Composing for the State: Music in Twentieth-Century Dictatorships (Hardback) book cover

Composing for the State

Music in Twentieth-Century Dictatorships

Edited by Esteban Buch, Igor Contreras Zubillaga, Manuel Deniz Silva

© 2016 – Routledge

234 pages

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Hardback: 9781472437495
pub: 2016-01-27
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Under the dictatorships of the twentieth century, music never ceased to sound. Even when they did not impose aesthetic standards, these regimes tended to favour certain kinds of art music such as occasional works for commemorations or celebrations, symphonic poems, cantatas and choral settings. In the same way, composers who were more or less ideologically close to the regime wrote pieces of music on their own initiative, which amounted to a support of the political order.

This book presents ten studies focusing on music inspired and promoted by regimes such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, France under Vichy, the USSR and its satellites, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Maoist China, and Latin-American dictatorships. By discussing the musical works themselves, whether they were conceived as ways to provide "music for the people", to personally honour the dictator, or to participate in State commemorations of glorious historical events, the book examines the relationship between the composers and the State.

This important volume, therefore, addresses theoretical issues long neglected by both musicologists and historians: What is the relationship between art music and propaganda? How did composers participate in musical life under the control of an authoritarian State? What was specifically political in the works produced in these contexts? How did audiences react to them? Can we speak confidently about "State music"? In this way, Composing for the State: Music in Twentieth Century Dictatorships is an essential contribution to our understanding of musical cultures of the twentieth century, as well as the symbolic policies of dictatorial regimes.


'Ten fascinating narratives are presented here about the function of state music in a wider range of twentieth-century dictatorships. An international roster of distinguished authors ensures the most detailed study of this subject thus far. This unique volume clarifies how music was used to present the public face of state sanctioned propaganda.' - Patricia Hall, University of Michigan, USA

'These essays, surveying musical works that span five decades and three continents, shed light on creations generally overlooked by virtue of their being "tainted"� because they were commissioned by dictatorships. Instead of shunning these works, the essays explore the complex interactions of the state, the composers, and the public and offer new paths toward dissecting notions of creative autonomy in the twentieth century.' - Pamela Potter, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Table of Contents

Esteban Buch, Igor Contreras Zubillaga and Manuel Deniz Silva – ‘State Music’ and Dictatorship: an Introduction

Part 1: Music for the People

1. Yannick Simon Music and the Vichy Regime through Jeune France’s Three Joan-of-Arc Productions (1941)

2. Analía Chernavsky The ‘Dança da Terra' Issue’ (1943): Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Vargas Dictatorship

3. Hon-lun Yang Unravelling The East Is Red (1964): Socialist Music and Politics in the People’s Republic of China

Part 2: Composing for the Dictator

4. Katherine L. FitzGibbon (Lewis&Clark College, Portland) – Gottfried Müller’s Deutsches Heldenrequiem (1934): Nazi Ideology Cloaked in Historic Style

5. Justine Comtois Alfredo Casella’s Il deserto tentato (1937): an Opera Dedicated to Benito Mussolini

6. Marina Frolova-Walker A Birthday Present for Stalin: Shostakovich’s Song of the Forests (1949)

7. Andrzej Tuchowski ‘State music’ in Poland under the Stalinist Regime: Alfred Gradstein’s Cantata A Word about Stalin (1951)

Part 3: State Commemorations

8. Manuel Deniz Silva Salazar’s dictatorship and the paradoxes of State music: Luís Freitas Branco’s ill-fated Solemn Overture 1640 (1939)

9. Igor Contreras Zubillaga El Concierto de la Paz (1964): Three Commissions to Celebrate 25 Years of Francoism

10. Esteban Buch Conquistadores, Indians,and Argentine Generals: Iubilum op. 51, a Commission to Alberto Ginastera (1980).




About the Editors

Esteban Buch is directeur d’études (full professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France. A specialist of the relationships between music and politics in the twentieth century, he is the author of O juremos con gloria morir (2013), L’Affaire Bomarzo (2011), Le cas Schoenberg (2006), La Neuvième de Beethoven (1999; English tr. 2003) and Histoire d’un secret (1994). He has also co-edited Du politique en analyse musicale (2014), Tangos cultos (2012), Réévaluer l’art moderne et les avant-gardes (2010), and La Grande guerre des musiciens (2009).

Igor Contreras Zubillaga is a PhD candidate at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales of Paris, France, with a thesis on the Spanish musical avant-garde during Franco's dictatorship. He is co-editor of the volumes Le son des rouages: Representations des rapports homme-machine dans la musique du 20e siècle (2011) and A l'avant-garde! Art et politique dans les années 1960 et 1970 (2013).

Manuel Deniz Silva is Research Fellow at the FCSH (Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal), where he coordinates the Music and Media� thematic strand of the INET-md (Music and Dance Research Centre). He is co-editor of the Portuguese Journal of Musicology and editor of Kinethophone - Journal of Music, Sound and Moving Image.

About the Series

Musical Cultures of the Twentieth Century

Musical Cultures of the Twentieth Century

Series Advisory Board:

Robert Adlington, Mark Delaere, Giovanni Giuriati and Wolfgang Rathert.

The music of the twentieth century is a composite and variegated entity. Recent works of historiography have revealed the difficulty of arriving at a coherent representation of the multiplicity of conceptions, artefacts, events and communities which characterised musical life in this century. This plurality, which is manifested at all levels (linguistic, stylistic, geographical, institutional, socio-cultural), requires adequate research strategies. The series Musical Cultures of the Twentieth Century tackles some crucial questions by setting up research groups, whose members collaborate closely over a time span determined by the complexity of each topic.

The principal site of the projects is the Institute of Music of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, Venice, which, from its very beginnings, was conceived as a forum for musicological discourse. After the initial phases of preparation and research, a conference is held for each project that aims to present findings and act as a platform for an exchange of views. Individual research, therefore, has the opportunity to interact with many authors, leading to volumes that are intended to play a positive role in international debates, update research criteria and open up new perspectives. In designing these projects, we pay special attention to methodological pluralism: complex phenomena can only be adequately dealt with through a combination of various currents of contemporary thought and an intense dialogue between scholars of different nationalities, ages and theoretical backgrounds.

The series advisory board is composed of an international group of scholars with wide experience in different areas of twentieth-century music. In periodic meetings and through email exchange, the members examine new publications, discuss emerging questions, confront methodological approaches, elaborate new projects, coordinate study groups, and finalize ongoing research. This collaborative endeavour has proved to be the best foundation for guaranteeing the highest standards and a continuous interaction with the world of research and the public sphere in general.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology
MUSIC / History & Criticism