Magical serialism: Modernist Enchantment in Elisabeth Lutyens’s O Saisons, O Châteaux!

Annika Forkert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Elisabeth Lutyens's music of the 1940s and 1950s provides one important, but frequently overlooked, link between British music and modernism before the so-called Manchester School. I argue that the main reason that the composer and her music have not yet received much attention is that early twentieth-century modernism, as it is commonly understood, has been gendered masculine. This article engages with the composition, texts, and reception of Lutyens's 1946 cantata O saisons, ô châteaux! in the context of other Lutyens pieces in order to argue that the composer sought to transcend what she perceived as a complex of disadvantages in the reception of her music (both regarding her gender and composition technique): the Cantata is an essentially melodic piece of ‘magical serialism’. Rather than ‘taming’ or ‘feminizing’ her serial music, Lutyens thus carves out a place for herself as Arthur Rimbaud's magician, reflecting on the set text of O saisons, ô châteaux! and anticipating her later ‘credo’, in which she declares her music's allegiance with secret science rather than note counting or personal branding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-303
Number of pages33
JournalTwentieth Century Music
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017


  • Elisabeth Lutyens
  • modernism
  • serialism
  • twelve-tone
  • theosophy
  • British music

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