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Composing the Citizen

Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France

Jann Pasler (Author)


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In a book that challenges modernist ideas about the value and role of music in Western society, Composing the Citizen demonstrates 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 Citizen ignites broad debates about music's role in democracy and its meaning in our lives.

Introduction. Paris: A Walking Tour
Topographies of Power: The Semiotics of the Parisian Landscape--Negotiating Life in the City--New Promenades in the Aural Landscapes of Paris--The Legacy of the Third Republic

Part 1. Forming Public Spirit and Useful Citizens

1. Use, the Useful, and Public Utility: A Theory of Musical Value
Tensions between the Useful and the Beautiful--Satisfying Social Needs and Creating the Nation--Music as Utilité Publique

2. Reinscribing the Revolutionary Legacy
Public Instruction of Mind and Heart--Music in Public Festivals--National Institutions--Music, Character, and the Utility of Gender

Part 2. Shaping Judgment and National Taste

3. Music as Political Culture: From Active Listening to Active Citizenship
Political Legitimacy and Civic Society--Republican Pedagogy, Cultural Integration, and Citizenship--Performance and Public Taste under the Moral Order

4. Regenerating National Pride: Musical Progress and International Glory
Moral and Musical Progress--Exporting French Music and French Values--Arts Policy and the Utility of Competition--Contradictions and Paradoxes

Part 3. Instituting Republican Culture

5. Imagining a New Nation through Music: New Traditions, New History
Enacting Change at Schools and the Opéra--Reevaluating Luxury and the Question of Opera--Renarrating the Revolution--Reconceiving Music History

6. An Ideology of Diversity, Eclecticism, and Pleasure
Promoting Diversity and Eclecticism--Redefining Music's Utilité Publique--Exploring Uncharted Territory

7. Musical Hybridity and the Challenges of Colonialism
Musical Fantasies Fueling Colonialist Desire--Music and Colonial Assumptions--Songs Inspiring Resistance

8. Useful Distractions and Economic Liberalism in the Belle Epoque
Department Stores--Competition in the Musical World--Expanded Performance Opportunities, Including for Women--Theater and Popular Entertainment

Part 4. Shifting Notions of Utility: Between the Nation and the Self

9. Music as Resistance and an Emerging Avant-garde
Reviving Memory of the Ancien Régime--Wagner's Threatening Allure--Art beyond Politics, Music of and for the Mind--Intuition and Radically New Concepts of Music

10. The Symbolic Utility of Music at the 1889 Universal Exhibition
Republican Values on Display--The Utility of Exotic Music--The Exhibition in Retrospect

11. New Alliances and New Music
Mandating Change--The New Left's Hopes--The New Right's Alliances in Politics and Music--Revisiting Musique ancienne et moderne

12. The Dynamics of Identity and the Struggle for Distinction
Race and French History--Listening through Women-Fusion versus Distinction--From the Useful to the Healthy

Appendix A. Important Political and Musical Events in the Early Third Republic
Appendix B. References in Ménestrel to Performances of French Operas Abroad, 1872-1888
Appendix C. Selected Publications on Revolutionary Music after 1870
List of Illustrations
List of Musical Examples
Illustration Credits
Jann Pasler is Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego. Among her books is Confronting Stravinsky: Man, Musician, and Modernist (UC Press) and Writing through Music: Essays on Music, Culture, and Politics.
“A notable achievement. . . . Recommended.”—Choice
“Destined to be debated and referenced for years to come. The issues it raises have never been more timely.”—Current Musicology
“This inspiring and brilliantly original book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the broader impact of music in France at the end of the nineteenth century.”—Nigel Simeone Journal Of Interdisciplinary History
“A significant contribution to the field of French musical studies, one that will lead to new perspectives and inspire new avenues of research into the music of this most fascinating period of French musical history.”—Michael Strasser Notes (Music Library Assoc)
"Jann Pasler's remarkable Composing the Citizen reaches well beyond what any book concerned with music in society has ever attempted. Concentrating on France of the Third Republic, from the 1870s through the early 1900s, she demonstrates convincingly how music—whether new, old, popular, or élite, whether performed at institutions of state (such as the Opéra), the Folies Bergère, concert halls, or the zoo—helped to redefine what it meant to be French under evolving political circumstances. Equally adept in the languages of history, sociology, political science, reception history, and music analysis, Pasler establishes music's cultural significance and implicitly illuminates the role it can still play in countries like the United States."—Philip Gossett, The University of Chicago and University of Rome, La Sapienza

"Composing the Citizen offers nothing less than a new paradigm for the study of musical cultures. Rather than forcing French music into the moulds developed for the Austro-German canon, Pasler simply studies the social uses of music in fin-de-siècle France. Her painstaking archival research allows her to present an astonishingly detailed account of musical practices, tastes, and activities; new names and genres come to the fore to engage in a variety of dynamic artistic scenes most of us never knew—or only thought we did by virtue of having read Proust. A masterwork of a scholar at the very peak of her career."—Susan McClary, MacArthur Fellow 1995 and author of Georges Bizet: Carmen and Modal Subjectivities: Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madgrigal

"Utilité publique: a common-sense republican notion of sweeping consequence. In this greatly anticipated volume Jann Pasler uses it as touchstone, showing how and why musical life so mattered in Third-Republic France: layer after layer of it, in a journey that takes us past the Opéra and Conservatoire to the pops concerts, department stores, the zoo, the world's fairs, the overseas colonies. Companionable as a well-worn Baedeker, seductive as Roger Shattuck's The Banquet Years, this exquisitely styled and paced achievement is also a compelling read."—D. Kern Holoman, author of Berlioz and The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, 1828-1967

ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers

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