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Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism

Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism: Music, "Race," and Intellectuals in France, 1918-1945

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 226
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    Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism
    Book Description:

    Jeremy F. Lane'sJazz and Machine-Age Imperialismis a bold challenge to the existing homogenous picture of the reception of American jazz in world-war era France. Lane's book closely examines the reception of jazz among French-speaking intellectuals between 1918 and 1945 and is the first study to consider the relationships, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes antagonistic, between early white French jazz critics and those French-speaking intellectuals of color whose first encounters with the music in those years played a catalytic role in their emerging black or Creole consciousness. Jazz's first arrival in France in 1918 coincided with a series of profound shocks to received notions of French national identity and cultural and moral superiority. These shocks, characteristic of the era of machine-age imperialism, had been provoked by the first total mechanized war, the accelerated introduction of Taylorist and Fordist production techniques into European factories, and the more frequent encounters with primitive "Others" in the imperial metropolis engendered by interwar imperialism. Through close readings of the work of early white French jazz critics, alongside the essays and poems of intellectuals of color such as the Nardal sisters, Léon-Gontran Damas, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and René Ménil,Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialismhighlights the ways in which the French reception of jazz was bound up with a series of urgent contemporary debates about primitivism, imperialism, anti-imperialism, black and Creole consciousness, and the effects of American machine-age technologies on the minds and bodies of French citizens.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-02922-8
    Subjects: Music, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. Table of Contents (pp. [xi]-[xii])
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-34)

    In the 1920s, the French commentator Georges Duhamel toured the United States, examining the state of a society that, particularly in light of the American role in the First World War, seemed to French eyes to represent the height of industrial and technological development, of efficiency and ingenuity, while embodying the most modern of social and sexual mores. Horrified and fascinated in equal measure by what he had observed, Duhamel published his findings in his 1930America the Menace: Scenes from the Life of the Future, a book that rapidly became a best seller in his native France. One of...

  5. 1 Between “the Virgin Forest and Modernism”: Techno-Primitive Hybrids in the Work of André Schaeffner and Robert Goffin (pp. 35-64)

    One of the central criticisms leveled by Jane Nardal in her 1928 article “Pantins exotiques” was that white French commentators were guilty of exploiting black musical forms in order symbolically to heal the rift between “the virgin forest and modernism,” as she put it (J. Nardal 1928). Projecting their fantasies of both American machine-age modernity and African primitivism onto those musical forms, she suggested, allowed white commentators to imagine a way of reconnecting an alienating modernity with the sources of primitive authenticity from which it had seemingly cast adrift. As we saw in the Introduction, there was certainly no shortage...

  6. 2 Armstrong’s “Bitter Laughter”: Jazz, Gender, and Racial Politics in Léon-Gontran Damas’s Pigments (1937) (pp. 65-89)

    Visitors to Paris in the interwar years were able to avail themselves of a handy tourist guide to the city’s black-run jazz and nightclubs. EntitledBals nègres et bals pittoresques, the guide invited its implicitly white French readership to savor the sensual delights of Paris’sbals nègres. Helpful instructions were thus included directing the reader to the club that was “the most black” and that had “the most local colour” (Bals nègres1931, 13). The beauty of the young female Antillean clients of another club was vaunted (11), as were the physical attributes of the African-American clientele in yet another,...

  7. 3 Jazz as Antidote to the Machine Age: From Hugues Panassié to Léopold Sédar Senghor (pp. 90-125)

    In 1939, Léopold Sédar Senghor published an essay entitled “Ce que l’homme noir apporte” (What the Black Man Brings), in which he offered one of the first detailed expositions of his particular conception ofnégritude. Négritude, for Senghor, corresponded to a transatlantic black identity, which had been repressed by a long history of both Western imperialism and US racism. A significant cultural expression of this identity, according to Senghor, was “hot jazz,” a musical form whose precise nature and meaning, he went on, had recently been anatomized in Hugues Panassié’s bookLe Jazz hot(in Senghor 1964, 38).

    First published...

  8. 4 “And What If Jazz Were French … ?” Postcolonial Melancholy and Myths of French Louisiana in Vichy-Era France (pp. 126-154)

    In 1943, at the height of the Second World War, Panassié published a new book on jazz, entitledLa Musique de jazz et le swing(Jazz Music and Swing). At the end of the book, he included an “annexe” that was dedicated purely to criticizing a rival study that had appeared the previous year, André Coeuroy’s 1942Histoire générale du jazz, strette, hot, swing(A General History of Jazz, straight, hot, swing). According to Panassié, Coeuroy’s book was “full of theories regarding jazz as false as they are pernicious,” while its author’s “competence as concerns jazz matters” was “wholly illusory”...

  9. 5 “Marvellous” Ellington: René Ménil, Jazz, Surrealism, and Creole Identity in Wartime Martinique (pp. 155-179)

    On 10 May 1943, Lieutenant De Vaisseau Bayle, a French naval officer and representative of the Vichy authorities in Martinique, wrote to the editors ofTropiquesto explain that the publication of any further editions of the journal would henceforth be banned.Tropiqueshad been founded in Martinique in 1941 by a group of young French Antillean intellectuals, many of whom had returned to the island at the outbreak of war, having spent the interwar years studying in Paris. During their time in Paris, the editors of the journal, such as René Ménil and Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, had been...

  10. Coda: Jazz After Empire (pp. 180-200)

    In 1948, Jean-Paul Sartre published his famous essay “Orphée noir” (Black Orpheus) as the preface to Senghor’s anthology of poetry by the young poets ofnégritude. According to Sartre (1948, XVII), each of the poems included in the anthology bore witness to its author’s “quest” for a sense of black identity, a quest that had demanded they embark on “a journey back down to the devastating Underworld of the black soul.” More specifically, it was by giving in to “the primitive rhythms” of their African culture that each poet had attempted “to be possessed by thenégritudeof his people;...

  11. NOTES (pp. 201-208)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 209-220)
  13. INDEX (pp. 221-226)