Browsing by Subject "suimalais-ranskalaiset musiikkisuhteet"

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  • Tyrväinen, Helena (2015)
    Armas Launis’s interest in the North African Orient was manifest in three of his professional domains: travel writer, musicologist and opera composer. During his stays in Algiers over two winters between 1924 and 1927 in particular, Launis became personally acquainted with the countries of the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco). My article examines how in each of these professional forms of expression, the immediate, local encounters merge with the discursive practices of European learning in Launis’s representations of Northern Africa.

In a travel book from 1927, containing references to Menemech, Yafil and Bachetarzi, eminent figures of the Arabo-Moorish musical tradition, Launis demonstrates his knowledge and expertise on the Algerian music scene. Written for a wide audience, his observations about popular traditions lack any detailed scholarly apparatus, intentionally so. He expresses respect for the ‘civilisatory mission’ pursued by the French in Northern Africa, and notes the remnants of Roman antiquity, but he also shows an interest in both historical and contemporary tensions between local tribes, nationalities, cultures, and religions. These were later interwoven in his operas Jehudith and Theodora, the latter unfinished.

In 1928, during a period of intensive operatic composition, Launis applied for a position as music teacher at the University of Helsinki, albeit in vain. The topic of his presentation lecture, “Features of Arabo-Moorish music”, met with both approval (Ilmari Krohn) and disapproval (Robert Kajanus). The many points of convergence with an existing article “La musique arabe dans le Maghreb” by Jules Rouanet (1922) were not noticed.

Having settled permanently in Nice in 1930, Launis planned the two operas, Theodora and Jehudith. They exhibit the religious universalism already developed in his earlier operas, but now in a new form, where the composer has become intrigued by the conflicts of the region and the political developments of the time. I examine in particular some of the ethnocentric accents found in Jehudith, relating them to a wider tradition of orientalism in the western operatic tradition.