Contemporary French Civilization

Poe and Ravel: mécanisme intérieur

Contemporary French Civilization (2017), 42, (1), 97–111.

Abstract

Time and time again, when asked in interviews about the greatest influences on his compositions, Maurice Ravel would answer that “[q]uant à la technique, mon maître, c’est certainement Edgar Poe.” For the student of Poe, his “Philosophy of Composition,” which purports to analyze The Raven, is central to an understanding of his aesthetic theory and Ravel would have come across both works in French in the celebrated 1857 edition of Charles Baudelaire. For the student of Maurice Ravel, his deliberately repeated statement that Poe’s analysis of The Raven was so important to his compositional method thus appears as a deliberate invitation on the part of the composer, tempting all who wish to understand Ravel into perusing Baudelaire’s rendering of the essay for secrets of his craft. But is Ravel leading us astray? This article better contextualizes the reception the American poet received in France and attempts to understand Ravel’s commentary in reference to his compositional method and contemporary notions of dandyism. Is Ravel’s indebtedness to Poe’s “The Philosophy of Composition” a cultural by-product of an overwhelmingly fashionable author, an empty or quasi-empty cipher contrived by Ravel to mischievously deceive us, or is there a real and substantial resonance between Ravel’s and Poe’s “mecanisme intérieur,” to use Baudelaire’s description of Poe’s method?

Maintes et maintes fois, lorsque questionné en entrevue à propos des figures qui avaient eu la plus grande influence sur ses compositions, Maurice Ravel répondait : “[q]uant à la technique, mon maître, c’est certainement Edgar Poe.” Pour celui qui étudia l’œuvre de Poe, la lecture de “La genèse d’un poème”, qui présente une analyse du Corbeau, fut centrale à sa compréhension des théories esthétiques de l’auteur. Les deux œuvres ont pu être appréhendées par Ravel à travers la célèbre traduction en français de Charles Baudelaire de 1857. Pour celui qui étudie l’oeuvre de Maurice Ravel, les affirmations répétées de l’importance de l’analyse du poème Le Corbeau dans ses méthodes de composition apparaissent donc comme une invitation délibérée du compositeur à lire la version de Baudelaire des textes de Poe pour y découvrir les secrets de son travail. Mais Ravel cherchait-il plutôt à confondre? Le présent essai met en contexte la réception de l’oeuvre du poète américain en France et tente de comprendre les commentaires de Ravel en lien avec sa méthode de composition ainsi que la notion contemporaine de dandysme. La redevabilité de Ravel envers La genèse d’un poème est-elle un dérivé culturel de l’oeuvre d’un auteur alors immensément à la mode, un cryptogramme vide ou presque vide conçu malicieusement par Ravel afin de décevoir, ou y a-t-il des résonances réelles et substantielles entre le ‘’mécanismes intérieurs’’ de Ravel et de Poe, pour reprendre la formule de Baudelaire?

Access Token
£25.00
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Baudelaire, Charles. Oeuvres Complètes – Traductions – Eureka, La Genèse d’un Poëme, Le Corbeau, Méthode de Composition par Edgar Poe, edited by Jacques Crépet, Louis Conard, 1936. Œuvres Complètes – Traductions – Eureka, La Genèse d’un Poëme, Le Corbeau, Méthode de Composition par Edgar Poe Google Scholar

Camus, Albert. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1951. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt Google Scholar

Crimp, Douglas. On the Museum’s Ruins. MIT Press, 1993. On the Museum’s Ruins. Google Scholar

D’Aurevilly, Jules Barbey. Du dandysme et de George Brummel. Émile-Paul Frères, 1918. Du dandysme et de George Brummel Google Scholar

Duchesneau, Michel. “Maurice Ravel et Edgar Allan Poe: Un théorie poétique appliquée.” Ostinato Rigor, no. 24, 2005, pp. 7–24. Maurice Ravel et Edgar Allan Poe: Un théorie poétique appliquée Ostinato Rigor 7 24 Google Scholar

Eliot, T. S. The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Eric Carlson, U of Michigan P, 1966. The Recognition of Edgar Allan Poe Google Scholar

Evans, May Garrettson. Music and Edgar Allan Poe: A Bibliographical Study. Greenwood Press, 1968. Music and Edgar Allan Poe: A Bibliographical Study. Google Scholar

Fillerup, Jessie. “Ravel, ‘La Valse’ and the purloined plot.” College Music Symposium, vol. 49, no. 50, 2009/2010, pp. 348–355. Ravel, ‘La Valse’ and the purloined plot College Music Symposium 49 348 355 Google Scholar

Fulcher, Jane F. The Composer as Intellectual: Music and Ideology in France, 1914–1940. Oxford UP, 2005. The Composer as Intellectual: Music and Ideology in France, 1914–1940. Google Scholar

Howay, Roy. “Ravel and the piano.” The Cambridge Companion to Ravel, edited by Deborah Mawer, Cambridge UP, 2000, pp. 71–76. Ravel and the piano The Cambridge Companion to Ravel 71 76 Google Scholar

Huebner, Stephen. “Ravel’s poetics: Literary currents, classical takes.” Unmasking Ravel: New Perspectives on the Music, edited by Peter Kaminsky, University of Rochester Press, pp. 9–40. Ravel’s poetics: Literary currents, classical takes Unmasking Ravel: New Perspectives on the Music 9 40 Google Scholar

Ivry, Benjamin. Maurice Ravel: A Life. Welcome Rain, 2000. Maurice Ravel: A Life Google Scholar

Jankélévitch, Vladimire. Maurice Ravel. Editions Rieder, 1939. Maurice Ravel Google Scholar

Kaminsky, Peter. “Vocal music and the lures of exoticism and irony.” The Cambridge Companion to Ravel, edited by Deborah Mawer, Cambridge UP, 2000, pp. 162–187. Vocal music and the lures of exoticism and irony The Cambridge Companion to Ravel 162 187 Google Scholar

Kopcewicz, Andrzej. “Poe’s philosophy of composition.” Studia Anglia Posnaniensia, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 101–108. Poe’s philosophy of composition Studia Anglia Posnaniensia 1 101 108 Google Scholar

Kramer, Lawrence. Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge. U of California P, 1995. Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge Google Scholar

Lanford, Michael. “Ravel and ‘The Raven’: The realisation of an inherited aesthetic in Boléro.” Cambridge Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3, 2011, pp. 243–265. Ravel and ‘The Raven’: The realisation of an inherited aesthetic in Boléro Cambridge Quarterly 40 243 265 Google Scholar

Kramer, Lawrence. Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge. U of California P, 1995. Classical Music and Postmodern Knowledge Google Scholar

Lanford, Michael. “Ravel and ‘The Raven’: The realisation of an inherited aesthetic in Boléro.” Cambridge Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3, 2011, pp. 243–265. Ravel and ‘The Raven’: The realisation of an inherited aesthetic in Boléro Cambridge Quarterly 40 243 265 Google Scholar

Lockspeiser, Edward. Debussy: His Life and Mind. Cambridge UP, 1978. Debussy: His Life and Mind Google Scholar

Mawer, Deborah, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Ravel. Cambridge UP, 2000. The Cambridge Companion to Ravel. Google Scholar

Michaels, Walter Benn. The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy. Chicago UP, 2015. The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy Google Scholar

Moréas, Jean. “Les Décadents.” Le XIXe siècle, 11 Aug. 1885, 1. Les Décadents Le XIXe siècle Google Scholar

Nichols, Roger, editor. Ravel Remembered. Norton & Co., 1988. Ravel Remembered Google Scholar

Orenstein, Arbie, editor. A Ravel Reader: Correspondence, Articles, Interviews. Columbia UP, 1990. A Ravel Reader: Correspondence, Articles, Interviews. Google Scholar

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The philosophy of composition.” Graham’s Magazine, vol. 28, no. 4, 1846, pp. 163–167. The philosophy of composition Graham’s Magazine 28 163 167 Google Scholar

Polonsky, Rachel. “Poe’s aesthetic theory.” The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes, Cambridge UP, 2002, pp. 42–56. Poe’s aesthetic theory The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe 42 56 Google Scholar

Puri, Michael J. “Dandy, interrupted: Sublimation, repression, and self-portraiture in Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (1909–1912).” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 60, no. 2, 2007, pp. 317–372. Dandy, interrupted: Sublimation, repression, and self-portraiture in Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (1909–1912) Daphnis et Chloé 60 317 372 Google Scholar

Quinn, Patrick. The French Face of Edgar Poe. Southern Illinois UP, 1957. The French Face of Edgar Poe Google Scholar

Ravel, Maurice. “Mes souvenirs d’enfant paresseux.” Musical, vol. 4, 1987, p. 13. Mes souvenirs d’enfant paresseux Musical 4 Google Scholar

Ravel, Maurice. Lettres, écrits, entretiens, edited by Aribe Orenstein, Flammarion, 1989. Lettres, écrits, entretiens Google Scholar

Sullivan, Jack. New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music. Yale UP, 1999. New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music Google Scholar

Valéry, Paul. “Preface on Stendhal.” Oeuvres complètes. Gallimard, 1957. Preface on Stendhal Œuvres complètes. Google Scholar

Vines, Lois David, editor. Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities. U of Iowa P, 1999. Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities. Google Scholar

Whitesell, Lloyd. “Ravel’s way.” Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity, edited by Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, U of Illinois P, 2002, pp. 49–78. Ravel’s way Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity 49 78 Google Scholar

Wilde, Oscar. “The decay of lying: An observation.” The Nineteenth Century, vol. 25, 1889, pp. 35–56. The decay of lying: An observation The Nineteenth Century 25 35 56 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Helyard, Erin