Lots of surprises

by Mark Gabrish Conlan

Lots of surprises for me in this interesting thread! First, Albert comes up with a photo of Aristide Bruant that reveals him to be considerably better-looking than Toulouse-Lautrec painted him. (In one of the Toulouse-Lautrec posters he looks so forbidding one would have thought he was a judge instead of an entertainer.) Then there's a link to one of Bruant's records, made in 1912 -- so Yvette Guilbert wasn't the only performer Toulouse-Lautrec (who died in 1900) painted of whom there are recordings. It got more interesting when I opened the link, played it and was susprised that YouTube lists posts of quite a few Bruant records. Also, the sound on this post seemed unusually good for 1912 and I wondered if the record was a Pathé cylinder -- only it isn't: it's a U.S. Victor pressing of one of Bruant's discs. Who knew Bruant had enough of an international following his records were released in the U.S.?

Also, judging not only from the sound of the record itself but also the illustrated song lyrics included in the YouTube post, I suspect Bruant is singing in a deliberately "rustic" sort of French, much the way a northern American singer might affect a Southern accent on a record to create a character appropriate for the song. From what little I could make out the song appears to be a tale of a man from the French countryside who goes to Paris and is astonished by what he sees in the big city. Albert, as a native Frenchman, maybe you can help me and let me know if Bruant is singing in dialect and, if so, just what part of France is his character supposed to come from.

The Wikipedia page on Bruant reads,"Born Louis Armand Aristide Bruand in the village of Courtenay, Loiret in France, Bruant left his home in 1866 at age fifteen, following his father's death, to find employment. Making his way to the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, he hung out in the working-class bistros, where he finally was given an opportunity to show his musical talents. Although bourgeois by birth, he soon adopted the earthy language of his haunts, turning it into songs that told of the struggles of the poor."

Posted on Aug 29, 2017, 7:19 AM

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