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Hugues Panassié contra Walter Benjamin: Bodies, Masses, and the Iconic Jazz Recording in Mid-century France

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Abstract:

As Walter Benjamin, domiciled in Paris, wrote and then in 1936 published his famous essay on the revolutionary potential of mechanically reproduced art, the right-wing French jazz critic Hugues Panassié—Europe's foremost authority on the music before World War II—was theorizing the new black American form as an agent of “traditional,” sacralized social re-organization. Re-situating these writers' works in the volatile French and European political contexts of the 1930s, and then going on to examine Panassié's postwar organization of the Hot-club de France, this article examines the question posed mid-century by these radicals of the right and left: how could the relationship between individual and society be transformed both practically and politically in face of art's mechanical reproduction?

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2011.567912

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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