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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009

University of Manchester
School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13


This article makes the case for incorporating music into the history of war commemoration in 1920s Britain by examining John Foulds's A World Requiem, performed at the British Legion's first Festivals of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall between 1923 and 1926. A simultaneously modernist and spiritual work, Foulds's Requiem challenges Jay Winter's conclusion that modernism was unconcerned with public grief. The controversy which the Requiem caused also reveals the contested nature of public memory, particularly where music and religion were concerned. The Requiem's axing in 1927 points to a hegemonic process which, although it had yet fully to take shape, found no room on Armistice Night for Foulds's progressive ideals.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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The author is grateful to Bertrand Taithe and Penelope Gouk who supervised the thesis from which this article is drawn and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for its financial support. My thanks also to Lucinda Matthews-Jones who read and commented on the draft copy and to Jayne Harris who supplied invaluable primary source material.


1 Glen Watkins, Proof through the night: music and the Great War (Berkeley, 2003), contains only a brief reference. The only scholarly work to consider Foulds at length is Malcolm MacDonald, John Foulds and his music: an introduction (New York, NY, 1989). See also James G. Mansell, ‘Music and the borders of rationality: discourses of place in the work of John Foulds’, in Grace E. Brockington, ed., Internationalism and the arts in Britain and Europe at the fin de siècle (Oxford, forthcoming), and van der Linden, Bob, ‘Music, theosophical spirituality, and empire: the British modernist composers Cyril Scott and John Foulds’, Journal of Global History, 3 (2008), pp. 163–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 Jay Winter, Sites of memory, sites of mourning: the Great War in European cultural history (Cambridge, 1995); Paul Fussell, The Great War and modern memory (Oxford, 1975). See also Modris Eksteins, Rites of spring: the Great War and the birth of the modern age (London, 1989), and Trudi Tate, Modernism, history and the First World War (Manchester, 1998).

3 A World Requiem features only as a footnote, for example, in Adrian Gregory's otherwise comprehensive The silence of memory: Armistice Day, 1919–1946 (Oxford, 1994).

4 The original composer's score is held by the British Library, Additional Manuscript (hereafter BL) 56478.

5 Hazelgrove, Jenny, ‘Spiritualism after the Great War’, Twentieth-Century British History, 10 (1999), pp. 404–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jenny Hazelgrove, Spiritualism and British society between the wars (Manchester, 2000).

6 Winter, Sites of memory, p. 223.

7 The Tablet, 21 Nov. 1925.

8 Godwin, Joscelyn, ‘The revival of speculative music’, Musical Quarterly, 68 (1982), pp. 373–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Joscelyn Godwin, Harmonies of heaven and earth: the spiritual dimension of music from antiquity to the avant-garde (London, 1987); Joscelyn Godwin, Music and the occult: French musical philosophies, 1750–1950 (Rochester, NY, 1995); Penelope Gouk, Music, science and natural magic in seventeenth-century England (New Haven, CT, 1999); Penelope Gouk, ‘Raising spirits and restoring souls: early modern medical explanations for music's effects’, in Veit Erlmann, ed., Hearing cultures: essays on sound, listening and modernity (Oxford, 2004), pp. 87–105.

9 Others included Gustav Holst, Peter Warlock, and Cyril Scott. See Diana Swann, ‘Gentlemen versus players: alienation and the esoteric in English music, 1900–1939 (Ph.D. thesis, Southampton, 1998).

10 The ‘modernity’ of occult revival is insisted upon by Laqueur, Thomas, ‘Why the margins matter: occultism and the making of modernity’, Modern Intellectual History, 3 (2006), pp. 111–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Corinna Treitel, A science for the soul: occultism and the genesis of the German modern (Baltimore, MD, 2004). See also Saler, Michael, ‘Modernity and enchantment: a historiographic review’, American Historical Review, 111 (2006), pp. 692716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

11 This point is made by Tim Armstrong in Modernism: a cultural history (Cambridge, 2005), p. 68; See also Gibbons, Tom H., ‘Cubism and “the fourth dimension” in the context of the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century revival of occult idealism’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 44 (1981), pp. 130–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Head, Raymond, ‘Holst – astrology and modernism in “The Planets”’, Tempo, 187 (1993), pp. 1522CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dalrymple Henderson, Linda, ‘Mysticism and occultism in modern art’, Art Journal, 46 (1987), pp. 58Google Scholar; Ringbom, Sixten, ‘Art in “the epoch of the great spiritual”: occult elements in the early theory of abstract painting’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 29 (1966), pp. 386418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Karin Bijsterveld, Mechanical sound: technology, culture, and public problems of noise in the twentieth-century (Cambridge, MA, 2008); John M. Picker, Victorian soundscapes (Oxford, 2003); Mark M. Smith, ed., Hearing history: a reader (Athens, GA, 2004); Jonathan Sterne, The audible past: cultural origins of sound reproduction (Durham, NC, 2003).

13 Alex King, Memorials of the Great War in Britain: the symbolism and politics of remembrance (Oxford, 1998); Moriarty, Catherine, ‘The material culture of Great War remembrance’, Journal of Contemporary History, 34 (1999), pp. 653–62Google Scholar.

14 This is revealed in MacCarthy's correspondence with the BBC Music Department held in the BBC Written Archive Centre (hereafter BBC) John Foulds Files.

15 Independent, 7 Nov. 2007; see also New Statesman, 25 Dec. 2001.

16 She published prolifically over her life using a variety of names: Maud McCarthy, The temple of labour: four lectures on the plan beautiful in relation to modern industrialism (London, 1926); Swami Omananda Puri, The boy and the brothers (London, 1968); Swami Omananda Puri, Towards the mysteries: being some teachings of the Brothers of the Holy Hierarchy, given through ‘The boy’ (London, 1968); Tandra Devi, Poems (Tandrashram, Srinagar, and Kashmir, 1939).

17 H. P. Blavatsky, The key to Theosophy: being a clear exposition, in the form of question and answer, of the ethics, science and philosophy for the study of which the Theosophical Society has been founded (London, 1889); Henry Olcott, Theosophy, religion and occult science (London, 1885).

18 Morrisson, Mark S., ‘The periodical culture of the occult revival: esoteric wisdom, modernity and counter-public spheres’, Journal of Modern Literature, 31 (2008), pp. 122CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Alex Owen, The place of enchantment: British occultism and the culture of the modern (Chicago, IL, 2004); Joscelyn Godwin, The theosophical enlightenment (Albany, NY, 1994); James Webb, The flight from reason (London, 1971).

19 Historiography on the theosophical movement has emphasized its particular appeal to women such as Besant, MacCarthy, and Emily Lutyens. See Joy Dixon, Divine feminine: Theosophy and feminism in England (Baltimore, MD, 2001).

20 Annie Besant, Religion and music: a lecture delivered to the Shri Parthasarathi Svami Sabha, Triplicane on March 7th 1908 (Madras, 1921), p. 4.

21 Ibid., pp. 13–14.

22 From a talk given by John Foulds broadcast on All-India Radio, Delhi Station, 6 Mar. 1937, entitled ‘Is the gulf between Eastern and Western music unbridgeable?’, quoted in MacDonald, John Foulds, frontispiece.

23 John Foulds, Music to-day: its heritage from the past, and legacy to the future (London, 1934), p. 177.

24 MacCarthy, Maud, ‘True art: letter to a young painter’, The Theosophist, 30 (1908), p. 204Google Scholar.

25 Puri, Towards the mysteries, p. 20.

26 Besant, Religion and music, p. 20; Cyril Scott, Music, its secret influence throughout the ages [1933], reproduced in Joscelyn Godwin, ed., Music, mysticism and magic: a sourcebook (New York, NY, 1987), p. 285.

27 Composer's score, BL 56478.

28 Elisabeth Lutyens, A goldfish bowl (London, 1972), p. 26.

29 Composer's score, BL 56478; Algernon Blackwood, The bright messenger (Eureka, 2005).

30 Foulds, Music to-day, p. 349.

31 ‘F's lessons’, a letter of 1915 contained within a collection of Foulds's papers in the possession of Malcolm MacDonald, quoted in Swann, ‘Gentlemen versus players’, p. 87.

32 Foulds, Music to-day, p. 76.

33 Ibid., p. 22 (emphasis original).

34 Ibid., p. 352 (emphasis original).

35 Composer's score, BL 56478.

36 A photograph of the sistrum was published in the Daily Mirror, 1 Nov. 1923.

37 Foulds, Music to-day, p. 55.

38 Ibid., p. 25 (emphasis original).

39 Ibid., p. 343 (emphasis original).

40 Besant, Religion and music, pp. 18–19.

41 MacCarthy, ‘True art’, p. 206.

42 1923 concert programme, BL 56478.

43 1923 concert programme, BL 56478.

44 John Foulds to Adrian Boult, 16 Aug. 1933, BL 56482.

45 1926 concert programme, BL 56478.

46 Observer, 16 Nov. 1924.

47 BBC, Music Reports 1928–54 Fl-Fo.

48 Times, 12 Nov. 1924.

49 This extract of a letter sent to Foulds and MacCarthy was reproduced in a pamphlet of positive feedback about the Festivals of Remembrance compiled by MacCarthy in her quest to have the Requiem revived. The pamphlet consists of numerous letters from members of the public. A copy is held in the BBC John Foulds Files.

50 See Hazelgrove, Spiritualism and British society.

51 The sheer quantity of letters that Foulds and MacCarthy received and which were later compiled in the pamphlet of positive feedback (BBC John Foulds Files) suggests that this is the case.

52 1923 concert programme, BL 56478.

53 Maud Mann [the author's first married name], ‘Some conceptions of Indian music’, Proceedings of the Musical Association, 38 (1911–12), pp. 41–65.

54 1923 concert programme, BL 56478.

55 Foulds, Music to-day, p. 18.

56 Ibid., p. 224.

57 1926 concert programme, BL 56478.

58 Observer, 4 Nov. 1923; Times, 17 Nov. 1923.

59 Meirion Hughes and Robert Stradling, The English musical renaissance, 1860–1940: constructing a national music (Manchester, 2001), p. 108.

60 John Foulds to Adrian Boult, 16 Aug. 1933, BL 56482.

61 BBC, John Foulds Files.

63 A. H. Haggard to Sir Hamilton Harty, 10 Mar. 1933, BL 56478.

64 John Foulds to George Bernard Shaw, 26 Apr. 1925, BL 50519.

65 British Legion Journal, Nov. 1923, p. 135.

66 This was among the quotes in the pamphlet produced by Foulds and MacCarthy to showcase positive responses to the Requiem, BBC John Foulds Files.

67 Times, 24 Oct. 1925.

68 Times, 5 Nov. 1925.

69 Carolyn Scott, Dick Sheppard: a biography (London, 1977), pp. 140–2.

70 Times, 20 Oct. 1925.

71 Daily Express, 7 Nov. 1925.

72 Manchester Guardian, 15 Nov. 1923.

73 Daily Express, 12 Nov. 1923.

74 Handwritten annotation to the promotional pamphlet, BBC John Foulds Files.

75 This letter, written ‘to the musicians of Great Britain’, was reprinted on the back inside-cover of Foulds's Music Pictures for the Young, Opus 21 as printed by W. Paxton & Co.

76 British Legion Journal, Nov. 1923, p. 147.

77 Times, 10 Nov. 1924.

78 BBC John Foulds Files.

79 Daily Express, 12 Nov. 1923.

80 Adrian Boult, ‘Internal memo – subject Mrs Foulds’ letter', 21 Dec. 1931, BBC John Foulds Files.

81 Daily Express, 13 Nov. 1926.

82 Wardell was remembered as a ‘near-supporter of [Oswald] Mosley’ by Michael Foot in an interview with Hagerty, Bill, ‘The real crusader’, British Journalism Review, 13 (2002), p. 26CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Wardell's role in organizing the Remembrance Festival is recounted by Graham Wootton in The official history of the British Legion (London, 1956), p. 104.

83 The event was billed in this way by the Radio Times, 11 Nov. 1923.

84 Daily Express, 11 Nov. 1927.

85 Wootton, Official history, p. 104.

86 A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (London, 1972).

87 British Legion Journal, Dec. 1927, p. 149.

88 Daily Express, 11 Nov. 1927.

89 ‘Armistice Day, November 11, 1931’, Radio Times, 6 Nov. 1931, p. 453.

90 Maud MacCarthy to Adrian Boult, 10 Nov. 1931, BBC John Foulds Files.

91 Critical reception of the 11 Nov. 2007 performance of A World Requiem and the subsequent release of a two-disc CD of the piece were greeted with a similar critical reception to that of 1923, that is, puzzlement at the lack of musical material.

92 Anderson, O., ‘The growth of Christian militarism in mid-Victorian Britain’, English Historical Review, 86 (1971), pp. 4672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

93 Frank Howes, The English musical renaissance (London, 1966); Hughes and Stradling, The English musical renaissance; Michael Trend, The music makers: the English musical renaissance from Elgar to Britten (New York, NY, 1985).

94 Marshall Berman, All that is solid melts into air: the experience of modernity (London, 1983).