Proof through the Night: Music and the Great War by Glenn Watkins

By Glenn Watkins

Carols floating throughout no-man's-land on Christmas Eve 1914; solemn choruses, marches, and well known songs responding to the decision of propaganda ministries and battle charities; opera, keyboard suites, ragtime, and concertos for the left hand—all supplied testimony to the original strength of tune to chronicle the good struggle and to memorialize its battles and fallen heroes within the first post-Armistice decade. during this outstanding booklet, Glenn Watkins investigates those variable roles of song basically from the perspective of the Entente nations' perceived risk of German hegemony in issues of highbrow and inventive accomplishment—a central difficulty not just for Europe but additionally for the USA, whose past due front into the fray caused a renewed curiosity in defining the US as an emergent global strength in addition to a fledgling musical tradition. He exhibits that every state gave "proof during the night"—ringing proof through the darkish hours of the war—not in basic terms of its nationalist get to the bottom of within the making a song of nationwide airs but in addition of its strength to remember domestic and fireplace on far-off battlefields and to mirror upon loss lengthy after the weapons were silenced.

Watkins's eloquent narrative argues that twentieth-century Modernism was once now not introduced complete strength with the arrival of the nice battle yet quite was once challenged by means of a brand new set of choices to the prewar avant-garde. His valuable specialize in song as a cultural marker throughout the First international struggle of necessity exposes its dating to the opposite arts, nationwide associations, and overseas politics. From wartime ratings through Debussy and Stravinsky to telling retrospective works through Berg, Ravel, and Britten; from "La Marseillaise" to "The Star-Spangled Banner," from "It's far to Tipperary" to "Over There," song mirrored society's profoundest doubts and aspirations. through turns it challenged or supported the legitimacy of conflict, chronicled misgivings in miniature and grandiose codecs alike, and unavoidably expressed its sorrow on the ultimate cost exacted via the good warfare. facts during the evening concludes with a attention of the post-Armistice interval while, at the classical track entrance, reminiscence and distance solid a musical reaction that was once usually extra robust than in wartime.

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Sir Thomas Beecham, who was the guiding force for new music in England, regularly performed the most recent scores of Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Delius, and Bantock, but he generally ignored the music of Vaughan Williams and Holst during the war. When hostilities ceased, interest in the native sources of English music witnessed a resurgence, and as a consequence interest in the music of the latter two composers escalated. 15 Newman now sensibly encouraged England’s composers to look more seriously to their own literary tradition, much as the French had always done, and to take it as a point of in- Pomp and Circumstance / 37 spiration.

But am I for this reason to betray my conscience, to kill my soul? This would signify the betrayal of my country. ” 47 above the battle? ” The article, which came to be known as the Manifesto of 93, was signed by the German intellectual elite from the sciences and the arts, including novelist 26 / Prologue and playwright Gerhart Hauptmann and composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Strauss had been importuned to endorse the statement, but he had refused on the grounds that as a composer his business was to write music, not manifestos.

Mus. 2 Back home the London music critic Ernest Newman began to speak of the current state of affairs, including specifically the appeal of the Straussian dialect and the challenge he felt the war would pose. He predicted that music would be more profoundly affected by the conflict than the other arts would be, and that music performing and publishing—principal German enterprises—were bound to suffer. As early as September 1914 he asserted in The Musical Times that the daily interchange of compositions and performers had made Europe virtually a single country.

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