"Au clair de la lune" (French pronunciation: [o kl d? la lyn(?)], lit. "By the Light of the Moon") is a French folk song of the 18th century. Its composer and lyricist are unknown. Its simple melody (Play (help·info)) is commonly taught to beginners learning an instrument.
"Au clair de la lune,
"By the light of the moon,
French composer Ferdinand Hérold also wrote a set of variations for piano solo in E-flat major.
Claude Debussy, composer of the similarly named "Clair de lune" from his Suite bergamasque, uses "Au clair de la lune" as the basis of his song "Pierrot" (Pantomime, L. 31) from Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse.
In 1964, French pop singer France Gall recorded a version of this song, with altered lyrics to make it a love song.
In 2008, a phonautograph paper recording made by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville of "Au clair de la lune" on 9 April 1860, was digitally converted to sound by American researchers. This one-line excerpt of the song was widely reported to have been the earliest recognizable record of the human voice and the earliest recognizable record of music. According to those researchers, the phonautograph recording contains the beginning of the song, "Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot, prête moi".
In 2008, composer Fred Momotenko composed "Au clair de la lune" as an artistic journey back in time to rediscover the original recording made on 9 April 1860. It is a composition for 4-part vocal ensemble and surround audio, performed during Gaudeamus Foundation music festival at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. It is the second Prize winner of the Linux "150-Years-of-Music-Technology Composition Competition Prize" and the special Prize winner of Festival EmuFest in Rome.
In the 1804 painting and sculpting exposition, Pierre-Auguste Vafflard presented a painting depicting Edward Young burying his daughter by night. An anonymous critic commented on the monochromatic nature of that painting with the lyrics:
Au clair de la lune
By the light of the moon
The Ladies' Pocket Magazine (1824-1840) records:
Indeed, what must have been the chagrin and despair of this same Jaurat, when he heard sung every night by all the little boys of Paris, that song of "Au clair de la lune," every verse of which was a remembrance of happiness to Cresson, and a reproach of cruelty to friend Peterkin, who would not open his door to his neighbor, when he requested this slight service.
In his 1952 memoir Witness, Whittaker Chambers reminisced:
In my earliest recollections of her, my mother is sitting in the lamplight, in a Windsor rocking chair, in front of the parlor stove. She is holding my brother on her lap. It is bed time and, in a thin sweet voice, she is singing him into drowsiness. I am on the floor, as usual among the chair legs, and I crawl behind my mother's chair because I do not like the song she is singing and do not want her to see what it does to me. She sings: "Au clair de la lune; Mon ami, Pierrot; Prête-moi ta plume; Pour écrire un mot."
Then the vowels darken ominously. My mother's voice deepens dramatically, as if she were singing in a theater. This was the part of the song I disliked most, not only because I knew that it was sad, but because my mother was deliberately (and rather unfairly, I thought) making it sadder: "Ma chandelle est morte; Je n'ai plus de feu; Ouvre-moi la porte; Pour l'amour de Dieu."
I knew, from an earlier explanation, that the song was about somebody (a little girl, I thought) who was cold because her candle and fire had gone out. She went to somebody else (a little boy, I thought) and asked him to help her for God's sake. He said no. It seemed a perfectly pointless cruelty to me.
In their 1957 play Bad Seed: A Play in Two Acts, Maxwell Anderson and William March write: "A few days later, in the same apartment. The living-room is empty: Rhoda can be seen practicing 'Au Clair de la Lune' on the piano in the den."
Here is an example of another thing that happens to French. "Au Clair de la Lune" was originally Au clair de Ia lune, / Mon ami Pierrot, / Prête-moi ta lume ... But when the word lume faded out of the language and "was no longer understood", "lend me your light" became "lend me your pen", and "mon ami Pierrot" was no longer the moon itself.
'Au clair de la lune.' Famous French song. The line prête-moi ta plume "lend me your pen", is a modern substitute for ... ta lume "... light", which came into use when the old word lume was no longer understood.