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Britten's Unquiet Pasts
Sound and Memory in Postwar Reconstruction

$35.99 (C)

Part of Music since 1900

  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107507821

$ 35.99 (C)
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About the Authors
  • Examining the intersections between musical culture and a British project of reconstruction from the 1940s to the early 1960s, this study asks how gestures toward the past negotiated issues of recovery and renewal. In the wake of the Second World War, music became a privileged site for re-enchanting notions of history and community, but musical recourse to the past also raised issues of mourning and loss. How was sound figured as a historical object and as a locus of memory and magic? Wiebe addresses this question using a wide range of sources, from planning documents to journalism, public ceremonial and literature. Its central focus, however, is a set of works by Benjamin Britten that engaged both with the distant musical past and with key episodes of postwar reconstruction, including the Festival of Britain, the Coronation of Elizabeth II and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.

    • Proposes new ways of understanding uses of the national past in mid-century modernity
    • Reveals relationships between Britten's music, arts institutions and the pressing social and cultural issues of postwar Britain
    • Provides an account of music's importance in the early welfare state to give a new perspective on the arts in Britain and the role of public funding
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Highly recommended."
    --Choice

    "Heather Wiebe's astute new monograph Britten's Unquiet Pasts shows how Britten's patriotic project dovetailed both with a nostalgic turn in postwar English tastes and with the nation's more forward-looking cultural enterprises..."
    -New York Review of Books

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107507821
    • length: 250 pages
    • dimensions: 245 x 170 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 2 b/w illus. 1 table 31 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    1. Music and cultural renewal
    2. 'Today on Earth the Angels Sing': carols in wartime
    3. Realizing Purcell
    4. Gloriana and the 'new Elizabethans'
    5. Noye's Fludde and the rituals of lost faith
    6. Ghosts in the ruins: the War Requiem at Coventry.

  • Author

    Heather Wiebe, University of Virginia
    Heather Wiebe is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Virginia. A member of the editorial board of The Opera Quarterly, she has published widely on twentieth-century music, British musical culture and opera.

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