Monday, November 15, 2010

Romantic Music and Nationalism

Excerpted from the Modern History Source Book  at

Nationalism was the most successful political force of the 19th century.  It emerged from two main sources: the Romantic exaltation of "feeling" and "identity" and the Liberal requirement that a legitimate state be based on a "people" rather than, for example, a dynasty, God, or imperial domination. Both Romantic "identity nationalism" and Liberal "civic nationalism" were essentially middle class movements. There were two main ways of exemplification: the French method of "inclusion" - essentially that anyone who accepted loyalty to the civil French state was a "citizen". In practice this meant the enforcement of a considerable degree of uniformity, for instance the destruction of regional languages.  The German method, required by political circumstances, was to define the "nation" in ethnic terms. Ethnicity in practice came down to speaking German and sometimes just having a German name. For the largely German-speaking Slavic middle classes of Prague, Agram (Zagreb) etc. who took up the nationalist ideal, the ethnic aspect became even more important than it had been for the Germans.
It was only later in the 19th century that nationalism spread to Slavic countries, some of which which had been effectively dead as political entities for centuries, and where languages survived only as peasant tongues. Among these groups nationalism tended to develop and change in similar ways among each people.
The music here illustrates one common line developments:- generally from a "cultural nationalism" to a more overtly political "liberal nationalism", and then, all to often, to an exclusivist "triumphal nationalism".  It is presented in order of stages rather than in order of date of composition. At any given moment, nationalist movements were often at different stages in different countries.

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