Able fairy : the feminine aesthetic in the compositions of Rolande Falcinelli

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Alford, Lenore Audrey, 1968-

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This study links patriarchal Catholic Church culture and feminist studies in musicology to reveal the multi-faceted opus and career of Rolande Falcinelli, 1920-2006. Organist, composer, and pedagogue Rolande Falcinelli was the first woman to be named titular over a prestigious organ console in Paris, that of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, in 1945; she was also a renowned organ pedagogue at the Paris Conservatory for over thirty years. Yet her rich legacy of compositions remains largely unknown. This paper explores the significance of her entrance into liturgical creative work in the Catholic Church by showing the enormous force of historical repression against women in this context. Through examples ranging from Hildegard in the 11th century to Jeanne Demessieux in the 20th, it shows how the model and persona of the nun-organist has been a tacit lifestyle requirement of women organists in the Catholic Church, and how Falcinelli’s failure to adhere to that model affected her liturgical career. Next, it presents Falcinelli’s impressive body of compositions and shows examples of feminine coded material which appear throughout her opus, both subtly and overtly. Invoking studies by McClary, Citron, Epstein, Cusick, and others, this study includes a short history of gender studies in musicology, then places Falcinelli’s opus in the context of current thought on the feminine aesthetic in music.