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Music, Poetry, Propaganda

Constructing French Cultural Soundscapes at the BBC during the Second World War


Claire Launchbury

Offering new perspectives on the role of broadcasting in the construction of cultural memory, this book analyses selected instances in relation to questions of French identity at the BBC during the Second World War. The influence of policy and ideology on the musical and the poetic is addressed by drawing on theoretical frameworks of the archive, memory, trauma and testimony. Case studies investigate cultural memories constructed through three contrasting soundscapes. The first focuses on the translation of ‘Frenchness’ to the BBC’s domestic audiences; the second examines the use of slogans on the margins of propaganda broadcasts. In the third, the implications of the marriage of poetry and music in the BBC’s 1945 premier of Francis Poulenc’s cantata setting of resistance poems by the surrealist poet Paul Éluard in Figure humaine are assessed. Concentrating on the role of the archive as both narrative source and theoretical frame, this study offers a new approach to the understanding of soundscapes and demonstrates the processes involved in the creation of sonic cultural memory in the context of global conflict.


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Chapter 5 - The Cultural Soundscapes of Liberation 139


Chapter 5 The Cultural Soundscapes of Liberation André Malraux’s account of the transfer of resistance leader, Jean Moulin’s cendres présumées from Père-Lachaise to the Panthéon on 19 December 1964 at which Malraux as culture minister, gave the funeral oration, is inter- twined with a recollection of his discovery of the now famous prehistoric paintings in the caves at Lascaux in the Périgord.1 Moreover, the ambigu- ity surrounding the identity of Moulin’s ashes reinforced the cenotaphic nature of his monument as a potent relic of what he as a symbol of French resistance was meant to mean. It is a complex passage that elides conf lict- ing versions of cultural memory with first-hand testimony. In Malraux’s version the caves had been appropriated as an arms-cache by the resistance. ‘Ce lieu avait sans doute été sacré, et il l’était encore, non seulement par l’esprit des cavernes, mais aussi parce qu’un incompréhensible lien unissait ces bisons, ces taureaux, ces chevaux … et ces caisses qui semblaient venues d’elles-mêmes, et que gardaient ces mitrailleuses tournées vers nous.’2 By seeking to associate the trope of indigenous primitivism – French cave paintings – with indigenous resistance through the evocation of sacredness, Malraux plays into what Douglas Smith has determined to be a specifically post-war rehabilitative cultural project.3 It is also extremely unstable because the key elisions – resistance, the prehistoric and the sym- 1 André Malraux, Le Miroir de Limbes I: Antimémoires [1967] (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), 481–7. 2 Ibid...

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