This set of three songs, originally accompanied by small instrumental ensemble, is an evocative time capsule of popular culture during a certain period in post-war French life—the city’s music halls, the Medrano circus, Marseilles (according to Poulenc), the contemporary preoccupations of the media, somersaults of memory. Influenced by Erik Satie and his ballet Parade
, Henri Hell explained that ‘the source of inspiration is the same—the circus, the travelling fairs, with their poetry, tender, mechanical and droll’. Poulenc says that the essential thing is to believe in the words (printed in Cocteau’s Poésies 1917–1920
, where the three poems are grouped together under the title Cocardes
), ‘which fly like a bird from one branch to another’. The end of one word is often the beginning of the next—‘Carnot, Joffre’ leading to ‘J’offre’, ‘Un bonjour de Gustave’ juxtaposed to ‘Ave Maria’, ‘piano mécanique’ morphing to ‘Nick Carter’ (a popular American detective serial), and so on; indeed this technique also applies to the titles where Miel de Narbonne
is followed by Bonne d’enfant
and so on.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013