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Nationalism, Chauvinism and Racism as Reflected in European Musical Thought and in Compositions from the Interwar Period

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Andrzej Tuchowski

This book concerns the ways in which many different types of nationalism, chauvinism and racism penetrated into musical thought in the interwar period, and how the leading artistic personalities of that period reacted to these ideologies. The concept of "nationalism" is understood broadly in this book and covers the entire spectrum of its positive and negative aspects. The topics listed in the book’s title have been discussed on the example of selected four countries, significant with respect to population and territory and representing different social-political systems: Germany (mostly after 1933), Italy, Poland (after 1926) and Great Britain. This selection is also representative of the main ethnic groups in Europe: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin-Romance and Slavic.

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VI. From the Myth of Romanità to Fascist Racism: Italian Musical Thought in the Face of Political-Ideological Changes in the late 1930s

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While the traditional nationalist category of Italian-ness (italianita) drew on the community of language, culture, religion and historical traditions developed in the last few centuries, and on the Italian Peninsula’s natural and climatic conditions, the notion of ‘Romanity’ (romanità) provoked much wider associations. Apart from internal Italian context, Romanity opened up broader international perspectives which allowed Italians to look down on other countries with a sense of cultural and historical superiority. The broadest, pan-European perspective referred to ancient Rome’s civilising missions and its effects, beneficial for the entire continent (laying the foundations for many aspects of contemporary Western civilisation, a commonly known fact which fascist propaganda then emphasised). In his speeches, Mussolini never failed to remind his audience about the origins of the triumphal arches scattered across Europe, of the aqueducts found throughout the ancient Empire’s territories, Roman law, and cities founded by the Romans such as London or Cologne.

The second, much narrower perspective, derived from the community of Romance countries, the peoples that emerged from under the direct influence of Greco-Roman culture and spoke languages that were descendants of the complex known as lingua Romana. These peoples lived in the sunlit Mediterranean Basin and were referred to in the interwar period as the Mediterranean or Latin race (razza latina). Characteristic examples of apologies for this race can be found even in the writings of such (then) world famous artists as the composer and futurist painter Luigi Russolo. This is how he described (in 1933)...

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