What links all of these themes together is the fundamental goal of nationalist composers to create a national art. This art, in turn, would serve as a constitutive element of a broader national culture that was itself supposed to be an essential building block of the national identity. This effort by cultural and political activists to create a national art and culture is deeply intertwined with many of the most important questions in the history of European nationalism. It demonstrates nationalist intellectuals’ ideas on how art and culture could become the unifying elements that would bind the members of the national populace together. It also forces us to consider the tension between nationalist intellectuals’ simultaneous primordialist and constructivist attitudes toward the national identity. As one final example of the many important issues involved, the effort to create a national music also exposes how politics and culture were supposed to work together in nation building.
The complex of themes and strategies for creating a national art and culture will be familiar to any student of nationalism. What is new in this book for scholars of nationalism, European history, and musicology, however, is the comparative study of nationalist music specifically as a sociopolitical phenomenon. Though few previous works have examined these issues from a perspective of both politics and culture, nationalist music and art unmistakably deal with both politics and culture. Therefore, this book seeks to make a lasting contribution to the understanding of what role art—and specifically music—played in nationalist movements, which will benefit historians, political scientists, and musicologists.
The research for this book was supported by a number of generous grants from the departments of Political Science and Germanics at the University of Chicago. Archival research in Norway was additionally funded by the Sons of Norway Foundation and a Fulbright Fellowship. For their help during the research phase in Norway I want to thank Karen Falch Johannessen, of the Grieg Archive at the Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, as well as Dr. Hans Weisethaunet and the faculty and staff of the Department of Music at the University of Bergen. In Prague, Dr. Olga Mojžíšová and the staff of the Bedřich Smetana Museum and Archive provided invaluable assistance, and my research in Munich was facilitated by the staff of the Bayrische Staatsbibliotek.