Border – Bridge – Crossroads: the Construction of Yugoslav Identity in Music (1835–1938) and the Case of Josip Štolcer Slavenski

Danijela Špirić-Beard

PhD, Cardiff University, 2012

Title: Border – Bridge – Crossroads: the Construction of Yugoslav Identity in Music (1835–1938) and the Case of Josip Štolcer Slavenski


Since the 1990s there have been zealous attempts to efface the artistic, cultural and institutional history of the former Yugoslavia in the successor states. In this process, the intellectual grassroots of the First Yugoslavia (1918–39) have been conflated with the Communist abuses of the Second Yugoslavia (1945–91) and the progressive political and cultural achievements of Yugoslav synthesisers since 1830s deliberately underplayed. Although there have been recent scholarly attempts to reconstruct narratives on Yugoslav history and culture, to date no study has appeared in relation to Yugoslav music.

This thesis seeks to redress this imbalance by analysing the multiple constructions of Yugoslavism and Yugoslav identity in music, with the help of three metaphors. The first, treated in the opening chapter, is that of ‘Yugoslavia as border’, a concept especially pertinent to the Serbian imagining of Yugoslavia and its preoccupation with anti-Islamic rhetoric. This anti-Islamic discourse is then examined from a number of musical perspectives, including the racial imagination in music (Marjanović and Dvorniković), and the role of folklore (Mokranjac) and opera (Na Uranku, Knez Ivo, Nikola Šubić Zrinjski). The second metaphor, explored in chapter 2, is that of ‘Yugoslavia as bridge’, germane principally to the Croatian vision of Yugoslavia as uniting different Southern Slavs – a notion concerned with reinforcing the Western rather than the Eastern border, and characterized by anti-Habsburg rather than anti-Islamic discourse. With a view to music, this discourse is analysed in relation to mass songs (budnice and davorije), folklore and the early notions of pan-Yugoslav collaboration (Kuhač and Mokranjac), and opera (Ljubav i zloba), as well as the work of the key modernist representatives of musical Yugoslavism: Dobronić, Konjović and Milojević. The third chapter analyses the idea of ‘Yugoslavia as crossroads’, where the new ideological axes of modernism and socialism reconfigure conceptions of Yugoslavia along supra-national lines. In music, this is analysed through the broader discourse on pro et contra Europa, including the reception of Debussy in Croatia, Hristić’s Vaskrsenje in Belgrade, and the role of the Prague Group and the Yugoslav Section of the ISCM in the 1930s.

The last two chapters provide a case-study of one of the most important Yugoslav modernists, Josip Štolcer Slavenski, as the ‘composer at the Yugoslav crossroads’. The fourth chapter investigates Slavenski’s modernist aesthetic by tracing his ideological evolution from Yugoslavism to Balkanism, thus analysing his shifting identity-constructions; drawing on this sociocultural interpretation, the fifth chapter examines an early, a middle and a late work (Sa Balkana, Slavenska sonata and Chaos), as a way of demonstrating how the shifts in Slavenski’s identity-constructions parallel those in his compositional thinking and modernist aesthetics during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s.

1 Yugoslavia as Border

(Palimpsests; Music, nationalism and national identity in Music; Romantic Yugoslavism; Oral epics and the constructions of Yugoslav anti-Ottoman discourse; Gaj and the Illyrian press; Opera and patriotism: Binički’s Na uranku (1903) and Bajić’s Knez Ivo od Semberije (1911); Nikola Šubić Zrinjski (1876) and the allegory of national opera)

2 Yugoslavia as Bridge

(The ‘Other Romantic Legacy’; Illyrianism as anti-Habsburg Yugoslavism; The birth of the Croatian National Opera; Budnice and davorije; Ljubav i Zloba (1844) by Vatroslav Lisinski; Kuhač, Mokranjac and the two different versions of musical Yugoslavism; Ivan Meštrović and the creation of Yugoslavia; From Yugoslav composers to Yugoslav music: Antun Dobronić, Petar Konjović and Miloje Milojević)

3 Yugoslavia as Crossroads

( The crisis of modernity; Modernising Zagreb, making Belgrade modern: the Vienna aesthetes, the Prague progressives and the Paris bohèmes; The Transitional Group; The early modernists: Hristić, Konjović and Milojević; ‘Evropejci’, ‘modernisti’, and the discourse ‘pro et contra Europe’ ; Debussy as an ideological mirror: modernist, neo-national or Yugoslav; Hristić’s Vaskrsenje and Paunović’s Divinia Tragodeia; The 1930s and the Yugoslav crisis; The anti-heroic synthesis and Meštrović rejected; A new Yugoslav paradigm: the avant-garde and the social responsibility of music; The ISCM and the modern Yugoslavs: the Yugoslav section of the ISCM )

4 Josip Slavenski and the Question of Yugoslav Identity at the Crossroads

(Slavenski, palimpsests and post-1990 scholarship; Pre-1990 scholarship on Slavenski; Slavenski and Yugoslavism; Međimurje; Anti-heroic re-imaginings of Yugoslavia; Re-mapping identities, reimagining communities: towards the Balkans and the Ottoman legacy)

5 Slavenski the Modernist, and the Question of Yugoslav Music at the Crossroads

(Slavenski’s modernist aesthetics; Contextualizing Slavenski within European modernity; Slavenski’s hybridity: folklore, experimentalism and Klangkomposition; Zenitists and the barbarogenij; Sa Balkana (1910–17); Singing and dancing; Anti-piano; Slavenska Sonata (1924); The emancipation of sound; Chaos (1932))

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