Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Asimov, Peter. “Transcribing Greece, Arranging France: Bourgault-Ducoudray’s Performances of Authenticity and Innovation.” 19th-Century Music 44 (March 2021): 133-68.

Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray’s promotion of ancient Greek modes as a resource for modern French music is deeply entwined with his commitment to the Aryanist philosophy of Émile Burnouf. In his 1876 collection of Greek folk songs, Trente mélodies populaires de Grèce et d’Orient, Bourgault uses both transcription and arrangement to bolster his position as an authority on ancient music, working under the premise that modern Greek folk songs reflect ancient Greek modal theory. In his arrangements of the transcribed melodies, Bourgault exploits this supposed connection to ancient Greece to give authority to his own harmonic innovations. Bourgault’s 1878 suite Carnaval d’Athènes similarly uses explanatory paratext to give the work authority as a reproduction of authentic Greek folk music despite exhibiting Bourgault’s compositional hand. Later composers use Bourgault’s authority to give their orientalist music a sense of authenticity. For example, Alfred Bruneau’s 1887 opera Kérim borrows extensively from Bourgault’s Greek arrangements to express its oriental (Middle Eastern) setting. Critics of the time found Kérim to be too researched and authentic, suggesting a distinction between oriental musical tropes and Bourgault’s “academic” approach. Camille Saint-Saëns also borrowed from Bourgault’s collection in his 1893 incidental music for Sophocles’s Antigone in order to reproduce an “authentic” ancient Greek chorus. Compared to Bruneau, Saint-Saëns was much more liberal in adapting Bourgault’s folk songs, elaborating on Bourgault’s modal arrangements rather than the melodies themselves, and his Antigone score was well received. After the success of his Greek arrangements, Bourgault began collecting folk songs from his native Brittany, resulting in the 1886 collection Trente melodies populaires de Basse-Bretagne. He was also expanding his belief in the common roots of “Aryan” and “Indo-European” music. Bourgault’s 1887 opera Michel Columb (later titled Bretagne) cites two Breton melodies from this collection and otherwise emulates its modal folk style. Bourgault’s 1891 opera Thamara also uses his understanding of Greek modality and borrows from his Breton collection. In doing so, Bourgault more directly articulate his Aryanist, ethnic nationalist ideology, forging a continuity between ancient Greek and modern French music.

Works: Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray: Trente mélodies populaires de Grèce et d’Orient (139-44), Carnaval d’Athènes (146-48), Michael Columb / Bretagne (160-63), Thamara (165-67); Alfred Bruneau: Kérim (148-55); Camille Saint-Saëns: Antigone (154-59).

Sources: Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray: Trente mélodies populaires de Grèce et d’Orient (148-59), Trente mélodies populaires de Basse-Bretagne (160-63, 165-67); Guillaume André Villoteau: Description de l’Égypte (149).

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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