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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The early twentieth century saw an explosion in musical works dedicated to Joan of Arc, fueled in part by the saint’s canonization in 1920 and the five-hundred-year anniversary of her martyrdom in 1931. Rising national fervor and French aesthetic battles of the 1930s and 1940s further contributed to French composers’ interest in composing so-called johannique music. As composers attempted to portray the mysterious medieval world Joan inhabited, they developed a coherent sonic backdrop that included tolling bells, otherworldly timbres such as the celesta and ondes Martenot, and references to music of the past (ranging from actual plainchant borrowings to pseudo-folksongs). Most significantly, however, many of these works featured unusual combinations of speaking and singing as a means of portraying the boundaries of the human world and unearthly realms, presumed to heavily overlap in composers’ imaginations of Joan’s medieval world. This essay analyzes how French composers of the early twentieth century—including Paul Paray, Manuel Rosenthal, Maurice Jaubert, and Arthur Honegger—portrayed Joan’s own voice as well as the angelic voices she claimed to hear. Ultimately, these works reveal an early twentieth-century French fascination with an imagined, idealized medieval world populated by saints, angels, demons, and mystical vibrations.

Keywords: Joan of Arc, johannique music, nationalism, Maurice Jaubert, Arthur Honegger, saints, demons

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