Musical Geography: Georges Reynard De Gironcourt

“Musical geography” is no recognized field of intellectual endeavour, and the expression “musical geography” is not currently in use, although  a certain Georges Reynard De Gironcourt did write in 1932 a little book whose title was: Une science nouvelle: la géographie musicale, (Nancy, André, 1932). Georges Reynard de Gironcourt was a French engineer and agronomist, specialized in “colonial agriculture”. He was  trained at the Institut National Agronomique, and at the École d’Agriculture Coloniale de Vincennes. Later he went to Madagascar, to study the cultivation of the coconut palm, then he was in Morocco to collect soil samples, and establish a compendium of the local flora. In 1908 he undertook his first expedition to West Africa, which was sponsored by the Ministère des Colonies and the Société de Géographie. The aim of this expedition was to study both the geography and the populations of the Niger Bend, and to investigate the actual and prospective development of agriculture in French, English, and German colonies.  It is quite notable that this very busy and educated man did also take notice of the unusual sounds that during these adventurous trips often reached his ears.  Georges Reynard De Gironcourt belongs to an illustrious tradition of educated travellers who, beginning at least with the geographic discoveries of the Renaissance, in addition to the study of the flora, fauna, human habits and traditions, took also an interest in the “exotic” musical sounds they encountered. De Gironcourt was, however, an isolated scholar, apparently unaware of the field of comparative musicology being developed in Germany and, in particular of what musical research had been done in the area of European folk song. (The entire piece will appear shortly)