Journal article

Chopin at the Funeral: Episodes in the History of Modern Death

Kramer L ...see all

Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 54, issue 1 (2001) pp. 97-125

  • 4


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • 11


    Citations of this article.
Sign in to save reference


This essay seeks to shed fresh light on Chopin's all-too-famous Funeral March by exploring its relationship to the social history of death. Virtually from the day of its publication, the march has had a career independent of the Piano Sonata in B♭ Minor, Op. 35, into which Chopin inserted it. It quickly became Western music's paramount anthem of public mourning, a role it played at funerals from Chopin's own to John F. Kennedy's. This civic character, however, at best represents only a fraction of the music's cultural resonance. By consulting the first context of the march, the treatment of death and burial in Chopin's Paris, it becomes possible to tell a different and a richer story. Responding to a historical crisis bequeathed by the French Revolution, France during the first half of the nineteenth century was engaged in renovating the culture of death literally from the ground up-and down. Three major institutions emerged in the capital to carry on this work, each with its own distinctive set of customs and symbolic practices: the catacombs of Paris, the Paris Morgue, and the modern cemetery, the prototype for which was Père Lachaise. Each of the three can be said to have left a mark on Chopin's Funeral March; deciphering those marks is the project of this essay.

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document

Get full text


  • Lawrence Kramer

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free