Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Music



Faculty Advisor(s)

Faun Tanenbaum Tiedge (Thesis Advisor)

Subject Categories

Composition | Cultural History | Music | Musicology


Why does the view that French composer Francis Poulenc was a musical hack and a fraud continue to be discussed today? To get to the bottom of this, we need to look at the evidence available and find proof to back up these claims. In the predominant research on Poulenc, many scholars mention musical themes and quotations linked to other composers, but most of these claims aren’t backed up with specific examples or score studies. Therefore, in this paper I attempt to trace the “crime” to its source by showing Poulenc’s possible borrowing of harmonies, thematic material, styles, and rhythms in his first published musical work, Rapsodie Nègre. Specifically, I delve into one of Igor Stravinsky’s earliest scores that Poulenc himself confesses he had under his arm at their 1916 meeting, Petroushka (for Four Hand Piano). By doing this, I show that, although Poulenc certainly borrowed styles and thematic material, these borrowings were transformed by Poulenc into something wholly different than the source material. Poulenc is original, even if clearly influenced by his contemporaries. The true draw to Poulenc’s music is its ability to weave the sounds and techniques of contemporary movements into his compositions.