We’re coming up on the end of our first week of research! We’ve already started mapping a couple of different projects, and we have several more lined up. I’m also finally getting more accustomed to the names and faces of Paris’ musical scene in the 1920s. The significant venues, composers, and musical organizations have become familiar footholds within a complex sea of information. To me, one of the most striking realizations has been about the interconnectedness of the artistic world at the time . Everybody seemed to know everyone else; they were all part of overlapping social circles. Pablo Picasso, for example, designed sets for productions of the Ballets Russes, which premiered works by composers such as Poulenc and Milhaud, who in turn corresponded with Arnold Schoenberg. I almost need a diagram just to keep track of it all!
From the books and articles we’ve been reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about thematic connections as well as interpersonal ones. In every secondary source we’ve examined so far, questions have cropped up about the commercialization of “high” art, and about the relationship between social class and the experience of music. Each source also hints at the broader question of French identity in the 1920s. After World War I, in an era of rapid modernization and significant foreign presence, how was Parisian music shaped by competing ideas about a truly “French” culture? These are the broad questions that I want to keep in mind as we move forward with research this summer.
Looking ahead, I’m excited about working with more archival material, especially things like concert reviews. Which performances bored listeners, and which ones shocked them? I want to get a feeling of the expectations and experiences of different audiences. I’m also looking forward to trying out new (or at least new to me) mapping software, and seeing what new ways we can display our finds. Here’s to another week as good as the first!