French Musicians and the Conquest of North America: Musical Travels, Cultural Politics and Patronage

Call for papers


3-4 July 2017

Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester)


A century separates the autobiographical Offenbach in America, Notes of a Travelling Musician (1877) and the première of Henri Dutilleux’s Quartet, Ainsi la nuit (1977), which was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation. It was a century during which French musicians travelled to the USA to conquer new publics, to disseminate their music, a century during which they received commissions from North American institutions and patrons, who were often Francophile. Some of their tours on American soil have become famous, such as Maurice Ravel’s in 1928, that of the Orchestre National twenty years later and the many trips Olivier Messiaen undertook in the second half of the century.


The focus of the Symposium will be to explore the diverse aspects of the relationship that French musicians had with North America in the 19th and 20th centuries.  What did this country represent to French musicians at the time of internationalisation of careers and diffusion of works?  To what extent did composers consolidate their reputations by travelling to the USA and making their music better known?  What networks did they tap into and what strategies did they employ to make an impression in the New World, with the support of particular cultural policies?


We welcome papers concerning composers who have toured or visited North America, as well as performers, conductors and ensembles (such as Nadia Boulanger, Walter Straram, the Orchestre national or Charles Munch). We are also interested in institutions, for example, the major role of the Association française d’action artistique (initially named the Association française d’expansion et d’échanges artistiques), the government organisation which largely subsidised the travel of French musicians to the United States; or the activities of American institutions, performers and patrons (for example, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Foundation or the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation).


Papers can be given in either French or English.


We are delighted to announce that Professor Philippe Cathé (Université Paris-Sorbonne) will be the Keynote Speaker.


Abstracts of 300 words maximum should be sent to Nicolas Southon ( by 7 April 2017.  The programme will be announced at the end of April.


Programme committee:

Nicolas Southon (Royal Northern College of Music/Keele University)

Barbara Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music)

Marie Duchêne-Thégarid (ANR HEMEF)

Caroline Rae (University of Cardiff)