Joe and Cléoma Falcon’s music will serve as examples of how to study music using an object analysis approach. First we will study the record album, and then we will study the lyrics of one song. The music will not be analyzed at this time as more research is needed.
We are looking at an album cover entitled “Cléoma B. Falcon: A Cajun Music Classic” put out by JADFEL Record Company in 1983. In describing this album we would say that it is approximately 12” X 12”, a perfect square. It weighs about 10 ounces with the record inside. It is made of paper with ink on it. What we would call the front of the album has words in the center: “Cléoma B. Falcon A Cajun Music Classic, along with some other letters and numbers in the upper right hand corner: JADFEL LP-101. The words “Cléoma B. Falcon” form an arch over a rather large circle with a picture of a woman holding a guitar. The other words “A Cajun Music” are in a straight line underneath the picture, with “Classic,” also in a straight line underneath “A Cajun Music.”
The picture of the woman in the center appears to be a photograph. The circle is defined, but by a fuzzy outline. The woman has her hair parted in the middle. It is dark and curly. She seems to be wearing an earring in her left ear. She has a beaded necklace around her neck, and is wearing a soft dress with a frill of some kind on her left shoulder. She is young and pretty. She is holding a large guitar with both hands poised to play, even though we only see her right hand ready to pick the strings or strum them. The guitar has six strings. It appears to have a small border outlining its shape.
On the back of the album, there are many more words in different styles of printing, and a rectangular picture in the upper left hand corner. This picture is
a more complete photograph than the one on the front cover. It seems that the picture on the front is a blow-up of the woman in the picture on the back. In this picture we see all of the woman. She is sitting on a chair or a stool with three legs, which appear to have two sections separated by circular designs. Her dress is short, with lace on the bottom. The frill on her left shoulder now seems to be a long scarf going down below her waist with a cloth flower on her shoulder either holding the scarf or part of it. Her left hand is holding the neck of the guitar with her fingers holding certain strings. She is wearing high heeled shoes.
There is a man in the picture also. He is seated to the left of the woman. He is seated on a very large chair, rectangular in shape with four legs, stretchers holding the legs together, and a back which comes up to the middle of the man’s back. It appears to be all wood with some very simple designs made with the wood, on the legs, the stretchers, and on the back.
The man is good-looking and the woman is beautiful. He appears to be taller than the woman, and much larger physically. His hair is parted in the middle and lies close to his head. He is dressed up in a suit with wide lapels on the jacket. The lapels appear to have a trim outlining the shape of the lapels. The pants have cuffs with a trim similar to that on the lapels. He is wearing a plain white shirt and a striped tie. His shoes seem to be made of soft leather, but they are not dressy. He is holding an accordion which seems to be a one row accordion. He is holding the accordion with both hands as if he is ready to play.
In back of the two people there seems to be a stage backdrop. There is a building in the background behind the man, and at least one other large object, perhaps a bench, which is located behind the woman.
Underneath the picture is the title: “1928 Photo of Cléoma and Joe Falcon Photo courtesy of their daughter, Lu Lu Falcon Langlinais.” Under the title are five paragraphs telling about the people in the picture. On the right hand side there are twelve songs listed with the titles in French and English and the credits for each song. There is also a paragraph thanking a collector for his recordings which were used to put this album together.
The album is buff colored, perhaps a pinky beige, with brown lettering. It is not shiny. The pictures have light areas which are beige, the same as the album cover. The pictures’ dark areas are the same brown as in the lettering. The sepia tones give the pictures and the album a feeling of a time long past. The woman and the man stand out from the background as they are lighter and more clearly defined. The woman is lighter than the man and she
highlighted by a plain light area in the background of the pictures.
There is a feeling of antiqueness on both sides of the album cover. The lack of shine in the material of the album cover, and the sepia tones give one the feeling that one is looking at a daguerreotype or a very old photograph. The fuzziness around the picture on the front cover, and in the background of the picture on the back cover make one think that the pictures are much older than they are. The fancy printing of the title of the album evokes a feeling of antiquity as well. In addition, the hairstyles of the two people in the picture, as well as their clothes and their instruments, vice strong evidence of the age depicted.
For the deductive phase of the study of the album cover, one may conclude that the era depicted is important and is revered. The person who created this cover is nostalgic for a time long past where pretty women and hand some men played beautiful music on guitars and accordions for special occasions.
The woman and man are not equal. The woman is set apart from the man by the long neck of the guitar, as well as by the light area behind her. She is the focus of this album. He is included because he is important to her and to the music. His importance is indicated by his equality of size with the woman; the same color for his clothes as for hers; his musical instrument which covers as large a part of his body as her instrument does to her; and the size of his chair as well as the turning of the chair toward the woman and toward the person who is looking at the album.
Speculation about the relationship between the man and the woman and their music leads one to ask the following questions: Where are the man and the woman? In what century or year is the event taking place? Why are they there? Who are the man and the woman? Are they related or not? Are they married or not? Do they only play the instruments shown in the photograph? Do they play together or separately? Are they equal as performers? Do they write their own music? Does one of them play and the other plays and sings? Are they famous?
The hypotheses to be tested are: The man and the woman are on a stage somewhere; Because of their old-fashioned hairstyles and clothes the man and the woman might be living in the early Twentieth Century, perhaps in the 1920’s or 1930’s; They are in this place to perform, to play their instruments and perhaps sing; Because there is no written music to be seen in the photograph, one might assume that the people know their music by heart; The man and the woman may be related or married, or not but they are connected by their music; They play the instruments they are holding but there is no apparent evidence that they play other instruments; The people play together; The man and the woman are not equal as performers; One cannot tell from the photograph if the man and the woman write their own music, or if one of them plays and sings, or if they both play and sing; They are famous.
The speculations and the hypotheses above lead one to the paragraphs below the picture on the back of the album. We learn that this album was put together by Cléoma’s great nephew as a tribute to her and to her husband Joe Falcon and their music. “Aunt Cléoma deserves the spotlight for once. Listen to her extraordinary sounding vibrato voice as she sings beautiful Cajun and Cajun interpreted songs... Enjoy the songs as they roll from her heart to her lips as she strums her guitar to the accompaniment of her husband (Joe Falcon) on the accordion and Cléopha Breaux (her brother) on the fiddle. Truly a classic collection of pure, authentic Cajun music.” (Johnnie Allan,
Cléoma B. Falcon A Cajun Music Classic
, (Lafayette, La.: JADFEL Record Co., 1983), rear cover) One might read Ann Allen Savoy’s book entitled
Reflection of a People
(see Bibliography) for more detailed information about Joe and Cléoma Falcon.
To her great nephew, Cléoma Falcon was extraordinarily special. He admires what she and Joe accomplished with their style of Cajun music. He wants the listeners to appreciate their music as he does.
The lyrics of one of Joe and Cléoma Falcon’s songs can be analyzed using the object analysis method. The song is called “Léve tes fFnetres haut” (Raise My Window High—in standard English translation the title would be: Raise Your Windows High). In looking at the sheet music (see Appendix), we notice that the tune is in the key of G and played in 2/4 time. The French words and the English translation contain the main interest for the observer. A musician might be more interested in the music, however. One may listen to the song (on tape and on file at the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute Office, 53 Wall Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511) to hear the melody and the words of the song.
To describe “LEve tes fenFtres haut,” we can say that the song has four verses of unequal lengths. The lines do not rhyme, but there are repetitions of words and whole lines. There are letters missing from words and some very different than traditional French grammatical constructions. There seems to be a progression from one verse to the next, with the last verse summing up what was said before, and bringing the problem to a resolution.
In the first verse the person telling the story asks another person to open the windows wide when he comes, and when the narrator leaves, the other one must cry. The second verse tells about the narrator getting drunk a great many days, especially this particular night that the song is being sung. A switch takes place in the third verse where the singer discusses working very hard for very little money. His wife takes most of it, leaving him with the change. Finally, the fourth verse asks the listener to give the singer her right hand if she doesn’t want him, and if she doesn’t, he doesn’t want her either.
“Léve tes fenFtres haut” is a good example of Cléoma Falcon’s most interesting songs. Singing about unrequited love suits her emotional singing style. It is interesting to note that in this song Cléoma sings a male role. One might say that gender in Cléoma’s songs is unimportant because she is singing about the human experiences which can happen to men and women.
A careful look at the French lyrics reveals some characteristics of Cajun French. “Je” (I) is frequently written without the “e” when it is followed by a consonant: “j’suis (I am).” In standard French “je” drops the “e” only when it is followed by a vowel. “Moi” is used a great deal: “quand tu vois moi venir...” (when you see me coming...); “Si moi je...” (If I...); and “Ma femme prend la piastre et moi faut je fais avec les sous” (My wife takes the dollars and I have to make do with the coins). “Moi” is an emphatic pronoun underscoring the importance of “I.” In standard French the correct use of “moi” is found in “Si moi je...” Cajun French has used “moi” differently in the other two examples. In standard French, the line “quand tu vois moi venir” would be written “quand tu me vois venir;” and the line “Ma femme prend la piastre et moi faut je fais avec les sous” would be written “Ma femme prend fasse avec les sous” or, “Ma femme faut faire avec les sous.” In the second verse a reflexive verb is conjugated with “avoir” instead of “Ftre” in the passé composé: “Je m’ai saoulé...” instead of “je me suis enivré.” These differences of language make Cajun French more colorful and vibrant, not incorrect.
The other songs from the album “Cléoma B. Falcon A Cajun Classic” contain equally fascinating lyrics as “Léve tes fenFtres haut.” After listening to these songs and studying them linguistically, one might begin to understand the Cajun soul.