WWI’s Affect on Composers

April 16, 2012 | | Comments Off on WWI’s Affect on Composers

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), the Finnish composer, was arguably unaffected musically by the war. To follow through his symphonies, one sees a continuous progression and growth of his musical language,logically refining and unifying the symphonic form as well as that of his tone poems. The silence after his seventh symphony (1924) was due to his lack of inspiration in being able to write anything he considered more perfect than his last symphony. One could argue that Sibelius quit because his music had become outdated, the European landscape around him had evolved, and he was no longer relevant
 The difference between Sibelius first symphony (1899-1900) and his last tone poem, Tapiola (1926) isthat the symphony is relatively un-unified, changing moods and themes, while Tapiola is monothematic.His individuality and compositional development can be seen in comparing his seven symphonies. In René Leibowitz, Sibelius, le plus mauvais compositeur du monde. (Éditions Dynamo, 1955)
Ex. 13
 In regards to developing symphonic form, Sibelius went from quite a traditional structure in his 1st symphony normal four movements, with one in modified sonata form, to his 7th symphony in one movement, though it contains 1st theme, 2nd
theme and scherzo, it does so without any structural looseness. Sibelius was definitely affected by the war. Professionally, he lost a lot of money when Germany entered the war. His works were still performed but there were no longer performing rights and protection laws,meaning that Sibelius received no royalties. He was forced to write light music to earn more money to support his family, however reports from the time show him as reasonably optimistic and cheerful throughout the troubled times. At one point during the internal fighting in Finland, Sibelius was forced to leave his hometown Järvenpää, but returned home after Finland was proclaimed an autonomous republic. However Sibelius’s life was interrupted, its hard to argue that these events affected his musical language. His music seemed to develop logically, and didn’t get darker or more harmonically or musically innovative after the war, nor did he have a complete shift in styles. As Sibelius himself said “The longer I live the more I see Classicism as the way of the future.”
 In comparing composers reactions to the war, one can see a few general trends, common in certain ways to different composers. The first being a retreat in style, such as in the case of Stravinsky, and slightly in the case of Strauss and Ravel. Each of these cases are arguable though, questioning whether it was the war’s influence, or a coincidence in the timing of their stylistic changes. Different composers took refuge in different stylistic periods too; Stravinsky to styles of the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century and Ravel, and other French composers, to jazz styles. Predictably none of these composers saw their change as specifically a war reaction; rather they saw it as logical progression fromtheir earlier music.
Source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/8579692/WWIs-affect-on-composers
Posted by: Allyson Dodson


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