Monday, January 16, 2012

Some French History: Part 2 of the requested Article

Institutions play a large role in the development of culture and nations.  Institutions as small as the social interpretation of a wink (Geertz, 1973) to as large as the education system all influence how a society is formed and how it understands itself (Reed, 1993, Buruma, 2004).  Institutions have been studied thoroughly in social science research; however, the institutions of music education (the Conservatoire) and dissemination (the Opéra) vis-à-vis nation construction have received little attention.  The state uses these institutions to filter music in hopes of creating a unified citizenry under one banner.  Therefore, just as much as the military, school education and bureaucracy are studied to see their effects on the populace of a nation, national musical systems need to be investigated.  Because of the state’s hands on approach towards music as a tool of nation formation, France’s musical institutions serve as an excellent case study to begin understanding music’s relationship with nationalism.  This section begins this analysis. 
Keitner argues that the French Revolution was only a stepping stone on the ladder that created the French nation as it is known today (Keitner, 2007).  The Revolution and the Reign of Terror had left the people of France divided and fearful.  When the Jacobins gained control of the government, they began using institutions – the military, education, the Opéra (Fulcher, 2001), and museums – to begin the unification of the French people and restore faith in the government.    The Jacobins, continuing through the Third Republic, saw music as an essential tool to aid in the process of nation building because of its ability to cross boundaries (Larroument, 1895; Johnson, 2000).  It was this belief that began the tradition of a top-down approach to cultural creation through direct control of the Conservatoire de Paris and the indirect control of the Opéra. 
By 1792 the pre-revolutionary maitressies (local musical schools) were disassembled by the state, resulting in the complete disappearance of French public music schools.   To fill this void, and keep the Germans from gaining complete domination of the musical world, the Conservatoire was founded becoming the only place to train musicians.  The Conservatoire’s foremost purpose was to be at the disposal of the government for celebrations and events with the training of musicians considered secondary (Fulcher, 1987:48-53; J.B., 1890:393).  Because it was used at the disposal of the government, the composers were strictly regulated in what they could compose, what the pieces could sound like, and the type of music allowed to be presented to the public (Lockspaiser, 1962). 
On January 3, 1784, a national convention comprised of the constitutional and legislative deliberative assembly (which sat from September 20, 1792 - October 26, 1795) sat to consider the funding, purpose, and organization of the Conservatoire.  Sarette - a military band leader and advocate for the school – in conjunction with Chénier – a poet – drew on French national pride to address the delegates and citizens present:
“The artists of the band of the Paris National Guard, which, as a body, presents an aggregate of talent unique in Europe, come to beg of your love for all that can contribute to the glory of the Republic, the establishment of a National Institute of Music.  The public interest, tied to that of the arts, should make you feel all the utility of their request.  It is a justice due to their citizenship as much as to their humanity.  The artists, for six months past, have devoted their energies and talents to the instruction of youths taken from among the poorest citizens of each section” (emphasis added, J.B., 1890:393).

 These nationalist pleas accentuated the need to educate musicians throughout France by showing the unique talent of the French musicians compared to that of other nations.  This harkens back to Anderson’s idea of a horizontal comradeship showing that nationality is more important than class (Anderson, 2006).  This “comradeship” was seen in the slogan of the French Revolution: “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.”  Many of the Jacobin leaders were constrained by this slogan with which had won the revolution.  This slogan was now, at the outset of the nation, a key aspect of why and how decisions were made.  The result of these nationalist pleas was the issuing of the following decree which demonstrates the government’s hope to training a musical force:
“From April 1 next will be provided for the establishment (of the Opéra) a school supplied with able masters of music, the clavecin, declamation, the French language, &c., charged to teach music, composition, and, in general, all that can train the various talents…, as well as all that will be more amply set forth in the regulations to be made determining the choice, functions, and emoluments of the various masters, the number of pupils, and the qualifications for admission, their treatment, and, lastly, the interior management of the said school” (J.B., 1890:393).

This decreed allowed the government to organize the Conservatoire to promote the state’s interests (for as Anderson states, a nation is constructed by the state according to the interests of the sate).  The institution allowed the government the ability to cease “importing” musicians from Germany and Italy (Pasler, 2009:147).  Additionally, the state gained a monopoly on music education. The state was able to use musicians of the Conservatoire at public events to make the government look strong, even at times of weakness, while allowing a platform for the government to use music to cross all dialects and languages (a dilemma faced by all French governments until 1914) (Weber, 1976).  Moreover, through the use of competitions at festivals, the government hoped to create a French national music and create a French pride amongst its people (Pasler, 2009).
When considering the Conservatoire, musicologists investigate the teaching of music – especially solfège – and the role competitions played in the development of composers.  The Prix de Rome (the highest award granted to a pupil of the Conservatoire) is just one of the many examples of the value of music in France.  The award required a two-year stay at the Villa Medici in Rome, optionally followed by a year or two of travel elsewhere, generally to Germany and Italy, and a total of four years of state support.  The state hoped the prize would broaden the horizons of the recipients (Clevenger, 2001:11). This may seem contrary to the elitism found in French music.  However, the French were only beginning to create a sound of their own and realized some of the best operatic music to date was composed by the Germans and Italians.  Although France belittled those nations, the French did see where they could learn from them.  This is similar to math and science today in America.  Many international students come to America to study because America has (arguably) the best programs in the field, and then go back to their home nations to contribute what they learned and make their nation better. 
Musicologists show there was clear desire of the French state to form the musical world (Pasler, 2009; Fulcher, 1987, 2001; Ross, 2008, Kelly, 2008).  The state’s use of the Conservatoire through education and the Prix de Rome Competition as a way to have the composer dependent on the state have shown that music is an essential element in the understanding of the construction of a French national identity.  Additionally, regulation showed the government’s involvement in nation building because it played a limiting role in the development of music – the composer’s pieces had to conform to the desires of the French government. 
Additionally, musicologists’ investigation into the lives of composers while at the Conservatoire has shown the strict building of the hatred of the other – the Germans or Italians - and how the state perpetuated a French musical ideal by keeping other influences from succeeding within the system.  When such outside influences began to take root (such as exoticism), the state would crack down to prevent such growth from occurring.  For example, at the turn of the nineteenth century, Berlioz was denied the harmony class he needed for a conductors position at the Paris Opéra because, although virtually all considered Berlioz the best technically, he created work with exotic influences and failed to support French composers of lesser quality in his reviews (Bloom, 2000:137).  This trend continued well into the turn of the twentieth century when Claude Debussy sat at the piano to mimic the sound of buses (strictly a fun experiment in composition).  One of his peers, M. Emmanuell stated that the sounds he heard at the piano were like sounds he had never heard before:
“groups of consecutive fifths and octaves; seventh which instead of being resolved in the proper way actually led to the note above or weren’t resolved at all; ‘shameful false relations’; chords of the ninth on all degrees of scale; chords of the eleventh and thirteenth; all the notes of the diatonic scale heard at once in fantastic arrangements…All this Claude called ‘le regal de l’ouie’ (a feast for the ear).  Delibese’s class shook with amazement and fear” (Lockspaiser, 1962:30, emphasis added).

Use of such terminology as “shameful” and “proper” illuminate the importance of what was considered French music.  The mere fact that Delibese’s (the composition teacher at the time) class shook with “amazement and fear” gives evidence of the demands of the school from the government who determined which works were French.  Students knew which rules to follow and that their compositions needed to have a French texture, feel and color. 
This incident gave Debussy a reputation as an eccentric and troublesome propagandist, which led to an investigation of him for years by the state registrar (Lockspaiser, 1962:30).  It was during this investigation that Émile Réty (the appointed Secretary General of France) asked Debussy “So you imagine that dissonant chords do not have to be resolved?  What rule do you follow?” This implies that there was a correct French way to compose that the state endorsed.  “‘Mon plaisir!’ Debussy replied…And Réty turned away pale with indignation” (Lockspaiser, 1962:30, emphasis added).  The Secretary General, angry that Debussy did not follow the French rules, kept him on the registrar for further investigation and observation.  Clearly, musicologists have shown the state had a vested and important role in the creation of French music - and therefore its nation.
The state was heavily involved in competition as well.  Musicologists have shown competition, especially the Prix de Rome, was essential to the development of a French musical identity.  An example is Berlioz’s and Debussy’s experience of competing for the Prix de Rome multiple times due to their less than French compositions.  Specifically, Debussy was denied the award the first two times because his works followed the Wagnerian formula too much, and therefore, were not French enough (Clevenger, 2001:44).    Debussy finally won the Prix de Rome on his third attempt in 1884 with L’Enfant prodigue.  His composition had been significantly changed to follow that of the French Massenet style.
Comparatively, this trend of controlling musical institutions was echoed by the following governments and became significant during the Third Republic.  The Republicans of the Third Republic continued to use the Conservatoire but expanded its influence to the entertainment of the populace.  The Republic used the Opéra Nationale, especially during the years of 1830-1860, to create a national pride and national musical culture.  Through the use of heavy censorship, subsidization, and free and cheap ticket prices for the masses, the government saw the Opéra as a way to connect politically with both the events of the day and those of the turbulent past (Fulcher, 1987, 2001). 
French Grand Opera (which became synonymous with the Opéra) is commonly defined as “French opera of the Romantic period, sung throughout, generally in five acts, grandiose in conception and impressively staged” which became current terminology in the nineteenth century (Oxford Music Dictionary).  Music built up the libretto (the script), the action, and the story (Pendle, 1971:537).  Large choruses were essential to the plot and the production, harkening back to the Greek tragedies in which the chorus was symbolic of the people of Athens

The Opéra was used as a form of aural story telling, as the passing down of myths – especially myths of the Revolution.  Much like the German Wagner’s desire to take ancient myths and see them on stage, French composers and librettists used myths and stories and experimented with subjects from popular literature (Fulcher, 1987:22).  Such examples include Debussy’s Pelleas, Meyerbeer’s Les Hugenots (a commentary on the French Revolution and the Jacobins seen through the parallel of religious conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants) and later Bruneau’s Messidor (Lockspaier, 1962; Ross, 2008; Anglin, 2009). The opera was a tool to propel these myths into the minds of the French citizen, to build a national community, much like the Babuki theatre did in Japan (Buruma, 2003).  Myths through opera also provided a way for the state to involve the masses and construct an imagined community.  Additionally, large choruses (Pasler, 2009), libretto written for a middle class audience (as opposed to the aristocracy) (Lockspaiser, 1962; Fulcher, 1987), and the use of myths combined with the free and cheap performances and the accessibility of the opera to the people led to an increasingly wider fan base (Pasler, 2009). The Opéra was no longer strictly an aristocratic pastime, the working and middle class began attending in masses.

These institutions played significant roles in French nation construction.  Musicologists look extensively at the construction, operation, and influence these institutions had in Paris.  The Opéra and the Conservatoire were both used to educate the people on what was considered French-ness.  Moreover, musicologists have done significant amounts of research into the organization, funding, and interpretation of performances by the Opéra.  Fulcher shows that the state heavily affected the “formation of the genre’s artistic traits, the audience’s construal of their significance, and concomitantly the gradual transformation they sustained in response” (Fulcher, 1987:2).  Pasler looks extensively into the use of censorship, subsidies, and state approaches to diversifying the audiences (Pasler, 2009).  Ross, Johnson, and Rosen all show how the institution was interpreted by the citizenry. 

During the restoration, the Opéra was purely in the hands of the social elite.  The purpose of the Opéra was to seduce and impress, if not directly, by “reaching a wide audience” (Fulcher, 1987:13).  Musicologists have done extensive research into the repertoire of the Opéra and its intended message to the people.  Moreover, they have looked at the physical construction of the Opéra (the removal of boxed seats for the aristocracy and the increase in seats) as well as money spent and the income from revenue.  The overall trend has shown that the Conservatoire and the Opéra were significant to the development of a national identity because of the state’s heavy hand in creating a French musical sound through competitions, education and the control of what the populace heard at the Opéra.  

Musicologists have shown that the state gave music “an honorable sanctuary and a political existence” while establishing a tradition of music upon which the Third Republic later built up with the Opéra (Sarette, speech for the opening of the Conservatoire, 1797).  The government played a large role in what was considered French music, going so far as to label those who did not follow it as propagandists, and to investigate them thoroughly.  Additionally, because composers were often reliant on the state for their livelihood, the state held an important role in the music that was developed.  The state saw both institutions as tools to promote national character in music, create a musical tradition based on revolutionary ideals, allow the state to stay in contact with the soul of the citizen, and to teach these foundations to future generations (Pasler, 2009:149). 
Yet, the musicologist understanding of the French nation is too simplistic, and therefore, not enough to fully understand the relationship between music institutions and nationalism for a number of reasons.  One of the largest problems posed by musicologists’ research and nationalism is that musicologists generalize what happens in Paris as what happens across the French state.  The average population of France 1850-1910 was 37.6 million, with Paris comprising only two million (approximately 5% of the French population) (Historical Atlas, 2009).  Therefore, although it is essential to consider the largest city in France in the construction of the nation, especially given the centralizing nature of the French state, five percent of the population limits the investigation of the nation as a unit.  In attempt to solve this problem they look at boulevard theatres, but even these are mostly located within Paris and did not hold the same prestige the Opéra held. 
Although, throughout France, Paris was considered the cultural center, this research does not show how such institutions were viewed by the citizens beyond the border of Paris in other departments (state-like geographic divisions of France).  This problem additionally limits musicologists’ claims that myths at the Opéra were disseminated among the populace of France.  Furthermore, this approach does not consider the education many composers (including but not limited to David, Berlioz, Debussy) received outside of the Conservatoire from family members or from travels abroad and how it played a role in their musical development at the Conservatoire and, ultimately, what they produced for the state.  Nor does this approach consider the accessibility of these institutions to those citizens living far from Paris.  During the period from the Revolution until approximately the turn of the nineteenth century travel was difficult, there was little infrastructure, weather conditions often made travel dangerous (Weber, 1976) and much of France was comprised of farmers and a work force who did not have the financial means to be able to send a pupil to learn in Paris. 
Additionally, musicologists’ research of these institutions, although considering quantitative features such as receipts of the Opéra and the amount spent in a year, do not consider how much this amounts to in per capita GDP nor how this money was being spent in other departments, which could alter the estimated impact of the institutions on the populace.  Research does not show how the government spent money for the arts, or comparable institutions outside of Paris.   Money is also not the only way to investigate music’s affect.  Research needs to look more extensively into how the people of France understood the arts, which composers the average citizen knew of, which music pieces they could “sing along with” or recognize outside of Paris combined with how the average citizen interpreted these pieces.  This could be accomplished through historic investigation into specific villages, such as Weber’s inquiry begins.  Such data can begin to be found in the op-ed pieces of newspapers, reviews, and the constituency of the papers.  Additionally, data may be found in the references in literature and art to the specific pieces of the day and at festivals and celebrations.  Though the dearth of this research may be very daunting, it still demands investigation. 
Moreover, musicologists do not consider the national conventions nor the ministry offices that were in charge of budgeting for the arts and education.  The standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the traditions of these institutions that affected the outcome of such important decisions, for which the political science research lends a helping hand, needs to be considered for a full comprehension of how the state viewed music and its role in nation building.  Social scientists have shown that institutions have deeply embedded structures that are hard to see without a historical approach and understanding of the meanings of SOPs and the transitions that lead to new SOP’s (Reed, 1993; Olsen and March, 1984).  These meanings can only be established and understood within a discussion of traditions (Hobsbawm, 2003), which is not considered by musicologists. The SOP’s of both the Conservatoire and the Opéra need further investigation in order to see how the artists, composers, and the administration of both saw (or did not see) their role in nation development.  Research should look at the qualifications of appointments to the leaders of the Conservatoire and the Opéra, where they were educated, and job descriptions to begin.  Additionally, a thorough investigation into the minutes of meetings would provide a platform to begin such analysis.
This section shows how a concentrated inquiry into the history and construction of a musical institution is necessary but not sufficient in understanding nationalism because it looks at how the state uses its tools as well as the resources of the people.  Musicologists have provided the starting point from which political scientists can now begin intense investigation.  It is now essential to expand beyond Paris and into the other departments to really begin to see how institutions affected the national construction throughout France.  Moreover, an investigation into the SOP’s of the national conventions as well as the institutions themselves needs further inquiry to best see the extent of state involvement and how the institutions were perceived to affect the citizenry’s understanding of their identity.  

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