On the Association of Music and Lyrics in Sung Verse
Text-to-tune alignment and lineation in traditional French songs
This article describes some of the basic formal features of traditional French songs. Studies of the formal features of songs usually focus on one particular aspect of the tunes or the lyrics, e.g., the patterning of rhymes. In contrast, I intend to provide an overall view, with special attention paid to the way texts mesh with melodies. The guiding idea is that the lyrics of a song do not have a metrical structure that can be described independently of the tune; the regularities that are found in song texts are to a large extent mere reflections of the structure of the associated tunes. My general outlook is that of generative metrics.2
An issue that will take center stage is that of the formal similarities and differences between the texts of songs and literary verse. (By “literary verse”, I mean verse that is transmitted in written form and was not composed in order to be sung.) The similarities between song lyrics and literary verse are obvious. Researchers usually assume, explicitly or not, that song lyrics have an inherent metrical structure that is analogous to that of literary verse. This is what one may call the traditional ← 183 | 184 → stance on the structure of song lyrics. This is for instance the position taken by Kiparsky (2006). Kiparsky’s position is represented in (1).
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