Exploring irony and ironic distance through the songs of Germaine Tailleferre

Ludford-Thomas, Helen (2021) Exploring irony and ironic distance through the songs of Germaine Tailleferre. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


Germaine Tailleferre came to prominence as a member of Les Six in 1920s Paris. Her career, spanning seven decades, began at a time when female musicians faced significant marginalisation. Tailleferre’s songs remain largely unknown, and do not currently have a place in the canon of twentieth-century French song repertoire, as commonly taught and performed. This thesis develops the argument made by Fulcher that Tailleferre’s work is consciously ironic, and aims to offer a hitherto unexplored vantagepoint for the study and performance of Tailleferre’s songs. Thus by extension the study of her wider oeuvre, through the lens of musical irony. In order to understand Tailleferre’s use of musical irony, the concept of modernist irony—together with ironic distance—is developed and contextualised through the exploration of both Romantic and postmodern irony, to which it relates. The resulting analytical model for locating modernist irony is employed in the analysis of Tailleferre’s 1961 song cycle, 'Pancarte pour une porte d’entrée'. By highlighting and demonstrating how modernist irony forms part of Tailleferre’s compositional aesthetic, this thesis offers a fresh perspective on her songs. Thus, undermining their reputation for being inconsequential, and contributing to Tailleferre’s ongoing legacy.

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