Patronage and Music Composition in France

Milhaud_and_Martens_(with_pair_of_glasses_on_the_background)

A review of Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918–1939, by Louis Epstein.

Louis Epstein’s dissertation, “Toward a Theory of Patronage: Funding for Music Composition in France, 1918–1939,” examines two traditional types of patrons—wealthy individuals and state institutions—plus two “more slippery cases” of patronage: the “patron-impresario-director of ballet companies” and “the entrepreneurial composer.” Epstein’s goal is clear from the outset: urging scholars of twentieth-century music to reconsider the limits we ascribe to the term “patronage.” Epstein experiments with these limits by defining patronage as a set of different kinds of interactions and transactions that free composers to produce music and help them disseminate their music, as well as any other act undertaken in the name of patronage (p. 25). This allows Epstein to consider “a variety of social, economic, and artistic agents … as well as an array of institutions and practices that structure individual behavior” (p. 39), thereby demonstrating what a more nimble and liberal application of these notions might reveal to us as scholars, and how a different attention to the funding sources that affect music composition might influence how we write about this period of music history (p. 40). Interwar France, Epstein writes, was a time and place of “radical experimentation and ideological contestation of pre-war tastes and habits” (p. 3). The influence of popular genres, a “bevy of ‘isms,’” and the changing taste of wealthy socialites resulted in new musical languages and fresh takes on older classical forms. Much of this activity was enabled by patrons or patronage of one sort or another. Additionally, Epstein attempts to show how studying patronage (and/or other types of arts funding) can contribute to the interpretation of the musical texts. “Economic processes,” Epstein argues, “leave sonic traces in music” (p. 26). Therefore, a different kind of patronage studies might include approaching musical texts in a way that explores “the magnitude and possible significance of money on interpretation, performance, or historiography” of interwar French music (p. 40), which would, in turn, influence “our understanding and appreciation” of this music (p. 26).

Chapter One, “Music and Money from Interwar France to the Present,” serves as a thorough historical introduction to the “material economies of music in interwar France” and “the funding contexts that structured art music composition.” These ranged from commission fees and the role of impresarios to the ownership of publication royalties and performance rights. Epstein’s dissertation will be a welcome addition to the literature because there are few studies of musical patronage outside of the Renaissance and Baroque eras [Epstein cites Allan Atlas, Music at the Aragonese Court of Naples (1985); Howard Mayer Brown, “Recent Research in the Renaissance: Criticism and Patronage” (1987); and Lewis Lockwood, Music in Renaissance Ferrara, 1400–1505 (1984), among others]. Epstein includes the most exemplary studies of this kind in his literature review, in addition to economic studies of the performing arts from the second half of the twentieth century. This dissertation augments the great work collected by Ralph Locke and Cyrilla Barr in Cultivating Music in America (1997), for instance, especially regarding that volume’s essays on Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and the authors’ discussion of patronage, feminism, and feminist scholarship, and it builds upon Jeanice Brook’s work on “Nadia Boulanger and the Salon of the Princesse de Polignac” (1993). Epstein also cites publications by musicologists at the forefront of the study of French music and by scholars working on the Popular Front, specifically cultural institutions. Georgina Born’s seminal study of IRCAM [Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. (1995)], a French state–sponsored institution of musical research, influenced Epstein as well. This dissertation’s fourth chapter focuses on three ballet companies, and Epstein also includes a number of texts from the growing field of dance studies.

He also provides a précis of the theories and strategies from art sociology, cultural economics, and musicology upon which he draws. Specifically, Epstein employs the work of sociologists Howard Becker [i.e., his concept of an “art world” and the notion that artistic creation is inherently social: see Art Worlds (1982)]; Anthony Giddens [see The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (1984)]; and Pierre Bourdieu [i.e., the concept of symbolic and cultural capital: see The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (1993) and Outline of a Theory of Practice (2005)]. Epstein finds Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, combined with Giddens’s presupposition of a “‘push-pull’ model of interaction between structural and individual free agency” (p. 36), a useful tool to obviate thinking about patronage as a binary relationship and operation. “Composers are always … constrained and liberated—pushed and pulled—by every opportunity to compose,” Epstein writes, and “the highly structured nature of the patron-composed transaction … renders patronage remarkable as evidence of the interplay of constraint and creativity that underlies all musical creation” (p. 37). Consequently, Epstein’s analysis of patronage is based on the premise that music is a social process, an artifact, and an experience.

A project like Epstein’s invariably raises questions about “the economic ontology of art music,” or “music and the discourses of economic exigency,” to use two of Epstein’s formulations. Historically, this line of inquiry has made some uncomfortable, as the study of financial concerns necessarily dismantles a belief in the transcendent value of “high” art (versus the commercial considerations and consequent corruption of “low” or popular art). Yet questions that make us scholars uncomfortable are the very questions to which we should seek answers, especially because those contexts influenced the contemporary criticism and current historiography of the music Epstein studies.

Another goal of Epstein’s is to build upon and revise two opposing theories about the value of art music—those of Theodore W. Adorno and Virgil Thomson (from Adorno’s Essays on Music and Philosophy of New Music, and Thomson’s State of Music, respectively). Although Adorno discussed the use- and exchange-value of popular music, he regarded art music as “autonomous”: that is, as transcendent and protected from commercial and economic considerations, and thus creatively unsullied. In contrast, Thomson perceived the production and consumption of art music as inextricably linked to economic contexts. Unlike Adorno, Thomson is rarely cited in the field of musicology. Epstein attributes this to the continued strength of the Romantic myth according to which once they achieved autonomy from the church and the court, composers were creatively “emancipated” and allowed to pursue their individual visions (apparently without any economic concerns). Although Epstein does not agree with all of Thomson’s arguments, his dissertation is, in part, an effort to revive Thomson’s intention to “expose and undermine the false opposition between commerce and art that continues to inform most musicological scholarship” and “to explore the relationship between specific forms of funding and the music it produced” (p. 23). Epstein’s goal is to demonstrate that the question “is not whether funding helps or hinders music composition. Rather, the question is how every form of funding, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ makes manifest the interplay of disinterestedness and compromise, of creativity and cooptation, that characterizes nearly all art music” (pp. 14–15). Epstein provides many examples that demonstrate this well.

Chapter Two focuses on commissions. Epstein views commissions as a site of negotiation, a contract between composers and patrons, and, pace Bourdieu, as an exchange of social, economic, and/or cultural capital. “Composers gain economic capital in the form of the commission fee,” Epstein explains, and most of the patrons Epstein discusses (Princesse de Polignac neé Winnaretta Singer, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, Edward James, Charles and Marie Laure de Noailles, and Étienne and Édith de Beaumont) gain “economic capital by acquiring the composer’s original manuscript,” the value of which may appreciate; moreover, the patron and composer often co-own aspects of the commission, such as licensing and performance rights and fees, royalty income, etc. (p. 47). In addition to various types of capital, commissions tended to provide what Epstein terms “productive constraints.” For instance, a patron may commission such a high number of works that their patronage or salon becomes associated with a particular musical style. All future composers commissioned by this patron will likely have to tailor their compositions to make them fit in with the aesthetic of this patron’s existing “collection.” The adherence to a particular musical style tended not to be stipulated in a contract, however— although contracts did often stipulate the instrumentation, genre, duration, style, or particular text to be set in the composition; payment for the work; a payment schedule, often according to certain benchmarks of progress; ownership of the autographed manuscript; dedication rights; performing rights; publication rights; and details of the first performance (p. 48). In fact, a contract for a commission was almost never a legal brief. Rather, in interwar France, patrons and composers often worked out their understanding of their agreement through personal correspondence. The very assumptions that inspired the terms of agreement, Epstein argues, “belie the notion of wholly ‘disinterested’ patrons acting out of a spirit of noble generosity and a pure love of art” (p. 71). Instead, these agreements constituted an exchange of goods and services and “facilitated a push-pull relationship that can be seen as a kind of collaboration” (p. 61) (later he describes this as a mutual interest), “in the realm of cultural production where neither patron nor composer benefitted unless both worked together” (p. 71). Epstein provides examples of a variety of contractual agreements and points out that all of the stipulations he lists have implications for the economic and cultural capital of the patron and composer.

The theoretical underpinnings of this chapter are very strong and are nicely augmented by the colorful case studies of specific patrons–composer relationships. Epstein not only describes a few commissions—he also compares the goals of Coolidge and the Princess de Polignac’s acts of patronage to those of others. The former emphasized their seriousness by commissioning works in traditional genres and by composers who wrote music with a pre-Romantic or neoclassical aesthetic. The latter were “interested in ironic, surreal, or intentionally banal” music, thus corresponding “to the pretentions of the leisure class” (p. 78). These very characteristics, Epstein argues, have caused the second group of patrons (and the fruits of their patronage) to be left out of the historiography of modernist music of interwar France. His description of Beaumont’s “Bal Baroque” and the analysis of Noailles’s “Bal de Matiéres” illustrate the mistake of this historiographical omission. The works they enabled represent a strain of modernism that artistically negated markers of bourgeois culture. Aristocratic patrons were drawn to this aesthetic because it “actually protected the position of the elite atop the cultural hierarchy; their support for Satie’s and other’s artistic experiments manifested what Bourdieu identified as the ‘misrecognition’ of artistic value between artists and their audience. In other words, assigning seemingly unjustified value to a cultural product which, under traditional economic rules, has little to [no] value—this is how cultural elites earn the symbolic capitol that renders them tastemakers”—the symbolic and cultural capital that comes from recognizing and appreciating art where others hear triviality or nonsense (pp. 86–87).

The third chapter, “Crise Économique, Crise Musicale: A Shift in Public Patronage,” outlines the governmental and economic changes that took place during the interwar period and that later had a significant effect on post-World War II funding structures for French musical activities. Beginning in the 1870s, a few different divisions of the French state gave subventions to Parisian concert series and other musical activities. This support increased with the economic depression and concomitant unemployment that began in the early 1930s, and with the rise in cultural nationalism that emerged in response to the resurgence of Germany and its state patronage of the arts. This funding often came with conditions that affected artistic decision-making and the operations of cultural institutions. This chapter attempts to ferret out the relationships between the various government bodies that gave support for musical projects prior to the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 1957 “and the changing institutional contexts of music composition” (p. 104). One of Epstein’s main findings is that state sponsorship of specific composers cannot be generalized based on musical style or the composers’ politics. But partisan ideological differences did play a role in that “the day-to-day practices that made up the workload of civil servants,” so that “administrative procedure or ministerial whims” did affect what musical projects received financial support. Most internal debates, Epstein writes, “were inflected with the language and motivations of bureaucracy. Program managers sought to justify the funding they administered to higher-ups who often set unrealistic goals” (p. 104).

To demonstrate the vagaries of the state’s support for various cultural apparatuses and emissions, Epstein explores four instances of governmental intervention in the musical life of interwar France. One of his case studies is the Paris Opéra and the incredible increase in government support that ensued from the “political influence and savvy management” of Opéra administrator Jacques Rouché, who convinced government program managers of the importance of French cultural production on an international stage.

Other instances of such “cultural nation building” included subventions given to orchestras, which were seen as a way “to expose a broad swath of the French population to national musical culture” (p. 128). Those on the political right, in particular, “valued orchestras as producers of high culture and perpetuators of France’s elite traditions” (ibid.). These subventions also benefitted the economy in general and musicians specifically, as orchestras could now employ more of them. The stipulations as to the amount of new French music the recipient organization had to perform, however, spurred a great deal of debate about the amount and nature of this new “French” music. One of the issues was which French music was worthy enough or of high-enough quality to merit performance. Bringing in the notion of “quality” rendered the stipulation so subjective that most of the orchestras who received these subventions and who wanted to play it safe got away with fulfilling their quotas of “new” French music by performing pieces that had already proven popular outside of France. In this chapter Epstein shows how few up-and-coming French composers actually benefitted from this stipulation. Yet, importantly, he also elucidates the negative ramifications of the “economic protectionism” of French culture and cultural institutions, and the consequences of certain “xenophobic” labor practices (p. 134).

The French government was more effective in supporting new French music through its subsidization of French public radio stations. The government established regulations of radio programming in 1928, and soon after radios became increasingly ubiquitous. Regulations helped to disseminate new French art music and generated revenue for French cultural institutions through advertising, subventions, and licensing fees. Furthermore, the popularity and profit of French art music radio programming was shared with French theaters and symphony orchestras “in return for increased subventions”; to reciprocate, and in an effort to promote traditional, “high” culture through radio, those same state theaters agreed to broadcast live and recorded performances (p. 146). Additionally, some radio stations established their own professional orchestras, and the radio broadcast of live performances earned the requisite royalties for the composers. The French government also began to enforce a tax on radio receivers, and some of the revenue was used to subsidize concert series. As with state support of concerts series, public radio broadcasts were regarded as a medium through which one could communicate French values and identity, promote French cultural prowess, and educate the public—all goals belonging to or consistent with the Popular Front (p. 141). Radio broadcasts also provided revenue for musical groups that did not merit government subventions.

Despite the plethora of ways in which it aided French musical life, during the period discussed in this chapter the French government gave few direct commissions. Epstein discusses in detail the Fêtes de la lumière, one of three large group commissions issued by the government in the late 1930s. For this spectacle, the government commissioned eighteen composers “for nuanced narratives of interwar French music and politics” (p. 107). The men they chose demonstrated “the triumph of political inclusivity over partisan nepotism” (p. 159): they composed in many different styles, were from varying backgrounds, and used “a broad array of musical resources” (p. 160). Epstein concludes that the success of the Fêtes de la lumière was the impetus for the subsequent permanent institutionalization of this practice.

Epstein’s penultimate chapter, “Marketing Modernism: New Music for Ballet Companies,” focuses on the interwar boom in music composition for ballet. This boom owes to four ballet companies: the Ballets Russes, Rolf de Maré’s Ballet Suedois, Étienne de Beaumont’s Soirées de Paris (a six-week festival of ballet, drama, pantomime, and visual art that coincided with the 1924 Paris Olympics), and Ida Rubenstein’s Ballets Ida Rubenstein. The hybrid “entrepreneurial-private nature” of the latter three companies and their directors, and their impact on new music, is what captures Epstein’s curiosity. The dearth of scholarship on these troupes and patrons stimulated his interest, as the works that these three personalities engendered “introduced and furthered the trends, styles, and innovations for which interwar music is best known,” specifically “polytonality, lifestyle modernism, neoclassicism, jazz, [and] multi-genre works” (p. 175). Studying these companies is also important because their operations demonstrate the “through line between patronage and commercial exploitation of art music” (p. 176). To demonstrate this position, Epstein investigates how the funding they received informed the “repertoires, creative processes, and legacies” of these ballet companies (p. 175). Epstein argues strongly in favor of viewing the company directors/impresarios as patrons, as well. In fact, these figures played so many roles that Epstein uses the French word animateur “to encompass the range of their activities.” This word connotes someone who leads but lacks any implication of financial or authorial activity (p. 176). Using a number of case studies, Epstein seeks to demonstrate that “individual animateurs may have exerted significant control over aspects of the works they commissioned, but their individual agency was …. produced by and productive of the intense competition that structured the ballet market and, accordingly, a great deal of French interwar music composition. Like the composers, décorists, and dancers they employed, animateurs always operated within networks of personnel and under constraints posed by funding and logistics” (p. 258). Moreover, Epstein argues, these ballet companies, were “‘crucial to the adoption of new ideas’ about music, its place within visual and kinetic art culture, and the funding that made it all possible” (p. 259). Epstein devotes significant time to each company, calling our attention to their similar and different repertoires, the new works they produced, and their means of subsistence. Epstein hopes that this chapter will help to balance individual-centered studies of ballet (and patrons) “with structural studies of specific companies and of ballet as a competitive, commercial enterprise” (p. 258).

Chapter Five, “Maintenant Parlons ‘Business’”: The Correspondence of Darius Milhaud,” features a substantial amount of entirely new archival material, including the only documents “where one may observe Milhaud’s performance of the integrality of business and art, an integrality he denied in public pronouncements but confirmed again and again in handwritten communication.” Through the composer’s correspondence with friends, patrons, publishers, and concert promoters, “the clash between artistic integrity and creative compromise emerges as a surface concern only”: it is “buried in a landslide of self-promotion, negotiation, opportunism, and exigency” (p. 261), all crucial career matters, and ones that take up as much time as the act of composing itself.” Moreover, “through the simple act of building a career as a composer, Milhaud entangled himself within a web of societal values and institutional structures” which were one and the same with the “values and structures that preach art’s transcendence to ensure its high value. In other words, the composer simultaneously works with and against various parts of … an object-act that constitutes a discrete source of income for the composers while also garnering assessment as a ‘priceless’ artwork” (p. 261). Art and commerce work symbiotically, Epstein declares, and uses what his correspondence reveals about the tours Milhaud organized for the Groupe des Six, Milhaud’s engagement with new music technologies and writing music for films, and his relationship with his publisher Emil Hertzka, the director of Universal Edition, to show the many ways that commercial activities “facilitated the promotion, performance, and financial exploitation of ‘art’ music during the interwar period” (p. 263).

A substantial amount of the Milhaud correspondence pertains to the performances and tours the composer took within Europe and to the United States. Milhaud’s tours to the States are particularly interesting because of the additional mediators they required: Milhaud had to hire a manager and a publicist, as he did not speak English (p. 276). Furthermore, Lucy Bogue, his publicist, took financial responsibility for the tour, “and if engagements failed to materialize or earnings proved underwhelming, she would take the loss, not Milhaud” (p. 278). Additionally, his American representatives helped him negotiate interactions that struck him as odd. For instance, “as a visiting celebrity, he was expected to make initial contact and ingratiate himself with the authorities,” such as the managers and conductors of the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “but not to broach the terms of his engagement.”

The tours were important to Milhaud because of the performing fees he earned and the way they fueled “potential income in the form of publishing and recording deals, [and] publishing and recording distribution” (pp. 280–81). Some of his paid engagements prompted him to write new music to be performed at the piano, or to make a new arrangement of an already composed work (see p. 298). Once he learned about American audiences, he adjusted his programs or arrangements according to their tastes. The music he heard while in the United States affected his compositions as well (the most well-known example of this is his La Création du Monde, a piece of symphonic jazz) (p. 280). Although “one could argue that Milhaud ‘compromised’ his musical priorities in favor of commercial success,” this would overlook the reality that such “creative constraints” structure all such music composition. Epstein reminds us that “All music composition it always already ‘compromised’ by the need for income and yet never exclusively motivated by that need” (p. 298). He goes on to use Giddens’s theory of structuration to show how “the composer’s creativity inevitably ‘pushes’ in the same direction from which financial considerations ‘pull,’ no matter whether creativity is applied toward banal or profound purposes. In other words,” Epstein continues, “‘minor’ or ‘low’ genres capable of bringing composers significant income might demand equal or greater creativity—albeit of a different kind—than those genres traditionally considered the pinnacle of musical achievement” (p. 298). In fact, “most of the other pieces Milhaud produced in the early 1920s all manifested careful calculations about the tastes and preferences of audiences, publishing firms, and impresarios”; the ones that “provoked scandals or offended critics contributed to Milhaud’s ‘brand’ as an iconoclast, while more marketable music subsidized the composer’s experiments” (p. 284). Finally, the relationships Milhaud built during his time in the States helped him in ways he never could have anticipated, by facilitating his family’s immigration to the United States after the outbreak of World War II.

One of the richest sections of this chapter is the one in which Epstein discuses the unpublished correspondence and mutually beneficial relationship between Milhaud and Emil Hertzka of Universal Edition (UE). Milhaud was like many of his contemporaries in that he did not have an exclusive agreement with one publishing firm, but rather negotiated with multiple publishers in order to receive the most money for selling each piece. Milhaud’s relationship with Hertzka and UE was unusual, however, and at times inconvenient [for instance, Milhaud did not speak German and few at UE spoke French (p. 300)], but it was immensely productive. With UE, Milhaud was able to make more on royalties than with French publishers; UE offered “signing bonuses in return for the rights to publish a work” and encouraged him “to arrange the works it published for piano four hands, piano and vocals, and two pianos” (p. 302). Milhaud was also offered royalty advances, which Epstein argues was a version of a loan to a composer. Signing bonuses were almost like “a grant, an early investment in his labor… All Milhaud had to do at this point was write the piece; his compensation was assured” (p. 336). A signing bonus might even incentivize “risk-taking by a composer who could start to worry less about paying the bills. Framed this way, a signing bonus begins to look like a commission, and a publisher begins to look like a patron” (p. 316).

Milhaud appreciated the financial benefits of his relationship with UE, but he also appreciated the firm’s responsiveness to his queries and requests, as well as Hertzka’s personal involvement with his account (p. 303). Epstein also points out the less quantifiable benefits of this partnership: “Milhaud’s work likely gained prestige from [UE’s] association with the same firm that published works by Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Bartok, Weill, Janacek, Krenek, and Strauss” (p. 305). The firm’s connections with critics, conductors, and performers were also a boon for the composer (p. 303).

Out of Milhaud and Hertzka’s professional relationship grew a personal friendship, which was based on their shared assumptions about music and their understanding of their respective roles. Through their correspondence, Epstein tells us, one can see that “neither Milhaud or Hertzka considered music a base commodity or a priceless art object” (the binary Epstein has busted multiple times by now). “Rather,” Epstein continues, “it is possible to read music and the negotiations behind its composition, publication and distribution in terms of a conception of value that is simultaneously commercial and artistic” (p. 306). Yet one of the reasons that Hertzka and Milhaud were able to maintain their friendship was because Milhaud “thought of ‘business’ discourse as separate from social or aesthetic discourse” (p. 314). Particular formulations in Milhaud’s prose show Epstein “the degree to which composers saw themselves as representatives of the Romantic artist”; yet, if Milhaud stated clearly that he was “an artist,” he also stated very clearly that “artists have to talk business.” Milhaud and Hertzka’s relationship, in sum, “reveal multifaceted, even conflicting motivations and beliefs concerning music’s value” (p. 318).

This chapter ends with two intertwined case studies—one of the publishing contract for Milhaud’s opera Maximilien, and the other regarding his opera Christophe Colomb. Epstein is particularly interested in the way that UE helped Milhaud gain a number of theatrical performances in Germany. Not only were French audiences less interested in Milhaud’s operas than were Germans, but Germany also had a more active operatic economy. Milhaud’s success there led to future commissions and premieres. This “subsequently improved Milhaud’s prospects in France,” Epstein argues. The positive reception of Christophe Colomb, “an epic work on a historical subject in the tradition of French grand opera” that Hertzka and UE produced and promoted, exemplifies Epstein’s claim. Milhaud’s contract with the Berlin Opera eventually led to the opera’s being performed in France. The criticism of Milhaud for premiering an important work in Germany, combined with the success of Christophe Colomb in Berlin, “convinced [Jacques] Rouché [the Paris Opéra director] to give Milhaud a true hearing on the most prestigious stage of his own country”—Maximilien premiered in Paris in 1932 (pp. 326–27). But instead of kicking off a period of heightened fame, Milhaud faced new obstacles to his career. Although critics derided Maximilien as too German (p. 326), that opera was a box office success.

The conclusion to the last chapter ties together many of the hypotheses Epstein proposed throughout this dissertation, and he crystalizes his ideas on how studying patronage and other forms of arts funding affects (and mostly complicates) traditional music historiographical narratives in ways that go beyond the age-old tension between art and money (p. 330). Epstein provides us with handfuls of examples of the cooperation, contradiction, and inextricability of artistic and commercial interests. At the end of this work he argues for reframing the business side of composing as intrinsic to the “art” of composing: instead of seeing a composer’s interest in supporting himself as a negative attribute, perhaps we could acknowledge these artists’ “impressive work ethic and … business-savvy skill” (p. 329).

In his epilogue, “Toward a Theory of Patronage,” Epstein gives an answer to the question he posed at the beginning of his dissertation: How should we define patronage? Based on the material analyzed in his dissertation, Epstein argues that, more often than not, patronage is misunderstood and defined in too broad terms. This faulty definition has lead to weak scholarship and has also contributed to the uncomfortable feelings many of us have when talking about money and music. If we have any hope of better understanding the relationship between funding for art music, the sound of art music, and its reception, we must narrow drastically our working definition of patronage: “‘Patronage’ should denote personal, direct employment by an individual or institution of another individual or institution serving as an artists, where employment is characterized by a transaction of primarily economic or social capital. In other words, patronage is incommensurate with the intention to earn economic capital for the patron” (p. 334). If patrons stand to profit financially from their patronage, then it is not really patronage. Thus impresarios are not patrons, music publishers are not patrons, and performers are not patrons, even if they commission a work from a composer in order to perform it. This narrow definition may feel restrictive to some scholars, but Epstein argues that it needn’t. “Like other hermeneutic lenses—notably politics, gender and sexuality, colonialism, race, and class—funding studies offer a provocative, productive rubric through which to criticize and celebrate works, historical figures, institutions, discourses, and musical practices. Defining patronage merely renders apparent all the forms of not-patronage that have been crucial to the development of music culture and history, yet whose impact remains poorly understood” (p. 338).

Epstein’s work is a pathbreaking example of a work that combines tools from a variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences in order to tell a history of interwar France that has thus far been overlooked. He should be lauded for incorporating theoretical strategies alongside dance studies, all the while maintaining a skeptical lookout for historical and historiographical biases that may have influenced the work upon which he builds. Patronage is a common thread throughout the history of art, music, and dance, and yet it is undertheorized or not thoroughly studied. This dissertation will greatly contribute to what is hopefully a growing subfield.

Primary Sources
Private collection of Frank Langlois
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Départment de la Musique, Archives Nationales, Départment des Arts du Spetacle, Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra, Archives Durand, Archives SACEM
Library of Congress, Music Division
New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Yale University, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library

Rachel S. Vandagriff, Ph.D.
Music Department
University of California, Berkeley
rsvandagriff@gmail.com

Dissertation Information
Harvard University. 2013. 356 pp. Primary Advisor: Sindhumathi Revuluri.

Image: Milhaud and Martens (with pair of glasses on the background). Wikicommons.

Leave a Reply