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Text and Tune

On the Association of Music and Lyrics in Sung Verse


Edited By Teresa Proto, Paolo Canettieri and Gianluca Valenti

This book offers an overview of issues related to the regulated, formal organization of sound and speech in verse intended for singing. Particularly, it is concerned with the structural properties and underlying mechanisms involved in the association of lyrics and music. While in spoken verse the underlying metrical scheme is grounded in the prosody of the language in which it is composed, in sung verse the structure is created by the mapping of specific prosodic units of the text (syllables, moras, tones, etc.) onto the rhythmic-melodic structure provided by the tune. Studying how this mapping procedure takes place across different musical genres and styles is valuable for what it can add to our knowledge of language and music in general, and also for what it can teach us about individual languages and poetic traditions. In terms of empirical coverage, the collection includes a wide variety of (Western) languages and metrical/musical forms, ranging from the Latin hexameter to the Norwegian stev, from the French chant courtois to the Sardinian mutetu longu. Readers interested in formal analyses of vocal music, or in metrics and linguistics, will find useful insights here.
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Text-to-tune alignment and lineation in traditional French songs



1. Introduction

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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