French Cultural Politics & Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War

French Cultural Politics & Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War

French Cultural Politics & Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War

French Cultural Politics & Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War

Synopsis

This book draws upon both musicology and cultural history to argue that French musical meanings and values from 1898 to 1914 are best explained not in terms of contemporary artistic movements but of the political culture. During these years, France was undergoing many subtle yet profound political changes. Nationalist leagues forged new modes of political activity, as Jane F. Fulcher details in this important study, and thus the whole playing field of political action was enlarged. Investigating this transitional period in light of several recent insights in the areas of French history, sociology, political anthropology, and literary theory, Fulcher shows how the new departures in cultural politics affected not only literature and the visual arts but also music. Having lost the battle of the Dreyfus affair (legally, at least), the nationalists set their sights on the art world, for they considered France's artistic achievements the ideal means for furthering their conception of "French identity." French Cultural Politics and Music: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War illustrates the ways in which the nationalists effectively targeted the music world for this purpose, employing critics, educational institutions, concert series, and lectures to disseminate their values by way of public and private discourses on French music. Fulcher then demonstrates how both the Republic and far Left responded to this challenge, using programs and institutions of their own to launch counterdiscourses on contemporary musical values. Perhaps most importantly, this book fully explores the widespread influence of this politicized musical culture on such composers as d'Indy, Charpentier, Magnard, Debussy, and Satie. By viewing this fertile cultural milieu of clashing sociopolitical convictions against the broader background of aesthetic rivalry and opposition, this work addresses the changing notions of "tradition" in music--and of modernism itself. As Fulcher points out, it was the traditionalist faction, not the Impressionist one, that eventually triumphed in the French musical realm, as witnessed by their "defeat" of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

Excerpt

This book is about a phenomenon of central importance to cultural studies and, as such, to current attempts to situate musical culture within a historical landscape. Its subject is the "invasion" of one cultural area or field by another--in this case the occupation of French musical culture by political culture at the turn of the century.

As this volume demonstrats, the impact of the phenomenon was both broad and profound: it affected all aspects of French musical culture, which reacted back on political culture itself. Hence, as opposed to existing music histories, it argues not only that this political penetration occurred but also that perceiving it opens new perspectives on contemporary French musical semiotics and values; meanings and priorities we have previously construed as "purely aesthetic," autonomous, or related to the inner dynamics of the art and the field were, rather, freighted with ideological significance. Underlying this conviction lies the premise that in order to comprehend this fact we must reexamine the transformation of French political culture during and after the Dreyfus Affair.

Historians of France have long established the ideological roots of the Dreyfus Affair, or the enduring conflicts it articulated and that helped to imbue it with the power of myth. Extending back to the French Revolution, they lay specifically in what Timothy Tackett has referred to aptly as the "tragic flaw at the core of the first revolutionary settlement" (p. 313). Although Enlightenment ideals had tri-

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