Darius Milhaud – la creation du monde
Premier: 25 October 1923
Blase Cendrars (libreto): themes of the creation from African folklore mythology.
Fernand Léger (design scenario and costumes)
Jean Börlin (Choreographer)
2-article from San Francisco Symphony
general overview of the life of Milhaud and personal opinion about the piece.
1917->Jazz American Military bands brought Jazz in Paris. French people fascinated. La Creation du monde fascinated. Some critics pointed that the piece was racist
7-Thesis polytonalty in La creation, Laura Christine Amos
8-Thesis point of view from a conductor/interpret of the piece
9-Master Thesis Julio Moreno Gonzalez
10-PhD Thesis Alyssa Gretchen Smith:
11-PhD thesis Norman A Wika (NO ANSWER):
12-PhD thesis Liesa Karen Norman (J&C):
French nationalistic style & American Jazz in the context of African American Folklore. Sources of Milhaud inspiration: Polytonality from Stravinsky and the poets: Francis Jammes and Paul Claudel. He was against impressionism and borrows the extension of diatonic modality and Wagnerian chromaticism.
In other words, jazz harmonies and jazz forms were only accepted if they incorporated Baroque elements such as canons or fugues. By securing a traditional device into a non traditional form led to the formation of “symphonic jazz”
16-The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music
17-Legacies of Twentieth-Century dance
18-Literature, Modernism and Dance
19-Le mythe de la fatalité: dans le Pauvre matelot de Jean Cocteau et Darius Milhaud
20-About the book: Blaise Cendrars (1887 – 1961)
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Historical context in France:
After the I World War a new horizon of dreams opened in France. With the influence of America from the Allies, France received Jazz music. Cabaret spaces in Paris were filled by different artists, one of the well known is ‘Le beef sur le toit’, which has the name of the first composition with Brazilian and folk musical material from Darius Milhaud. The whole Europe was celebrating the end of the War, seeking for the realise of the tension that the War created.
In the field of art that decade was an extensive and positive one. Also the radio was used for the populous, so cultural connection and communication got expanded.
The artistic movement of ‘Surrealism’ was one of the first ones to appear as a new way of expression and many artist where interested in the culture from America, specially in music and dance. Many artist where inspired specially for the Negro culture.
In consequence, there was another party of artist who were looking for the identity of the country.
French impressionism – looking for French musical language.
Composers divided in traditional, polytonal and atonal.
Group ‘Group Les six’
Folk influence (from inside and outside France).
Break of tradition.
La Creation du Monde, op. 81 a
Is a ballet of 20 minutes inspired from the first two African creation myth tales (‘The Story of Creation’ and ‘The Story of the Beginning of Things‘ from the book of ‘L’Anthologie Nègre’ (The Negro Anthology) by Blaise Cendrars.
The première was on 25th of October 1923 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, by the Ballets Suédois, a ballet close to the tradition and ‘it ran for only twelve performances and is rarely danced today’.(9)
One of the aesthetics goals of the piece was to create an evocative visual experience for the audience.
Milhaud saw the ballet as an opportunity to use the musical material that he learned, collected and developed during his visits of Jazz clubs (from Harlem and Europe), having in consideration that this style had the roots in Africa.
The composer used the stories as an inspiration, he did not make a musical transcription of it:
”The composer obviously did not think for a moment that he should ‘show’ or ‘comment’ upon this legend by having his music following a detailed text step by step”
Schloëzer 1923, translation by Robert Ward Miller, Jr. (8)
In 1922 Darius Milhaud went to visit America and he absorbed as much as he could Jazz music from Harlem. Once he came back to France and he received the commission from Rolf de Maré, he decided to use the new musical material.
”When I arrived in New York, I had told the newspapermen interviewing me that European music was considerably influenced by American music. ‘But whose music?’ they asked me; ‘Macdowell’s or Carpenter’s?’ ‘Neither the one nor the other’, I answered, ‘I mean jazz’. They were filled with consternation, for at that time most American musicians had not realized the importance of jazz as an art form and relegated it to the dance hall.”
Milhaud, My happy Life, 109
‘[About Jazz] Constant use of syncopation in the melody was of such contrapuntal freedom that it gave the impression of unregulated improvisation, whereas in actual fact it was elaborately rehearsed daily.”
Milhaud, My happy life, 98
Critics opinion of the Première in France 1923 -> Due the Jazz elements the ballet should be more suitable for a dance hall rather than a concert hall.
Critics opinion of the Première in America 1933-> Well received from the beginning and considered as a chamber work. (9)
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Milhaud got inspired by the Afro American music of the 20’s (Jazz). The first time he heard that music it was in London, 1920. 1922 he went to America and he visited Harlem Jazz Clubs.
On that period, western classical music was divided (among the traditionalists) in two main streams: Second Viennese School and current French musical style. After War World I France musical culture is divided in two: the traditionalists and the polytonalists, the early modern generation of French composers.
The music material that he uses is quite simple in order to keep the flavor of the African Folklore, primitive and exotic.
Use of Jazz elements in this composition:
-Syncopated rhythm: Up beats, riffs -> use of hemiolas
-Blue note/ Blues mode (-3, #4, -7) -> Bitonality (a form of polytonality), major juxtaposed with natural minor modes. Main tonalities: D-7 and F#maj7. Common tone: F/E#. Ambiguity between D minor/ D major.
-Instrumentation, inspired by the intimate ensembles in Jazz Bars. Foreground use of wind instruments:
Alto saxophone as soloist (no viola).
1 percussion player – drummer: connection of drum kit sound and classical percussion set up.
Function of piano and strings: Rhythmic and comping like, in the background instead of foreground.
-Instruments techniques (glissandi, flutter tonguing, mutes etc…) inspired by the repetition of them in jazz players.
-Form: Cyclic composition technique
-Solos for different instruments (not just to one)
-Idea of collective solo.
-Kicks (rhythmic accents) on the trumpets
Use of Classical elements in this composition:
-Structure (6 sections)
-Hobo: ‘voice of creation’
-Instrumentation: keeping classical chamber music instruments
-Own approbation on the harmony