University of Birmingham to unveil online database of musical works inspired by the 19th Century French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867).

Etching of Charles Baudelaire by Manet

The showcase event, which will be held at the University of Birmingham Brussels Office on 15 March 2019, will officially launch the online database to the public, present digital methods for song analysis, and a theoretical perspective on song as a networked product.

The project, which started in 2015 and will end later this year, has researched all the song settings available to date of the 200+ poems written by the nineteenth-century French author, who died over 150 years ago. The new database will contain over 1,600 songs in 25 different languages, and 40 different musical styles, from death metal to classical mélodie.

The project team, led by Professor Helen Abbott at the University of Birmingham, has discovered how far Baudelaire’s poetry has travelled beyond nineteenth-century Paris, and what has happened to it along the way. 

Professor Abbott says: “Baudelaire’s poetry changed the course of modern literature in France, Europe, and beyond. Now, for the first time, we can see how it shaped the course of modern music too. The Baudelaire Song Project has collected over 1,600 song which means we can use this dataset can answer questions such as: What are the performance trends in singing Baudelaire's poems? Which poems are never or rarely set to music, and why? How do composers and songwriters handle the challenges of setting French verse metre and are there certain types of musical genres which are more suited to Baudelaire's poetry than others?”

The database is also intended for musicians looking for song ideas, for researchers interested in relations between poetry and music and for French teachers looking for new material to work on, and for anyone interested in French poetry and music. 

Baudelaire Song ProjectThe event in Brussels on the theme of ‘Baudelaire and music in the digital age’ will consist of opening presentations and the launch of the database by the University of Birmingham's Professor Helen AbbottDr Caroline ArdreyDr Nina Rolland and Dr Mylène Dubiau from the Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès.

Topics to be discussed on the day will consist of 'Reception of Baudelaire’s poetry,' 'Word and Music Studies' 'Digital Humanities' and 'Teaching Baudelaire’, ending with a virtual exhibition and a live performance by Exsangue, a Belgian French-speaking female-fronted band, which plays acoustic music with lyrics based on Charles Baudelaire’s poetry.