Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:

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Music in every nation gave “proof through the night”—ringing evidence during the dark hours of the Great War of 1914–1918—not only of its historic role in the definition of nationhood and of nationalist resolve but also of its power on distant battlefields to recall home and hearth and to commemorate loss long after the guns had been stilled. A somewhat grander argument centers on the suggestion that twentieth-century modernism was launched full force with the advent of the war. Of all the musical genres during the war, popular song offered both the largest repertoire and the broadest call to patriotism and humor in all countries, and by enlisting the willing participation of citizens in the war effort, it promoted the notion of “total” engagement. A cadre of popular tunes by turns reinforced nostalgia for home, reflected the fleeting relaxation of moral constraints, and inspired feelings of national pride. Although French, German, and Italian wartime songs also figure in this book, the power of popular song is considered primarily through a review of British and American pieces.

Keywords: music; Great War; modernism; popular song; wartime songs; moral constraints; patriotism; nostalgia; national pride

Chapter.  3753 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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