Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Arts
French Revolution, ideology, upheaval, reform, music, songs, composition
Rife with the passion and energy of upheaval, the French Revolution era gave birth to a multitude of powerful songs and hymns. Thousands of songs emerged not only as cultural expressions of violent revolution, but as a means through which to capture, articulate, and propagate a multitude of competing ideologies. Among these, the Réveil du peuple (The Awakening of the People) materialized as a forceful reactionary anthem. Written and composed by J.M. Souriguières and Pierre Gaveaux respectively, the song, first performed in January of 1795, rose to prominence in the midst of the Thermidorian Reaction. Like the Reaction itself, the song came to being primarily as an oppositional response to Robespierre and the Jacobins’ Guillotine aided Reign of Terror. Embraced specifically by the foppish yet militant Gilded Youth of the reactionary movement, the Réveil du peuple served to unite and motivate an often fractured oppositional force. Reactionary and revolutionary in nature, the song ultimately proved a force for moderation. Coalescing as a major component of the reactionary movement, the Réveil du peuple contributed to the gradual but observable cultural shift away from leftist revolutionary thought. Politically, the trend toward moderation was manifest in the transition from the reactionary National Convention to the more conservative Directorate government. Establishing historical context, it is important to first understand the cultural and political atmosphere into which the Réveil du peuple was born. As such, the first chapter presents an examination of the political purges of Robespierre and the Jacobins, followed by a discussion of the subsequent Thermidorian Reaction; a discussion specifically focused on the development and actions of the notorious Gilded Youth. The first chapter having identified and examined our relevant portion of the Revolution era, the second chapter initiates a broader discussion concerning the origins and applications of French music in general. Drawing a connection between the songs of the Revolution and the rich musical tradition of the French, this chapter also examines the various uses of music as an ideological force. The third chapter deals specifically with the Réveil du peuple itself, taking into consideration the development and application of the song. Here the song is analyzed both lyrically and musically, while also interpreted in terms of its reactionary and revolutionary components. The fourth and final chapter focuses primarily on the greater cultural and political significance of the Réveil du peuple. Examining the song alongside the transition toward the more conservative Directorate government, the chapter argues for the song’s influence in the broader movement.
Oswald, Reuben J., "Singing toward moderation : the development and significance of the French Revolution’s Réveil du peuple" (2010). Honors Theses. 1203.