Innovation and Tradition in French Music since 1920

The various elements which began to be incorporated into this style worked with new sounds and methodologies of the works while adding in a sense of innovation that broke from the musical traditions of the past. French Music in the 1920s The importance of Les Six in the 1920s of France was important not only because of the changes in classical music. There were also attempts to express the political and social changes that were occurring within France and at a global level. France was currently experiencing the political movements of revolution and war, specifically which began to emerge in the late 1800s. The time period which led to more experimentation was after World War I. The general ideology of those that were in France during this time was based on finding a sense of freedom from the past of politics with an understanding of the complexities from the suffering of war as well as the new philosophies based on freedom. This led to the exploratory nature of the music and the new expressions which showed the modern complexity of the time. The war, as well as the corruptions in politics was then able to guide in new philosophies and ideologies into a sense of modernism1. With the changes in politics, were also alterations in identity among the French culture. This was based on the ideas of nationalism, specifically which expressed a new ideology by understanding that France needed to regain an identity outside of the wars that were being fought. The ideal of patriotism of France, as well as the identity of changing the cultural aspects that were associated with France became the main objectives. This was combined with the concept of modernity, specifically which came from the growth of the industrial era. France created an ideology of identity based on moving into innovation and modernity, as well as placing this around the pride for the country. The reflection in the music was then based on the ideals of innovation and experimentation that could represent the new French style2. Background of Les Six Les Six began to develop in 1917, with the leader of the group, Jean Cocteau. This French composer took the names from the Russian and German movements which were also interested in experimentation and innovation. However, the ideals moved against the other experimentation aspects, such as from Richard Wagner. The individuals who made this group included Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Taillefaire. It was noted that the importance of this group was based not only on the ideal of composition with a rebellion of other types of music. More important, there was a creation of commercial advertising and an understanding that the music made would be French and for those interested in creating a specialized type of music that represented the nation3. The basics of Les Six not only were based on the six individuals who held specific relationships to the music and what was occurring. There was also a direct association with the outside influences, which the group began to accept or reject as a part of their works. The first way in which this was done was through the outside influences and theories that began to enter Paris as it became a world – renowned place for travel. The World fair of 1894 as well as the fluctuation of individuals visiting the region from around the world began to move those interested in music into new theories. American, Russian and German influences were three of the strongest areas which began