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Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France

Jann Pasler
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 817
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  • Book Info
    Composing the Citizen
    Book Description:

    In a book that challenges modernist ideas about the value and role of music in Western society,Composing the Citizendemonstrates how music can help forge a nation. Deftly exploring the history of Third Republic France, Jann Pasler shows how French people from all classes and political persuasions looked to music to revitalize the country after the turbulent crises of 1871. Embraced not as a luxury but for its "public utility," music became an object of public policy as integral to modern life as power and water, a way to teach critical judgment and inspire national pride. It helped people to forget the past, voice conflicting aspirations, and imagine a shared future. Based on a dazzling survey of archival material, Pasler's rich interdisciplinary work looks beyond elites and the histories their agendas have dominated to open new windows onto the musical tastes and practices of amateurs as well as professionals. A fascinating history of the period emerges, one rooted in political realities and the productive tensions between the political and the aesthetic. Highly evocative and deeply humanistic,Composing the Citizenignites broad debates about music's role in democracy and its meaning in our lives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94387-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. Introduction. Paris: A Walking Tour
    (pp. 1-50)

    Nowhere is the distinction of French culture or French faith in the utility of the arts clearer than in the physical geography of Paris. Promenades through the city, aided by pictorial guides, have long introduced visitors to its history and that of the nation.¹ Whether along tree-lined avenues or narrow cobble-stoned alleys, historical time and space intersect with the present. To commemorate and legitimatize the interests of successive governments, considerable resources amassed from the country as a whole have gone into the creation of Paris’s public architecture, sculpture, and urban design. While in many modern cities, buildings and urban design...


    • 1 Use, the Useful, and Public Utility: A Theory of Musical Value
      (pp. 53-93)

      It is hard to imagine today why, in nineteenth-century France, usefulness came to mean something as all-encompassing and socially legitimizing as the public good, and how the arts were esteemed to the extent that they were useful. With the advent of modernism, the avant-garde from Maurice Ravel to Pierre Boulez responded to this pervasive concern with disdain. Their rhetoric, which many of us have come to share, makes the useful seem banal and pedestrian, conjuring up the notion of something suitable or merely adequate, efficient, perhaps, but only marginally better than useless and not meriting close attention. Why, then, is...

    • 2 Reinscribing the Revolutionary Legacy
      (pp. 94-156)

      The Third Republic—unnamed, unformed, and precarious during its first five years—was a regime in search of its identity. Like its predecessors, it faced daunting challenges. What constituted legitimate social order in the absence of a monarch and the authority of the Catholic Church? How, with no established rules as a guide, did one form a government based on the abstract principle of equality among citizens united by civic virtue? Throughout the nineteenth century, the idea of a republic frightened many French, who associated it with violence and dictatorship or, at least, uncertainty. The Paris Commune in spring 1871...


    • 3 Music as Political Culture: From Active Listening to Active Citizenship
      (pp. 159-230)

      “Who said that frivolity was the lot of the French, and the Parisian in particular?” objected a critic after one of the Concerts populaires de musique classique on 19 October 1873. On Sunday afternoons in a dark circus on the edge of the eleventh arrondissement, the hall still reeking from the stench of horses, Jules-Etienne Pasdeloup’s orchestra attracted four to five thousand souls (fig. 19). A third of the seats cost only a little more than bus fare, although some people had to wait for hours in the wind and rain to get tickets. A “naïve and sincere” audience of...

    • 4 Regenerating National Pride: Musical Progress and International Glory
      (pp. 231-298)

      In March 1878, Viennese newspapers published a caricature of Jean-Baptiste Faure, France’s greatest baritone, dressed as Hamlet, holding the reins of a vigorous horse and dragging sacks overflowing with florins, piled high on a cart. He and Christine Nilsson, a lovely Swedish soprano who made her career with French opera, had just earned 122,000 francs in a month, ten times the annual salary of the Paris Conservatoire director.¹ That spring the Imperial Opéra’s “Italian season” introduced Faure to the Viennese public inLa Favorite, Don Giovanni,and, with Nilsson, in Gounod’sFaustand Thomas’sHamletin Italian translation. Over twenty...


    • 5 Imagining a New Nation through Music: New Traditions, New History
      (pp. 301-357)

      The musical world felt only a cool breeze(un léger froid)when the devastating crisis of 16 May 1877 threatened to return France to a constitutional monarchy.¹ After intense conflict erupted between republicans and reactionary politicians over the latter’s close ties with the papacy, President Mac-Mahon purged the government of republican administrators and brought back the union of conservatives, led by the duc de Broglie. Yet increasing openness to republican values in the music performed on French stages suggested an impending disintegration of the Moral Order and the dawn of a new political era. Performances that winter and spring featured...

    • 6 An Ideology of Diversity, Eclecticism, and Pleasure
      (pp. 358-400)

      Along with a renewed sense of history that made the Republic seem natural and inevitable, the republicans needed policies that would promote consensus and progress as they construed it. Laws and institutions could only go so far. As they put their ideals into practice without need for compromise with the monarchists, a new republican ideology began to coalesce. Based on fundamental republican values, it was secular, its method was based on rational judgment, and at its core were liberty, equality, and fraternity. Republicans agreed on the need to extend these rights to increasing numbers of people. Furthermore, their acceptance of...

    • 7 Musical Hybridity and the Challenges of Colonialism
      (pp. 401-450)

      In fall 1873, Saint-Saëns escaped to sunny Algiers. Some thought it was for his health’s sake. He also had to finish sketching his new opera,Samson et Dalila. Algeria had been occupied by the French since 1832. Two years before Saint-Saëns’s visit, a major influx of new settlers had arrived, including Communards and displaced Alsatians and Lorrainers, tripling the French presence in Algerian towns.¹ Military control gave way to civil administration, and with the territory now officially assimilated to France, life began to replicate the rhythms of the homeland. Music performed by military bands and in new theaters built by...

    • 8 Useful Distractions and Economic Liberalism in the Belle Epoque
      (pp. 451-490)

      To prepare for a concert its employees offered to friends, family, and customers on 28 November 1885, the Bon Marché department store cleared out the merchandise on its main floor and installed a platform for 400 performers in the middle (fig. 55). To give the illusion of a huge luxurious salon—a “bewitching palace”—they covered the floor with magnificent Oriental rugs, hung opulent draperies, and set out massive exotic plants.¹ The date was chosen to coincide with the exhibition of new coats just before the end-of-year sale. Six thousand invitations were sent out to customers, including Baroness de Rothschild....


    • 9 Music as Resistance and an Emerging Avant-garde
      (pp. 493-546)

      In the late 1880s, no song spoke more to the French imagination or made so palpably clear the political power of music than “En revenant de la revue” (Returning from the Review) (figs. 69–70). On 14 July 1886, Parisians swarmed the Longchamp stadium to cheer General Georges Boulanger and the return of troops from Tonkin. After fighting in Kabylia (Algeria), Italy, Indochina, and the Franco-Prussian War, Boulanger had commanded the forces occupying Tunisia in 1884 and reinstituted the draft, thereby democratizing the army. Recently appointed minister of war, he was the darling of the Ligue des patriotes, personifyingla...

    • 10 The Symbolic Utility of Music at the 1889 Universal Exhibition
      (pp. 547-594)

      More than a year before the opening of the largest exhibition yet mounted, French officials issued a special invitation to Dinah Salifou, king of the Senegalese Nalous since 1877.¹ Those in the know considered Senegal, France’s oldest African colony, one of the world’s great colonial establishments, the launching site for expeditions into Africa’s interior, even if the French public remained largely indifferent and some hostile to further colonialism.² Over three decades, General Louis Faidherbe had established ports, schools, banks, a newspaper, telegraphic lines, and a museum. Among his closest allies were the Nalous.³ Dinah Salifou believed it in their mutual...

    • 11 New Alliances and New Music
      (pp. 595-642)

      By 1890, the Third Republic had survived for twenty years, the longest period without political upheaval in France’s history since before the Revolution. The 1889 Exhibition had proven to the world France’s commitment to progress and made its people feel confident and proud. Plans were afoot to forge a military alliance with Russia that would shift the balance of power in Europe, giving France the capacity to stand up to Germany. Yet republican leaders were anxious about social tensions, government corruption, and the rise of socialism. Crime, syphilis, alcoholism, and suicide increased as the nation’s birthrate declined. In 1892, a...

    • 12 The Dynamics of Identity and the Struggle for Distinction
      (pp. 643-694)

      Despite what musical juxtapositions of the old and the new might imply about common values in France, the notion of a common Self at the end of the nineteenth century remained painfully elusive. The republican project of composing citizens was an attempt to give people the desire and the mechanisms to “find the same self in myself and in others … to encounter myself as what I share with others.” The “common will” as the “expression of my common self”—Rousseau’s definition of political society¹—implies the unity and coherence of a common identity. Such a concept was crucial in...

  10. CODA
    (pp. 695-700)

    When focus on the health of the country transformed the national dialogue, the republican ideal of public utility found other forms, just as aristocratic values arguably survived in modernist music. Expropriation laws have continued to clear the way in France for new public buildings, parks, and high-speed trains. Tourism and nuclear energy became public services. And in July 1987, to recognize non-profit work serving the country’s general interest, laws were passed concerning “foundations of public utility.” This enabled banks, companies producing luxury goods, and other private organizations to receive tax and other advantages for patronage of the arts, culture, the...

  11. APPENDIX A. Important Political and Musical Events in the Early Third Republic
    (pp. 701-707)
  12. APPENDIX B. References in Ménestrel to Performances of French Operas Abroad, 1872–1888
    (pp. 708-723)
  13. APPENDIX C. Selected Publications on Revolutionary Music after 1870
    (pp. 724-728)
  14. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 729-732)
  15. List of Musical Examples
    (pp. 733-734)
    (pp. 735-736)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 737-789)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 790-790)