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'Dancing on the edge of the volcano': French music in the 1930s.

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter

Published

  • D. H. Mawer
Publication date2006
Host publicationFrench Music since Berlioz
EditorsRichard Langham Smith, Caroline Potter
PublisherAshgate
Pages249-280
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)0754602826
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This chapter posits that there is a distinct spiritual dimension that increases in intensity through the 1930s, superseding the preoccupations with exoticism and neoclassicism; in challenging the canon, it analyses largely unfamiliar compositions of Ibert, Roussel, through to the unjustly overlooked Jolivet, who arguably eclipses Messiaen at this time. These achievements are scrutinized within a complex and diversifying sociocultural context, in which popular music and widening leisure activities, coupled by economic hardship, create testing conditions for the composition of new music. Detailed engagement en route with the journal, La Revue Musicale, provides a barometer to measure contemporary artistic opinion.

Bibliographic note

Contributors to this edited book, which aims to create a successor to Martin Cooper's classic text, include highly-regarded scholars on French music such as Robert Orledge, Roy Howat, Richard Langham Smith and Nigel Simeone. David Grayson, University of Minnesota has asserted that 'This impressive volume will surely be welcomed by scholars, students [and] performers' (endorsement). In French musical culture, the 1930s has typically been viewed (or ignored) as a dull, unproductive interregnum between the lively 1920s and the trenchant postwar modernism of Messiaen and Boulez. The invited chapter (the largest in the book) contests this stance aesthetically and musically; Hugh Macdonald, Washington University, USA, has commented that: 'the 1930s, normally assumed to be barren, are brought to life by Deborah Mawer'. Similarly, for Simon Wright (Brio, 2006) 'Mawer challenges established views about this decade in French music'. This chapter posits that there is a distinct spiritual dimension that increases in intensity through the 1930s, superseding the preoccupations with exoticism and neoclassicism; in challenging the canon, it analyses largely unfamiliar compositions of Ibert, Roussel, through to the unjustly overlooked Jolivet, who arguably eclipses Messiaen at this time. These achievements are scrutinized within a complex and diversifying sociocultural context, in which popular music and widening leisure activities, coupled by economic hardship, create testing conditions for the composition of new music. Detailed engagement en route with the journal, La Revue Musicale, provides a barometer to measure contemporary artistic opinion. This chapter led to another, developed from an invited international conference paper, entitled 'Jolivet's Search for a New French Voice' in Barbara L Kelly (ed), Music, Culture and National Identity in France (1870-1939), Rochester University Press, forthcoming May 2008. RAE_import_type : Chapter in book RAE_uoa_type : LICA