Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Translating French Art Song

A translation workshop, a composition workshop, a research seminar, and a closing concert.

OrganisersEmily Kilpatrick (RAM) and Jennifer Rushworth (UCL)

About the project

The aim of this project is to bring French poetry specialists, translators, composers, and musicologists together from UCL and the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), from undergraduate to professorial level, in order to investigate French art song. 

Translating French art Song
We propose to focus on the important song cycle of Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), Clairières dans le ciel (1914), and will approach this work experimentally, in a practice-led fashion, through the production of new English singing translations of the French poetry (written by Francis Jammes) alongside new compositions for new English translations of these poems, together with other related texts. We believe that such interdisciplinary, collaborative work is vital for the study of song, and we hope that our new translations and compositions will bring new audiences to this repertoire. The project will include a translation workshop, a composition workshop, a research seminar, and a closing concert.

The project responds to recent interest in women composers, including Lili Boulanger, and to recent experiments in song translation (including Jeremy Sams’ English singing translations of Schubert and Schumann). It is rooted in the academic specialisms of lead applicants Emily Kilpatrick (author of French Art Song and planning a new project on women as participants in and historians of French musical life) and Jennifer Rushworth (completing a book on Proust and the Art of Song and co-editing a book on Song in the Novel arising from a British Academy conference held in 2021). It also draws on the expertise of composers at the RAM and translators and translation theorists at UCL. 

The intersection of music and translation is increasingly the subject of academic investigations (see, for example, the AHRC network on ‘Translating Music’ (2013-14 and subsequent publications)). The more specific question of song and translation (see especially theoretical articles by Peter Low) is essential for understanding both the history of song and its afterlives, including on the one hand the translation of German Lieder into French in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and, on the other hand, our own diverse engagements with different song traditions in the present day. This project builds on the success of the collaborations from the 21/22 Music Futures stream instigated by Dr Tom Stern (UCL) and Dr Alex Hills (RAM), ‘The Vinteuil Centenary: Music, Memory and Repetition in Proust’.

About the team

Lead investigators: Prof. Emily Kilpatrick (RAM) and Dr Jennifer Rushworth (UCL)
In collaboration with:
Dr Alex Hills (composer and lecturer, RAM)
Prof Geraldine Brodie, Professor of Translation Theory and Theatre Translation (UCL) 
Prof Timothy Mathews, Emeritus Professor of French and Comparative Literature (UCL)
Daria Chernysheva (final-year PhD student in Creative Critical Writing, UCL)

If you would like to be involved please contact j.rushworth@ucl.ac.uk and ekilpatrick@ram.ac.uk