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French Folk Songs and the Invention of History

French Folk Songs and the Invention of History A favorite project of scholars in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century France was to collect folk songs from various French provinces and to add new harmonic accompaniments before publishing them. This folk-song project, like so many others, has obvious nationalist undertones: gathering songs from every French province and celebrating an essential and enduring French spirit. Yet the nuances of this project and its broader context suggest a diverse set of concerns. An examination of the rhetoric around folk-song collection shows how French scholars of the period conflated history and geography: they made the provinces the place of history. Collecting songs from the provinces thus became a way of recovering France's past. Paired with contemporary discussions of musical progress and especially those related to harmony, the addition of piano accompaniments to monophonic songs now reads as a form of history writing. In this article, I argue that French music scholars of the fin de siècle acted out their preferred narratives of music history through folk-song harmonizations. What seemed like a unanimously motivated nationalist project actually reveals the development and contestation of the discipline of music history. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png 19th-Century Music University of California Press

French Folk Songs and the Invention of History

19th-Century Music , Volume 39 (3): 24 – Mar 1, 2016

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Publisher
University of California Press
Copyright
© 2016 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints.
ISSN
0148-2076
eISSN
1533-8606
DOI
10.1525/ncm.2016.39.3.248
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

A favorite project of scholars in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century France was to collect folk songs from various French provinces and to add new harmonic accompaniments before publishing them. This folk-song project, like so many others, has obvious nationalist undertones: gathering songs from every French province and celebrating an essential and enduring French spirit. Yet the nuances of this project and its broader context suggest a diverse set of concerns. An examination of the rhetoric around folk-song collection shows how French scholars of the period conflated history and geography: they made the provinces the place of history. Collecting songs from the provinces thus became a way of recovering France's past. Paired with contemporary discussions of musical progress and especially those related to harmony, the addition of piano accompaniments to monophonic songs now reads as a form of history writing. In this article, I argue that French music scholars of the fin de siècle acted out their preferred narratives of music history through folk-song harmonizations. What seemed like a unanimously motivated nationalist project actually reveals the development and contestation of the discipline of music history.

Journal

19th-Century MusicUniversity of California Press

Published: Mar 1, 2016

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