Skip to content

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

by Lawrence Kramer
Journal of the American Musicological Society ()
Get full text at journal


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.

Cite this document (BETA)

Readership Statistics

4 Readers on Mendeley
by Discipline
75% Arts and Humanities
25% Social Sciences
by Academic Status
25% Student > Bachelor
25% Professor > Associate Professor
25% Researcher
by Country
25% Portugal

Sign up today - FREE

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research. Learn more

  • All your research in one place
  • Add and import papers easily
  • Access it anywhere, anytime

Start using Mendeley in seconds!

Sign up & Download

Already have an account? Sign in