Throughout this semester in “Paris in the 1920s”, we learned different pieces from the 1920s Paris, not only about what is in the music, but also what comes out of the music, using the five critical lenses: nation, race, gender, sexuality and social class. For instance, when learning pieces by Debussy, d’Indy and Ravel, the class discussed the common features of these compositions, such as the retrogression to the past and the emphasis on fluent melody. But more importantly, through readings written by the composers themselves and by scholars, we applied the concept of nationalism to our listenings, in order to understand why these musical features matter and how it reflected or influenced the social environment. Through this process of critical thinking, my knowledge of these pieces achieved beyond purely musical meanings, but to a broader scope concerned with the general social context. In other words, my biggest attainment from the class was to improve myself from recognizing music to interpreting music.

Among the five lenses used in class, the critical lens of “nation” was the first and the most frequently mentioned one through the semester. Specifically, I found the concept of nationalism emerged the most powerfully because it very much constructed the 1920s French music, and people nowadays are still using this concept to evaluate music and art. Using this critical lens, in my paper for this class I focused on researching the construction and projection of Copland’s “American music”, and specifically their interactions with the French ideology of both the “French music” and the “American sound”. As I am working on my final draft, my goal is to break down the “French” components and the “American” components in Copland’s “Music for the Theatre” and trace both of them back to the root of French nationalism, socially and musically.