"Even the truth needs a Barnum" : Nicolas Nabokov, music and the Cold War
This thesis examines composer Nicolas Nabokov’s political involvement in the world of music in the 1940s and 1950s. In particular it concerns his attempt to use contemporary art music as a means of countering the influence of the Soviet Union, via the festivals he organised for the CIA-financed Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). To the best of my knowledge both Nabokov and the musical activities of the CCF have previously been ignored by musical scholarship: this thesis therefore makes an important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between music and politics in the cold war period. My text divides into two halves: chapters 1 to 4 are broadly chronological, whilst chapters 5 to 8 analyse and evaluate Nabokov's project from various perspectives. The first chapter considers some aspects of his life in the 1940s which are relevant, in various ways, to the later career. Chapters 2 and 3 examine Nabokov's writings on music and politics, which began to appear in 1943, and fell largely within the following decade. The taking up of his CCF post in 1950 represented an opportunity to replace polemic with action, and Chapter 4 is concerned with the Paris festival of 1952 - L 'Oeuvre du XXeme Siecle - Nabokov's rationale for it, and the reactions it provoked. Chapter 5 looks at the CCF as part of an attempt to amend the widespread impression that the USA was ' lacking in culture', whilst chapter 6 examines the split Nabokov's policy produced between the CCF in Paris and its New York-based American affiliate. Finally, chapters 7 and 8 seek to consider whether there might be broader connections between this anti-communist project and the growing concerns of many intellectuals for the health - and even the survival - of high culture in general and art music in particular.