Canonizing Remembrance: Music for Armistice Day at the BBC, 1922–7

TitleCanonizing Remembrance: Music for Armistice Day at the BBC, 1922–7
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsCowgill, Rachel
Journal First World War Studies
Date Published06/2011

Broadcasting was one of the principal means by which the affective, social, and political meanings of Armistice Day were constituted in British culture, and music programming was crucial to that process. In the years leading up to its nationalization in 1927, the BBC was inventing itself; and its varying approaches to the selection and scheduling of specific musical repertoire for 11 November over that period have much to tell us about changing responses to the Great War, as well as conflicting notions of national identity, modernity, and tradition. Building on recent historical and musicological scholarship, this article examines the basis of Armistice Day programming decisions at the BBC; reconstructs the internal dialogue surrounding specific works, genres, and composers; and illuminates processes of canonization whereby Elgar's wartime cantata The Spirit of Englandemerged pre-eminent over works such as John Foulds's A World Requiem.

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