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Dissonances: Revue musicale indépendente

(Geneva, 1923-1926, 1930-1946)

Prepared by Doris Pyee, Alexander Hardan
Introduction by Alexander Hardan
Online only (2023)

Described by Robert Wangerée as “a very combative little revue,”[1] Dissonances [RIPM code DIS] was published in Geneva from November 1923 until October 1946 by the editor Robert-Aloys Mooser (1876-1969). In the first published article, Mooser boldly asserts the goals and purpose of the journal: to challenge musical traditions that permeate the various musical circles in Switzerland, “even at the risk of sometimes attacking opinions enshrined in longstanding tradition and irreverently jostling the worship of false gods considered by some to be intangible.”[2] Seeking to dismantle the unwarranted reverence for canonical figures in music history, Mooser describes his mission “to identify and study the meaning of both old and new works, and draw the necessary conclusions, in the sole interest of the musical art, without regard to any person or nationality.”[3] Additionally, with Dissonances publishing issues throughout the Second World War, the journal provides valuable insight into the Nazi-influenced Swiss musical world of the 1940s.

While Mooser originally intended the journal to be published monthly, the periodicity is somewhat irregular with frequent absences and subsequent double issues. Additionally, only three years after the first issue, Dissonances ceased publication for five years before resuming in 1930 on a monthly basis. From 1933 until 1937, publication remained consistent with the August and September issues appearing together in a double issue. From 1941 until the journal’s demise, Dissonances was published entirely in double issues, averaging 6 issues per year. This reduction in publication is likely a direct impact of the Second World War, which brought about significant increases in paper and printing costs.  

Mooser was the founder and sole editor of Dissonances, a role he maintained for the duration of the journal’s existence. An accomplished and versatile musician, Mooser trained as an organist with Otto Barblan in his hometown of Geneva, before relocating to St. Petersburg in 1899 where he served as the organist at the French Reformation Church while studying composition under Mily Balakirev and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He later moved to Vienna where he studied conducting under Hans Richter. By 1923, Mooser was no stranger to the musical press; while living in St. Petersburg, Mooser worked as the music critic for the French-language Journal de Saint-Pétersbourg and upon returning to Geneva in 1909, became the music critic and later the editor-in-chief of the newspaper La Suisse.

Save for subtle differences between issues, the overall structure of the journal remains consistent. The first half of each issue contains three to six articles addressing a range of musical topics including reviews of new works, profiles of important musical figures, obituaries, and general grievances regarding the regressive state of music and the lack of government funding for the arts in French-speaking Switzerland. The second half of the journal, entitled “Petite chronique” is a miscellaneous section divided into several sub-sections: “La musique en Suisse,” “Musique et musiciens suisses à l’étranger,” “L’art musical à l’étranger,” “Musique mécanique et enregistrée,” “Par T.S.F."  (transmission sans fil), and “Carnet du musicologue.” These sections provide detailed information on various concert programs, winners of international competitions, announcements of concert seasons at well-established musical institutions throughout the world, musical events taking place in Switzerland and abroad, radio and recording activity, and the publication of important musicological scholarship. Each issue concludes with a list of recent publications of musical works for a variety of instruments. Advertisements with unnumbered pages are also found at the beginning and end of each issue, as well as in the middle of articles.

While most of the articles are unsigned and presumably written by Mooser, Dissonances includes a host of citations from other important journals and newspapers such as Candide, Gazette de Lausanne, and Le Temps, written by influential critics and composers. Notably, excerpts from the writings of Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, Émile Vuillermoz, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Maria von Weber, Ludwig von Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maurice Ravel, and Claude Debussy are cited and published. As an advocate for contemporary music, Mooser kept readers of Dissonances current by offering his assessment of newly premiered works by notable composers, including major works of Paul Hindemith, Dimitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten, and Béla Bartók.

This RIPM index was produced from copies of the journal held by the Library of Congress, the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel/ Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, the Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, and the Library of the Paul Sacher Foundation.


[1] “petit revue très combative.” Robert Wangermée, review of Regards sur la musique contemporaine, 1921-1946 by R. Aloys Mooser. Revue belge de Musicologie / Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Muziekwetenschap 2, No. 1/2 (January-April 1948): 66-67.

[2] « …au risque parfois de s'attaquer à des opinions consacrées par un long usage et de bousculer irrévérencieusement au passage quelque faux-dieu tenu par certains pour intangible. » « Notre programme » Dissonances 1, No. 1 (Novembre 1923) : 1-2.  

[3] « Nous nous attacherons à en dégager le sens, à en étudier la signification et à en tirer les conclusions qui s'imposent, dans le seul intérêt de l'art musical, sans considération de personne, ni de nationalité. » Ibid.