Intertext, dialogue, and temporality in Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, La valse, and Valses nobles et sentimentales
MetadataShow full item record
Anachronistic appropriation of earlier music or musical styles creates an inherent conflict of temporalities. Ravel's compositions based on historical dance forms present a particularly rich medium for investigating these kinds of historical tensions. Whether the minuet in Minuet antique (1895), the waltz in La valse (1919-20) and Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911), or the forlane or rigaudon in their respective movements of Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-17), these forms bring with them associations regarding historical place, and ties between musical norms and expression of temporality. The temporalities expressed in these works are not straightforward linear dramas but rather tension-laden and multifaceted. This paper selects three of these works -- Valses nobles et sentimentales, the forlane from Le tombeau de Couperin, and La valse -- to show how a complex sense of time is expressed by Ravel in different ways. While these three pieces differ greatly in execution, they are similar in impulse: each of the three takes different approaches to intertextual and intratextual problematicization of temporality. In analyzing these three works, the first framework is one of intertextuality -- to what extent does the work connect itself to a specific work, composer, and style, and what structural and aesthetic expectations are brought into play via these connections. Each of the three works treats this question in differing ways -- the "Forlane" of Le tombeau de Couperin explicitly appropriates the music of Couperin, La valse interacts not as much with a specific work or even composer but with the genre of the waltz as a whole, and Valses nobles et sentimentales creates an intentional rift between the waltzes of Ravel and those of Schubert. But while differing in the degree of influence or quotation, each of these draws in expressive and structural prototypes and creates tensions of temporality that are worked through in the context of each piece -- dialects between past and present, conflicts in both structure and meaning. Through entering into dialogical relationships with the works, forms, and genres of the past, these three works gain potentials for expression.