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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A chanson (French pronunciation: [ʃãsɔ̃], "song", from Latin cantio) is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a "chanteur"; a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.


Chanson de geste

The earliest chansons were the epic poems performed to simple monophonic melodies by a professional class of jongleurs or ménestrels. These usually recounted the famous deeds (geste) of past heroes, legendary and semi-historical. The Song of Roland is the most famous of these, but in general the chanson de geste are studied as literature since very little of their music survives.

See also chanson de toile.

Chanson courtoise

The chanson courtoise or grand chant was an early form of monophonic chanson, the chief lyric poetic genre of the trouvères. It was an adaptation to Old French of the Occitan canso. It was practiced in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Thematically, as its name implies, it was a song of courtly love, written usually by a man to his noble lover. Some later chansons were polyphonic and some had refrains and were called chansons avec des refrains. A Crusade song was known as a chanson de croisade.

Burgundian chanson

In its typical specialised usage, the word chanson refers to a polyphonic French song of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Early chansons tended to be in one of the formes fixesballade, rondeau or virelai (formerly the chanson baladée)—though some composers later set popular poetry in a variety of forms. The earliest chansons were for two, three or four voices, with first three becoming the norm, expanding to four voices by the sixteenth century. Sometimes, the singers were accompanied by instruments.

The first important composer of chansons was Guillaume de Machaut, who composed three-voice works in the formes fixes during the 14th century. Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois, who wrote so-called Burgundian chansons (because they were from the area known as Burgundy), were the most important chanson composers of the next generation (c. 1420-1470). Their chansons somewhat simple in style, are also generally in three voices with a structural tenor.

Parisian chanson

Later 15th- and early 16th-century figures in the genre included Johannes Ockeghem and Josquin Desprez, whose works cease to be constrained by formes fixes and begin to feature a similar pervading imitation to that found in contemporary motets and liturgical music. At mid-century, Claudin de Sermisy and Clément Janequin were composers of so-called Parisian chansons, which also abandoned the formes fixes and were in a simpler, more homophonic style, sometimes featuring music that was meant to be evocative of certain imagery. Many of these Parisian works were published by Pierre Attaingnant. Composers of their generation, as well as later composers, such as Orlando de Lassus, were influenced by the Italian madrigal. Many early instrumental works were ornamented variations (diminutions) on chansons, with this genre becoming the canzone, a progenitor of the sonata.

The first book of sheet music printed from movable type was Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, a collection of ninety-six chansons by many composers, published in Venice in 1501 by Ottaviano Petrucci.

See also chanson spirituelle.

Modern chanson

French solo song developed in the late 16th century, probably from the aforementioned Parisian works. During the 17th century, the air de cour, chanson pour boire, and other like genres, generally accompanied by lute or keyboard, flourished, with contributions by such composers as Antoine Boesset, Denis Gaultier, Michel Lambert, and Michel-Richard de Lalande.

During the 18th century, vocal music in France was dominated by Opera, but solo song underwent a Renaissance in the 19th, first with salon melodies, but by mid-century with highly sophisticated works influenced by the German Lieder which had been introduced into the country. Louis Niedermeyer, under the particular spell of Schubert was a pivotal figure in this movement, followed by Édouard Lalo, Felicien David, and many others.

Another off-shoot of chanson called chanson réaliste (realist song), was a popular musical genre in France, primarily from the 1880s until the end of World War II.[1][2] Born of the cafés-concerts and cabarets of the Montmartre district of Paris and influenced by literary realism and the naturalist movements in literature and theatre, chanson réaliste was a musical style that was mainly performed by women and which dealt with the lives of Paris's poor and working-class.[1][3][4] Some of the more commonly known performers of the genre include Damia, Fréhel and Édith Piaf.

Later 19th-century composers of French song, called either mélodie or chanson, included Ernest Chausson, Emmanuel Chabrier, Gabriel Fauré, and Claude Debussy, while many 20th-century French composers have continued this strong tradition.

Chansons today

In France today "chanson" often refers to the work of more popular singers like Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Barbara, Léo Ferré, Serge Gainsbourg, etc. Chanson is distinguished from the rest of French "pop" music by following the rhythm of the French language, rather than that of English, and thus is identifiable as specifically French.

See also

  • Shanson - Russian criminal song genre


  • Brown, Howard Mayer, et al. "Chanson." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online.
  • Dobbins, Frank. "Chanson." In The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online.
  • Michail Scherbakov. Russian Сhanson. "Deja."
  • Grout, Donald Jay, and Palisca, Claude V. (2001). A History of Western Music, 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0 393 97527 4.
  1. ^ a b Sweeney, Regina M. (2001). Singing Our Way to Victory: French Cultural Politics and Music During the Great War, Wesleyan University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0819564737.
  2. ^ Fagot, Sylvain & Uzel, Jean-Philippe (2006). Énonciation artistique et socialité: actes du colloque international de Montréal des 3 et 4 mars 2005, L'Harmattan. pp. 200-203. ISBN 2296001769. (French text)
  3. ^ Wilson, Elizabeth (1992). The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women, University of California Press. p. 62. ISBN 0520078640
  4. ^ Conway, Kelly (2004). Chanteuse in the City: The Realist Singer in French Film. University of California Press. p. 6. ISBN 0520244079

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Oscar Wilde

A ring of gold and a milk-white dove

Are goodly gifts for thee,

And a hempen rope for your own love

To hang upon a tree.

For you a House of Ivory

(Roses are white in the rose-bower)!

A narrow bed for me to lie,

(White, oh white, is the hemlock flower)!

Myrtle and jessamine for you,

(O the red rose is fair to see)!

For me the cypress and the rue

(Fairest of all is rosemary)!

For you three lovers of your hand,

(Green grass where a man lies dead)!

For me three paces on the sand,

(Plant lilies at my head)!
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Simple English

Chanson is the French word for "song". The word is often used in music to mean any song with French words, but it is more often used when talking about songs in which lyrics have been set to music by French classical composers.

Very often "chansons" refers to the French songs that were sung in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. People who sang these chansons were called "chansonniers". They had various forms, including ballade, rondeau and virelai. Some composers at the time liked to set popular poetry to music. The earliest chansons were for two, three or four voices, many of them being for three voices. By the 16th century most were for four voices. Sometimes, the singers were accompanied by instruments.


Early chansons

The first important composer of chansons was the medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut. In the Renaissance Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois wrote many simple chansons. Later Johannes Ockeghem and Josquin des Prez composed chansons which had lots of imitation between the voices. Clément Janequin wrote more simple, homophonic chansons. He worked in the area around Paris. Later composers such as Orlando de Lassus were influenced by the Italian madrigal. The style of music started to be used in music for instruments.

The first book of sheet music printed from movable type was Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, a collection of 96 chansons by many composers, published in Venice in 1501.

Later chansons

During the 16th century French songs started to be composed with lute or keyboard accompaniment. In the 19th century many composers wrote songs with piano accompaniment. These chansons were often called mélodies.

Popular Chanson

In France today "chanson" often refers to the work of more popular singers such as Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, Édith Piaf, Camille, Olivia Ruiz. French chansons of Jacques Brel have been translated and are interpreted in English by Arnold Johnston, Professor at West Michigan University. More than 100 chansons of Brel, Brassens, Barbara, Bécaud, Ferrat, Aznavour, Trenet et Ferré have been translated and are interpreted in German language by the Duo Stéphane & Didier (see

Other pages

  • Mélodie


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