Brittan’s “Music and Fantasy in the Age of Berlioz” Published This Week

Professor Francesca Brittan’s book, Music and Fantasy in the Age of Berlioz has just been published by Cambridge University Press.

“The centrality of fantasy to French literary culture has long been accepted by critics, but the sonorous dimensions of the mode and its wider implications for musical production have gone largely unexplored. In this book, Francesca Brittan invites us to listen to fantasy, attending both to literary descriptions of sound in otherworldly narratives, and to the wave of ‘fantastique’ musical works published in France through the middle decades of the nineteenth century, including Berlioz’s 1830 Symphonie fantastique, and pieces by Liszt, Adam, Meyerbeer, and others. Following the musico-literary aesthetics of E. T. A. Hoffmann, they allowed waking and dreaming, reality and unreality to converge, yoking fairy sound to insect song, demonic noise to colonial ‘babbling’, and divine music to the strains of water and wind. Fantastic soundworlds disrupted France’s native tradition of marvellous illusion, replacing it with a magical materialism inextricable from republican activism, theological heterodoxy, and the advent of ‘radical’ romanticism.”  Read more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.