Today we got to see the result of our hard work on the data cleaning that we did all day yesterday. We pulled together the spreadsheets of compiled premieres for four different composers – Honneger, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and Poulenc – to create a multi-layered map of premieres from roughly 1914 to the early 1930s. Obviously, this is a much more extensive map than our first Paris map, so it also brings out a few more patterns and interesting possibilities for arguments.
Looking at this Premieres map, several types of arguments emerge. The map reveals patterns having to do with the venues and locations of the premieres, the composers themselves, and the political and social climate of nations. Right away it is evident that most premieres in our data set occurred within Europe. This trend suggests that Europe was a hub of new music during this time, at least for these composers. Notably, Milhaud is the only composer on the map who premiered a piece outside of the Western Hemisphere, in Brazil. This tells us something about Milhaud’s scope as a composer, perhaps that he was more engaged and connected on a global scale, before the other composers we have on this map. This also raises a question: why did some of these composers choose to premiere their pieces outside of Paris? Did they fear it would not be well received in France? That it would be too avant-garde? We would have to look more deeply into what pieces were premiered outside of Paris to answer these questions.
Interestingly, most premieres that were put on in France occurred in Paris, with the exception of a few outliers in Toulouse and the outskirts of Paris city limits. This pattern may not have been as evident without this type of spatial visualization, and it suggests that Paris served as the cultural center of France during this time period (which admittedly is generally an excepted fact). However, if we compare the concentration of premieres in Paris to that of Germany, we can make some interesting political arguments. Premieres are centered almost exclusively in Paris, whereas in Germany, they are more spread out. These spatial relationships could suggest that government was more centralized in France, whereas in Germany it was a little more disparate. So what does that mean politically for those countries? And how much can we realistically correlate music premieres to political centralization?
I have a few final thoughts about arguments that this map makes, or could possibly make. I noticed that if we zoom in on Paris, this map allows us to see which venues in Paris were most popular for premieres. Among the most popular are the Salle Gaveau, the Opéra, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and the Opéra-Comique. Why did these composers choose the venues they did? Nichols mentioned in his article that all of the Salle’s (Gaveau, Pleyel, Erard) were private institutions, whereas the Opéra and other Théâtres were not. Using this map, we could discover something about these composers choices of venue, and whether or not that choice affected the critical reception of their pieces. It is important, however, to consider that this map only speaks for the premieres of these pieces. We should ask ourselves, then, what kinds of arguments a map of strictly premiere performances can make, as opposed to maps of performances in general.