Sindhumathi K. Revuluri

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Sindhumathi K. Revuluri

PhD, Princeton

Sounding France through Others: Empire in Modernist Musical Thought

Anxiety about the invasion of the foreign has always haunted France's quest for self-definition. The nation's fascination with – and imagination of – exotic Others continues to be mediated by the aspiration to identify and preserve an authentic French culture and language. At the end of the 19th century, these dual preoccupations were further complicated by previously imagined exotic elements that now entered lived reality. In Sounding France through Others, I argue that the presence of exotic musics on French soil precipitated an anxiety over France’s musical identity. I propose that this anxiety was eased through absorption of the exotic sounds, thereby erasing the difference they once highlighted. Such a gesture is both a powerful indication of France’s latent imperial authority and the paradox of fin-de-siècle French music: in the process of denoting exotic others, the French musical language became itself exoticized.