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Chapter 16 - Educating the Nation

Britten’s Music for Young People

from Part II - British Musical Life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2022

Vicki P Stroeher
Affiliation:
Marshall University, West Virginia
Justin Vickers
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
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Summary

This chapter explores Britten’s investment in composing for young people – the most obvious outworking of his well-known belief that the composer had a ‘duty to society’. It positions this part of his oeuvre within the context of a number of interconnected contemporary critical debates: about national education reform; about the supposed impact of sound reproduction technologies on the public’s listening habits; about the arts’ imagined capacity to nurture ‘responsible citizens’; and about the contested consequences of industrialisation for local culture and community. It then examines two different ways in which Britten responded to cultural critics’ concerns about the socially alienating conditions of modern life: whereas Noye’s Fludde sought to foster community through promoting amateur performance, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra encouraged a different kind of cultural participation premised on ‘active’ listening. More broadly, these compositions reveal how arts education became a vehicle for debating, making sense of, and regulating the social changes that took place in mid-twentieth-century Britain.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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