|Chapter 1:||Nationalism and Music|
I elaborate in particular upon nationalist intellectuals and national culture, since they form part of my key theoretical arguments. Then, using the lens of modern nationalism theory, I examine the typical and traditional understandings of nationalism and music in order to correct possible misunderstandings. My intent is that the framework I establish in this chapter will structure the entire account of nationalism, music, and the three composers’ own ideas in the chapters that follow.
Nationalism: Key Concepts and Definitions
While many of the key theoretical concepts in this book, particularly those having to do with nation building, may seem well trodden to scholars of nationalism, we will also be following these ideas down roads less traveled. As important as nationalist intellectuals are both historically and historiographically, our knowledge of how these activists developed their political tools remains quite limited—and in the case of nationalist artists, our knowledge is thin indeed. Likewise, the actual theoretical import of national cultures and particularly nationalist music has been barely explored hitherto. However, in order to understand how Wagner, Smetana, and Grieg effected their simultaneous goals of artistic and social creation, we have to approach this question from a clear understanding of precisely what nationalist intellectuals, national culture, and nationalist music are.
One can approach the nineteenth century’s legacy of nationalism not just theoretically, but physically, too. In Prague, walking along the bank of the Vltava river toward the spires of Charles Bridge, one comes across the great neo-Renaissance pile that is the Czech National Theater. Much of Czech history of the latter half of the 1800s is bound up in this building; indeed, at least by the measure of its role in Czech culture, there is perhaps no more important monument in all of Prague. Its exterior is crowned with statues of Czech artists made immortal, as well as two enormous, rather martial chariots in bronze.