This class improved my research skills drastically in many ways. It taught me not to just search directly for the topic I am researching, but to find as much information as possible, even if it doesn’t directly pertain to my topic. Specifically, I wrote about Tailleferre’s Piano Concerto in my last paper and was once again distraught to find that there were hardly any sources about the work. However, I was able to research more broadly about Les Six, concertos in general, and neoclassicism. This type of research has allowed for me to look at some of the broader concepts that we have discussed rather than just focus on a specific topic.
One of the topics that I have continually returned to in my papers is the idea of French nationalism in their music. My impression (no pun intended) of French music before this semester was primarily the Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel. It was interesting to learn that most French music from the 20s was actually quite different than what I was used to. All three of my papers in some way dealt with the concept of the French creating a work that is French by being “anti-German.” It seems that the French aesthetic was defined in the 1920s as anything that was obviously different from the style of composition. This resulted in a sound that was clear and crisp, even stark at times, rather than the Impressionistic writing I was accustomed to.
There were many aspects of the class that challenged me, especially regarding some of the different lenses through which we looked at the music. Oftentimes, I wondered if we were trying to look for things to consider that weren’t really there, such as the French being so overtly racist or Sapphonics in music. I am of a different mindset after discussions in class because (as I believe Kirsten brought up) these issues not being as relevant to me does not mean that they aren’t for somebody else. One cannot ask too many questions about the music we are studying, and it is important to always keep an open mind.
Music history has always been the most difficult aspect of my being a musician, and I have never been especially enthused by a music history class. Upon reflection however, I realize this class has helped me to grow both as a scholar and a musician regarding the way I think about the cultural implications of the music we perform. It is my goal to continue to approach a lot of the music I love and perform through the various lenses we have explored in class.