The theme that has resonated with me most powerfully this semester is that of the different lenses through which we view history. We discussed a handful of lenses closely related to the topic of music in 1920s Paris (namely, class, race, nationality, sexuality, and gender), but there are certainly more through which other aspects of history merit observation. I suppose this is not an entirely novel idea for me, as I’ve used similar means to study history in past courses, but the nature of the class being broken down into subtopics related to each lens helped me understand this concept in a new and more concrete fashion.
Context is everything when it comes to historical study, and the idea of selecting the proper lens(es) in order to achieve the most authentic perspective on a piece of music or other artifact is much more clear to me after diving into intensive scholarship on the very specific topic of Paris in the 1920s. Evaluation of academic discourse has driven home the point that context is key, and that choosing the right lens is very important in identifying meaningful contextual clues. For instance, two queer readings of music history provided a strong and weak example of using a queer perspective to study musical works. Dorf’s analysis of Satie’s Socrate did not warrant the same queer reading employed by Moore in his examination of select Poulenc works.
Dr. Epstein’s article “Darius Milhaud’s Machines Agricoles as Post-Pastoral” provided a further example of the importance of historical lenses. In it he advocates for “the possibility of Milhaud’s sincerity” by highlighting ecocriticism as an important lens through which to analyze Machines Agricoles.
Finally, my own research has shown the importance of researching around a topic, not simply searching for the singular subject assigned, in order to circumnavigate the discourse surrounding it and draw out the contextual clues which help establish the proper lenses to employ when examining the topic as a whole.