The Concert Of Nations: Music, Political Thought And Diplomacy In Europe, 1600S-1800S
Musical category, political concept, and political myth, the Concert of nations emerged within 16th- and 17th-century court culture. While the phrase may not have entered the political vocabulary before the end of the 18th century, the representation of nations in sonorous and visual ensembles is contemporary to the institution of the modern state and the first developments of the international system. As a musical category, the Concert of nations encompasses various genres- ballet, dance suite, opera, and symphony. It engages musicians in making commonplaces, converting ad hoc representations into shared realities, and uses multivalent forms that imply, rather than articulate political meaning. The Nutcracker, the ballet by Tchaikovsky, Vsevolozhsky, Petipa and Ivanov, illustrates the playful recomposition of semiotic systems and political thought within a work; the music of the battle scene (Act I) sets into question the equating of harmony with peace, even while the ballet des nations (Act II) culminates in a conventional choreography of international concord (Chapter I). Chapter II similarly demonstrates how composers and librettists directly contributed to the conceptual elaboration of the Concert of nations. Two works, composed near the close of the War of Polish Succession (1733-38), illustrate opposite constructions of national character and conflict resolution: Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde (BWV 206) by Johann Sebastian Bach (librettist unknown), and Les Sauvages by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Louis Fuzelier. These construct competing definitions of the political concept vis-à-vis hegemony, morality, and reality The Concert of nations has hence long constituted a symbolic resource for political action. At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), music and dance contributed to a high society of pleasures that modeled peaceful difference and competition in international relations. The Austrian court, and in particular its foreign minister, Klemens von Metternich, consistently resorted to the Concert of nations as a vector of soft power. Current uses of music in international relations only partially replicate these practices. As illustrated by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, musicians can still represent the Concert of nations, but the experience remains limited to professionals, and the values their performances embody do not necessarily offer desirable political models (Chapter III).
Concert; International relations; Multivalence
Webster, James; Kramnick, Isaac
Ph.D. of Musicology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis