Jane Fulcher. Cultural Politics and Music: from the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999.
Jane Fuclher argues that in the aftermath of the Dreyfus Affair, music abandoned a culture of relative “autonomy” “inseparable” from political values. In large part due to the Dreyfus scandal and Dreyfus’s acquittal, the Ligue de l’Action Francaise and the Ligue de La Patrie Francaise launched conservative, right wing, invasions of French musical culture and the Third Republic responded by its own set of cultural policies in order to cripple the right. The Ligue de la Patrie Francaise owed much of its success to Vincent d’Indy, a loyal member whose political participation, combined with his highly visible direction of the Schola Cantorum, fostered the dissemination of a musical discourse grounded in right wing ideologies.
Chapter 1 focuses on the Schola and shows how d’Indy’s ideas mirrored those of Maurice Barrès of the Patrie Francaise but how the Republic responded with their own composer, Alfred Bruneau. Thanks to the Schola’s emphasis on music history, the French Conservatoire responded which lead to a flourishing of musicology at the turn of the century.
Chapter 2 focuses on how the Dreyfus affair impacted composers. In a foreshadowing of her next book, she argues that they conceived of their role as “engaged intellectuals” by joining political parties or participating in associated projects and journals. She argues d’Indy composed Legende de Saint Cristophe to promote an anti-Dreyfusard ideological message while Gustave Charpentier’s Louise was incorrectly construed as being pro-Dreyfus. In reality, it was neither, but the naturalism in the opera lead many to associate the piece with the naturalism of overtly Dreyfusards Emile Zola and Alfred Bruneau. Other composers, such as Albéric Magnard had their non-political music “politicized” in this climate.
A new of composerss, Alfred Bruneau (left), Gustave Charpentier (left) and Vincent d’Indy (right), emerge as Fulcher’s chief symbols of the different factions. Charpentier’s Louise represents a work from the left (which challenges the monological discourse of the epic) while d’Indy’s Legende de Saint Christophe (full of reactionary moralités) is one of his most ideologically conservative works.
In response to these camps are Satie and Debussy, who “transcend” politics in their music.