Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918-1939

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Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918-1939

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Title: Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918-1939
Author: Epstein, Louis Kaiser
Citation: Epstein, Louis Kaiser. 2013. Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918-1939. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation illuminates the funding contexts that structured art music composition in interwar France. While music historiography tends to focus solely on patronage - an ill-defined and limited category - as the paradigmatic economy within which pre-paid composition takes place, I bring patronage into conversation with other, similarly enabling funding sources: publishing, radio, film, orchestras, and ballet companies. Through a series of case studies of the individuals, institutions, and practices that provided a market for interwar French art music, I pursue two central ideas: first, that musical works, genres, and styles present sonic traces of the economic forces that structured their composition, and second, that the funding context of music often determines its historiographical reception. The rich musical landscape of interwar France provides a unique setting through which to explore these ideas. Between a remarkable flowering of artistic movements, the rapid proliferation of new media for cultural expression, and steadily increasing institutional involvement in music composition and performance, we can observe a remarkable context of wealth and power exerting a significant impact on the practices of music composition and performance. In order to theorize patronage in the broader context of funding for music composition, I explore the conventions of individual, aristocratic patronage, focusing on commissions as contractual exchanges and as reflective of the "collections" to which they belong, both for patrons and composers. While the state lagged far behind individual patrons in terms of direct commissions to composers, it nevertheless found numerous ways to intervene in musical culture in the hope of stimulating the market for art music composition, particularly with respect to symphonic music. The clear-cut patronage of aristocratic individuals and public ministries contrasts sharply with the ambiguous roles played by the leaders of three influential ballet companies (Ballets Suedois, Soirees de Paris, Ballets Ida Rubinstein) whose competition with the Ballets Russes engendered precisely the market for new French music that the state sought vainly to encourage. Through my study of these ballet companies and of the business correspondence of Darius Milhaud, I show that rather than constraining or corrupting creativity, many sources of funding not ordinarily considered "patronage" nevertheless freed composers to pursue experimental avenues and enrich musical culture, in their time and in ours.
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