While it is true that surrealism was first and foremost a literary movement with strong ties to the world of art, and not usually applied to musicians, I believe the composer Francis Poulenc was so strongly influenced by this movement, that he could be considered a surrealist, in the same way that Debussy is regarded as an impressionist and Schönberg an expressionist; especially given that the artistic movement in the other two cases is a loose fit at best and does not apply to the entirety of their output. In this essay, which served as the basis for my lecture recital, I will examine some of the basic ideals of surrealism and show how Francis Poulenc embodies and embraces surrealist ideals in his persona, his music, his choice of texts and his compositional methods, or lack thereof. I will explore Poulenc’s relationship with surrealism by focusing on two of his song cycles, Banalités and Le Travail du Peintre, and his relationship to their respective poets, Guillaume Apollinaire and Paul Éluard, both of whom were surrealists and had profound impact on Poulenc. I will also look at the events surrounding the composition of his choral work, Litanies à la Vierge Noire from a surrealist perspective.
Minneman, G. (2019) Francis Poulenc and Surrealism. Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.
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Ginger Minneman Lecture Recital Program