The Politics of Transcendence: Ideology in Olivier Messiaen’s Music During the 1930s

By Jane F. Fulcher

Although previous studies of the young Messiaen and Jeune France have concentrated on either a narrowly musical or nationalist context, or on Messiaen’s religious faith, this paper takes a different approach. It examines the way in which Messiaen and the group Jeune France positioned themselves with the dialogue between the major French ideological-aesthetic positions of the mid-1930s. After outlining the aesthetic and political ideals of the Popular Front and its most extreme opposition, both of which used music as a symbol, it examines the position of French « non-conformist » youth. Specifically, it traces the effect of this movement on Messiaen’s ideological-aesthetic position, as well as the influence and support of major « non-conformist » figures, revealing deeper levels of Messiaen’s « progressive » Catholic style.

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