By Heather Wiebe
Studying the intersections among musical tradition and a British venture of reconstruction from the Nineteen Forties to the early Sixties, this examine asks how gestures towards the earlier negotiated problems with restoration and renewal. within the wake of the second one global battle, track turned a privileged website for re-enchanting notions of historical past and neighborhood, yet musical recourse to the earlier additionally raised problems with mourning and loss. How used to be sound figured as a old item and as a locus of reminiscence and magic? Wiebe addresses this query utilizing a variety of resources, from making plans files to journalism, public ceremonial and literature. Its critical concentration, in spite of the fact that, is a suite of works by means of Benjamin Britten that engaged either with the far-off musical previous and with key episodes of postwar reconstruction, together with the competition of england, the Coronation of Elizabeth II and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.
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Additional info for Britten's Unquiet Pasts: Sound and Memory in Postwar Reconstruction
In some ways it echoes the bleakness of Forster’s article, and of Peter Grimes itself, but it also asserts the futility of a national English music in a way that contradicts many of Britten’s own later musical choices. The attempt to create a national music is only one symptom of a serious and universal malaise of our time – the refusal to accept the destruction of “community” by the machine…. The English composers of today have consciously or unconsciously seen the danger-signals ahead. They are avoiding the pitfalls that some of their musical fathers and uncles have dug for them.
Both were occasional pieces – one written for a church, another for a school, both for the anniversaries of local institutions – and they looked to an English cultural past and religious tradition. Both works fostered musical production beyond metropolitan centers, and epitomized a resistance to a mode of consumption in mass culture and high culture alike. Britten posed an alternative musical culture of amateur music-making, of educational and occasional works, with ties to the past and a function in public life outside the ghettoized concert hall – a function often reinforced by ritual or ceremonial elements.
See Christina L. Baade, Victory Through Harmony: The BBC and Popular Music in World War II (Oxford University Press, 2012). On anxieties about popular music on the BBC, see especially 132–134, 196. 34 Set up as an alternative to the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), CEMA fed this interest in more serious leisure pursuits, presenting concerts, plays, and exhibitions at rest centers, air-raid shelters (a practice soon abandoned), and factories across Britain. In document after document in the early and mid-1940s – journalism, CEMA newsletters, personal correspondence, policy materials, program notes, ﬁlms – a new hunger for the arts (especially music) in the special circumstances of war is invoked, deeply informing the way in which art’s social and personal role was imagined in the coming years: as available to everyone, regardless of class, wealth, or education; as a less tangible but nonetheless necessary good in a time of material hardship; as an aid to and sign of social solidarity; and perhaps most of all, as a deﬁant upholding of tradition and an ideal of civilized life in the face of rupture and inhumanity.