Most notable as an arranger of French folk songs, Canteloube is unfortunately overlooked as a composer of original music. He is primarily remembered for the Chants d'Auvergne (1930-1932), four sets of folk songs for voice and piano or orchestra, widely enjoyed for their color, naturalistic beauty, and charm.
When Canteloube began his studies with d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris in 1901, he soon showed a preference and talent for composing nature music, especially music that described the landscape of his native region, the Auvergne. He decided to seek inspiration and stimulus in folk song (as had d'Indy before him). Thus began his lifelong task of traveling throughout France to collect and arrange folk songs. Well into the 1940s, Canteloube busied himself with collecting songs and arranging them for choral, quartet, or solo voices with pianoforte or orchestra. Meanwhile he continued to produce original compositions, but as an arranger of folk music he was generally more successful. His other regional song arrangements include songs from Catalonia, Alsace, Angoumais, Languedoc, Touraine, and the Basque region. He served as editor of the Anthologie des chants populaires français (1939-1944).
Outside of his prolific work in folk song, Canteloube's most ambitious projects were two operas which were both produced by the Paris Opéra. The first, Le mas (1910-1913) won him the lucrative Prix Heugel in 1925. Apparently the production was not received well, for the work was never revived. This did not discourage Canteloube, for he began work the following year on Vercingétorix (1930-1932), a nationalist opera celebrating the birth of French national unity. Composed to a libretto by E. Clémental and J. Louwyck, it was produced by the Opéra on June 22, 1933, to little acclaim. Like his first opera, Vercingétorix is said to have lacked a theatrical sense. Vercingétorix was the first opera ever to use the ondes martenot (an electronic keyboard instrument developed in the 1920s by French musician Maurice Martenot) in the orchestra. Both operas show Canteloube's patriotism. One of Canteloube's last notable efforts was, interestingly, not a musical piece, but a biography of d'Indy (1951). He was active as a composer into the 1950s