58.

13. Strauss and Rolland, letter of Romain Rolland (9 July 1905), 39-40.

14. Strauss and Rolland, 58.

15. Saint-Saëns.

16. A member of the Apaches society alongside Maurice Ravel, Maurice Delage, Manuel de Falla, Igor Stravinsky, Léon-Paul Fargue, and Tristan Klingsor, he translated into French the text of Ravel's Cinq mélodies populaires grecques.

17. Michel Calvocoressi, "Le vers, la prose et l' «e» muet," Le guide musical 50, no. 44 (30 October 1904): 795.

18. Cited in Francisque Sarcey, "Chronique théatrale," Le Temps 34, no. 12116 (30 July 1894): 2.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid. Béranger's lyrics are left in the original language to give a better idea of the incongruity of Sarcey's argument. Sarcey openly despised the work of Mallarmé, Rimbaud, and Maeterlinck, among others.

21. Francisque Sarcey, "Chronique théatrale," Le Temps 34, no. 12096 (9 July 1894): 2. The verses are from the Nouvelles méditations poétiques.

22. Léon Brémont, L'art de dire les vers (Paris: Charpentier et Fasquelle, 1903), 152.

23. Ibid., 156.

24. Mende published an "Étude sur la prononciation du e muet à Paris" (Study on the pronunciation on the muted e in Paris) in 1880, and his doctoral dissertation "Die Aussprache des französisches unbetonten E im Wortauslaut" (The Pronunciation of the French Unstressed e in Word-final Syllables) in 1889.

25. Specialist of French and Occitan (1851-1904), he taught at Greifswald University. He collaborated with the Abbé Rousselot, inviting him to establish his laboratory of experimental phonetics in Germany, and creating with him a French summer course in Greifswald, Marburg, and Königsberg.

26. Eduard Koschwitz, Les parlers parisiens (Paris: Welter, 1893), 131.

27. Ibid., 125.

28. Théodore de Banville, Petit traité de poésie française (Paris: Le Clere, 1872), 18.

29. Saint-Saëns.

30. Robert de Souza, "Le rôle de le muet dans la poésie française," Mercure de France 13, no. 61 (January 1895): 3.

31. Ibid.

32. Sarcey.

33. Ibid.

34. Léon Brémont, L'art de dire les vers (Paris: Charpentier et Fasquelle, 1903), 151.

35. Théophile Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin-Double amour (Bruxelles: Société Belge de Librairie, 1837), 42.

36. Vincent Vivès, La beauté et sa part maudite (Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l'Université de Provence, 2005), 21.

37. Letter of 7 October 1871, in Gustave Flaubert, Lettres de Gustave Flaubert à Georges Sand (Paris: Charpentier & Cie, 1889), 159.

38. Letter of Leconte de Lisle to Louis Ménard of 30 April 1848, cited in Marius-Ary Leblond, "Leconte de Lisle sous la Seconde République et sous l'Empire," Mercure de France 40 (October 1901): 65.

39. Vincent Vivès, Vox humana, poésie, musique, individuation (Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l'Université de Provence, 2006), 119.

40. Letter of 12 October 1871, in Flaubert, 163-64.

41 . Many letters from Duparc and d'Indy, and other composers associated with the Schola Cantorum would be considered utterly unethical nowadays.

42. Roland Barthes, trans. Richard Howard, The Rustle of Language (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 104.

43. Calvocoressi, 797.

44. See also his "Tarentelle," "Berceuse," "Chant d'amour," "Ma vie a son secret," as well as songs published in the second volume of collected mélodies published in 1886, although in some of these songs it is uncertain if they were Bizet's original settings, or if a new text was fitted over preexisting music after the composer's death.

45. In the original edition of 1866, soie is the only word set with this innovative notation (the first occurrence of soie is actually notated with an appoggiatura in that edition). Two other songs composed during the same period also display a similar notation. They are "Si tu veux, Mignonne" and "Aubade."

46. Claude Debussy, Monsieur Croche et autres écrits (Paris: Gallimard, 1987), 63.

47. Arbie Orenstein, ed., Maurice Ravel, lettres, écrits, entretiens (Paris: Flammarion, 1989), 45.

48. The causes of the scandal at the premiere of Histoires naturelles were beyond the simple issue of the apocopation of the schwa. The nature of the text itself, its social and political undertone, its speech-like prosody, were all features that were perceived as offensive and uncalled-for in mélodies.

49. "A phonological [phonetic] word is what constitutes at once a flow unit, a grammatical unit, a significance unit." JeanClaude Milner and François Regnault, Dire le vers (Paris: Seuil, 1987), 28-9.

50. Letter of Reynaldo Hahn to Édouard Risler [summer 1892], B.N.F., L.A. Hahn 143, cited in Philippe Blay, "L'Île du rêve de Reynaldo Hahn, contribution à l'étude de l'opéra français de l'époque fin-de-siècle" (Doctoral dissertation, Université François-Rabelais, 1999).

51. Reynaldo Hahn, Rondels (Paris: Heugel, 1899).

52. Pierre de Bréville (1861-1949) is little remembered today as a composer. He taught in turn at both the Schola Cantorum and at the Paris Conservatory, and was a renowned music critic.

53. It is found in Paul Dukas's Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, although it is the note on the staff that is put in parenthesis.

Author affiliation:

Québec-born pianist Martin Néron completed his doctorate on scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music. Praised as "an attentive partner" (Opera News), Mr. Néron is an active recitalist, vocal coach, and educator. He has recorded different collections of French, Greek, and English art songs on the One Soul label, and a program of songs by Mikis Theodorakis on the Romanos label. In addition, Dr. Néron has recorded several concerts as a soloist and as a collaborative artist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). His first book, a study guide on the songs of Francis Poulenc, was recently published by Leyerle Publications.

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