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French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier (1948–1983) is one of the few composers, perhaps the only one, to use an invented language throughout his entire compositional career. Vivier's use of what he called his langue inventée (‘invented language’) spanned the first vocal work in his catalogue – Ojikawa (1968) – to his final work, Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele (1983), completed only shortly before his murder in March 1983. Despite the pervasiveness of this technique – in fact, it is the only technique that remains a constant across all of Vivier's stylistic periods – relatively little attention has been given to the langue inventée in scholarship. This article presents a description of Vivier's langue inventée in three parts, beginning with a general introduction. The second part presents the langue inventée as a product of automatic writing and engages directly with Vivier's sketches to propose a method that Vivier likely used to write much of his langue inventée text. The final section of the article presents Vivier's langue inventée as a form of grammelot – a term revived by playwright, actor and director Dario Fo (1926–), which is associated with the dialect theatre of the Commedia dell'arte tradition. This article aims to demonstrate that Vivier's langue inventée is not a just a string of unintelligible nonsense syllables, but rather a very purposeful grammelot, freely composed in a two-stage approach to automatic writing, that reaches beyond linguistic semantics.

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Jeffery T. Schnapp , ‘Virgin Words: Hildegard of Bingen's Lingua ignota and the Development of Imaginary Languages Ancient to Modern’, Exemplaria, 3/2 (January 1991), pp. 267–98

Adrienne Ward , ‘“Imaginary Imperialism”: Goldoni Stages China in 18th-Century Italy’, Theatre Journal, 54/2 (May 2002), pp. 203–21

, ‘False Accents: Embodied Dialects and the Characterization of Ethnicity and Nationality’, Theatre Topics, 14/1 (March 2004), pp. 353–72

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  • ISSN: 0040-2982
  • EISSN: 1478-2286
  • URL: /core/journals/tempo
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