Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France / Edition 1

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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.

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Editorial Reviews


“A notable achievement. . . . Recommended.”
Current Musicology
“Destined to be debated and referenced for years to come. The issues it raises have never been more timely.”
Journal Of Interdisciplinary History - Nigel Simeone
“This is an exceptional book — cultural history at its richest and most thought-provoking.”
Notes (Music Library Assoc) - Michael Strasser
“A significant contribution to the field of French musical studies, one that will lead to new perspectives.”
“A notable achievement. . . . Recommended.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520257405
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 817
  • Sales rank: 1,315,965
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents


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
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


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