Why do Germans call it Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Beethoven’s Sonata for Clarinet Quintet? And why the word ballet? Why is a “shopping spiel” not really “the shopping spiel”? What are “a few words”, as opposed to a long “shopping spiel”? And how about the concept of a “shopping spiel” as an element in a song, where the words are just one of many cues or motifs?
Perhaps, the greatest challenge in this exploration of the French and American dance tradition is the vast difference in vocabulary between the two languages.
But I digress. First, I am not really interested in French music. I am much more interested in the history of France and about the cultural and linguistic traditions that have influenced French music, whether or not they have been translated into English.
In fact, I think that there is more in French music than what I think you are looking for. So let’s have a look at some of that music.
In the 17th century, there are two major music styles in France:
1. Fletchée, which is really just “French brass” – instruments from the old French music tradition. When people say “Fletchée”, they are thinking of instruments like the flute, the trombone, the French horn, the French baritone and so forth. In fact, people are still producing such instruments for traditional French music.
2. Lacrimaire, or “lounge music,” which is a hybrid of Lacrimé and baroque forms. Some of the instruments are actually old European instruments, like the flutes and the trombones from the 17th century. However, the music is often influenced by French modernism, such as “baroque instrumentalism” or “theatre jazz,” which uses modern instruments while keeping a traditional sound.
I will leave that subject for another day. But these classical music genres have a very strong European ancestry, and many other regions of the world have their own subgenres, as well.
So what do Americans think of “French music”? Do you think they think of Beethoven or Schubert, or both?
One of the things that most Americans do find annoying about French music (and indeed, many other cultures) is how the music is “art” rather than “music”.
“Art is art,” as David Bowie said.
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