Theosophy and Modernism

Forkert, Annika (2018) Theosophy and Modernism. In: British Music and Ideology, 15 May 2018, Institute for Music Research, London.

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The importance of theosophical influence on early-twentieth century arts is routinely acknowledged. In music, for example, we find traces of its beliefs, ideas, or tales in Skryabin, Schoenberg, Cowell, and Crawford Seeger. But Theosophy was also a hidden force in English music of the early decades of the twentieth century, when it unfolded specific ideological functions. Gustav Holst, John Foulds (together with Maud MacCarthy), and Elisabeth Lutyens were influenced by theosophical thinking at certain points in their careers and used theosophical beliefs and ideas to locate their own artistic identities on a perceived scale between avant-garde and tradition.
By attempting an overview of the path from theosophical source to musical feature in these composers’ biographies and pieces (for example Holst’s The Planets and Foulds’s A World Requiem), this paper argues that theosophy manifested itself in very different ways: it spelled a boost of confidence and focus for Holst and helped Foulds justify his modernist techniques, but it also represented a stifling religious hierarchy leading Lutyens to Europeanize.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: modernism; theosophy; twentieth century music; ideology; Gustav Holst; John Foulds; India; Elisabeth Lutyens
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of Creative and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Annika Forkert
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2018 11:45
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2018 11:45

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