Music and Cultural Transfer in the Utopian Community of La Réunion, Texas (1855-58), with a Little-Known Songbook
A special guest lecture by our colleague from the Music Department:
John Michael Cooper, “Music and Cultural Transfer in the Utopian Community of La Réunion, Texas (1855-58), with a Little-Known Songbook”
With a guest performance by Dana Long Zenobi.
Monday, October 19th
Fine Arts Building, room 235
One of the most influential inspirations for the hundreds of so-called “utopian communities” that sprang up in the United States in the nineteenth century was the French social theorist Charles Fourier (1772-1837), author of eleven treatises and over two hundred journal articles that collectively drafted a new blueprint for society. Distinctive in Fourier’s thought was the integral role of music and abstract musical concepts. Not only were the entire range of vocational and personal aptitudes and all the collective properties of society a phenomena that were analogues of the musical scale, but song and especially the opera industry were to be essential elements for achieving a divinely inspired social order.
This paper examines a little-known manuscript songbook held in the University of Texas at Arlington in order to gain a view of the music and musical life in the Fourierist community of La Réunion (near Dallas) during the years 1855-58. La Réunion ultimately foundered in the wake of financial difficulties and the harsh Texas climate – but its conceptual premises and day-to-day life reveal much about the issues and tensions that characterized life in U.S. intentional communities in the mid-nineteenth century. These considerations in turn offer a glimpse of the ways in which Fourier’s ideas were – and were not – able to sow the seeds of what he termed a “new industrial and societary world.”