The Franco-American Musical Society Bulletin (1923-1925)
Prepared by Eric Jensen
1 volume * (2003)
Pro-Musica Quarterly, official journal of the Pro-Musica Society, was published in New York City from September 1923 to October 1929. Founded in 1920 as the Franco-American Musical Society Incorporated, its primary goal was to facilitate greater cultural understanding between France and the United States. What soon came to distinguish the society’s journal was its emphasis on the arts as a means both of stimulating cultural growth and of sparking interest in the work of contemporary French and American composers. PMQ is an essential primary source for the study of early twentieth-century music in the United States.
The dominant force behind both the Pro-Musica Society and its journal was Elie Robert Schmitz. Born in Paris, Schmitz (1889-1950) studied both piano and violin at the Paris Conservatory. He traveled to the United States in 1918 giving concerts devoted to contemporary music. These led to the founding of the Franco-American Musical Society, renamed in 1923 Pro-Musica, Inc. Eventually more than three dozen chapters of the Society were formed in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Far East, the most active being in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Detroit, Denver, Kansas City, Portland, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul. The society sponsored the first visits to the United States by Ravel, Bartók, and Respighi, as well as lectures and recitals by Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and Hindemith.
Each of the journal’s issues is approximately sixty pages in length and usually includes three substantive articles, a biographical sketch of a contemporary composer, occasional reports on musical productions in major European cities (Paris, Vienna, Moscow, and Berlin), and discussion of the activities of composers and performers associated with the society. The activities sections are of particular interest today, especially when they shed light on works that either remained fragments or were transformed into other compositions (such as Varèse’s The Resurrection of the Idols or Berg’s The Dybbuk). Included in the text and advertising sections are photographs of John Alden Carpenter, Georgette Leblanc, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Gabriel Fauré, Alfredo Casella, E. Robert Schmitz, Walter Gieseking, Serge Prokofiev and Dimitri Tiomkin.
Among the many interesting articles in PMQ are those written by composers: Arthur Bliss on contemporary English music, Darius Milhaud on polytonality and atonality, Charles Koechlin on sensibility in music, Alfredo Casella on diatonicism, Charles Ives on quarter-tones, and Henry Cowell on Moravian music. Biographical sketches of composers published in each issue include “conservative” composers (Fauré, John Alden Carpenter), as well as many associated with more “progressive” styles (Schoenberg, Bartók, Milhaud). Articles in the journal examined modern music from many perspectives: theoretical discussions of polytonality and acoustics, studies of the relationship between time and music, and the spiritual evolution of music. PMQ discusses American composers and American performers with an open mind. A number of studies—including those on jazz, the music of Charles Ives, as well as articles by both Ives and Cowell—emphasize the truly pioneering nature of the journal.
*Hard Bound with
Musical Mercury (New York, 1934-1939)
The Negro Music Journal (Washington, D.C., 1902-1903)