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Title: Symbolism and Catholicism in French Music at the Time of the Separation of Church and State (1888-1925)
Authors: Sarno, Megan Elizabeth
Advisors: Morrison, Simon A
Burnham, Scott
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: Claude Debussy
Subjects: Music
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation concerns an overlooked and misinterpreted connection in French aesthetics between Symbolist art and the age of Secularism. I argue that as the government separated church from state, erasing Catholic prayers and religious figures from schools and pulling state funds from church budgets, the stakes of representing religion changed. Whereas religious music had been the sole purview of maîtres de chapelle crafting conservative works in line with official doctrine, an increasing number of artists in all fields began to experiment creatively with religious tropes. In music, for example, Gabriel Fauré composed the Requiem, op. 48, while not contractually obliged to do so, and he actually faced criticism for introducing new repertory and for the music’s style. I demonstrate that this music was in line with the poetics of Symbolism, as it grappled with decay, memory, and a spiritual but not orthodox au delà. In five case studies of such religious anxiety, I show that composers were not expected to create Catholic music, and in many cases they personally rejected the religion, but yet they were still inspired by its symbols—saints, religious artifacts, and hieratic atmosphere—and forms—masses, psalms, mystery plays, and prayers. In addition to Fauré’s Requiem, the project comprises chapters on Saint-Saëns’s Psalm CL (1907), Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911), Satie’s Les avant-dernières pensées (1915), and André Caplet’s Le Miroir de Jésus (1924). Tying the case studies together are the themes of the religion of art, independent spirituality, and a rejection of a rigid Catholic orthodoxy as the hegemonic faith institution. The philosophy of Henri Bergson and Vladimir Jankélévitch enlighten musical analyses. A search for spirituality was integral to modernist aesthetics in music, as the independent approach to spirituality inspired personal or independent adaptation of musical language. In the final chapter, I argue that Classicism is closely linked with the crisis of faith that birthed Symbolism, and these aesthetic approaches referred to order and the mystery that kept it in balance.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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