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Transnational Localism and Music after the two World Wars: the case of Francis Poulenc

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Transnational Localism (Transnational Localism and Music after the two World Wars: the case of Francis Poulenc)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

On focusing on Poulenc’s career, works and personality, ‘Transnational Localism’ aimed to explore the relationship between music and places, as well as varied questions of national identity. Poulenc offers a perfect example of an artist belonging to the generation of 1890, who lived through two processes of reconstruction. To understand the case of Poulenc helps to understand the growing complexity of music after the two World Wars. On a smaller scale, ‘Transnational Localism’ aimed to understand the creative process of a particularly intuitive composer, whose style have often been considered as archetypical of the French character.

‘Transnational Localism’ aimed to combine different interdisciplinary approaches. The project was defined with several main areas of enquiry, including: Poulenc and the rural/urban, Poulenc’s tours in the USA, Poulenc and the UK, Poulenc’s carrier development during the reconstruction.
This project was also to engage the researcher to expand his network, to improve his skills in English, and finally to study in different archives, with the purpose of expanding his perspectives on Poulenc, on whom he was already a recognized specialist.
The research has been mainly focused on two large themes: Poulenc’s creativity in the prism of ‘cultural geographies’, and Poulenc tours in the US. In doing so, the researcher studied Poulenc’s artistic networks on several levels, whether in Touraine (where Poulenc owned a house), in the UK (through the connection of Poulenc with Berkeley and Britten) and in the US.
The researcher explored the first topic particularly during the first year of the project. He immersed himself in this field working with the scholar Dr. Ceri Morgan. By participating in her seminars, by studying the scholarly writings in this field, he renewed his approach of Poulenc. The researcher invited Professor Grimley, one of the rare musicologists who uses the approach of cultural geography, to speak at the multidisciplinary Study Day he organized, “Creative Responses to Places”.
The second theme, the American Tours of Poulenc, the researcher explored particularly during the second year of the project, proved to be more fertile than had been planned. Not only does this topic combines the problems of ‘Transnational Localism’, and involves crossing different methodologies, but it is also very new in the ‘Poulencquian’ field.
Therefore, the researcher has studied in depth the American newspapers, to understand the reception of Poulenc during his four tours. All these sources reveal a lot about the recognition and the international reputation of Poulenc as a French composer, as well as his self-promotion strategies after the WW2.
It was thus possible to begin to build on this research in several papers, as well as during the Symposium of the 3-4 July 2017, which the researcher organized at the RNCM, “Musicians and the Conquest of North America: Musical Travels and Cultural Politics”. This conference brought together 14 musicologists from several countries. The papers presented explored many aspects of the tours and the strategies of musicians, and also institutional, financial and political questions.

In addition to the Study Day and Symposium, the researcher and his supervisor organized a conference, the 23-24 November 2016, devoted to a central theme of the project: “Music & Nation, 1918-1945 - Europe and the Americas. Music, nationalism & transnationalism: diplomacy, politics & aesthetics” at the RNCM, in collaboration with Dr A. Fléchet, Dr M. Guerpin, Pr. P. Gumplowicz and Dr G. Demonet. The researcher participated in a roundtable addressing questions closely linked to the project and to the case of Poulenc.
The researcher also made an unexpected discovery while working in the US, of an unpublished piano piece by Poulenc. This is an important finding, as the thematic Catalogue of the composer’s work (1995) made the discovery of such new pieces very unlikely. This discovery has shaped the researcher’s work, as it became necessary to understand this piano piece (a very original piece, the particularity of which is that it has been composed in relationship to a pictorial work).
Simultaneously, the researcher has also deepened the themes previously mentioned, meeting specialists of the composer L. Berkeley, exploring the BBC Written Archives, the archives of the Britten-Pears Foundation, and working at the British Library. This research renewed his approach to the links between Poulenc and the UK, bringing to the fore new sources.
The ‘Transnational Localism’ project also enabled the researcher to publish an edited collection on Poulenc. The volume had its origins in a symposium he had organized in 2013, which was an important preparation for ‘Transnational Localism’, as it stimulated the researcher to identify the paths of its themes. The result was the book ‘Fortunes de Poulenc’, completed during the first year of the project. In 17 articles, written by musicologists of several countries, the book seeks to understand the international success of Poulenc and the future of his work in France and abroad. The researcher has written a chapter about the reception of Poulenc’s music in the scores of other composers. This original approach emphasizes Poulenc’s networks, the cultural transfer involved in a reception that occurs in the music itself of other composers.
More broadly, ‘Transnational Localism’ has allowed the researcher to renew or deepen certain aspects of Poulenc works, strategies and creative process. It enabled him to discover a large number of new sources; these are materials for work in progress. The researcher is writing a book that explores these themes, from which certain chapters will first be published as articles. Two publications can be reported here: the article “Composing with Places in Mind: Francis Poulencs Personal Geography”, for the journal ‘Musicology Research’, and the publication of the newly discovered Poulenc’s piano piece, by Poulenc’s publisher.
These two years of research have also allowed the researcher to improve his mastery of the English language, to extend his networks and form useful collaborations with international researchers. He has also been able to enrich his methodologies with approaches specific to Anglo-Saxon musicology.

Through various activities, the researcher has also been able to launch projects that will reach a wider audience than specialists only. His collaboration with the Conway Hall will materialize in a pre-concert talk in May 2018. During a series of concerts in Myanmar in November 2017, the researcher will also give a lecture about French music. Two of his publications could benefit to a wide public: a “Poulenc” file on the IRCAM online database, and articles on Poulenc’s writings as part of the ‘Dicteco’ project. The project webpage also contains public-facing descriptions of the project. The researcher will also propose a feature about the new piano piece on BBC 3 (he contributed to it in 2013).
The ideas at the heart of ‘Transnational Localism’ have stimulated the development of an international Research Centre called “Music and Nation”. It has now grown to an annual conference devoted to related themes (transnationalism from different national perspectives and different historical periods). The supervisor’s own research is focused on these questions. The project has led to a further grant applications and collaborations.
Programme of the Study Day, Keele University (July 2016)
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (July 2017) 02
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (July 2017) 03
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (July 2017) 04
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (July 2017) 01
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (Nov. 2016) 03
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (Nov. 2016) 02
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (Nov. 2016) 01
Programme of the Symposium, RNCM (Nov. 2016) 04