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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: The Music and Politics of Alan Bush with Reference to the Application of his Socialist Principles to his Workers Choral Music and Songs between 1926 and 1939
Degree Type: MA
Degree Specialism: Musicology
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: 2013
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: Waterford Institute of Technology
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1 (166pp.)
Thesis Location / Link: www.repository.wit.ie/2733/
Abstract: Despite his overt Socialist beliefs, Alan Bush’s music was held in high esteem by the musical establishment until he began writing what he termed his ‘workers’ songs’ for the Labour movement, at which point he was accused of lowering his standards. His harmonic language, however, shows a masterly and intellectual approach to the composition of what, initially, appear to be unremarkable and somewhat simplistic songs. There is nevertheless a clear distinction between his functional songs for untrained workers’ choirs and ‘art-songs’ for more experienced ones: the tonal and harmonic complexities of the latter continue to prove challenging to modern performers. The aim of this dissertation is to evaluate selective workers’ choral music and songs written by Alan Bush (1900-1995) between 1926 and 1939, specifically for use by Labour Choirs, in the context of the circumstances of their composition, namely, Bush’s early life and politics, and his developing political credo during the inter-war years. This will lead to a greater understanding of an important, if underrated, element of his compositions and musical activity for the working class. Having joined the Labour Movement in 1925, Bush’s socialist principles eventually led him to active membership of the British Communist party in 1935. His involvement, with the London Labour Choral Union from 1925, and the Workers’ Music Association from 1936, included music education and training, and the composition and performance of workers’ choral music and songs. He also wrote music for large-scale pageants and festivals. The extent to which Bush’s works adhered to his personal Marxist beliefs will be explored in relation to the blueprint he devised for the composition of such workers’ music in 1936. The outbreak of the second World War in 1939 did not mark the end of his workers’ music, although the style of this remained substantially the same thereafter. Furthermore, in the years that followed, Bush’s musical style would gradually change, and the texts that he set took on a more international dimension.

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