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Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World's Fair


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The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris has become famous as a turning point in the history of French music, and modern music generally. For the first time, Debussy and his fellow composers could be inspired by Javanese gamelan music, while the Russian concerts conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov brought recent music by the Mighty Five to Parisian ears.
But the 1889 World's Fair had much wider musical and cultural ramifications; one contemporary described it as a "gigantic encyclopedia, in which nothing was forgotten." Music was so pervasive at the 1889 Exposition Universelle that newspaper journalists compared the sonic side of the affair to a "musical orgy." Musical encounters at the fair ranged from bandstand marches to folk and non-Western ensembles to symphonic and operatic premieres by Massenet to the mass-marketed Edison phonograph.
A rich and vivid literature [from newspaper columns to memoirs that are plumbed here for the first time] comments about this sonic landscape, reflecting the reactions and responses of composers [Saint-Saëns], writers [Judith Gautier], and journalists [Gaston Calmette].
Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World's Fair explores the ways in which music was used, appropriated, exhibited, listened to, anitten about during the six months of the Exposition Universelle. It thereby also reveals the role and the sociopolitical uses of music in France and, more generally, Europe during the late nineteenth century.

Annegret Fauser is Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her many publications include books on French Wagnerism, Massenet's opera Esclarmonde, and French orchestral songs from Berlioz to Ravel.


Meticulously documented, beautifully illustrated, and always intriguing. . . . A thoroughly enjoyable read and a first-rate scholarly achievement. . . . Beautifully produced. MUSIC LIBRARY ASSOCIATION NOTES [Lesley A. Wright]

Engravings, caricatures from the illustrated press, and period photographs . . . bring the Fair remarkably alive. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MUSICOLOGICAL SOCIETY [Jann Pasler]

Annegret Fauser has written a valuable book. . . showing how the exposition promoted French music of the previous decades and offered concerts of world music and dance by performers from such distant places as Romania, Egypt, Vietnam, and Java. Both French historians and world historians will derive much benefit from the volume. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY [William Weber]

Thoroughly researched and excellently illustrated. . . . Fauser has done us all a service in clearly presenting the musical and moral complexities of such a mammoth enterprise. . . . Thoughtful, lively book. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [Roger Nichols]

Original and insightful. . . . [The presentation] is glossy, spacious and consistent, with scrupulous referencing and clear translations. NINETEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC REVIEW [Helen Julia Minors]

Fauser offers a "thick history" in every sense, rich in individual arguments, plurality of points of view, and layers of information and analysis. This is a truly wonderful book, which may cause something of a minor revolution in how we understand nineteenth-century French music and listening cultures. H-NET April 2006 [Tamara Levitz]


First Published: 15 Oct 2005
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580461856
55 black and white illustrations
Pages: 416
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: AV

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Exhibiting Music at the Exposition Universelle
  • 2  Opera, Ballet, and the Politics of French Identity
  • 3  The Republic's Muse: Augusta Holmes's Ode triomphale
  • 4  French Encounters with the Far East
  • 5  Belly Dancers, Gypsies, and French Peasants
  • 6  The Marvels of Technology

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