Music and Diplomacy / Modern Diplomats…

Once again, two straws in the wind – this time, two calls for papers I received through H-Diplo.

. First, the conference Splendid Encounters: Diplomats and Diplomacy in Europe, 1500-1750. Premodern diplomacy is an interesting counterpart to the History of Contemporary diplomatic practices, because it forces us to question the widest long-term structures of our work: premodern diplomats function in an environment where basic notions (State, Power, etc) mean different things than they do in the 19th-20th century.

. Second, this fascinating conference on Music and Diplomacy. The goal here is obviously to use music as a vehicle for a reflection on cultural and ritual aspects of diplomacy (cultural diplomacy, diplomatic encounters as performed rituals, etc). Music can also become more than art, an issue in international relations (a good example would be Wagner’s music in Israel). The conference will also deal with the music-making of diplomats and political leaders, which is another great idea. Writing about great figures of European integration, Alan Milward liked to remind his reader in notes about their favorite instruments (or about their hobbies, like René Pleven’s angling). Sometimes one can see deeper things ingrained in one’s relation to music. Raymond Boyer de Sainte-Suzanne, Alexis Léger’s secretary, exposed in his diary his lack of interest for music in general, an art form he deemed unable to reach the precision literature could achieve. One could link that to a wider French cultural more of the time, largely on display in Sainte-Suzanne’s diaries: the conviction that France was the parangon of Cartesian, scientific Reason, while Germans on the other hand were Romantics, engrossed with primeval, cthonian passions (the “gloomy ocean” Charles de Gaulle wrote about).

Behind such anecdotes one can discern wider cultural patterns, the psychology of important figures, or nothing of importance.

And since we are on the subject, and Youtube is only a click away, there you go: Mozart’s Requium, Herbert von Karajan, and the Wiener Philarmoniker, 1986 Wonderful.

On music and diplomacy:

Jessica Gienow-Hecht, Sound Diplomacy: Music and Emotions in Transtlantic Relations, 1850-1920 (Chicago UP, 2009)

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