Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1400 20211120T1450 America/Chicago Politics and Legacies AMS 2021
“Future Years Will Never Know…”: Composing Pacifism Through Military History in Ned Rorem’s _War Scenes_ (1969)
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

The social unrest of the Vietnam War era prompted many musical works of protest, most of which expressed antigovernment and antiestablishment sentiments that resonated with 1960s counterculture. A small number of Vietnam War-related compositions advocate peace by setting texts written in response to previous military conflicts. While such works react directly to the Vietnam War, their use of historical texts weakens their potential to address the specific concerns about U.S. involvement in Vietnam that helped to ignite a widespread protest movement differing so greatly from pacifist movements associated with previous wars. However, by situating themselves within a tradition of war-responding art, and within the history of U.S. military conflict, the composers of these works make poignant statements about the conflict they were witnessing and about war and peace more broadly. 

This paper uses Ned Rorem's song cycle War Scenes (1969) as a case study to explore how transplanting historical texts allowed composers to incorporate U.S. military history into their reactions to the conflict in Vietnam, expressing powerful messages that might have been lost in a setting of a contemporary, overtly anti-Vietnam War text. While scholars like Arnold (1991) and Kinsella (2005) have examined Vietnam War-related compositions, the implications of recontextualizing texts from previous military conflicts remains unexplored. Works like War Scenes and their historical source texts provide unique insights into the multifaceted nature of protest and the relationship between music, text, and politics.

In War Scenes, Rorem grapples with the fraught subject of the Vietnam War by setting prose from Walt Whitman's U.S. Civil War journal Specimen Days (1882). I demonstrate how Rorem's recontextualization of this historical text builds additional layers of meaning, creating a work that speaks to any wartime experience while simultaneously resonating with the specific context of the Vietnam War. Through Rorem's setting of Whitman's words, the audience confronts the violence occurring in their own time by observing the violence of the Civil War. I argue that the historical distance between the song cycle and its source text contributes to its pacifist message by emphasizing the recurrence of violence and the futility of war.

April Morris
The University Of Western Ontario
Mozart, Bertramka, and National Politics in Nineteenth-Century Prague
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

The Baroque estate of Bertramka in Prague is commonly viewed as an important Mozart site. According to tourist guides and scholarly literature, Mozart spent substantial amounts of time at the suburban estate in 1787 and 1791. Some accounts also claim that Mozart completed his _Don Giovanni_, including the famous overture, and portions of _La clemenza di Tito_ at Bertramka. A closer look at the documentary evidence shows, however, that although Prague writers discussed Mozart's legacy intensely already by the 1790s, Bertramka began to be associated with the composer only much later. First statements about Mozart and Bertramka were published only in the 1820s; further, unsupported, claims followed after the estate was purchased in the 1830s by Mozart admirer Lambert Popelka; and a deluge of details about Mozart at Bertramka appeared during the 1856 Mozart centennial. Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Prague musicians, journalists, and historians embraced Bertramka's supposed links to Mozart unquestioningly, and these "facts" also seeped into mainstream Mozart biographies outside Bohemia. 

This paper claims that the readiness of the Prague music public to accept unsupported claims and outright fabrications had to do with various kinds of identity politics in the Bohemian capital. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Bohemian patriotic elites used Mozart to prop up the image of the city as a cultural center of greater importance than Salzburg, Vienna, and Berlin, and Bertramka served as a tangible symbol of Prague's presumed cultural significance. In the following decades, Prague's community split into increasingly antagonistic Czech and German camps, each of whom attempted to control the Bertramka narrative. Whereas Prague's Germans viewed Bertramka as an emblem of Prague's German character, Czech commentators claimed that during his stays at Bertramka, Mozart was exposed to oppressed Czech-speaking classes and to Czech folk music. Under the influence of national ideology, most journalistic articles and scholarly discussions about Mozart and Prague continued to present as facts increasingly detailed points about Mozart's supposed stay at Bertramka. Bertramka is therefore a fascinating monument of both Bohemian eighteenth-century musical culture and nineteenth-century patriotic politics and national myth-making. 

Martin Nedbal
University Of Kansas
Zofia Lissa, Identity, and the Politics of Postwar Musicology in Poland
Individual Paper 02:00 PM - 02:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 20:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 20:50:00 UTC

While the history of postwar musical culture in Poland has recently attracted a new wave of scholarly attention (Jakelski 2016, Cooper Vest 2020), questions of gender, identity, and women's agency in shaping the nation's musical heritage under state socialism remain in the shadows. In line with the recent revisionist turn in totalitarian studies investigating the role of individual agency and everyday life in Soviet-controlled states, I recognize women's active role in negotiating the Communist project. Going beyond the narrative of female composer exceptionalism, this paper responds to the need for an examination of the diverse roles women played in musical culture under Communism.

In this paper, I revisit the legacy of Zofia Lissa (1905-80): prolific scholar, leading architect of Polish postwar musicology, and Vice President of the Polish Composers' Union. Despite her lifelong commitment to the advancement of Polish composition and musicology, her dedication to the Marxist method and socialist realist aesthetics situated her on the "wrong side of history" and pushed her to the margins of collective memory after the fall of Communism in 1989. Yet, Lissa's achievements, led by her ambitious vision of democratized art and socially-informed musicology, deserve closer attention. 

Drawing on archival materials, this paper explores Lissa's role as a committed and powerful activist-intellectual in the male-dominated compositional and academic milieu of the late 1940s. While considering her unique contributions to the institutionalization of postwar musicology in Poland, I also trace the ways in which changing social and political factors contributed to Lissa's increasing doubts about the viability of socialist realism in music. First, I demonstrate the growing irrelevance of her Marxist agenda from the mid-1950s, after Stalin's death brought a cultural thaw and the opportunity to reimagine the aesthetic and ideological standards of Polish music. Second, considering Lissa's flight from the Holocaust (Pierce 2020), I link 1960s Polish antisemitism with her compromised confidence in the Communist project. Finally, I reflect on the role of gender in Lissa's extensive political and intellectual labor motivated by a society-oriented utopian vision as well as Lissa's personal traumas.

Marta Beszterda
McGill University
The University of Western Ontario
McGill University
University of Kansas
University of Minnesota
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions (Local time)