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Reading traumatic memory in Henri Dutilleux’s music

STROWMAN, JAMES,ALEXANDER (2023) Reading traumatic memory in Henri Dutilleux’s music. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis uses a hermeneutical approach to examine the ways the music of Henri Dutilleux engages with the trauma of the Second World War. It considers the composer’s work in its cultural context, and analyses it in relation to various literary and philosophical texts. Setting out in occupied France, it begins with an exploration of Dutilleux’s formative experiences as a composer. On the one hand, throughout this period, Dutilleux shows a commitment to various forms of musical resistance, most notably setting to music the poetry of prominent figures of the French Resistance, such as Jean Cassou’s Trente-trois sonnets composés au secret (1944). On the other, the especially complex circumstances of the Occupation saw Dutilleux working for the compromised broadcasting station Radiodiffusion nationale and composing the music for the Vichy propaganda film Forces sur le stade (1942). The composer’s dualistic profile typifies the reason why the processing of ‘the dark years’ (‘les années noires’) has proven particularly difficult in France. From Charles de Gaulle’s ‘resistancialist myth’ (‘mythe résistancialiste’) to François Mitterrand’s refusal to accept the French Republic’s responsibility during the Occupation, the nation’s double discourse of denial continued late into the twentieth century. It is therefore highly significant that Dutilleux’s Second Symphony, Le double (1959), should conceptually foreground duality. While its conformity to the Ars gallica ethos of re-appropriating the symphony establishes a dialectical opposition between its ‘traces of philosophy’ (‘traces de philosophie’) and its vestiges of the Beethovenian symphonic model, other features of Le double, such as the division of the orchestra into two distinct ensembles, symbolically evoke the phenomenological notion of split consciousness, which most markedly came to the fore in Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophical investigations conducted during the Occupation. From a historical perspective, it also seems symbolic that Dutilleux should have waited until the end of the twentieth century before addressing Holocaust trauma in his composition The Shadows of Time (1997). This programmatic work responds directly to the nation’s ‘duty of memory’ (‘devoir de mémoire’) principle, and its anti-monumental character offers a striking re-enactment of the experience of trauma that comes to light through the Adornian notion of the aesthetic ‘breakthrough’.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Henri Dutilleux, war poetry, musical settings, intermediality, Second World War, trauma, commemoration, duty of memory, phenomenology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 May 2023 14:53

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