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Music and the Elusive RevolutionCultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968-1981$
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Eric Drott

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520268968

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520268968.001.0001

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Music and May '68

Music and May '68

(p.21) Chapter 1 Music and May '68
Music and the Elusive Revolution

Eric Drott

University of California Press

This chapter examines the curious place music and musicians occupied in the May uprising. Here as elsewhere, a principal concern is the reciprocal relation that exists between musical practices and social identity. The chapter explores how traditions were mobilized and used as a resource in individuals' self-fashioning as political actors, but emphasizes the heterogeneity of traditions that were available to individuals during May and June of 1968. It was in large part the multiplicity of available political identities that led to conflicts within the musical field, and within the larger social movement which emerged during May '68. Three traditions stand out in particular: those of working-class culture, as embodied in the students' embrace of “The Internationale” and other tokens of the French revolutionary heritage; the historical avant-garde, evinced in the utopian calls of “cultural agitators” to radically reconfigure the artistic sphere, leading ultimately to its reintegration with everyday life; and what might best be referred to as trade union culture, which acted as a critical resource in enabling the musicians' participation in the strike movement. As these three instances make clear, the symbolic repertoires that individuals could draw upon went beyond the purely musical plane and embraced a range of extra- or para-musical practices.

Keywords:   musicians, May 1968 uprising, musical practices, social identity, political actors, working class, trade union culture

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