Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
First Committee Member
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My exploration of Cajun song, from its origins as a French ballade into popular American song, will reveal the musical characteristics of Cajun music. My study’s purpose is to increase ones understanding of the history of Cajun song and its music, and then determine why it is missing from the canon of American song repertoire. My study will include an analysis, performance and recording of Cajun song settings composed and arranged by Arles Estes. My investigation will research five traditional Cajun songs as they pertain to Estes’ settings in order to broaden the roots of American song literature and enhance its growing body of repertoire.
Cajun music enjoys popularity worldwide and though the songs that embody Cajun music are vast, the five traditional songs that I have chosen represent Cajun music in its most authentic form. These songs are emblematic of the cultural heritage of the Cajun people. Just as the Cajun’s cuisine displays the essence of the Cajun people, the texts of these five songs represent the Cajun’s struggles, the Cajun’s history and the Cajun’s spirit—their joie de vivre (exuberant enjoyment of life). These five songs contain the primary musical characteristics that make up Cajun music and act as a banner for the Cajun civilization.
The Cajun ballad, “Allons à Layfayette,” exemplifies early Cajun music and is still performed by Cajun musicians today. The children’s song, “Cadet Rousselle,” is prevalent in Cajun song due to its jovial nature, rich history and ancestral lineage. The songs focusing on “Evangeline” and “Jolie Blonde” both present pictures of the Cajuns and their way of life. While one is emblematic of a tragic and dissolute past, the other represents the Cajun people living in their Louisiana bayous. The ideal of ‘going to Texas,’ a metaphor throughout Cajun music, is expressed in the up-tempo song, “Grand Texas,” and manifests a Cajun’s zest for life. As a whole, these five Cajun songs are fine descriptors of the Cajun culture. These traditional songs epitomize the Cajuns love for their culture, family, history, food, fun, dancing, music, their heritage, and their love of living. All these things come alive in their music and their songs. As we explore the songs of the Cajun people, one can amass a greater knowledge and appreciation of the Cajuns and their cultural heritage, and the traditional songs of the Cajuns can assume their position among American song.
Acadian; Cajun; Cajun French; Joie de vivre; Songs
Music | Theatre and Performance Studies | United States History
Moss, Wendy Kay, "Songs of the Cajuns: A History and Analysis of Joie de vivre: Five Impressions of Acadian-America" (2017). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 3014.