French Musical Modernisms: aesthetics and criticism

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Inst for Humanities

Abstract

The interwar period in French music is often seen as problematic. Debussy's war-time death in 1918 signalled for many the loss of a significant musical leader and the decline of a glorious period of French music. The younger generation claimed that they were offering something new and distinct from their immediate predecessors. Their apparent rejection of established traditions and of aspects of the avant-garde has resulted in their relative isolation from mainstream modernism. Moreover, post World War 1 France is associated with the neoclassicism that marginalized Stravinsky from narratives of musical modernism until relatively recently.

The Fellowship project reassesses French music and aesthetics from 1913 until World War 2. It traces continuities as well as discontinuities between two apparently incompatible generations, looking in particular at how a Symbolist aesthetic transformed into the modernism associated with the post-World War 1 period. In so doing, it makes links with literary and artist figures who underwent comparable transformations. The project selects moments when France was closely engaged with ultra-modern music elsewhere. 1913 is the starting point, not so much for Stravinsky's _Rite of Spring_, which made such a momentous impact on new music, but because of a number of works that were inspired by Schoenberg's _Pierrot lunaire_: Stravinsky's _Japanese Lyrics_ and Ravel's _Trois mélodies_. Their distinctive responses reveal the separate but overlapping musical preoccupations, in particular, with sonority, instrumental combinations, the voice and tonality. This convergence was played out again in 1922 with the first performance of Schoenberg's _Pierrot lunaire_ in Paris and Stravinsky's _Mavra_. The project traces other significant modernist strands in the areas of chamber music and ballet, which have their roots in the war period, but came to fruition in the 1920s.

The project examines how Debussy was remembered after WW1 and theimpact this had on debates about new music. It considers the significant role of the press in setting the agenda, shaping musical debates and influencing public opinion. The interaction of critics with composers of this period is striking and suggests a complicity that is familiar in our current media-led world. Central to these debates was the future orientation of French music and who should lead it. Satie and Ravel emerge as two figures who divided French musical circles and, more crucially, the young composers who formed Les Six; the project examines the musical polemics in which composers and critics were engaged.

The research uncovers the emerging musical priorities and qualities of this period, focusing on an uneasy consensus that can be traced to the war and became established in the 1920s, including, the 'style dépouillé', counterpoint and melody. It looks at the pressure to conform and examines composers' attempts to work with or against the apparent consensus, for example, Milhaud in the 1920s and Poulenc and Sauguet in the 1930s. In striving to reassess the prevailing view of music in interwar France as one of frivolity, superficiality, secularism and classicism, the research project provides a more nuanced understanding of the period and its interaction with other European modernist developments. Finally, it reflects on how an understanding of this period has been shaped by the archives themselves, by early biographers and by influential figures, such as Boulez.

Planned Impact

The research project will have the most direct impact on scholars and students in a range of arts and humanities disciplines. Beyond academia the project has a number of potential outlets. Over the past few years I have been working with a small ensemble to develop recital lectures on areas of my research. These recitals are linked to research papers and are open to the wider university, students and the public. They have been a great success. The fellowship would continue with the series of recitals and lectures but plans to build on this initiative to bring the research findings to a wider audience.

1. Keele University has strong contacts with the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, including an ESRC-funded major grant working on the theatre's archive. The theatre has a strong tradition of classical concerts, having been a favoured venue of the Lindsay String Quartet. An aim of the research fellowship is to arrange a series of concerts with public lectures on repertoire related to the project. Currently this repertoire includes Ravel's _Histoires naturelles_, _Mallarmé songs_, _Chansons Madécasses_, Stravinsky's _Japanese Lyrics_, Milhaud's songs and Debussy and Stravinsky works for two pianos. The theatre has recently expanded its education and outreach department and the project plans to offer sessions to local school children on selected topics arising from the repertoire, such as music and war; music, the city and the everyday and exoticism in music. We are also planning similar events with the Potteries Museum, Hanley and with Newcastle Museum and Art Gallery.

2. . I am in contact with the Artistic Director of the Keele Concert Society to programme two events related to the project. This professional series attracts a diverse local audience. The first in the 2011 series would focus on repertoire for two pianos or four hands, such as Debussy's _En Blanc et noir_, Stravinsky's _Petrushka_ and _The Rite of Spring_. This would involve Keele-based duo, including Michael Bell and also, hopefully, Roy Howat, who has performed numerous times at Keele in the Keele Concert Series, in departmental workshops and for Keele Music Forum. The other event we are discussing for the 2012 series would concentrate on Debussy in order to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth. I would preface both events with pre-concert talks, drawing on my research findings.

3. Music at Keele is involved with outreach activities with schools in the Midlands and Northwest. We hold special events at Keele on film music, performance and music technology. I plan to organise a session aimed at AS and A level students on selected topics from the project, including, Paris and musical modernism, music and war, exoticism and Satie and film. Students would engage in discussions of selected repertoire, using works they have studied within their curriculum as a springboard to exploring repertoire that is central to the project. An example of this is Stravinsky's _Firebird_, which is on the A level syllabus (AQA); students would be introduced to other experimental ballets, such as Satie's _Parade_ and Milhaud's _L'Homme et son désir_, which tackle issues of exoticism, primitivism and music and the everyday. In addition, we plan to run performance activities and a short recital focused on the repertoire outlined in 1 above.

4. I recently gave an interview on Radio 3 on Debussy's _Pelléas_, which drew on a recent publication. I plan a programme on French music between Debussy and Messiaen, which would explore the repertoire and debates surrounding a period that is framed by two world wars and by two musical giants.

5. The project predicts other impact activities arising out of invitations to give pre-concert talks and write articles for programmes e.g. for the London Philharmonia (on Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky in
 
Description French Musical Modernisms: aesthetics and criticism examines the priorities of three generational groupings: the pre-war Société Musicale Indépendente of Ravel and his circle, Les Six in the 1920s and Jeune France in 1936. Exploring the ideas of consensus, resistance and rupture, the resulting book contributes an important and nuanced reflection to the current debate on modernism in music. It considers the roles composers, critics and biographers played in shaping debates about contemporary music, showing how composers including Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud, Jolivet and Messiaen and critics such as Paul Landormy, André Coeuroy and Roland-Manuel often worked in partnership to bring their ideas to a public forum. It also expands the notion of 'interwar' through the essential inclusion of World War I and the years before, reconfiguring the narrative for that period.



The project challenges some of the stereotypes that characterise the period, in particular, neo-classicism and the dominance of secularism. It shows how Stravinsky worked closely with Ravel, Satie and Poulenc and invited audiences and critics to rethink what it meant to be modern. The interwar years were also marked by commemoration and loss. Debussy's wartime death in 1918 stimulated competing efforts (by Emile Vuillermoz, Léon Vallas and Henry Prunières) to shape his legacy. They were motivated by nostalgia for a lost and glorious generation and a commitment to building a legacy of French achievement. French Musical Modernisms: aesthetics and criticism argues for the vitality of French music in the period 1913-39 and challenges the received view that the period and its musical culture lacked dynamism, innovation or serious musical debate.
Exploitation Route _French Musical Modernisms: aesthetics and criticism_ examines the priorities of three generational groupings: the pre-war Société Musicale Indépendente of Ravel and his circle, Les Six in the 1920s and Jeune France in 1936. Exploring the ideas of consensus, resistance and rupture, the book contributes an important and nuanced reflection to the current debate on modernism in music. It considers the roles composers, critics and biographers played in shaping debates about contemporary music, showing how composers including Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud, Jolivet and Messiaen and critics such as Paul Landormy, André Coeuroy and Roland-Manuel often worked in partnership to bring their ideas to a public forum. It also expands the notion of 'interwar' through the essential inclusion of World War I and the years before, reconfiguring the narrative for that period.

The research has been read and reviewed by scholars in my field worldwide. It has also influenced the research of postgraduate and undergraduate students. I have also communicated my research findings to BBC Radio 3, radio audiences, concert audiences, performing students and professional performers.



_French Musical Modernisms_ argues for the vitality of French music in the period 1913-39 and challenges the received view that the period and its musical culture lacked dynamism, innovation or serious musical debate.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14167
 
Description The findings of my research project have had an impact on professional organisations such as the BBC, international Festivals (Debussy and Poulenc commemorations) on artistic outreach organisations, such as Sound Collective and on professional performers. My findings also formed the basis of a series of six concerts/workshops at the Conway Hall in London devoted to topics from my book. I worked with Sound Collective, professional performers and postgraduate students from Trinity Laban. All of these groups commented on how my work had changed the way they thought about the area and the music associated with it. Research from this award is informing my teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music; it is also informing programming at this conservatoire. I have curated a number of concerts at the RNCM for a range of publics. I am also advising a collaborative educational project between the RNCM and the Paris conservatoire in 2018.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description AHRC CDA
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description AHRC FIRST WORLD WAR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT CENTRES: Everyday Lives in War, University of Hertfordshire
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 03/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow
Amount € 183,000 (EUR)
Funding ID Individual Fellowships (IF) Call: H2020-MSCA-IF-2014 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2015 
End 09/2017
 
Description Authority Advocacy, Legacy: music criticism in France (1918-1939) 
Organisation University of Ottawa
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have collaborated with Dr Christopher Moore to organise a bi-lingual workshop funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This enabled us to invite Anglophone and Francophone scholars working on different aspects of this topic for an intensive workshop at the University of Ottawa in November 2011. We are now working on a publication with the title, Authority Advocacy, Legacy: music criticism in France (1918-1939), which is being considered by CUP.
Collaborator Contribution This is a jointly edited book.
Impact Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded Workshop event at the University of Ottawa with invited speakers; the resulting edited collection is under consideration with Boydell and Brewer.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Conway Hall Ethical Society 
Organisation Conway Hall Ethical Society
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research in the archive relating to music at the Ethical Society during WW1 and the interwar period. Curation of 6 concerts entitled 'Music under Fire: Music in London and Paris during the Great War'; Organised with Sound Collective 6 concerts with talks and discussion with the audience.
Collaborator Contribution Use of concert hall and other rooms for the concerts and discussions for rehearsals and concerts Access to the archive and library for research Copying and digitisation costs of scores and other documents in the archive
Impact October-November 2014: 6 concerts with discussion in collaboration with Sound Collective at Conway Hall in collaboration with Sound Collective. November: another concert at Keele University for a Being Human Festival, Organization of and presentation at the Being Human Festival: Culture and Sustenance Festival, workshop, Music under Fire, Keele University Hub. November 2014 Curation of and presentation at Music under Fire, Keele Concert Society concert with the Badke Quartet, Olivia Ray, Sadie Fields and members of Sound Collective. AHRC CDA PhD award with Conway Hall for a project entitled: From Chapel to Radical Secularism: the Role of Music and Gender at the Ethical Society (2015-2018)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Essential Ravel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have recently been interviewed for the all-Ravel day on Radio 3. I took Radio 3 presenter and producer around Parisian places important to Ravel, and was interviewed on a series of themes closely linked to my research project. These included Ravel's attitude to authority; his position as a leading and then contested figure of the avant-garde; his preoccupation with sonority, texture and musical line; his engagement with new musical resources such as jazz; and his post-war position as an important figure for the French state in reflecting France's artistic strength. In addressing these and other topics, I was able to discuss my archival and interpretative findings. I am appearing live on the day itself to talk about exoticism and identity in Ravel's Spanish works.

See above for the aim and purpose of these interviews and appearance on Radio 3's Ravel day. I am recognised as one of the main experts on Ravel. I have taken the opportunity to reflect upon some of the themes from my project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01sp8b8
 
Description Jane Bathori, Music Matters, Radio 3 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The feature has given rise to many contacts for more information and discussion on the part of the general public and specialists in different musical fields.

I have contributed to stimulating an awareness of this topic and also contributing to a deeper understanding of music during WWI.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04lpmb9
 
Description Music Matters on Ravel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed on Radio 3's Music Matters on Ravel, tackling topics relating to his artistic leadership, artistic objectivity and the impact of war on Ravel.

I took part in a Radio 3 Music Matters programme on Radio 3 and was able to address some of the issues I tackled in the project on Maurice Ravel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Music Matters, Poulenc 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed on Music Matters on Poulenc, Radio 3 and played a role in planning the programme. I spoke about Poulenc's musical networks, Stravinskian influences and how he captured the spirit of the time in his ballet _Les Biches_.

I was interviewed on Radio 3's Music Matters programme in April 2013. I was able to discuss some findings from my research project on Poulenc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Music Under Fire. Concert series/workshops at the Conway Hall in collaboration with Sound Collective 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The concert series involved discussion, explanation, demonstration and debate around discrete topics relating to my project. It was a fascinating opportunity to bring professional and postgraduate performers, experts (me) and the general public into active dialogue. All parties commented on how it had changed their thinking.

I have received emails and other feedback from audience members, performers and postgraduate students involved in this event either as participants or audience. The response has been enthusiastic and all acknowledged that the sessions had changed their thinking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://simoncallaghan.com/musicupclose/
 
Description Pre-concert talk at BBC Discovering Jolivet day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In November 2011, I interviewed Mme Christine Jolivet (Jolivet's daughter) in a pre-concert talk in front of a live audience at Hoddinett Hall, Cardiff, as part of a BBC Wales, Discovering Jolivet day. Here we explored issues of musical patronage, group identity of Jeune France and Jolivet's artistic response to war.

See above for the purpose of this interview in front of a live audience before a Jolivet concert.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Series of concerts and introductory talks based on repertoire associated with this project. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Series of concerts, talks, exhibitions based on repertoire and topics related to this project. The research also drew on my WWI Engagement Centre funding, Making Music in Manchester. These events brought the findings of both projects together for the first time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/?page_id=1928
 
Description Speaker and Invited as panellist at the BL WWI conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of research arising from project and invited panel speaker at the end of the conference.

I have been contacted by colleagues and participants at the event to share more information. I have also received further invites to speak in the UK and USA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.themusicofwar.org/