• Virginia Eskin, pianist, artist, and lecturer.
• Gil Rose, conductor and founder of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
• Loren Schoenberg, artistic director, National Jazz Museum in Harlem; band leader and musicologist.
• Stephan Pennington, assistant professor of music at Tufts University, specializing in jazz, African-American, and queer music studies.
How did composers react to the violence of The First World War? In the last show in our series on the Great War, we’re listening to the sounds that emerged from its ashes. In Vienna concert halls and New York jazz clubs, from Maurice Ravel’s piano elegies to Igor Stravinsky’s explosive symphonies, we’re coursing through the composers who defined a modern era, reacting to the terrible violence of total warfare through art.
It’s a twenty-year-long journey that begins in Paris in 1914—as bombs began to fall and mass media began to rise—with Ravel’s Le Tombeau, a swirling piano suite dedicated to friends of Ravel who died in the war. We’ll move across the Atlantic and hear George Antheil’s bombastic Ballet Mécanique, which brought the noise of war—a whir of plane propellers, sirens, and an army of player pianos—directly into the concert hall. Finally, we’re making the great transatlantic jazz connection: how Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, and others pointed a new way out of the darkness.
Two essential book-length treatments of that beautiful, movable-feast-in-music moment: Albert Murray’s Stomping the Blues and Alfred Appel, Jr.’s Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce.
- The war took the lives of notable composers across Europe, including Albéric Magnard, Enrique Granados, and George Butterworth. German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle compiled a list of the many injured;
- “Deceptive Cadence”, the NPR classical music blog, collected musical responses to the war from Ravel, Ives, Holst, and others;
- New Yorker music critic Alex Ross details the great composers of the era—Stravinsky, Satie, Milhaud, and others—in a chapter in his primer to twentieth-century music, The Rest is Noise (a rich audio guide to that chapter is online);
- CBC took on popular and classical music during The First World War, in an exceptional episode of Ideas, with Paul Kennedy;
- Then, if you didn’t catch it last year, WNYC broadcast a special on art in 1913: a “mad, Modernist moment” before the war, with a focus on Stravinsky and Schoenberg;
- Finally, hear BBC’s “World War One: Cradle of Jazz,” a special on the musical evolution of ragtime into jazz during the war.
- And we’ve got a playlist of ten pieces that gives the shape of the evolution in music after the war: