Emerging Voices:Art Song & Social Connection
Dramatic transformations in the world order and major shifts in national and cultural boundaries defined the 20th century. The Expositions Universelles in Paris stimulated a groundswell in cultural exchange, and salons inspired the emergence of new musical voices. Events around World War I prompted questions of nationalism and sovereignty in the face of catastrophic loss, and the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 splintered the European map, effectively creating new nations.
Set against this backdrop, Emerging Voices illustrates the role of art song, with its unique intersection of poetry and music, as a powerful vehicle for social exchange. Curated by the Chamber Music Society in collaboration with tenor Nicholas Phan, this innovative project features six concerts with special projection design by award-winning artist Hana Kim, two panel discussions, and a masterclass.
Panel Discussion I
The 20th century bore witness to dramatic transformations in the world order and major shifts in national and cultural boundaries. Artists frequently emerged as ambassadors for the people they represented, and composers, in particular, harnessed art song as a means of defining and expressing the unique character of a nation. To set the stage for this project, Jay Winter and Ceri Owen join Nicholas Phan to explore how art song was historically used to understand national identity, especially during times of great social, political, and cultural change.
New Voices: Paris of the Belle Époque
Our initial Emerging Voices program begins in fin-de-siècle Paris where a uniquely French aesthetic blossomed in the ubiquitous salon concerts of that era. In this environment of cultural exchange between artists, the oeuvre of composers like Debussy and Fauré swelled with mélodies—the French equivalent of the German Lieder.
Salon Concert I
Our first program at the Stotesbury Mansion offers an intimate experience akin to the kind of “salon-style” events held in Europe in the early 20th century. While these English, French, and Spanish songs are laden with themes of love for one’s homeland, they also foreshadow the conflicted emotions of patriotism and the horror associated with World War I.
Lost Voices: The War to End All Wars
As the world descended into the Great War, composers joined the war effort, many as soldiers. The works on this program present the individual struggles of wartime and give voice to the many lives cut short. Of particular note is Lili Boulanger’s song cycle Clairières dans le ciel, whose expressions of loss are made all the more searing by the composer’s own imminent death.
Found Voices: The New European Map
In the wake of the Treaty of Versailles, Central Europe’s borders were dramatically redrawn. Bartók and Kodály pioneered major ethnomusicological research at this time, collecting numerous Hungarian folk songs and incorporating them into their works, while the songs of Czech composers Kaprálová and Janáček reflect the national and social liberation of their people.
Panel Discussion II
Today, art song faces its own crisis of identity amid the abundance of cultural opportunities and options for virtual connection. Alex Ross and Susan Stewart join Nicholas Phan to explore the role of poets and composers in communicating the human experience and fostering empathy between people. This second panel discussion explores why this art form, with its unique intersection of poetry and music, remains a powerful vehicle for social exchange.
Salon Concert II
The urge to incorporate the music “of the people” into art song stretched from England to Brazil. In America, composers drew inspiration from traditional tunes, folk songs, and spirituals that expressed the nation’s diverse character. This second salon performance serves as a wonderful prelude to the final Emerging Voices concert, bringing our attention to a time and place close to home.
Our Voices: The Rise of the American Voice
American composers flocked to France during and after the war to study with Nadia Boulanger, who exhorted them to embrace their personal identities and seek out the “American voice.” This final program connects their contributions to contemporary composers Tania León, Caroline Shaw, and Nico Muhly, whose work acknowledges the interconnectedness of people and cultures in 21st century America.