Dynamic curves and poetic lyricism in selected chansons of Jacques Brel




Weyn-Vanhentenryck, Justin Marc Joshua

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In this thesis, I analyze eight of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel's chansons, chosen not for their popularity or Brel's preference, but for their particularities in dynamicism and poetic rhetoric. I open with Brel's first global success, Quand on n'a que l'amour, and then discuss the extensive influence of classical music on Brel, especially striking in Les Désespérés. Following my examination of text painting in Les Désespérés, I proceed with Les F..., La Dame patronnesse, Quand maman reviendra, Mon enfance, and Amsterdam, with the intent of formulating the groundwork for the dynamic highpoint. Each of these titles builds upon characteristics that punctuate the concept of a single dynamic highpoint through musically motivated narrative properties and dynamic curves. It is only upon arriving at Brel's Ces gens-là that I formulate the more complex, less intuitive but more intrinsic principle of the double dynamic highpoint. The concepts of narrative trajectory and musical agent presented throughout this report are based upon the work of Byron Almén and Robert Hatten. Combining Hatten's gestural theories and Almén's rhetorical patterning opens the door to explaining the narrative properties hidden within the musical discourse and the poetic text. I conclude my report by assessing that most of Brel's chansons follow the dynamic curve with the intent of capitalizing on the poetic meaning of the text.



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