Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Committee Member

Jennifer Grim

Second Committee Member

Cheryl Taranto

Third Committee Member

Marina Sturm

Fourth Committee Member

Kenneth Hanlon

Fifth Committee Member

Margaret Harp

Number of Pages



This document examines Claude Debussy’s Les Chansons de Bilitis to understand how Debussy, in his musical settings reflects the literary texts of Bilitis written by Pierre Louÿs. The purpose is to gain insight into the interdisciplinary collaborations among artists in fin-de-siècle France. Many of Debussy’s most famous pieces, such as Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, were inspired by poetry. In this document I contend that Les Chansons de Bilitis could play a more meaningful role within the repertoire of the flute canon. This piece was composed in 1901 with a unique instrumentation of two flutes, two harps, celesta, and female narrator and is structured in such a way that the music and poetry do not overlap in sequence of the performance. This allows complete emphasis and understanding of Louÿs’s words with a direct reflection in the music. Chapter one of this document discusses background information about Debussy, Louÿs, the poetry collection, and circumstances of the musical work. Chapter two of this document provides a musical and literary analysis of the work as published in 1971 by Jobert. I have translated the twelve poems from French to English, as I believe it is extremely important to understand the text in order to capture Debussy’s musical intentions. This document is different from previous publications because it takes into great consideration the importance of the text in relation to the music.


Chansons de Bilitis; Debussy; Claude; 1862-1918; Louÿs; Pierre; 1870-1925; Musical analysis


Music | Musicology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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