The Persistence of Memory

Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:
The Persistence of Memory

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In October 1916, Maurice Ravel wrote a friend that he had just read Alain-Fournier's novel Le grand Meaulnes (1911), and later spoke of composing a concerto either for piano or cello based upon it. Although nothing ever came of the idea, Ravel had once again confirmed his belief in the capacity of textless instrumental structures to support a narrative. Further evidence of his attraction to writing seemingly abstract music to a literary subtext soon emerged with the commission in 1918 by the Italian poet Ricciotto Canudo of a preface to his S.P. 503, Le poeme du Vardar. Ravel's response to Canudo's commission was an extraordinary piece for piano that incorporates obvious number symbolism based on the numerals 5 and 3, which Ravel drew from the title of Canudo's poem. Frontispice, Ravel's first post-Armistice composition, is a work for five hands, three players. This chapter also examines Ravel's La valse and French music after the Great War.

Keywords: Great War; Maurice Ravel; Ricciotto Canudo; piano; Frontispice; La valse; French music

Chapter.  6639 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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