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The ambiguities of individualist versus collectivist interpretations in the early reception of Debussy and their contexts
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Musicology and Performance Studies, Musicology.
2014 (English)In: Utopia, University of Helsinki, Finland, 29-31 August 2014: Utopia: The fourth bi-annual conference of the european network for avant-garde and Modernism studies, 2014Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
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Musicology Humanities
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114862OAI: diva2:794633
Utopia, University of Helsinki, Finland, 29-31 August 2014

The ambiguities of individualist versus collectivist interpretations in the early reception of Debussy and their contexts

The French musical life around 1900 was dominated by collectivist conceptions of the (ideal) role of music, with rather well explicated aims and poetics, and heated debates. One of the main parties was the Academic, a form of extremely centralized education of citizens, according to which artistic technique was treated as a discipline, and a dogmatic rule poetics based on authority was the central tenet. In the late 19th and the early 20th century, it was on the defensive, though perhaps less than in other arts is this to be ascribed to an offensive of artistic individualism. In music, the main opponent of the Academy was a current (“the Franck School”) exposing historical idealism, invoking Catholicism and

Nationalism, often combined with paradigms of terroir, historically based studies (and Hegelian dialectics) supplanted rule poetics, but the conform adaption to a collective identity was left unchanged. Somewhat later, a musical modernism seemingly exposing a more marked individualism developed, whose main representative was Debussy.

The main characteristics of the transcendental individualism of Debussy were a lack of obvious systematic regularity in the work, as also the lack of an explicit systematic poetics. Thereby his œuvre early became the target for quite different interpretations.

Jacob Derkert

Department of musicology and performance studies, Stockholm university, Sweden 

Available from: 2015-03-12 Created: 2015-03-12 Last updated: 2015-03-12

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