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Abstract

This dissertation research analyzes the impact of the French Revolution on the popular song and religious cultures of the Basque and Bearnese peoples of southwest France. It traces the ways in which lay spiritual and musical practices were rebuilt by local communities in the nineteenth century. Using the interplay between contemporary memory, ethnography, and archival evidence to understand the popular devotional and musical history of this region, my work examines how music-making and song culture formed an important, emerging source of local political culture. I examine how musical practices mobilized a powerful, yet multifaceted, sense of communal identity in this southwest border region, at a time when centralizing revolutionary-era pressures posed grave challenges to everyday life. Musical scholarship on the French Revolution and Restoration eras has long tended to focus on Paris, leaving much to explore about the construction of a universalized French identity and the continual resistance and alternative shaping from France’s heterogeneous regions. In addition to providing a rare critical history of numerous Basque and Bearnese musical traditions, my dissertation connects important studies in French cultural and religious history to long-ignored musical aspects. I engage with the musical material culture present in local and national archives as much as with archival records as varied as municipal account books, trial testimonies, French Revolutionary festival reports, and confraternity papers in order to study this undervalued regional perspective. These varied sources illuminate what piety looked and sounded like during the turn of the nineteenth century, helping us understand the complex social processes of the politicization of musical and religious practices and their early role in regional identity formation.

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