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Constructing French Cultural
Soundscapes at the BBC during
the Second World War

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Music, Poetry, Propaganda

Constructing French Cultural
Soundscapes at the BBC during
the Second World War

Modern French Identities


Claire Launchbury

Music, Poetry,

Constructing French Cultural
Soundscapes at the BBC during
the Second World War

Peter Lang

Modern French Identities

Offering new perspectives on the role of broadcasting in the construc­
tion of cultural memory, this book analyses selected instances in
relation to questions of French identity at the BBC during the Second
World War. The influence of policy and ideology on the musical and
the poetic is addressed by drawing on theoretical frameworks of
the archive, memory, trauma and testimony. Case studies investigate
cultural memories constructed through three contrasting soundscapes.
The first focuses on the translation of ‘Frenchness’ to the BBC’s
domestic audiences; the second examines the use of slogans on the
margins of propaganda broadcasts. In the third, the implications of
the marriage of poetry and music in the BBC’s 1945 premier of
Francis Poulenc’s cantata setting of resistance poems by the surrealist
poet Paul Éluard in Figure humaine are assessed. Concentrating on
the role of the archive as both narrative source and theoretical frame,
this study offers a new approach to the understanding of soundscapes
and demonstrates the processes involved in the creation of sonic
cultural memory in the context of global conflict.

Claire Launchbury is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in French at
the University of Leeds. She studied music at the University of Exeter
before doing postgraduate work in music and French studies at Royal
Holloway, University of London.

Music, Poetry, Propaganda

Modern French Identities

Edited by Peter Collier
Volume 78

Peter Lang

Oxford l Bern l Berlin l Bruxelles l Frankfurt am Main l New York l Wien

Claire Launchbury

Music, Poetry,

Constructing French Cultural
Soundscapes at the BBC during
the Second World War

Peter Lang

Oxford l Bern l Berlin l Bruxelles l Frankfurt am Main l New York l Wien

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the
Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

Launchbury, Claire, 1976-
Music, poetry, propaganda : constructing French cultural soundscapes at

the BBC during the Second World War / Claire Launchbury.
p. cm. -- (Modern French identities ; v. 78)

Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-3-0343-0239-5 (alk. paper)
1. British Broadcasting Corporation--History--20th century. 2. Radio
and literature--Great Britain. 3. Radio and music--Great Britain. 4. Mass
media and nationalism--France. 5. World War, 1939-1945--Music and the
war. 6. World War, 1939-1945--Propaganda. 7. Collective memory. I.
PN1991.3.G7L38 2012


ISSN 1422-9005
ISBN 978-3-0343-0239-5
ISBN 978-3-0353-0295-0 (eBook)
© Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2012
Hochfeldstrasse 32, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
[email protected],,

All rights reserved.
All parts of this publication are protected by copyright.
Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without
the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming,
and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems.

Printed in Germany


Acknowledgements vii
List of Abbreviations ix
List of Tables xi

Chapter 1 1
On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes
Chapter 2
Sounding the Nations 55

Chapter 3 99
Translating Cultural Memory in Features and ‘French Night’
at the BBC 139
Chapter 4 171
Constructing Cultural Soundscapes at the French Service 183
Chapter 5
The Cultural Soundscapes of Liberation


Bibliography of Primary Sources
Bibliography of Secondary Sources


This project grew out of doctoral research undertaken at Royal Holloway,
University of London, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research
Council. At Royal Holloway, I am very grateful for the support and guid-
ance of fered by Julian Johnson, Colin Davis and Rachel Beckles-Willson as
well as to colleagues in College, Andrew Bowie, Ruth Cruickshank, Robert
Eaglestone and Eric Robertson in particular. I am grateful for the friendly
support of my colleagues in French at the School of Modern Languages and
Cultures at the University of Leeds and the Research Strategy Committee
directed by Max Silverman. I undertook considerable archive research at the
BBC Written Archive Centre in Caversham and would like to thank Rachel
Lawson and Jessica Hogg for their help and Jacqui Cavanagh for her sterling
maintenance of such a treasure trove. I should also like to thank the staf f of 
the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Archives nationales, the Archives
diplomatiques at the Quai d’Orsay, the Britten-Pears Library, the British
Library and the reproduction services at the Beinecke Library at Yale. At
Peter Lang I am grateful to Graham Speake and Hannah Godfrey for their
editorial support and patience. Un grand merci radiophonique to Karine Le
Bail, whose own work on the French broadcasting has richly informed my
research. Grateful thanks also to Jenny Doctor, Peter Dickinson, Myriem
Chimènes, Nigel Simeone, Lucinda Gordon-Lennox, Peter McMullin,
Maeve McCusker who provided material, read, edited and commented on
various stages of this manuscript. My mother, Janet Launchbury, provided
very real and material support in the final stages of my doctoral studies for
which I am most grateful. A final word of gratitude goes to my examiners,
Barbara Kelly and particularly to Michael Sheringham, whose interest in
this project has been of immense encouragement and support.


APP Archives de la Préfecture de Police, Paris

AD Archives diplomatiques de la Ministère des Af faires
Etrangères, Quai d’Orsay, Paris

BBC WAC BBC Written Archive Centre, Caversham Park, Reading

F-Pa Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris

F-Pan Archives nationales (CARAN), Paris

F-Pgm Médiathèque musicale Mahler, Paris

F-Pn Département de Musique, Bibliothèque nationale de France,

F-Po Bibliothèque musée de l’Opéra, Paris

GB-ALb Britten-Pears Library, The Red House, Aldeburgh

GB-Lbl British Library, Euston Road, London

PRO National Archives, Kew

US-Nhb Yale University, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript


Table 1 Music Accompanying Slogans (compiled from 126–130
copyright records)
Table 2
Table 3 Resistance Poetry Set to Music 149–150

Table 4 Eluard’s poems from Poésie et Vérité 1942 used in 154–155
Figure humaine (1943)

Cantata structure, performance direction and forces 155

Chapter 1

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes

Qui peut dire où la mémoire commence
Qui peut dire où le temps présent finit
Où le passé rejoindra la romance
Où le malheur n’est qu’un papier jauni

— Aragon, ‘Les larmes se ressemblent’1
Et tous ces souvenirs … c’est comme si j’emportais un peu d’eau dans un
sac de mousseline …

— Maeterlinck, Pelléas et Mélisande2

Locating at what point time passes and memory (or forgetting) begins,
how it is symbolised in the passage between its present and subsequent
afterlives forms the desire behind Pierre Nora’s extensive quest to identify
the places of almost exclusively Metropolitan French memory in Les Lieux
de mémoire.3 Paul Ricœur’s meditation on the narrative quality of passing
time in Temps et Récit (1983–5) calls to account the process of historical
retelling, and memory and forgetting (l’oubli) are scrutinised as ‘niveaux
médians’ between time and narrative in the tripartite study La mémoire,
l’histoire, l’oubli (2000). Theories of memory also result from and depend
upon currents of thought about the concentrationary; which in this con-
text, unites both the temporal period of the Second World War and its

1 Louis Aragon, ‘Les larmes se ressemblent’, Les Yeux d’Elsa [1942] (Paris: Seghers,
2002), 45.

2 Maurice Maeterlinck, Pelléas et Mélisande [Act IV, scene 4] [1892] (Brussels: Editions
Labor, 1983), 54.

3 Pierre Nora, ed., Les Lieux de mémoire, 3 vols (Paris: Seuil, 1984–1992).

2 Chapter 1
continued after-ef fects worked through theoretical models that position
the Holocaust as both impetus and touchstone. If Auschwitz has become
a site of memory that functions as both metaphor and metonym for incar-
ceration and industrial murder, it stands preserved in stark contradiction to
its original purpose as a site of the systematic dehumanisation and annihi-
lation through work, experiment or execution of European Jews, political
dissidents, Sinti, Roma, homosexuals and the mentally ill. Its continued
presence today is testament – in part – to eradication. Serge Klarsfeld’s
monumental Mémorial des déportés Juifs de France – the result of pioneer-
ing and painstaking work to trace the identity of victims deported from
France – is ultimately a simple strategy.4 By listing names, dates of birth
and dates of deportation, Klarsfeld restores traces of human existence: ‘la
vie a perdu contre la mort, mais la mémoire gagne dans son combat contre
le néant’, in Todorov’s formulation.5

Identifying multi-directional constructions of cultural memory helps
to break down the independence of Second World War narratives that
isolate Britain from its occupied neighbours in continental Europe.6 It was
a period of intense trauma on a mass scale which entailed serious material
deprivation in the everyday and accompanying grinding fatigue, it also
involved large-scale displacement as national borders were both broken
down and reinforced. The construction of French soundscapes at the BBC
is also a story of displacement because cultural production was established
in a neighbouring sovereign state that played host to another in exile. These
border-crossing memories result of course from the global scale of the war,
which, as Susan Suleiman argues, lie at the heart of the crises of memory
in our contemporary relationship to the events of the past.7

4 Serge Klarsfeld, Mémorial de la deportation des juifs de France (Paris: 1978) and La
Shoah en France, vol. 4 ‘Le mémorial des enfants juifs’ (Paris: Fayard, 2001).

5 Tzvetan Todorov, Les Abus de la mémoire (Paris: Arléa, 2004 [1995]), 16.
6 Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age

of Decolonialisation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).
7 Susan Suleiman, Crises of Memory in the Second World War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard

University Press, 2006).

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 3

It is the desire to preserve memory precisely in defiance of its destruc-
tion that marks the threshold of its loss. Latent memory – that which is
remembered, though not necessarily expressed – is transformed into cul-
tural memory – symbolic memory – through a highly mediated temporal
process, such as the passage of time between generations or through being
endangered by ideology. Moreover, as Ann Rigney highlights, these shared
memories are also a matter of vicarious recollection, ‘the product of repre-
sentations and not of direct experience’.8

Rigney’s application of Foucault’s scarcity principle in the selection,
convergence and transfer of cultural memory is a particularly compel-
ling model for balancing the sometimes dif ficult demands involved with
a nuanced application of theory and engagement with archive sources.9
Her socio-constructivist framework addresses how shared memories are
the product of mediation, textualisation and communicative acts and the
five types of memory creation she categorises – selection, convergence,
recursivity, modelling, and translation and transfer – are all operative in the
construction of soundscapes. While these models of cultural memorialisa-
tion often operate together in combination or indeed against each other,
they are all underlined by the recurring paradigm of traumatic memory,
which, Rigney argues, is at the root of all our dealings with the past, espe-
cially in relation to our inability to give them voice.10

The vectors of memory, defined by Henry Rousso, that mark French
responses to the repressed guilt of the Nazi occupation run in step with
Freudian stages of grief, so the Vichy Syndrome is also marked by the
temporal stages of trauma recovery.11 Sylvie Lindeperg’s study of how the
war and Occupation features in postwar films assesses cultural memory
in its cinematic expression. She describes the successive transformations

8 Ann Rigney, ‘Plenitude, Scarcity and the Circulation of Cultural Memory’, Journal
of European Studies 35 (2005), 15.

9 Ibid., 11–28. On the scarcity principle see Michel Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir,

10 Ibid., 21.
11 Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, trans.

Arthur Goldhammer (New Haven: Yale University Press, [1987] 1997).

4 Chapter 1
of ‘des années noires’ from the Liberation to an important generational
shift in 1969 when Marcel Ophuls began shooting Le Chagrin et la pitié
inaugurating the Mode rétro in which representations of the Occupation
in post-Gaullist France departed from the narrowly defined parameters
of of ficial history.12 Additionally, by tracing the emergence of the films,
Lindeperg sensitively brings into play her engagement with the archive.
‘Traces primitives de la mise en route du projet, les lettres d’engagement,
les contrats, les budgets prévisionnels’ inform her of the means, the targets
and initial development of a film project.13 These documents also reveal
personalities whose names ‘ne figurent pas toujours aux génériques’: the
initiators, those who commissioned, the benefactors and the others whose
involvement was unacknowledged.14 In referring to this body of material
as ‘le film-palimpseste’, Lindeperg connotes the layered traces of multiple
agencies that are obscured, rewritten and revealed, often by chance. It is
in the work of unacknowledged actors and participants that the traces of 
the palimpsestic cultural soundscape are found.

Analysing the construction of French cultural soundscapes involves
understanding how music, poetry and propaganda were disseminated
through programmes, concerts and features amid both parody and humour
and messages that issued orders for missions or warnings that saved lives.
The latent memory on the brink of extinction – that which at the BBC was
ef fectively being transformed into a cultural soundscape – was not some-
thing at risk of loss through the failure of transmission from one genera-
tion to another or through the gradual passage of time. It was driven by an
urgent need for symbolic memories and accelerated by dangerous political
upheaval that meant the brutal imposition of totalitarian regime through
occupation. London became a crucible of diverse memories and experiences
of refugees, exiled resistance fighters and others who invested time and
energy in cultural production. And from London, thanks to technological

12 Sylvie Lindeperg, Les écrans de l’ombre, La Seconde Guerre mondiale dans le cinéma
français (1944–1969) (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1997), 9.

13 Ibid., 11.
14 Ibid., 11.

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 5

advances in international broadcasting, such cultural soundscapes could
be constructed, aired and transmitted across the world.

Contested Timescapes

A sense of place combined with temporality is fused in the notion of a
timescape, a term derived from Ruth Klüger’s account of her experience
in the camps at Theresienstadt and Auschwitz-Birkenau.15 Many years later
Klüger in her post as a professor of German Literature overheard with
surprise some postgraduate students at the University of Göttingen refer
to Auschwitz as a place they knew concretely and not as the metonym for
the organised murder of the Jews.16 As part of their zivildienst, a form of
community service in place of military national service, the students had
been whitewashing the walls of the former camp. Klüger’s objection to such
preservation of the site and the museum culture that has developed around
the camps is that it is too general and too distant from the visceral reality
experienced by deportees: the smell, the noise, the pointless work, or the
musulmänner that she and others describe in their accounts. Instead:

The museum culture of these camp-sites has been formed by the vagaries and neuroses
of our unsorted collective memory. It is based on a profound superstition, that is, on
the belief that ghosts can be met and kept in their place, where the living ceased to
breathe. Or rather, not a profound, but a shallow superstition.17

A timescape, for Klüger, then, is Auschwitz as an evocation of a place at a
time that has passed because it does not do to imagine that we can (or would
want to) evoke the physical, visceral and disgusting reality of the camps as

15 Ruth Klüger, Landscapes of Memory: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (London:
Bloomsbury, 2003 [2001]).

16 Ibid., 68.
17 Ibid., 71.

6 Chapter 1
they were when they functioned.18 A timescape indicates in the form of a
temporal snap-shot ‘the nature of a place in time, that is at a certain time,
neither before nor after’.19 By extending the term to account for the ways
in which temporally located meaning acquires significance or resonance in
the present, Karein K. Goertz sees a timescape as a co-existing polyphony
of divergent memory rather than a site of perpetual modification, replace-
ment or, indeed whitewashing.20

I want to reconfigure the term to appeal for a model of analysis which
considers the temporality of memory and its codification in time – as
much as for the locations of memory. This is because the temporality of
memory and location as expressed through the evocations of soundscapes
is at issue. The dual analysis of sound and time, of music and temporality,
invokes a very old conception of musica: the science of measuring time.
If the medium of radio is also intimately tied up with temporality, in the
timetabling of its programming and how its programming timetables the
day of its listeners, so too, is the archive a site of temporal encounter.

Traces and Ash

Outlining some of the issues regarding the disputed territory between
memory and history, and the dif ficulties they have in coexisting, helps
to deepen ref lection on the role of the Holocaust as event and driver,
and also how memory becomes identified in an important sense with the
musical: it is maybe not without coincidence that Halbwach’s first chap-
ter is about the collective memory of musicians.21 The very simple fact is

18 Ibid., 74.
19 Ibid., 74.
20 Karein K. Goertz, ‘Body, Trauma and the Rituals of Memory: Charlotte Delbo and

Ruth Klüger’, in Shaping Losses: Cultural Memory and the Holocaust, ed. Julia Epstein
and Lori Lefkovtz (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 167.
21 M. Halbwachs, La Mémoire collective [1950] (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997).

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 7

that the Holocaust changed the way we think about things and thinking
about history in particular: the event in which the beliefs and values of 
Western civilisation and culture failed cannot then so readily be reckoned
by thought processes inherited from that same tradition.

Levinas and subsequently Derrida are both philosophers for whom
in dif fering ways tackling the legacy of Heidegger, and the wreckage of 
his thought forms a central part of their project. For Levinas, contesting
Heidegger’s primordial truth involved a shift to ‘the primacy of the ethical’
in which the irreducible structure is formed of the relationship of man-to-
man.22 For Derrida, via Levinas, the contesting concept is cinders and it is
closely linked to an important reconsideration of the trace and indeed of
memory, which will be discussed presently. It is the legacy of Heidegger’s
‘wreckage’ that most concerns us here, his membership of the Nazi party
is well-known and it might be said of himself that he managed to embody
the worst extremes of where his philosophy risks leading. His primordial
truth – the necessity of ‘being in relation’ requires a return to origins – an
atavistic move and an aesthetic one – that became horrifically manifest in
the Nazi ‘aestheticisation of politics’.

Cinders are a recurrent feature in Derrida’s project, evoked in his medi-
tations on Paul Celan and in relation to the poetics of testimony, yet, the
most extended and extensive consideration of the concept is found in the
curious form of a polylogue which was simultaneously recorded for a sound
archive.23 Feu la cendre (translated into English as simply Cinders) takes as
its cue the phrase, ‘il y a là cendres’, which can be clumsily translated as ‘there
are there ashes’. This literally polyphonic text explores, among other things,
the boundaries between the text as written and the text as heard. When read
aloud the ‘là’ that indicates ‘there’ is indistinguishable from ‘la’, the definite
article: ‘à l’écoute, l’article défini, la, risque d’ef facer le lieu, la mention ou

22 Robert Eaglestone, The Holocaust and the Postmodern (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, [2004] 2008), 155.

23 Jacques Derrida, Le Schibboleth, pour Paul Celan [1986] (Paris: Galilée, 2000),
and idem., Poétique et politique du témoignage (Paris: L’Herne, 2005); Feu la cendre
(Paris: Des Femmes, 1987) with Carole Bouquet in Bibliothèque des voix (Paris:
Des Femmes, 1987).

8 Chapter 1
la mémoire du lieu’ (7). When read silently, là erases the definite article:
‘lui-même, elle-même, deux fois plutôt qu’une’ (7). So, immediately we are
in the (unstable) domain of location, of lieu and identity and moreover of
an event, of something that happens (se produire), encoded the sense of 
‘avoir lieu’ perhaps even in the older sense of ‘il y a lieu à’.

The texts are dif ferentiated on the page and put in confrontation with
each other by positioning the main text on the right of each page and the
overlapping interpolations of other texts by Derrida that are also about
cinders on the left: ‘qui tous disent quelque chose de la cendre, mêlent
leurs cendres et le mot ‘cendre’ à autre chose’ (11). This arrangement of 
‘un dispositif d’écritures qui, pourrait-on dire, faisait appel à la voix, à des
voix’ (8) is marked also by the indeterminate nature of participating voices,
some masculine, some feminine, visible in the written text but not always
audible when spoken. This preoccupation with ‘tonalités introuvables’,
of what could be called up (pouvait appeler) by the ‘mise-en-voix’ and
simultaneously threatened with loss (menacer de perdre), such as the loss
of place with là/la, is considered throughout Feu la cendre. It is therefore
a model for the consideration of text-setting in music and the further
stage of ambiguity engendered by setting voices to sing. The recording of 
the texts was made by Derrida himself, with Carole Bouquet, overlapping
where necessary, but the voices are neither gendered nor restricted to just
two – instead they are merely symbolic representations of a possibility.
The ‘passage à l’acte gramophonique’ (9) introduced another unsettling
layer of indeterminacy to the texts – the ‘milles façons, toutes aussi légiti-
mes, d’accentuer, de marquer le rythme, de faire varier le ton’ (10) and the
recording ‘ne signe ni la loi ni la vérité’.

It is a deeply musical project, and an archival one, in which the mul-
tiplicity of voices ‘accompagnent, ils comparaissent: archive incomplète,
encore en train de brûler ou déjà consumée, rappelent certains lieux du
texte, la médiation continue, harcellée, obsédée de ce que sont et ne sont
pas veulent dire – ou faire, des cendres’ (11). It is also, inevitably, concerned
with the Holocaust. This text (these texts) is (are) testament to the extent to
which thinking about the Holocaust was pervasive in Derrida’s philosophy:
cinders are the trace that make deconstruction possible. It is also unusual
that he included an explicatory prologue in which the process of recording

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 9

and the genesis, or emergence perhaps more appropriately, ‘il y a quinze ans’
of the fragmentary tag or motive, ‘il y a là cendres’ are explained: ‘la phrase
s’était passé de toute autorisation, elle avait vécu sans moi’ (7). Cinders or
ashes are his primordial truth set against and in defiance of Heidegger’s
origins. They are ghostlike and haunting and they mark, as a trace, the void
between what is left and what happened there:

L’être sans présence n’a pas été et ne sera pas plus là où il y a la cendre et parlerait
cette autre mémoire. Là où cendre veut dire la dif férence entre ce qui reste et ce qui
est y arrive-t-elle là? (23)

Derrida’s meditation on la and là, on what and where, his investigation of 
the boundaries of the possible between the written and the spoken, the
indeterminacy of the aural trace as recorded are all bound up with the
intractability of the presence of the Holocaust. I wonder also if there is
a resonance of ‘la’, the ‘A’ of music’s solfège since the musicality of Feu la
cendre is overwhelming. ‘La’, as the tuning note of Western music ensures
the correct locus of pitch (tonalité) to ensure that all play in tune (juste):
a call to order and account before proceding forwards. The introduction
of such musicality in texts recalls Adorno’s observation about the form
of the essay where rigid deduction is rejected in favour of a musical logic
that works to establish cross-connections, through arrangement of mate-
rial that permits co-existence and simultaneous enunciation ‘the stringent
yet aconceptual art of transition’.24

Works of creative musical and literary endeavour as well as the trauma
narratives of victims all bear witness. In the context of recent French litera-
ture the archive and memory operate as the impetus for creative writings of 
the self or others. Works such as Dora Bruder (1997) by Patrick Modiano,
in particular, represent a structuring of active self-orientated narrative
combined with, and inspired by, the role of a historian in the archive, using
paper traces, photographs, newspapers, empirical information, in short,
as the catalyst for imagination in creative literary endeavour. However, it

24 T.W. Adorno, The Essay as Form [1954–8], trans. Bob Hullot-Kentor and Frederic
Will, New German Critique 32 (Spring–Summer 1984), 169.

10 Chapter 1
also enlists a crisis, for it is memory born out of traumatic experience, and
it is testimony that defies empirical, positive confirmation or proofs. Such
writing not only identifies a contemporary preoccupation with the trace
and traceability of a life or a past, but is enacted quite clearly within the
imaginative space that the archive inspires. Examining the construction
of cultural memory, then, requires analysis that falls at an intersection of 
history, testimony and narrative and their co-existing claims for author-
ity. It also asks what counts as testimony and investigates what might be
extrapolated epistemologically from creative works: an exercise in reading
the archive as product of a creative imagination and exploiting creative
works for their archival contents. The novel, poem, cantata and slogan all
attest in some form to human experience, and the archive is a memorial
storehouse that represses, guards and maintains not simply empirical facts
but our own complex relationship with the experiences of others who have
gone before.

The archive then, as well as the varied permutations of cultural memory
more broadly, demonstrably preoccupies contemporary ref lection on our
collective past and particularly our past traumas. Such memorial discourse
is inevitably associated with, if not rooted in, the clinical working through
of psychoanalysis. World War Two has, in ef fect, in its post-war and post-
colonial fall-out, engendered radical theoretical interpretation, which
cannot be entirely dissociated from its historical timeframe.25 Robert
Eaglestone’s study of postmodernism’s ethical reaction to the Holocaust
and our continued desire to account for it attempts precisely to describe the
‘circular process’ in which postmodern thought is shaped by the Holocaust
and how it shapes our understanding of it.26 Eaglestone contends that it
is the centrality of identity and identification that complicates aesthetic,
socio-cultural and political discourses – a view that chimes with Amin

25 Max Silverman argues that Nuit et Brouillard (A. Renais, 1955) is simultaneously an evo-
cation of the camps and a ‘parable for the war in Algeria’; see ‘Interconnected Histories:
Holocaust and Empire in the Cultural Imaginary’, French Studies 62.4 (2008), 419,
and Michael Rothberg, ‘Between Auschwitz and Algeria: Multidirectional Memory
and the Counterpublic Witness’, Critical Inquiry 31 (Sept. 2006), 158–84.

26 Eaglestone, The Holocaust and the Postmodern, 12.

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 11

Maalouf ’s identités meurtrières.27 Eaglestone predicts that continuing
responses to the Holocaust will emphasise the necessity of perpetuating
our inability to come to terms with it – as with Lanzmann who sees only
negative virtue in understanding the event – and upholding the vast echo
of incomprehensibility in its translation.28 This is a perpetuation of what
Robert Antelme termed the inimaginable and that is in part, behind the
expression of Ruth Klüger’s distaste for the museum culture of the camp
sites as they now stand: understanding or coming to terms with risks being
able to rationalise, or worse still, re-enact the horror.

Yet if the archive of the institutional broadcaster is a paper memory
of events, it is also something more too. Specifically, for Foucault it is a
figuration that networks or systematises énoncés, or utterances.29 An archive
is a (physical) form of consciousness that structures utterances, organising
them for later retrieval. But, more than that, it is precisely the association of
something concrete (Foucault’s anti-subjectivism insists that its constitu-
ents are material) with the systematic (the figure of the archive enabling
later retrieval), which is compelling because the archive becomes logically
separate from its agents and its interpreters.30 There is, in the case under
scrutiny here, an additional tension between the documentary archive and
the fragmentary sonic traces of broadcasts. Live broadcasts were often those
organised with the greatest fanfare, yet ironically, in archival terms, are
now the most ephemeral. Written and aural traces each require dif ferent
forms of imaginary reconstruction. If studies of the BBC and music have
concentrated on the institution, or the role of people within that institu-
tion, it marks the dif ference in task engendered by the historical abstraction
of a marvellous paper archive on the one hand and the relative absence of
sound archive material on the other.

27 Amin Maalouf, Les identités meurtrières (Paris: Editions Grasset, 1998).
28 Eaglestone, The Holocaust and the Postmodern, 341.
29 Michel Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1969), ‘L’énoncé et l’archive’,

30 Michael Sheringham, ‘Memory and Archive in Contemporary Life-Writing’ French

Studies 52.1 (2005), 50.

12 Chapter 1
Arlette Farge describes Foucault’s pleasure in the experience of the

manuscript and archive encounter, describing the ‘nouvelles’ that touched
him more profoundly than ‘ordinary’ literature as he encountered ‘ces vies
infimes devenues cendres dans les quelques phrases qui les on abattues’.31
The same impetus is found in the search for ashen traces undertaken by
Modiano in the lives that, at best, exist on the margins of the grand his-
torical narratives of old. Paul Ricœur challenges Foucault by seeking to
maintain a dialogue between history and memory and rejects the archive’s
severance from tradition and experience by challenging the de-centring of 
the subject postulated by Marx and others – a de-centering that Foucault
insists upon when making assertions of active rapport between the present
and a historical past. The archive for Ricœur, in Michael Sheringham’s
analysis, is construed as ‘a space of disjunction where an active relationship
to pastness, often marked by a lack of mastery, is transacted’.32 Ultimately
defining the archive encounter as the ‘locus of a certain kind of knowledge’,
Farge demonstrates how contemporary meditations on the archive can
serve to problematise the relationship between individual and collective
subjects in their individual and collective pasts.33 The traces of the cul-
tural memory in the BBC written archives are located among the stacks
of files of memos, notes and letters that trace the transactions of people’s
daily working lives. The archive also contains scripts, scores, contracts, cor-
respondence and cuttings. The vigorous and accurate documentation of
what went on air is retained in volumes of programmes as broadcast (Ps
as B) records, and it is often because of the Corporation’s obligations to
pay copyright that any records are kept at all: it is so often the commercial
aspect of creative work that leaves a trace. Three main types of dossiers have
been consulted: those concerned with programme making – including
material concerned with the organisation of budgets, rehearsals, contracts
and clearance; institutional structure – departmental locations, staf fing

31 Michel Foucault, ‘La vie des hommes infâmes’, Cahiers du chemin 29 (15 Jan. 1977),
13; Arlette Farge, Le goût de l’archive (Paris: Seuil, 1989), 43.

32 Sheringham, ‘Memory and Archive in Contemporary Life-Writing’, 51.
33 Ibid., 52.

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 13

and hierarchies, individual of fices; and policy – correspondence across
departments and with government, reports and details of implementation.
Since the BBC was broadcasting during wartime, records of intelligence
gathering, propaganda reporting and government are also relevant.

Both the archive and music operate as generative impulses in twen-
tieth-century literary production. Music is allied to deregulation of the
verbal aesthetic; and the archive, as a physical manifestation of cultural
memory, takes on an identity closer to the language-structured uncon-
scious promoted by Lacan.34 An attempt to consult the archive is parallel,
in desire at least, to the process of psychoanalytical transference; its use
is not restricted to historians and their contemporary re-working of past-
narratives, but it also operates as an agent for literary discourse through
which the transitive versions of historical, psychological and hermeneutic
truth nuance the traditionally opposed poles of empirical and existential
reality. It is a means for the repressed to be brought into societal discourse
and for the constructing mechanisms of cultural memory to be exposed,
discussed and, perhaps, cured. It is within this essentially complex and
unfixed epistemological landscape ref lecting the already contested terrain of
post-war cultural memory in France, that I analyse French cultural sound-
scapes transmitted by the BBC during the Second World War. However,
before moving on to the analysis of these cultural soundscapes, I want, in
the second part of this chapter, to consider the framework within which
the sonic aspects of music as cultural memory resound. The concept of a
timescape was proposed at the opening as a term that helps us to go beyond
a location in time to account simultaneously for the temporal aspects of
memory and the archival encounter; in music, as an art of measured time
and in broadcasting as mediating organised time. In the following section,
a more precise concept of the soundscape – the mediated sonic field cre-
ated by the radio is established.

34 Jacques Lacan Séminaire XI: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse,
ed. Jean-Alain Miller (Paris: Points-Seuil, 1973).

14 Chapter 1

The Politics of Memory

Landscapes, especially cityscapes, can be read as palimpsests of memory
in which layers of collective human activity coalesce with personal stories
concerned with the same space. Similarly, the soundscapes of a culture, as
with an individual, can be navigated along the byways of memorial layers.
Stratas of communal and individual understanding of music are combined
at points of significance. A national anthem contrasts with a lullaby, as an
intensely personal musical memory; but both partake in the formation of
a narrative – a national story on the one hand and a personal one on the
other. One obtains in the area of group identity, of belonging (and exclu-
sion) and the other in the domain of the individual – although the latter
is inevitably developed through a typically maternal relationship and is
therefore still a sound memory firmly rooted in a societal construction.

Interaction between the personal and the collective in the domain of
memory underlies Ian Hacking’s concept of memero-politics. Communal
memorialisation, encoded in ritual through identification with a sacred
text, for example, preserves and maintains the story of a people and is fur-
thermore central to the manner in which group identity and dif ference are
struck out.35 However, Hacking’s intention is not so much on the connec-
tions between personal and communal memory but to seek out how the
‘politics of personal memory’ came to being in the first place.36 Investigating
the politics of traumatic memory historically shows how certain periods
have focused on particular types of remembering: the late nineteenth
century was concerned with hysteria, the early twentieth century with
shell shock and the latter part of the twentieth century with domestic and
sexual abuse.37 Both as event and in its fallout, the Second World War was

35 Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 211.

36 Ibid., 211.
37 This is outlined by Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books,

1992), cited in Hacking, Rewriting the Soul, 212.

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 15

a trauma that spread far beyond the ranks of the armed forces. Instead, a
much broader state of malaise – both contemporaneously, and in the con-
tinued working through of the trauma – has been at work in the form of
repression and denial. As the grand heroic narratives have been undermined
and debts finally paid of f, the collective reworking of cultural memory has
also become more and more politically embedded.38

Jean-Louis Curtis’s work Les Forêts de la Nuit (1947) is, for Margaret
Atack, a ‘novel of ambiguity’: it is in the quest for psychological truth that
the war works ‘as a catalyst for revealing the inner truth of each individual’.39
Contrasting, and telling, ref lections on the relationship both music and
radio have to memory feature in the following examples from Curtis’s text.
In the first, music is something to pacify, calm and heal; and in the second,
it is shown to transcend mental borders and boundaries in its connection
to memory that is more overtly political, both examples refer to the music
of J.S. Bach.

Mme Delahaye, the widow of a composer, soothes her troubled nerves
with ‘chefs-d’œuvre de la musique classique’ discovering that ‘une migraine
ne résistait pas au Concerto en ré mineur pour deux violins’.40 Music here is
transcendent, the goodness of the grand canon of great classical musical
works, unavoidably links to her still investing salvationary hope in Pétain
as head of state. Hélène de Balunsun, in contrast, attends an afternoon
concert with Gérard – a journalist who writes occasional pieces for the
collaborationist journal, La Gerbe – where they listen to a performance
of Bach’s violin concerto in E major.41 There are elegant women in the
stalls, af f luent gentlemen and soldiers: ‘Bach, plaine Monceau, Unter den
Linden, visons, monocles, l’Art au-dessus des frontières’, a conceptualisa-
tion that – if withering and cynical in this context – is very close to the
supposedly neutralising formula of ‘L’Art n’a pas de Patrie’.42 For Hélène,

38 British debts owed to the United States were paid of f on 1 January 2007.
39 Margaret Atack, Literature and the French Resistance: Cultural Politics and Narrative

Forms, 1940–1950 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989), 186.
40 Jean-Louis Curtis, Les Forêts de la nuit [1947] (Paris: Julliard, 1988), 108.
41 Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042.
42 Curtis, Les Forêts de la nuit, 136.

16 Chapter 1
the concerto leads her to recall a scene that reinforces her love for her
fiancé, absent as he awaits passage from Spain to join the Free French
in London, and precipitates her rejection of Gérard. In her memory the
music was broadcast on the radio, ‘le seul point lumineux dans la pièce’.
Through the passage of memory, the evocation of the same music heard
live is now transferred to a private, intimate sphere in Hélène’s mind – a
parenthèse or pause – as accompaniment to love chastely expressed through
the holding of hands:

Tout était aboli: le théâtre, l’orchestre, abolis. Gérard, surtout, aboli. Il n’y a plus que
la félicité presque insoutenable du rythme souverain, cette vigueur et cette sagesse
exemplaires, ce chant d’espoir céleste, qui n’est autre chose que Jean et Hélène, un seul
corps, un seul être, suspendu dans le vide et la nuit au contact des mains chaudes.43

Placing side by side, as Curtis does here, a politically awkward public concert
and the radio as accompaniment to privacy and intimacy, clearly demon-
strates the importance of the medium of the radio in its domestic setting,
and linking her London-bound fiancé with the radio suggests the BBC
itself. The power of personal space is transmuted back to the concert hall
via a memory of broadcast music.

The operation of music distinguished between these two instances in
Curtis’s novel is not simply generational and political but further codifies a
conception of music allied to what Adrian Boult termed in an early BBC
wartime policy document: the urgent necessity for music to be ‘a cultural
force’ and not a ‘mere spiritual sop’.44 The claims on music were made from
many quarters, but it is certainly clear that the radio was a medium that
transformed the nature of its performance, reception and the relationships
engendered with it profoundly.

In the following chapter, I investigate identity and nationhood and
how such ideological processes fed into the formulation of policy when
programming music at the BBC. Then the construction of French cultural

43 Ibid., 137.
44 BBC WAC R27/245/1 Music General/Music Policy/1930–1943, Adrian Boult (DM)

to B.E. Nicolls C(P) ‘General Programme Policy’ (14 Nov. 1939).

On Cultural Memory and Soundscapes 17

soundscapes is closely analysed in three case studies that treat specific aspects
of broadcasting from dif ferent perspectives. In the first, Chapter 3, I look at
the programmes transmitted on Bastille Day by addressing the recursivity
of the memorialisation of the 14 July and how it provided an opportunity
for the BBC to present a very specialised take on Frenchness to its domestic
audiences. Then, in Chapter 4, I analyse the use of slogans and chansons
in the BBC’s service to France with particular concentration on the initial
period of its establishment. Short musical messages operated at the margins
of broadcasting when time and resources were limited. From this I assess
the limits of musicality in the creation of radio soundscapes. The final case
study in Chapter 5 is concerned with the politics of presentation. The BBC
premiered Poulenc’s cantata, Figure humaine set to texts by Paul Eluard
and translated by Roland Penrose. While its performance attested to the
significance of Franco-British cultural relations, the analysis of the work
focuses on the multi-layered text.

In the conclusion, I consider the symbolism and resonances the BBC
retains in contemporary French cultural memory and how the BBC has
become so firmly entrenched in the historiographic discourses of World
War Two France. Julia Epstein and Lori Hope Lefkovitz define cultural
memory as referring to an ‘ethnic group consciousness of  the past’ that
‘provides the philosophical and historical foundations for ethnic, religious
and racial identities’. It is in attempting to analyse the matter of identity in
the case studies outlined in my research that the book closes.

Chapter 2

Sounding the Nations

The extent to which music could be used in constructing national sound-
scapes realised new potential when allied to technology that broadcast to
mass audiences at home and overseas. Radio ef fectively liberated music from
the bounded landscape and geography of the nation state, and in doing so
new applications of value and ultimately of meaning obtained – not least
when it was broadcast in alliance with ‘national publicity’: a combination
of advertising – analogous with the commercially valuable – with a style
of broadcasting that aims to maximise its return in propaganda terms.1
Such publicity inevitably intersects with issues of national identity and was
emphasised particularly in programmes and cultural missions that in the
parlance of the BBC and British Council promulgated the positive ‘projec-
tion of Britain’.2 Music transmitted by radio in such a way could be seen
as an intention to cultivate in listeners a sense of unisonality where partici-
pation in nation, or in the case of the BBC’s first forays in non-domestic
broadcasting, empire, is experienced in spite of a displaced relationship
with the medium of communication.3

Following the overview of cultural memory and soundscapes in the
previous chapter, my focus here is to look first at the issues of nationhood
as expressed in cultural propaganda, contrasting the situation in Occupied

1 Brian Currid, ‘The Acoustics of National Publicity: Music in German Mass Culture,
1924–1945’, PhD thesis, University of Chicago, 1998.

2 See Christine Okret-Manville, ‘La politique de promotion culturelle britannique
en France (1925–1953): De la publicité aux relations culturelles’, thèse de doctorat,
Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, 2002. It was the name of a project organised by
Stephen Tallents at the Foreign Of fice; see Taylor, The Projection of Britain, 125–6.

3 See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Ref lections on the Origins and Spread
of Nationalism (New York: Verso, [1983] 1991).

20 Chapter 2
France with home discourses, then to delve into the archives to establish
how music and French issues were discussed institutionally by mapping the
dialogue and decisions related to their commission, broadcast, censorship
and promotion.

Music programming arises from choices steeped in political and cul-
tural values. These might be read as radical and ultra-modern, or just as pos-
sibly conservative; varying between popular, elitist, highbrow and lowbrow.
In economic terms, maintaining orchestras, commissioning new works,
hiring instruments and contracting artists meant the music department was
the beneficiary of the largest share of financial investment within the BBC
throughout the interwar period.4 The process of how these decisions were
made during the Second World War sheds light on how issues of patriot-
ism and commercialism become matters written into detailed policy with
direct broadcast outcomes as well as illuminating the perceived values and
meanings of the cultural material at hand.

Cultural Rapprochement

Although initially Nazi cultural policy gave the impression of respecting
French culture, its camouf laged intentions were viewed with suspicion from
London. The Propaganda Abteilung were uncommonly keen not to be seen
as cultural oppressors in France fearing that overt prohibition of cultural
activity would be capitalised upon by enemy propaganda.5 According to
the terms of the armistice, which authorised state collaboration with the
National Socialists, the government in Vichy enjoyed relative operational
freedom and this singular position meant that unlike other countries under
the rule of the Third Reich where Nazi cultural policy was imposed with

4 Dan LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultivated
Mind in Britain Between the Wars (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 185.

5 Ibid., 113.

Sounding the Nations 21

immediate and destructive ef fect on the home culture it did not feel the full
force immediately since the augmentation of pre-existing accommodating
cultural policy in France laid the ground for its reception. Nazi policy in
Bohemia and Moravia, on the other hand, was to project these provinces as
fully assimilated functioning parts of the Reich although the anti-Semitic
purges destroyed one of  the largest centres of  Jewish music making in
Europe. Just north of Prague, the Theresienstadt camp functioned as a
‘show-ghetto’ where distinguished members of the Jewish population, often
veterans of the First World War and their families, were deported. This was
perhaps the only place in Third Reich territory where Jewish music was not
simply tolerated but actively encouraged, but in a way that reinforced the
distinction with of ficial Nazi discourses by exaggerating the otherness of 
Jewish culture through its exhibition, enclosing it within a razor wire cage
that was in reality a staging post to extermination at Auschwitz.6

So in France musical culture continued to be sponsored, supported
and the concert halls were very often full.7 Cultural rapprochement
concentrated on two factors, first, the well-documented admiration for
Wagner and German music, and, second, the desire to retain Paris as a
European centre of the arts. This was to allow the Occupying forces to
create a relatively neutral middle-ground from which then the cultural
scene was progressively infiltrated with works that had an unconcealed
association with National Socialist ideology.8 The political neutralisation
of cultural life was undertaken by attempting to side-step issues of patriot-
ism (as an inclusive cultural programme) and nationalism (as a cultural
programme that self-defines by exclusion) by employing the universalis-
ing slogan ‘l’Art n’a pas de Patrie’.9 Marc Pincherle published an article

6 See Lionel Richard ‘Heurs et malheurs d’une culture juive sous contrôle de Berlin
à Thérésine’, in Le IIIe Reich et la musique, ed. Pascal Huynh (Paris: Fayard, 2004),

7 Alexandra Laederich, ‘Les Associations symphoniques parisiennes’, in La vie musicale
sous Vichy, ed. Myriam Chimènes (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 2001), 217.

8 See Chimènes, ed., La vie musicale sous Vichy.
9 Marc Pincherle, ‘La Propagande Allemande et la Musique’, Contrepoints 1 ( Jan. 1946),


22 Chapter 2
on music and German propaganda in France during the war in a music
journal from the resistance press Éditions de Minuit in January 1946,
Contrepoints in which he took issue with this slogan and its implications.10
Pincherle takes us through a literature review of works published on music
in Germany dating back as far as the mid-nineteenth century, and far
from demonstrating culture transcending national discourses, he exposes
the shameless appropriation of Rameau, Bizet, Berlioz and even Chopin
who was listed by Naumann among ‘les maîtres allemands du romantisme
musical’.11 Pincherle also bears witness to the well-publicised exchanges
between French and German musicians during the occupation – Cortot’s
visit to Berlin, a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic in a suburban
factory outside Paris, the performance of Pfitzner’s Palestrina at the Opéra
Garnier and the arrival of Gieseking in Paris to play Debussy’s Préludes.
Such events, he points out, did not prevent the massacre at Oradour-
sur-Glâne, and did nothing to assuage the suf fering of those ‘torturés de
l’avenue Foch ou de la rue des Saussaies’ by the Gestapo.12 Ultimately, for
Pincherle the use of music for German propaganda was, following these
examples, ‘en termes crues’ an example of  ‘la prostitution d’un art à des
fins extra-artistiques’.13 Music was used as a cover to disguise the torture
being committed out of sight:

10 It was published with an introductory disclaimer that stated: ‘bien des choses ont
changé depuis un an, bien des opinions se sont modifiées, contredites par le déroule-
ment des faits, ou plus simplement embuées par la resignation, le désir d’apaisement,
l’oubli. Sans doute, n’écrirai-je plus exactement comme alors, si j’entreprenais
aujourd’hui cette tâche. Je préfère cependant ne rien retoucher. J’ai tenté, à une
époque déterminée, de fixer des impressions avec l’objectivité dont j’étais capable: à
vouloir les adapter après coup, je risquerais de les fausser, relirant du même coup à
ce document sa valeur du témoignage. Pincherle, ‘La Propagande Allemande et la
Musique’, 82.

11 Naumann, Histoire de la musique (latest edition in 1946), quoted by Pincherle in ‘La
Propagande Allemande et la Musique’, 88.

12 Pincherle, ‘La Propagande Allemande et la Musique’, 94.
13 Ibid., 82.

Sounding the Nations 23

La Gestapo a employé à des fins analogues les moteurs de camions tournant à plein
régime devant les chambres dans lesquelles on interrogeait. La Propaganda Staf fel
préférait l’échange de virtuoses entre Paris et Berlin, le Concert à l’usine, l’Hom-
mage français à Wagner … L’ampleur et les modalités dif fèrent: c’est bien une seule
et même technique.14

One way to counter this strategy was, like Pincherle, to expose the fraudu-
lent nature of cultural transactions by listening in. Maurice Schumann’s
Free French news broadcast of 26 May 1942 describes how a gala concert
given by the Berlin Philharmonic in Lyon was delayed and disrupted by
vocal protestors:

Pendant toute la journée, une foule de patriotes hostiles ne cessa de circuler devant
la Salle Rameau, pour manifester la réprobation et la colère de Lyon. Le soir, il n’y
avait guère que 2 à 300 policiers ou mercenaires de la ‘collaboration’ dans la salle du
scandaleux ‘gala’. Tandis qu’à l’extérieur, c’est la véritable population lyonnaise qui

Such use of ‘cynical’ cultural means as a means to occlude the implemen-
tation of full-scale fascist policy inspired resistance activity through intel-
lectual means, and in the form of more overt disobedience then:

Car tel est le cynisme de l’Allemand que – tout en af fichant sur les murs de nos villes
des listes rouges d’otages massacrés – il s’imagine couvrir les cris d’agonie de nos mar-
tyrs par un prélude de Wagner ou par une ouverture de Beethoven.16

However, there is evidence to suggest that sympathy, at the very least, with
Nazi cultural policy as refracted through the Vichy government had pre-
war antecedents. Certain collaborative cultural organisations based in Paris
exhibited an intellectual af finity to National Socialism, in particular the
Cercle Rive gauche (an expression of location and not political orientation)

14 Ibid., 96–7.
15 BBC WAC: E1/698/2 Countries: France/Émission radiophonique/Direction de

l’Information (7 April–3 June 1942), M. Schumann, ‘Paris-Lyon’, 26 May 1942.
16 Ibid.

24 Chapter 2
and its associated bookshop which occupied a prominent place on the
Place de la Sorbonne.17 Periodicals such as the Cahiers franco-allemands,
associated with Otto Abetz, appointed ‘ambassadeur’ to Paris in 1940,
whose liberal editorial policy invited contributions from all shades of the
political spectrum ‘to show the broad-mindedness (libéralisme) and gen-
erosity (libéralité) of Nazi Germany’, were part of the cultural preparation
for military invasion.18 Jane Fulcher similarly aims to demonstrate how the
infiltration of the French musical world by the nationalist leagues of the
turn of the century paved the way for cultural collaboration from 1940

The Vichy regime marked no radically new point of departure with regard to its
political and musical discourse, its system of values, meanings and codes: its obses-
sion with ‘purity’ and ‘de-intoxification’, with Jewish musicians and black American
jazz, had roots in this strain in the culture that had been developing and adapting
for the past forty years.19

Finally, the BBC itself acknowledged that in cultural terms the architects
of German propaganda had won a significant victory in France and it one
that was achieved through the exploitation of music, as shown in this intel-
ligence report of 1942 originating from Lyon:

We were wrong to neglect the intellectual side of propaganda. Germany did not
make this mistake. I am not exaggerating when I say that by her music she prepared
the political and subsequent military invasion of France. I remember the Frenchman
who said in my presence in June 1940 when the German invasion was deploying

17 The bookshop was bombed in an attack directed by Pierre Tourette, Georges Tondelier,
Louis Coquillet, Maurice Le Berre, Fabien, Marcel Boudarias and Maurice Feferman
on 21 November 1941 at 7am; see Jean-Marc Berlière and Franck Liaigre, Le Sang des
communistes: Les Bataillons de la jeunesse dans la lutte armée, Automne 1941 (Paris:
Fayard, 2004), 288.

18 Lionel Richard, Le Nazisme et la Culture (Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 1988, 2006),

19 Jane Fulcher, ‘The Preparation for Vichy: Anti-Semitism in French Musical Culture
between the Two World Wars’, The Musical Quarterly 79.3 (Fall 1995), 458–73.

Sounding the Nations 25

across France, ‘Anything you like, but you won’t make me believe that a nation of
musicians can be a nation of brutes: therefore, I am not afraid.’20

Cultural Propaganda

Analysing the development of ‘cultural propaganda’ as it was implemented
in the years preceding the war through institutions such as the British
Council (founded 1934) identifies ways in which British polity sought to
promote its image overseas. It also suggests that intellectual propaganda
was the most ef fective strategy in relation to occupied France. The increase
in cultural propaganda at this time and its definition as a working principle
within the BBC attest furthermore to growing concern about the need
to counter the rise of fascism in Europe through a peacetime propaganda
initiative that sought to mitigate European divisions and promote cultural

Defined by Philip Taylor as ‘the promotion and dissemination of
national aims and achievements in a general rather than specifically eco-
nomic or political form, although it is ultimately designed to promote eco-
nomic and political interests’, cultural propaganda at the British Council
was modelled on a strategy developed in France.21 The French government
invested considerable funds to set up cultural centres overseas that pro-
moted language lessons, literary and musical heritage, and ultimately world-
wide education according to the role France had appointed itself within
human civilisation. The mission civilisatrice that underpinned colonial
expansion at the end of the nineteenth century led to the creation of the
first Alliance Française centres in 1880. This grounding of cultural propa-
ganda in a French tradition, indeed as the result of a French innovation,

20 BBC WAC R27/94/1 Music General/European Service/File 1/1941–1946 [Steuart
Wilson] ‘Memorandum on European Music’, quoting Intelligence Extract No.
ED/2817 (10 Oct. 1942).

21 Taylor, The Projection of Britain, 125–6.

26 Chapter 2
is important in understanding how the British government developed its
own later version. It also helps to substantiate the cultural policies created
by British agencies, the BBC included, in their relationship with France
during the Second World War given that the term ‘cultural diplomacy’
had been a euphemism for Anglo-French relations in of ficial circles for
many years.22

Through music, the BBC could both place its programmes within
established traditions and lend itself to particular constructions of cultural
identity. For LeMahieu it was through the BBC’s domestic music broad-
casts that the Corporation ‘most self-consciously constructed a f lattering
image of bourgeois cultural traditions and social identity’ by devising music
schedules that ‘ref lected less the diverse realities of middle-class musical
tastes than a preferred image of its own cultural identity’.23 This analysis
fits within the well-defined context of the 1930s British class-system where
programmes constructed according to Reithian policies of mass communi-
cation of high-art music sought to free aspirant members of the working
class from the false consciousness separating them from political salva-
tion.24 Although Briggs sees the same principles feeding into the BBC’s
developing overseas services, it is clear that broadcasting beyond the sea
necessitated divergent configurations of cultural, and national, identity
both in terms of policy and institution.25 International broadcasting during
the Second World War was principally concerned with news and informa-
tion programmes but there was space nevertheless for the transmission of
a wide variety of artistic programmes since poetry, drama and music, were
excellent means of propagating political, imperial and cultural ideas. In
fact, the concert of European nations had been established through the
network of international relays – the transmission of London concerts in

22 A point made by G. Moorhouse in The Diplomats (1977): ‘When British of ficials
utter the words cultural diplomacy they usually have the French in mind.’ See Taylor,
The Projection of Britain, 125.

23 LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy, 184, 186.
24 Ibid., 147.
25 Asa Briggs, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, vol. II ‘The Golden

Age of Wireless’ (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 394–5.

Sounding the Nations 27

Paris and vice versa. In Occupied France, the Nazi-run Radio-Paris took
on these relays between Berlin and Paris as a celebration of the supremacy
of German culture.

Although experiments in international broadcasting had begun as
early as 1927, and an extensive English-language service that broadcast to
the Empire and Dominions was established in 1932 provided the techni-
cal infrastructure for worldwide transmission, it was not until 3 January
1938 that the BBC made its first broadcast overseas in a language other
than English, in Arabic to Yemen.26 The timing of  this event demon-
strates that the broadcast was motivated by the need to counter the propa-
ganda on competing airwaves as well as signifying the moment when the
development of international broadcasting by the BBC was united to the
course of world events. On 27 September 1938, the first broadcast in a
European language other than English was the simultaneous transmission
of Chamberlain’s speech at Munich in German, French and Italian seeking
to prevent manipulation of the event by agencies intent on interpreting
the message for their own purposes. As the war clouds gathered the BBC
staked its claim to integrity: while ‘all that Europe hears is the ceaseless
blare of blatant propaganda’, it became ‘a cardinal principle that the success
or failure of [the BBC’s] broadcast news service must be measured by the
degree of truthfulness with which it portrays the news of the day’.27 If the
news talks were ideally meant to be neutral in their information giving,
the talks that followed them by contrast were editorial. Here, an angled
perspective – one of cultural propaganda – could be given: ‘it [was] the
duty of the BBC to interpret Great Britain, British thought and the British
way of life to Europe’.28 Very often, however, the talks were also conspicu-
ous attempts to inf luence opinion overseas and specifically to enlighten

26 The broadcast was by Emir Seif-El-Islam Hussein, son of the Yemeni king, followed
by messages of goodwill from the Egyptian Ambassador, Ministers for Iraq and
Saudi Arabia and the Governor of Aden, finishing with an Arabic news bulletin.
The programme was a response to Italian propaganda broadcasts to British interests
in the Middle East.

27 Ivone Kirkpatrick, ‘Calling Europe’, BBC Handbook 1943, 103.
28 Ibid., 104.

28 Chapter 2
‘Europe to the character of German aims and stimulating resistance to
Hitler’s so-called “New Order”.’29

Developing BBC Music Wartime Policy

From the BBC’s foundation in 1922, and in its development under the
innovative charge of Adrian Boult, Edward Clark and Kenneth Wright
among others in the BBC’s music department, pre-war music broadcasting
policy had never shied away from the contemporary or the challenging.
The BBC was responsible for ‘shaping the nation’s tastes’. As Jenny Doctor
demonstrates, ‘new music programmes disseminated otherwise unattain-
able cultural experiences to the British population, and the administrators
viewed this as an important and appropriate means of executing their fun-
damental horizon-expanding policies’.30 In this way, we might imagine the
extent to which the BBC was responsible for the construction of a corpus
of repertoire for its listeners. The introduction of contemporary music
to listeners ‘unfamiliar with even standard art music repertory’ was not
without controversy, but it presupposes listeners bringing something to
their experience.31 Wartime conditions slanted policy decisions towards
works by composers from allied countries, in addition to placing a much
greater emphasis on music by British composers. It also saw repertoire-
building taken beyond national boundaries; and in seeking to shape the
tastes of other nations – particularly in the Empire Service – the choice
of repertoire also became an important means of distinguishing the BBC
from other broadcasters. Music was thus attached to the BBC’s heavily
promoted ideas of truth and freedom.

29 Ibid.
30 Doctor, The BBC and Ultra-Modern Music, 333.
31 Ibid.

Sounding the Nations 29

Presupposition of a known body of repertoire lay behind the success
of the BBC French Service’s propaganda chansons and slogans. Parodies of
pre-existing text and music could be appreciated only if the target listener
was in on the joke. A body of theoretical consideration about such inter-
textuality draws on the concept of the library as equivalence to the world
(or dif ferent possible worlds). But the analogy of the library goes further
still: it becomes representative of the repertory of shared knowledge and
collective memory. Such a collective memorial archive of repertoire defines
the participation of the broadcaster (as the advertiser or cinema director)
as crucial in its construction.

The archiving of the sound of music made possible by the gramophone,
and the availability of music via the radio, were indeed important develop-
ments in the ways music was collected and disseminated.32 The potential to
archive music and to transmit performances was enthusiastically portrayed
at the Exposition universelle of 1889. Both Edison’s phonograph and more
importantly the transmission of live performances from the Opéra and
Opéra-Comique via telephones in the appropriately named ‘Pavillon des
Téléphones’ were immense attractions.33 Alexander Rehding examined the
early development of sound recording and its interpretation by nineteenth-
century German theorists Hugo Riemann and Hermann Helmholtz and
he calls into the question the status of the sonic trace – the ontology of 
the musical work in its recorded form.34 Voicing Riemann’s concerns about
the potentially disruptive and dislocating role of technology, Rehding
states that ‘just as the phonograph could be presented as a miraculous

32 Musique et radio. Revue mensuelle de l’industrie et du commerce de musique, radio,
machines parlantes, télévision, cinéma 369 ( June 1941), 93, quoted in E. Buch, La
neuvième de Beethoven: Une histoire politique (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 246. The
role of the record companies in France during the occupation is studied in detail by
Philippe Morin, see ‘Une nouvelle politique discographique pour la France’ in La
Vie musicale sous Vichy, ed. Chimènes, 253–68.

33 See Annegret Fauser, Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair (Rochester:
University of Rochester Press, 2005), 279–311.

34 Alexander Rehding, ‘Wax-Cylinder Revolutions’, The Musical Quarterly (Spring
2005), 123–60.

30 Chapter 2
speaking head, repeating words in any language whatsoever, regardless of
any specific grammar or vocabulary, so the apparatus could also be used to
convey any kind of music, regardless of the regulatory tonal system behind
it’.35 As he indicates, the recording of musical performance was a radical
step, and we might adduce that its potential to be archived was equally
so. Radio can be seen to occupy the middle ground in this spectrum from
live music to archived music. As a medium that transmits sound, radio
generates, although it does not necessarily conserve. In addition, radio
combines the dislocating force of the gramophone while maintaining the
ephemerality of the live performance – even if the physicality is lost. Until
domestic recording became possible, the broadcasting of recordings on the
radio was as temporal as the original performance itself. Sound archives of
radio, unless recorded ‘of f-air’ by individuals, depended on the broadcast-
ing authority or organisation deciding what was important enough to be
kept for posterity, or occasionally in the case of broadcasting music, what
might be profitable if sold commercially on the open market or to other

The archiving and dissemination potential created by the radio, then,
has ramifications in the performance history of a particular work. One way
to address these ramifications in relation to broadcast music is to take a
broad case study that also exposes an aporia in the aesthetics of music and
its intersection with matters political: music can on occasion be all things to
all agencies. This prospect was shown to terrifying ef fect in what might be
termed the uses of Beethoven. Esteban Buch’s study of the Ninth Symphony
in D minor, and of course the Schiller chorus that forms our own European
Union anthem, demonstrates very clearly how music is unable a priori to
disassociate itself from either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ political sentiments:

Les nationalistes allemands ont admiré la puissance héroïque de cette musique; les
républicains français ont reconnu en elle la triple devise de 1789. Les communistes y
ont entendu l’évangile d’un monde sans classes; les catholiques l’Évangile tout court;
les democrats, la démocratie. Hitler fêtait ses anniversaries avec l’Ode à la joie. On
lui a pourtant opposé cette musique, jusqu’à dans les camps de concentration. L’Ode

35 Ibid., 132.

Sounding the Nations 31

à la joie résonne regulièrement aux jeux Olympiques, elle résonnait il n’y a guère
longtemps, à Sarajevo. Elle a été l’hymne de la république raciste de Rhodésie, elle
est aujourd’hui l’hymne de l’Union européene.36

That both interpretation and reception change because of the added mean-
ings that a work gathers through extra-musical associations is also something
that could not have occurred on the same scale had it not been for the new
means of transmission via radio broadcast; the possibility of repeated listen-
ing created by commercial recordings; and the new f lexibility of listening
environments brought about in their dif ferent ways by both. While I do
not argue that such a transformation in interpretation would have been
impossible without the technology, it is dif ficult to imagine that, in its
absence, the impact and extent of the transformation of meaning could
have been on the same scale. As Rehding has demonstrated, field record-
ings played by wax-cylinder technology aurally defied and challenged the
authority of Western notational practices. In a similar way, the technology
of broadcasting upset traditional rituals – to use a term of Benjamin’s –
of music consumption: mass communication threatened the aura of the
work.37 That one of the results of technological innovation is disruption
of established practice is surely no surprise.

The BBC held a unique position, being funded by the public and
holding a monopoly, and, by virtue of particular clauses in its charter, was
independent from direct governmental control. Although the BBC was
in fact very conscious of its listeners’ opinions, it certainly did not ignore
them, part of its public service remit was to of fer an ‘improving’ programme
that led listener expectation rather than simply responding to the preferred
programming of its listeners.38

36 Esteban Buch, Le neuvième de Beethoven: Une histoire politique (Paris: Gallimard,
1999), 13.

37 See Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’

38 BBC WAC R9/1/1: Audience Research Bulletins 1–68. There was both a weekly
barometer, which measured listening figures, and a weekly thermometer, which
measured listener satisfaction.

32 Chapter 2
So at the BBC, the principal determinant in repertoire choice was to

be found somewhere between a desire to shape tastes and responding to
listener demand in the years before World War Two, although the neces-
sity for programmes to lead by example and ahead of supposed listener
was paramount:

Programme policy on the larger issues has from the outset been determined by the
conviction that listeners would come to appreciate that which at first might appear
uninteresting or even alarming. The BBC has in fact aimed at providing a service
somewhat ahead of what the public would demand were it possible for such demand
to be made audible.39

Increased radio listening and the greater presence of the BBC in society
meant that listener accountability was only going to grow. It did so in
fairly continued mutual resistance until the outbreak of war, when for one
commentator, the ‘aura of aloofness which had surrounded Broadcasting
House in the 1930s was pulverized almost overnight’ and the BBC ‘found
itself abruptly immersed in society’.40 Wartime broadcasting and its new-
found responsibilities might have inspired innovative programming, yet
Tom Harrisson, in his radio column in The Observer, chastised BBC pro-
gramme makers, for regarding radio ‘as a new channel, rather than a new
chance’, criticising in particular the new inf lux of wartime employees, for
not making a more novel use of the medium.41

With the onset of hostilities and the growth in broadcasting to world-
wide broadcasting coverage, there was an increasing need to emphasise
the sense of moral purpose behind music programming. Such newfound
obligations and circumstances altered how policy was created and the rep-
ertoire chosen resulted from a combination of wide-ranging conceptual
processes that mark, at their most extreme, radical shifts in the perception

39 BBC WAC R27/245/1: Music General/Music Policy/1930–1943 Verbal Evidence
Policy, ‘Evidence submitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation’ (n.d.).

40 Valeria Camporesi, ‘Mass Culture and the Defence of National Traditions: The
BBC and American Broadcasting, 1922–1954’, doctoral thesis, European University
Institute, Florence, 1990, 137.

41 The Observer (30 April 1944), 2.

Sounding the Nations 33

of the function and meanings of music. Not only was music programming
about negotiating the precarious balance of meeting its pedagogic duty and
fulfilling the desires of its listeners, it had to embrace a raft of additional
factors: f lattery, solidarity, propaganda and the need to exploit for all it was
worth its already well-established potential to aggravate and provoke.

Programming then, involved considering music in relation to its appro-
priateness, suitability and accessibility as well as the selection of music to
educate, inform and entertain. Both the musical and extra-musical issues
that form the logic of choice behind the selection of broadcast music
combine to expand the study of programming and repertoire beyond the
analysis of a corpus of works, beyond the analysis of a list. There are several
theoretical precepts for this process (and it is important not to confuse the
process with the material). We might, after Gérard Genette, call this proc-
ess a construction of paratexte: the prefatory architecture that structures
the context of the broadcast performance much as a preface or foreword
prepares the ground for the literary text that follows.42 This paratexte also
embraces a more literal parallel in the guise of presentation: the way music
is introduced, the continuity announcement, the introductory literature –
articles in the Radio Times or The Listener – all the material that surrounds
a broadcast performance. In its explanation to the listener, there is a sense
that the broadcaster is justifying his or her choice, arguing the case for the
inclusion or relevance of a piece.

In wartime broadcasting the ability of music to manipulate has attracted
the most interest; and naturally so, since the politics of a prevailing ide-
ology and its intersection with cultural activity is exposed most crudely
at points of crisis. The BBC’s own wartime censorship policy, which, as
I argue below, was developed as much in response to pressure from lob-
bying bodies such as the Incorporated Society of Musicians as a desire to
ban music that was felt to be publicly intolerable, demonstrates neverthe-
less, that the Corporation had (and has) at its disposal a powerful means
of manipulating the accessibility of repertory. The final example, which
is a more indirect means of limiting repertoire, resulted from the Comité

42 Gérard Genette, Palimpsestes: La littérature au second degré (Paris: Seuil, 1982), 10.

34 Chapter 2
d’épuration’s policy (in reality, short-lived) of banning from performing
those musicians who had broadcast on Radio-Paris. Economic factors also
af fected the choice of repertoire: from matters relating to copyright fees
(and to whom they were payable) to the fees demanded by a performer. A
big name could quite legitimately demand a high fee from the Corporation,
pitching their prestige against the BBC’s desire for the highest standards of
performance. As shown in the following, Benjamin Britten’s readiness to
participate in a recital of mélodies with Peter Pears on 14 July 1943 ‘without
fee or billing’ is indicative of how wartime cultural politics (in this case
those relating to conscientious objection) are enmeshed with cultural capi-
tal. The function of repertoire is associated with suitability for venue, for
performing forces and for occasion – the radio is responsible furthermore
for creating its own functions and its own criteria for those functions. The
timing of a broadcast, its potential to be repeated, and its target audience
(which during the Second World War, encompassed most countries in the
world) were all matters particular to the radio broadcast. Furthermore, in
an issue to which I have alluded, the more complicated ideas that reveal
meanings invested in repertoire were found in works chosen for ‘f lattery’
or to demonstrate allied solidarity, adding further layers to the conceptu-
alisation of the paratexte of a music broadcast.

Broadcasting, as well as opening up new commissioning possibili-
ties, also created new functions for music: as incidental background to
radio drama, as part of a feature, in the slogans that identify a radio sta-
tion or programme. Most notably, the BBC’s direction of the Promenade
Concerts – while not a specifically broadcast-based function – necessitated
regular commissions for new music to fill its programmes fulfilling the
Corporation’s role both as an innovator in musical production and as a
traditional sponsor or benefactor within the scope of established practice.
An important connection is established between broadcast music and the
listener. This socialised connection is a contractual relationship as it is the
listener who completes the programmer’s project.43

43 Genette, Palimpsestes, 19.

Sounding the Nations 35

While choices of broadcast music, ef fectively privileged and therefore
canonised selected repertoire, the political situation, now challenged the
postulate of music’s universality. This mode of thinking had placed German
romantic music centre-stage in the musical establishment at large, even if 
the Music Department had obstinately pursued a policy that fought against
‘die-hard respectable conservatism’.44 Performing central parts of common
practice repertoire was in wartime, in ef fect, trading with the enemy.

It was a tellingly commercial metaphor that came to justify a wide-
ranging reassessment of composers and their works leading in certain cir-
cumstances to their prohibition from the BBC airwaves. The discourses
surrounding this very contested, and, for many, highly contentious, policy
illustrate the competing interests of political, aesthetic and commercial
aspects in the institutional debates about the value and meaning of music.
This policy also presented opportunities anew for a disgruntled musical
establishment, already sceptical of the unrivalled and considerable power
the BBC had obtained, to present a strong rearguard action motivated
by fears they had lost inf luence with professional music making and that
British interests were threatened by the inf lux of European refugees from
Weimar Germany.45

44 BBC WAC R27/245/1: Music General/Music Policy/1930–43, A. Bliss (29 Dec.

45 See Cyril Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain since the Eighteenth Century (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1985); Paddy Scannell and David Cardif f, A Social History of British
Broadcasting 1922–1939, vol. 1 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991); Jutte Raab-Hansen,
NS-Verfolgte Musiker in England: Spuren deutschen und österreichischer Flüchtlinge
in der Britischen Musikkultur (Hamburg: von Bockel, 1996). On the latter point the
BBC proved to be a very convenient scapegoat. The BBC itself underwent significant
changes: the departure of the founding Director General, J.C.W. Reith, in 1938; the
resignation of inf luential music department staf f and the Corporation’s first engage-
ment with public accountability through the Ullswater Committee (report published
February 1936) in preparation for charter renewal. The scrutiny of music policy in
preparation for this Committee was particularly bloody as it provided the oppor-
tunity for those who felt that the BBC had usurped their authority to publicly state
their view. On protectionism and the BBC, see A.J. Sherman, Island Refuge: Britain
and Refugees from the Third Reich 1933–1939 (Ilford: Frank Cass, 1994), 264–5.

36 Chapter 2
At the outbreak of war, the BBC’s ordinary programme was replaced

with a continuous stream of light music, occasionally interspersed with
news announcements on a single network as all regional programmes were
suspended. The BBC Music Department was relocated to Bristol in con-
junction with a massive evacuation plan that sought to place people in rela-
tive safety outside the capital. But the bombs did not arrive immediately
and the BBC’s action earned it some of the most hostile reception that
it would ever receive. Its failure to excel in what was perceived as its most
crucial hour was acknowledged by the Director of Music, Adrian Boult:

in the first week of the war the nation’s nerve was badly shaken by the panic-stricken
evacuation scheme, which af fected every walk of life. The musical world was tem-
porarily paralysed, partly on account of our momentary failure to fulfil the needs of 
the music-loving public.46

Prevailing psychological conditions underpinned adjustments in ideologi-
cal policy, which proved dif ficult to explain in terms of implementable
policy. Boult described this as a tendency ‘towards an increased proportion
of the great classics, as this literature contains the finest and most inspired
musical thinking’.47 In more practical terms Kenneth Wright described
changes in the nature of music broadcasting as a result of the war which
‘caused some inevitable falling of f in standard in both programming and
performance, although an increase in the actual broadcasts of music Home
and Overseas’.48 The increase to which Wright refers was in light music,
and often on records under the jurisdiction of the separate Gramophone
Department. In fact the choice between live and recorded transmission
remained a constantly debated issue. Live broadcasts might be interrupted
by air raids, which, aside from the practical disruption, upset the stoic image

46 BBC WAC R27/245/1 Music General/Music Policy/1930–1943, A.C. Boult (DM)
to B.E. Nicolls (C (P)) ‘Music Policy’ (14 Nov. 1939).

47 BBC WAC R27/245/1 Music General/Music Policy/1930–1943, Adrian Boult (DM)
to B.E. Nicolls C (P) ‘General Programme Policy’ (14 Nov. 1939).

48 BBC WAC R27/245/1 Music General/Music Policy/1930–1943, K.A. Wright anno-
tations to ‘Extract from Report of the Broadcasting Committee 1935’ [Sept./Nov.

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