", from Latin cantio
) is in general any lyric
-driven French songs, usually polyphonic
. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a "chansonnier"; a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages
, 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
. 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.
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
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 fixes
(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.
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.
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. Later 19th-century composers of French song, called either melodie or chanson, included Ernest Chausson, Emmanuel Chabrier, Gabriel Fauré, and Claude Debussy, while many 20th-century French composers have continued this strong tradition.
today "chanson" often refers to the work of more popular singers like Georges Brassens
, Jacques Brel
, Édith Piaf
, 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.
- 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.
- 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.