Fashioning Modernism: Rimbaud meets Verlaine meets Debussy

24 January 2012: A seminar with Prof. Evelyne Ender, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Hunter College and at the Graduate Center, CUNY and James Melo, ERC’s musicologist and Senior Editor at RILM.

The encounter between the adolescent Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) and the already celebrated poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) was like a spark that ignited an explosion leading to the birth of modern poetry. In a span of only four years, from when he was 17 years old until he abandoned poetry at age 21, Rimbaud changed forever the nature of poetry. His love affair with Verlaine, a tragic and self-destructive relationship on both sides, will be examined in the context of poetic, literary, and musical developments in France in the late 19th century, particularly the culture of decadence and aestheticism. Debussy’s music, which by the composer’s own assessment was profoundly indebted to the aesthetics of Verlaine’s exceptionally musical poetry, will be discussed in relation to its own groundbreaking characteristics and its contribution to musical modernism.

CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., Skylight Room, 9th floor

For more information:; 212-817-8606

Presented by the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation, CUNY, and the Ensemble for the Romantic Century in connection with ERC’s series of theatrical concerts Portraits.

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Evelyne Ender is currently Professor of French and of Comparative Literature at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She is also appointed in the Women’s Studies program. She is the author of Sexing the Mind: Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Hysteria (1995) and Architexts of Memory: Literature, Science, and Autobiography (2006 Winner of the Scaglione Prize in Comparative Literary Studies). From her training at the University of Geneva, where she obtained her doctorat ès lettres, she has retained a lasting interest in the connections between literature and a history of mentalities. She has published widely in French and in English in the areas of poetics, narrative, gender, and memory studies, and on such authors as Nerval, George Sand, Proust, H. James, and Woolf. She is working on two books: one on the art of reading and the meaning of literary studies for contemporary culture, and the other on changing paradigms of writing and issues of creativity. She spoke at the recent MLA on George Sand and Chopin – on music and text and issues of romantic aesthetics.

James Melo has written extensively for scholarly journals and music magazines in Brazil, Uruguay, Austria, and the United States, and has been invited to participate as a panel discussant in conferences in Indiana, New York, and Canada. He has written program notes for several concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and for over 60 recordings on the Chesky, Naxos, Paulus, and Musikus labels, among others. He is the New York correspondent for the magazine Sinfonica in Uruguay, reviewer of music iconography for the journal Music in Art, and senior editor at RILM (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale) at CUNY. In March 2005, he chaired a session in the conference Music’s Intellectual History, organized by the Barry Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation (CUNY), and presented a paper on the history of musicological research in Brazil. He received a grant from the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland, where he conducted research on the manuscripts of Anton Webern. Mr. Melo is the program annotator for the recording of Villa-Lobos’s complete piano music and Camargo Guarnieri’s complete piano concertos on Naxos. He has written program notes for all of ERC’s original productions and authored several scripts. In 2006, Mr. Melo began collaborating with the Montréal Chamber Music Festival as musicologist and program notes writer. In March 2008 he chaired a session on music iconography in Brazil and Portugal in the conference Music, Body, and Stage: The Iconography of Music Theater and Opera at CUNY Graduate Center.