French Music of the 1920s Contexts and Perspectives Scott Scholz
Just before the 1920s Claude Debussy Erik Satie Maurice Ravel
Jean Cocteau: Les SixJean Cocteau chose the composers of Les SixGeorges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, DariusMilhaud, Francis Poulenc, Germaine TailleferreThrough the 20s, the group held court at the Le Boeuf sur leToit--this is the club of legend alluded to in “Midnight inParis,” where many European and American expatriateartists gathered (writers, painters, musicians, fashiondesigners)
Music by Erik Satie, sets andcostumes by Pablo Picasso,choreography by LeonideMassine, scenario by JeanCocteauProgram notes by GuillaumeApollinaire coin the phrase“surrealism” in 1917
Darius MilhaudLa Creation du monde (1923):jazz influenceLa boeuf sur le toit (1920):“surrealist ballet” withBrazilian tango/pop influencesand quotations
Arthur HoneggerConcertino for Piano and Orchestra (1924)In “neoclassical” style, also being exploredby Igor Stravinsky in the 1920simpressionistic and surrealistic withunusual approaches/communication quirksbetween the piano and the rest of theensemble
Edgard VareseArcana (1925-27)influenced by Surrealism anddream states“symphonic poem”Varese moved back to Paris in1928
Maurice RavelBolero (1928)based on Spanish dance of thesame namejazz influencesrepetition; exposition throughorchestration
A change in public focustransition from dominance of orchestral, large-format musicalworks to music from smaller ensembles“songs” versus “compositions”the influence of jazz and American expatriates in France(Paris as cultural center; Europe as escape from Prohibition)changes in technology available to the public: the radio andthe phonograph, changing both method and motivation forconsuming music (a process still evolving today)
Josephine BakerBorn in St. Louisdropped out of school at 12; destitutebegan vaudeville dancing/singing at15, eventually relocating to NYCwent to Paris in 1925 as part of LaRevue Negre and became wildlysuccessful, eventually becoming aFrench citizen
Sidney Bechetalso arrived in Paris as part of theRevue Negre, staying through thelate 1920shis playing (mostly soprano saxand clarinet) and compositionalstyle were very influential on thenext decade of French jazzmusicians
Cole PorterMoved to Paris in 1917 and stayed intothe 1920sshort ballet “Within the Quota”debuted on the same 1923 program asMillhaud’s “La Creation du monde”studied orchestration and counterpointin Paris, but was relatively lessmusically active (and much moresocially active) in his Paris years
Paris and JazzMost of the 1920s jazzartists in France areAmericansBy the 1930s, France isproducing jazz artists of itsown, such as DjangoReinhardt and theQuintette du Hot Club deFrance
France continued its love affair with American jazz artistsover subsequent decades: Dexter Gordon in the early 1960s,and the BYG/Actuel record label documenting avant-gardeand free jazz artists in the late 60s/early 70s
Jazz influences chansonJazz influences seep into the French popular song (chanson)tradition, while retaining other regional/folk/classicalinfluencesFrench singer/songwriters like Edith Piaf and SergeGainsbourg carry the tradition through subsequent decades
Questions? Comments?My email is ScottScholz@gmail.comYou can also reach me at:http://wordsonsounds.blogspot.comThanks for letting me crash your class!
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