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Modern Times pp 180-205 | Cite as

England, 1918–45

  • Stephen Banfield
Part of the Man & Music book series (MAMU)

Abstract

Musical life in Britain between the wars underwent enormous change. The period saw the coming of age of the gramophone and the cinema, and the birth and rapid development of radio broadcasting. (Television also made an early start — Albert Coates’s Pickwick was the first opera to be televised in Britain, in 1936 — but did not develop broadly until after World War II.) The introduction of electrical recording in 1926 set the gramophone companies on a firm footing, and Elgar’s late use of the medium for making recorded performances of his own works and his relation with Fred Gaisberg of the Gramophone Company (HMV) provide a fragment of British musical history to compensate in some measure for the general creative decline of his last decade.1 The cinema provided employment for thousands of instrumental musicians and organists during its silent heyday in the 1920s and laid them off overnight when the ‘talkies’ arrived; where they all went to is a mystery.2 Broadcasting supported sectors of the musical profession almost from the start: the BBC took over the ailing Promenade Concerts in 1927 and enabled Henry Wood not only to provide a summer music festival for Londoners but to make it available to all those elsewhere who possessed wireless sets. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1930 with Adrian Boult as conductor (Boult, and later Bliss, were to become music directors of the BBC).

Keywords

Popular Music Musical Language Solo Song British Composer Modem Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    J. N. Moore, Elgar on Record: the Composer and the Gramophone (London, 1974).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    C. Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain Since the Eighteenth Century: a Social History (Oxford, 1985).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Graves and A. Hodge, The Long Weekend: a Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939 (London, 1940).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I. Whitcomb, After the Ball: Pop Music from Rag to Rock (London, 1972), 172.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    D. Godfrey, Memories and Music (London, 1924); see list of his performances.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Minihan, The Nationalization of Culture: the Development of State Subsidies to the Arts in Great Britain (London, 1977).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Repr. in A. Bliss, As I Remember (London, 1970), 248–55.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J. Longmire, John Ireland: Portrait of a Friend (London, 1969), 20.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    E. M. Forster, Collected Short Stories (Harmondsworth, 1954), 86.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Ivor Gurney: War Letters, ed. R. K. R. Thornton (Ashington and Manchester, 1983), 262.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    H. Howells, ‘Vaughan Williams’s “Pastoral” Symphony’, ML, iii (1922), 127.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    U. Vaughan Williams, R. V. W.: a Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams (Oxford, 1964), 121.Google Scholar
  13. P. Fussell, ‘Arcadian Recourses’, in The Great War and Modern Memory (New York and London, 1975), 231.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    W. Owen, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (London, 1963).Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    A. Powell, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant (London, 1960), 148.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    F. Howes, The English Musical Renaissance (London, 1966), 160.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    S. Banfield, Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early 20th Century (Cambridge, 1985), i, 265.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    M. Kennedy, The Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams (London, 1964, 3/1980), 245.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    S. Hynes, The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s (London, 1976).Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    M. Kennedy, Britten (London, 1981), 13.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    D. Mitchell, Britten and Auden in the Thirties: the Year 1936 (London, 1981), 19.Google Scholar

Bibliographical Note General Background

  1. The history of Britain in the period is voluminously covered in A. J. P. Taylor, English History: 1914–1945 (Oxford, 1965; Harmondsworth, 1970),Google Scholar
  2. or at shorter length in H. Pelling, Modern Britain 1885–1955 (London, 1960),Google Scholar
  3. and D. Thomson: England in the Twentieth Century, The Pelican History of England, ix (Harmondsworth, 1965).Google Scholar
  4. None of these books has much to say about culture and the arts. For those topics one might turn first to R. Graves and A. Hodge, The Long Weekend: a Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939 (London, 1940), for an entertaining account of the social background;Google Scholar
  5. then to J. Montgomery, The Twenties (London, 1957);Google Scholar
  6. D. Goldring, The Nineteen Twenties (London, 1945);Google Scholar
  7. M. Muggeridge, The Thirties (London, 1940)Google Scholar
  8. and J. Symon, The Thirties (London, 1960).Google Scholar
  9. Further general reading might include C. L. Mowat, Britain Between the Wars 1918–1940 (London, 1968);Google Scholar
  10. L. C. B. Seaman, Post-Victorian Britain 1902–1951 (London, 1968)Google Scholar
  11. and the study text, S. Constantine’s Social Conditions in Britain 1918–1939 (London, 1983).Google Scholar
  12. For the relationship of art and life, P. Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory (New York and London, 1975) cannot be bettered;Google Scholar
  13. on a different topic, there is S. Hynes’s The Auden Generation: Literature and Politics in England in the 1930s (London, 1976).Google Scholar
  14. Music’s public face is dealt with in J. Minihan, The Nationalization of Culture: the Development of State Subsidies to the Arts in Great Britain (London, 1977);Google Scholar
  15. C. Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain Since the Eighteenth Century: a Social History (Oxford, 1985);Google Scholar
  16. and A. Briggs, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (1961- ), this last a dull, multi-volume affair.Google Scholar
  17. D. Russell’s recent Popular Music in England, 1840–1914: a Social History (Manchester, 1987) awaits its twentieth-century sequel,Google Scholar
  18. but I. Whitcomb’s After the Ball: Pop Music from Rag to Rock (London, 1972) covers much ground entertainingly.Google Scholar

Music

  1. The standard history of British music in the period is still F. Howes’s The English Musical Renaissance (London, 1966).Google Scholar
  2. Its pro-establishment bias is ineffectually countered in P. Pirie’s book of the same title (London, 1979). The sixth volume of the Blackwell History of Music in Britain, The Twentieth Century, is in preparation. British Music of Our Time (Harmondsworth, 1946), a little book edited by A. L. Bacharach, is still worth reading,Google Scholar
  3. while The Mirror of Music: 1844–1944: a Century of Musical Life in Britain as Reflected in the Pages of the ‘Musical Times’, ed. P. Scholes, 2 vols. (London, 1947) is an encyclopedic reference work.Google Scholar
  4. S. Banfield, Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early 20th Century, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1985), deals with most of the composers of the period and with much of the background,Google Scholar
  5. as does Lewis Foreman, From Parry to Britten: British Music in Letters 1900–1945 (London, 1987), in its refreshing anthology format.Google Scholar
  6. Foremost among essays is C. Lambert: Music Ho!: a Study of Music in Decline (London, 1934, 3/1966);Google Scholar
  7. see also R. Vaughan Williams, National Music and Other Essays (Oxford, 1963, 2/1987),Google Scholar
  8. and the various volumes of Osbert Sitwell’s autobiography Left Hand, Right Hand!, particularly Laughter in the Next Room (London, 1948).Google Scholar
  9. Composers who wrote informative autobiographies include Bliss, Lutyens and Goossens, in As I Remember (London, 1970),Google Scholar
  10. A Goldfish Bowl (London, 1972)Google Scholar
  11. and Overture and Beginners (London, 1951) respectively.Google Scholar
  12. Bax’s autobiography, Farewell, My Youth (London, 1943), is splendid but stops before the First World War.Google Scholar
  13. For coverage of individual composers, Grove6 is a first recourse; The New Grove 20th-century English Masters (London, 1986) has been published as an updated offprint. British Composers in Interview (1963), ed. R. Murray Schafer (London, 1963), is stimulating and sometimes revealing.Google Scholar
  14. A. Whittall’s The Music of Britten and Tippett: Studies in Themes and Techniques (Cambridge, 1982, 2/1990), is a formidable and all-too-rare comparative study.Google Scholar
  15. Informative books on individual composers include Lewis Foreman: Bax: a Composer and his Times (London, 1983);Google Scholar
  16. M. Hurd, Immortal Hour: the Life and Period of Rutland Boughton (London, 1962);Google Scholar
  17. P. Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten (London, 1979);Google Scholar
  18. D. Mitchell, Britten and Auden in the Thirties: the Year 1936 (London, 1981);Google Scholar
  19. J. Laongmire, John Ireland: Portrait of a Friend (London, 1969);Google Scholar
  20. R. Shead, Constant Lambert: his Life, his Music, and his Friends (London, 1973);Google Scholar
  21. I. Kemp, Tippett: the Composer and his Music (London, 1984);Google Scholar
  22. M. Kennedy, The Works of Ralph Vaughan Williams (London, 1964, 3/1980);Google Scholar
  23. and U. Vaughan Williams: R. V. W.: a Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams (Oxford, 1964).Google Scholar
  24. Several books set to become standard sources have recently appeared or made their mark. Some take their place to a greater or lesser extent within established modes of writing and scholarship; such are Tippett’s autobiography, Those Twentieth Century Blues (London, 1991),Google Scholar
  25. Letters from a Life: the Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten: 1913–1976, ed. D. Mitchell, 2 vols (London, 1991),Google Scholar
  26. M. Kennedy, Portrait of Walton (Oxford and New York, 1989),Google Scholar
  27. M. and S. Harries, A Pilgrim Soul: the Life and Works of Elisabeth Lutyens (London, 1989),Google Scholar
  28. and C. Palmer, Herbert Howells: a Centenary Celebration (London, 1992).Google Scholar
  29. Others, however, bear witness to an increasingly contextual or deconstructive approach to artistic creation. Susana Walton’s William Walton: Behind the Façade (Oxford and New York, 1988) chronicles the dynamics of creativity within a marriage,Google Scholar
  30. A. Motion’s The Lamberts: George, Constant & Kit (London, 1986) those within a family,Google Scholar
  31. and H. Carpenter’s Benjamin Britten: a Biography (London, 1992) epitomizes the ‘whole truth’ approach.Google Scholar
  32. Ehrlich’s Harmonious Allegiance: a History of the Performing Right Society (Oxford and New York, 1989) furthers his work on the socio-economics of British musical life,Google Scholar
  33. and M. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850–1980 (Cambridge, 1981) offers the broadest possible contextual trajectory along which British music may be seen to have travelled throughout the period.Google Scholar
  34. Above all, music as a cultural signifier has moved from the margins to the centre of some historians’ agendas. The Invention of Tradition, ed. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (Cambridge, 1983) includes an essay by D. Cannadine, ‘The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: the British Monarchy and the “Invention of Tradition”, c. 1820–1977’,Google Scholar
  35. which highlights music and lies behind J. Crump’s chapter on ‘The Identity of English Music: the Reception of Elgar 1898–1935’ in Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880–1920, ed. R. Colls and P. Dodd (London, 1986);Google Scholar
  36. the critical stance towards the creation of national identities taken by these authors is furthered in the chapters on Elgar, Delius, and Hoist and Vaughan Williams (by M. Hughes, R. Stradling and P. Harrington respectively) in Music and the Politics of Culture, ed. C. Norris (London, 1989).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Banfield

There are no affiliations available

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