“Les Six” Begin Giving Concerts (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: The formation of “Les Six,” a loose confederation of French composers, diminished the influence of such figures as Richard Wagner and Claude Debussy and inaugurated an era of more direct and accessible music.
Summary of Event
The young composers who were to be dubbed “Les Six” in 1920 had appeared together on musical programs for several years and four of them--Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre, and Arthur Honegger--had known one another for a decade as students at the Paris Conservatory. Although they may have shared some aesthetic principles, it was chance that brought them together and friendship that bound them for a few crucial years in postwar Paris.
The single most important event leading to the group’s formation was the premiere of Parade on May 18, 1917, in Paris. This ballet was the creation of writer and impresario Jean Cocteau and featured sets and costumes by painter Pablo Picasso. Its deliberately aimless scenario follows the antics of barkers and acrobats in front of a fair booth. Composer Erik Satie provided a score that was repetitious and disarmingly naïve, qualities that made the use of such “instruments” as roulette wheel, pistol, typewriter, and siren all the more striking. The audience felt itself insulted and erupted into near-riot. Cocteau and his collaborators had clearly intended to be provocative, but they seem to have...
(The entire section is 2183 words.)
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