Fabian Huss (University of Bristol), ‘Some interrelations between local, national, imperial and cosmopolitan identities in early 20th-century British music and criticism’

As musical modernism began to be introduced into British musical life, local, national, imperial and cosmopolitan identities began to take on new roles and associations. Quasi-moral considerations were often in evidence, for instance, drawing on a wide range of influences such as post-Victorian culture and aesthetics, developments in the sciences (notably Darwinism), the popularisation of the basic concepts of psychoanalysis, and aesthetic issues bound up with formalism and ideas about progress and modernity. Several of these points are also related to shifting social and professional identities. Ideas about empire were in flux, meanwhile, becoming increasingly complicated in the aftermath of the Boer War. The intersections of these areas and several others will be considered, both in general and with reference to specific examples of music and criticism/commentary. Although imported modernist music (for instance Debussy, Stravinsky and Schoenberg) often received a relatively sympathetic hearing, British composers tended to favour a more conservative aesthetic, often referring to British national identity. In this trend there is a rejection of romantic excess and decadent modernism, suggesting instead a continuation of a universal aesthetic ideal extolled by such commentators as CV Stanford and George Dyson and related (in the words of Edwin Evans) to ‘true internationalism’.


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