In the two decades between its debut performance and the death of impresario Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the Ballets Russes was an unrivalled sensation in Paris and around the world. But while scholarly attention has often centered on the links between Diaghilev’s troupe and modernist art and music, there has been surprisingly little analysis of the Ballets’ role in the area of tastemaking and trendsetting. Ballets Russes Style addresses this gap, revealing the extent of the ensemble’s influence in arenas of high style—including fashion, interior design, advertising, and the decorative arts. In Ballets Russes Style, Mary E. Davis explores how the Ballets Russes performances were a laboratory for ambitious cultural experiments, often grounded in the aesthetic confrontation of Russian artists who traveled with the troupe from St. Petersburg—Bakst, Benois, and Stravinsky among them—and the Parisian avant-garde, including Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Satie, Debussy, and Ravel. She focuses on how the ensemble brought the stage and everyday life into direct contact, most noticeably in the world of fashion. The Ballets Russes and its audience played a key role in defining Paris style, which would echo in fashions throughout the century. Beautifully illustrated, and drawing on unpublished images and memorabilia, this book illuminates the ways in which the troupe’s innovations in dance, music, and design mirrored and invigorated contemporary culture.
Music and fashion: the deep connection between these two expressive worlds is firmly entrenched. Yet little attention has been paid to the association of sound and style in the early twentieth century--a period of remarkable and often parallel developments in both high fashion and the arts, including music. This beautifully written book, lavishly illustrated with fashion plates and photographs, explores the relationship between music and fashion, elegantly charting the importance of these arts to the rise of transatlantic modernism. Focusing on the emergence of the movement known as Neoclassicism, Mary E. Davis demonstrates that new aesthetic approaches were related to fashion in a manner that was perfectly attuned to the tastes of jazz-age sophisticates. Looking in particular at three couturiers--Paul Poiret, Germaine Bongard, and Coco Chanel--and three breakthrough fashion magazines--La Gazette du Bon Ton, Vanity Fair, and Vogue--Davis illuminates for the first time the ways in which fashion's imperatives of originality and constant change influenced composers such as Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Les Six. She also considers the role played by the Ballets Russes, and explores the contributions of artists including costume and set designer Léon Bakst, writer and director Jean Cocteau, Amédée Ozenfant, and Pablo Picasso. The first study to situate music in this rich context, Classic Chic demonstrates the profound importance of the linked endeavors of composition and couture to modernist thought. In addition to its innovative approach to this important moment in history, Davis's focus on the social aspects of the story makes the book a tremendously engaging read.
A composer who dabbled in the Dada movement, a Bohemian “gymnopédiste” of fin-de-siècle Montmartre, and a legendary dresser known as “The Velvet Gentleman,” Erik Satie cut a unique figure among early twentieth-century European composers. Yet his legacy has largely languished in the shadows of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Ravel. Mary E. Davis now brings Satie to life in this fascinating new biography. Satie redefined the composer’s art, devising new methods of artistic expression that melded ordinary and rarified elements of words, visual art, and music. Davis argues that Satie’s modernist aesthetic was grounded in the contradictions of his life—such as enrolling in the conservative Schola Cantorum after working as a cabaret performer—and is reflected in his irreverent essays, drawn art, and music. Erik Satie explores how the composer was embraced by avant-garde artists and fashionable Parisian elite, and how his experiences inspired him to create the musical style of Neoclassicism. Satie also employed the power of the image through his infamous fashion statements, Davis contends, and became part of a nascent celebrity culture. A cogent and informative portrait, Erik Satie upends the accepted history of modernist music and restores the composer to his rightful pioneering status.