Dramatic Vocalise Database

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)

Les Sirènes (1911)

Lili Boulanger (1893–1918), sister of Nadia, composed a work for chorus and piano that strongly shows the influence of Debussy’sSirènes.” Boulanger composed Les Sirènes for soprano solo, mixed chorus (SAT), and piano in 1911, two years before she became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome. Not only does this work share a similar title with Debussy’s movement, it also has similar harmonic progressions, is in a similar key (B major versus E major in Debussy’sSirènes”), and also includes wordless vocalization. The text by Charles Grandmougin is as follows:

After ten measures of piano introduction the three voice types enter canonically with the opening phrase, the soprano part having the additional indication “en dehors avec charme” [“prominently with charm”]. At the end of the first stanza an additional chorus (SAT), designated in the score as “Voix dans la coulisse (comme un murmure, au loin)” [“Voices behind the scenes (like a murmur, distant)”], sing several measures on the vowel “Ah!”

Boulanger, Les Sirènes, mm. 21–26 2

The second and third stanzas are sung by solo soprano, followed by the chorus singing the fourth. The song ends with a recapitulation of the opening stanza, once more with the offstage chorus singing “Ah” at the end as before.

(Nauman 2009, 103–5)



Les Sirènes


1 Lili Boulanger, Les Sirènes (New York and London: G. Schirmer, 1981).

2 Translated by James Wood, liner notes to Clairières dans le ciel, by Lili Boulanger, Hyperion CDA66726, 10–11.

3 Lili Boulanger, Les Sirènes (New York and London: G. Schirmer, 1981).