Traditionalism, le Wagnerisme, and Vincent d’Indy

An essay of mine has gone up at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website, on the topics of “Traditionalism, le Wagnerisme, and Vincent d’Indy.”  D’Indy (1851 – 1931) was a French and decidedly Catholic composer who responded positively to the innovations of Richard Wagner; he founded the Schola Cantorum, a conservatory in Paris dedicated to the proposition that art is in service to civilization and has a moral as well as an aesthetic role.  D’Indy was a lifelong monarchist and satisfyingly reactionary in most of his views.

I offer a sample –

When in 1894 d’Indy with Charles Bordes and Alexandre Guilmant established the Schola Cantorum, a school for composers and performers that would concentrate on instrumental and orchestral music rather than opera, he began his project of realizing his ideals in a functioning institution that would compete with the other conservatories already in existence.  D’Indy believed in the absoluteness of counterpoint as the basis of compositional excellence; he believed that musician-composers should know not only music but also the history of music – and alongside all that be well grounded in the other arts and the humanities.  D’Indy believed that a truly French music, reflecting France’s Catholic civilization, would find its natural soil in the Gregorian repertory and in regional folk music.  He believed that music should participate in all the central institutions of a society, beginning with the Church, and that in so doing it would contribute to the moral health of the nation.

D’Indy’s emphasis on the regionality of folk-music sources indicates his appreciation that the French nation was forged by the union of distinct smaller polities and local dialects.  Although d’Indy’s own music would become progressively less Teutonic, his ideas about music as a moral and cultural force remain identifiably Wagnerian.

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2 thoughts on “Traditionalism, le Wagnerisme, and Vincent d’Indy

  1. 269 rue Saint-Jacques! I used to live next to La Schola Cantorum (same address, in fact); my bedroom window opened to the courtyard across which I would hear the students’ practicing every morning when I woke. The same window’s sill served as my refrigerator (pauvre jeunesse), and I would sit next to it listening to music and eating my simple breakfast (usually pain viennois from the local boulanger and outdoor temperature milk). On Sunday, I could hear the excellently executed Gregorian chant from the neighboring Val-de-Grâce’s chapel. It was a great time in my life — a young college student in the midst of some of Western civilization’s greatest treasures. I was already a traditionalist, a Platonist, and committed to Orthodoxy, but my time in Europe fleshed out my world of abstractions, so to speak. I fail to understand how most Europeans who grow up surrounded by such a beautiful witness of the previous ages remain committed to overthrowing and destroying their heritage. Then, on our side of the Atlantic, what sort of spirit infected people in the 50’s and 60’s so that they gladly tore up American cities and rebuilt them with inhuman monstrosities. It must be demonic.

  2. D’Indy and his collaborators acquired a building that had, I believe, once had a religious function, perhaps as a monastery. This fact was integral to the idea of the institution. I am so pleased to have provoked your happy memory!

    PS. The destruction of the city, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one of the many perverse deeds of modernity, on which future generations will look back in horror and dismay.

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