Reactionary Musicographers in France during the 1930s

By Philippe Gumplowicz

Prolific musicographers like André Cœuroy and Hugues Panassié played a central part in the circles of both learned music and jazz during the 1930s. Some of their writings, published in journals they had founded or edited, did prescribe the musical taste. Some others, which appeared at a later date, earned them the epithet of “reactionaries”, hence a definitive disrepute. This paper proposes a re-examination of their texts. It considers that their political profile—right-wing ideas—was the condition of their openness to avant-gardes and to a broad vision of their field. It pins down their positions in an intellectual context influenced by a feeling of moral decadence and of decline of the West and by the appearance of new forms of music, languages, and sensibilities. It endeavors to spot the logical links—intellectual and historical—which may explain their swing over to an indefensible stance. The paper is also part and parcel of an innovative reflection towards a political analysis of musical taste.


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