As we came across it many times in class readings, my research subject Société Nationale de Musique seemed to be easy to approach. However, when I tried to look at the music society in the 20s exclusively, things started to get confusing. Société Nationale de Musique received the most attention from both the French society back then and scholars today in its beginning years. Composers of late nineteenth and early twentieth century reacted either positively or doubtfully to the famous motto “Ars Gallica” and were influenced unavoidably by Société Nationale’s hail of the real “Frenchness” of music. The founding father and first presidents Saint-Saens and d’Indy are both leading figures of large groups of students, supporters and followers. Scholars today look at Société Nationale from political and cultural standpoints, treating it as a product of Franco-Prussian War, the defeat of which traumatically damaged the French pride. 1910s mark Société Nationale’s continuous development under Faure’s leadership and its conflict with Société Musicale Indépendante (SMI) under Maurice Ravel’s leadership. While some might argue that Société Nationale had started to lose its significance in new music scene in Paris to SMI, it is true that the competition between two was healthy and both music societies remained performance-active in the ten years. Société Nationale’s 1930s saw the growth of a great composer master, Oliver Messiaen. Messiaen premiered a large number of his composition in Société Nationale concerts, including his piano Preludes, and was active as a performer and committee member.
But what about the 20s? Not many scholarly works have written on Société Nationale in the 20s, and very few of them are in English. My first instinct is that SMI won the competition and replaced SN’s role in the Parisian new music scene. However, there are not too many information about SMI, if not less, in the 20s exclusively as well. Both societies seemed to have quieted down after a decade of excitement and vigorousness. Why? Did the Parisians get so involved with Negrophilla, Jazz, music from the “primitive” and the “frivolous” that the musical arguments about Frenchness and real French music got removed from the spotlight? Ravel, when talking about quitting SN to form a more open-minded music society, once claimed that “societies evolve”. So did SN just die out in the 20s (and then come back in the 30s) naturally?