Theses Doctoral

On Colonial Textuality and Difference: Musical Encounters with French Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century Algeria

Barbacane, Kristy Kaye

As France expanded its empire in North Africa, French artists, writers and explorers traveled to Algeria in order to gain artistic inspiration and greater understanding of the culture, geography and inhabitants of the new colony. This dissertation places music within the context of French colonial culture, identifying the interconnections between government policies and cultural production during France's occupation of Algeria. A central theme is the examination of colonial difference and a phenomenon that may be characterized as colonial textuality in music. Drawing from Homi Bhabha, I define colonial textuality as a space where signifiers of value, judgment and power are encountered, negotiated and embedded within colonial discourse. Three composers--Ernest Reyer (1823-1909), Francisco Salvador Daniel (1831-1871) and Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)--are presented as case studies to understand the complexities and tensions that arose out of the colonial moment and to examine how each figure negotiated his own compositional style, musical career and artistic identity vis-à-vis colonial Algeria. The dissertation is organized chronologically by examining the lives and compositions of three composers living in Algeria during three key periods of French political history, the July Monarchy, Second Empire, and Third Republic. Chapters draw on archival research, reception studies, travel journals, government reports, cultural and political history, and musical analysis to explore the ways in which music, broadly defined, addressed social issues of identity, nation, race, and ethnicity. Topics include how violent tactics and events during the 1840s infiltrated the early musical compositions of Reyer and how music may be considered an act of violence; Salvador Daniel's opportunistic musical career in Algeria from 1853-1865; Salvador Daniel's Album de chansons arabes, mauresques et kabyles as a reflection of French politics and travel writing; Algerian tourism and Saint-Saëns's Africa fantasy and Suite algérienne; and unisonance, soundscape and the typography of what I call Saint-Saëns's "colonial marches." In conclusion, I discuss a 2008 recording of Salvador Daniel's Algerian song transcriptions by the soprano Amel Brahim-Djelloul and the Ensemble Amedyez, thus illustrating that musical encounters with colonialism are continually reunderstood and readapted in the twenty-first century.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Kristy_Barbacane_Full_Dissertation_copy.pdf Kristy_Barbacane_Full_Dissertation_copy.pdf application/pdf 32.5 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Frisch, Walter M.
Henson, Karen A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 3, 2012