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Music and the Elusive Revolution

Music and the Elusive Revolution: Cultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968–1981

Eric Drott
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Music and the Elusive Revolution
    Book Description:

    In May 1968, France teetered on the brink of revolution as a series of student protests spiraled into the largest general strike the country has ever known. In the forty years since, May ’68 has come to occupy a singular place in the modern political imagination, not just in France but across the world. Eric Drott examines the social, political, and cultural effects of May ’68 on a wide variety of music in France, from the initial shock of 1968 through the “long” 1970s and the election of Mitterrand and the socialists in 1981. Drott’s detailed account of how diverse music communities developed in response to 1968 and his pathbreaking reflections on the nature and significance of musical genre come together to provide insights into the relationships that link music, identity, and politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95008-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    On 13 May 1968 nearly one million people marched through the streets of Paris to protest the brutal police response to recent student unrest. The same day, Pierre Boulez gave a lecture on the state of contemporary music in the city of Saint-Etienne. The talk was the high point of the Semaine de la musique contemporaine, a one-week new music festival or ga nized by critic Maurice Fleuret. Fleuret conceived the festival as a way of bringing recent developments in avant-garde music to a community cut off from the major centers of artistic creation, explaining that “there was no reason...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Music and May ’68
    (pp. 21-69)

    On Friday, 3 May 1968, at one o’clock in the afternoon, approximately four hundred students gathered in the courtyard of the Sorbonne in Paris. They had come to protest the closure of the Nanterre campus of the Université de Paris following a series of disturbances, as well as the threatened expulsion of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and seven other members of the Mouvement du 22 mars group for their role in stoking student unrest. The gathering in the Sorbonne followed a well-rehearsed pattern, another in the series of po liti cal rallies staged by student militants in recent months, protesting everything from...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Genre and Musical Representations of May
    (pp. 70-110)

    By the end of 1968 the mood in France was a far cry from the mix of euphoria and apprehension that had reigned that spring. After the legislative elections of June the rhythms of everyday life, suspended since the beginning of May, picked up where they had left off. For many, the return to the routine of work, vacation, andla rentréewas a relief. This was the case for pop idol France Gall, winner of the 1965 Eurovision song contest. “Goodness me,” she exclaimed in an interview from late June 1968, “I was so scared! . . . But...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Free Jazz in France
    (pp. 111-154)

    Free Jazz in France In France the fortunes of few genres were as closely linked to May ’68 as free jazz. Contemporary accounts record its presence at key junctures duringles événements, from the occupation of the Sorbonne and the Odéon to the funeral pro cession for Gilles Tautin, a student killed during a clash with police in Flins on 10 June.¹ That certain groups adopting the style (such as the Cohelmec Ensemble) or borrowing heavily from it (such as the rock group Red Noise) claimed to have formed during May further buttressed the perception that a subterranean connection existed...

  9. CHAPTER 4 La Cause du Pop
    (pp. 155-202)

    In December 1969 a new publication,L’Idiot international,went on sale across France. The journal had been conceived as a platform that would speak to the entire ideological spectrum of the French far left, in contrast to the factionalized readership of party organs likeLa Cause du peuple, Rouge,andL’Humanité rouge.¹ In addition, the journal endeavored to attract readers outside the ranks of committed militants, among those curious about the left-wing groups to which May ’68 had given birth. The contents ofL’Idiotrefl ected its ambitions. Alongside pieces addressing the standard concerns of the extreme left—class conflict,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Contemporary Music, Animation, and Cultural Democratization
    (pp. 203-267)

    A sense of malaise pervaded the world of contemporary classical music in the mid-1970s. One of the few beliefs uniting the otherwise fractious community of composers, critics, and audiences was that new music had entered a period of crisis. Signs of the genre’s troubles abounded. Statistics published by the research division of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs revealed a signifi cant decline in the production of “serious” music during the 1970s. The number of symphonic, chamber, and electroacoustic works registered with the Société des auteurs, compositeurs et editeurs de la musique (SACEM), the principal copyright protection agency in France, dropped...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 268-274)

    On 10 May 1981 François Mitterrand was elected president of France, ending twenty-three years of electoral futility for the French left. Mitterrand’s victory over Valery Giscard d’Estaing was a surprise to many. Despite public dissatisfaction with Giscard’s per for mance as president, Mitterrand had trailed in the polls until the day of the election. Just six months earlier, only 6 percent of the public believed that Mitterrand was capable of defeating Giscard, and even after the first round of voting in April, only 22 percent predicted victory for the socialist candidate.¹ It came as something of a shock, then, when...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 275-316)
  13. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 317-328)
  14. Index
    (pp. 329-347)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)