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Music and Politics in San FranciscoFrom the 1906 Quake to the Second World War$
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Leta Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520268913

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520268913.001.0001

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the Politics of Work

the Politics of Work

Idealism Confronts Bureaucracy in the Federal Music Project

Chapter:
(p.214) 9 the Politics of Work
Source:
Music and Politics in San Francisco
Author(s):

Leta E. Miller

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520268913.003.0009

On May 27, 1937, San Franciscans turned out in force to launch an exuberant celebration marking the completion of a long-planned, headline-grabbing engineering marvel: the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge and its celebrations understandably grabbed the front pages of all the local papers. On the inner pages, however, appeared a much more sober story, the culmination of a Northern-Southern California feud that had been building for more than a year. Harlé Jervis, state director of the Federal Music Project (FMP), a small but highly visible part of the WPA's massive public works program of the 1930s, had fired Ernst Bacon, a respected composer of concert music who had headed the city's relief project from the time of its inception in the fall of 1935. The struggle between Bacon and Jervis—a mini-earthquake on San Francisco's musical landscape—is in actuality far more than just another raucous political battle of the type played out in everything from nightclub music to the building of the opera house. This apparently local conflict underscores fundamental questions about the overall objectives and operation of the FMP, the federal government's first and largest leap into formal support of the arts, instigated as a means of bringing financial relief to the unemployed during the Great Depression.

Keywords:   San Francisco, Harlé Jervis, Federal Music Project, Ernst Bacon, federal support, financial relief

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