Internationalism vs Britishness in Music and Dancing at The Cave of the Golden Calf (London, 1912-14)

Wednesday 26 February 2020, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Speaker(s): Rachel Cowgill (University of York)

Widely acknowledged as London’s ‘first nightclub’, Frida Strindberg’s The Cave of the Golden Calf was a subterranean experimental cabaret-club bringing together theatre, opera, dance and song from across the world under a strident internationalist and Bohemian manifesto.

Saturated with artwork by Lewis, Epstein, Ginner, Gore, and Gill, The Cave also became a testing ground in the struggle for a distinctively British (masculinist) avant-garde expression – one holding its own in relation to futurist and primitivist strains from Europe, rejecting Victorian conservatism, and bulwarked against the alluring but emasculating tide of American culture.

The Cave’s significance to the literary and visual arts has been discussed by Lisa Tickner, Richard Cork, and others; but this presentation explores the role, politics, and significance of performance within this unique prewar environment. It was, for example, the venue for the first UK performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and also saw performances of Rubinstein's opera The Demon, Pergolesi's La serva padrona, Purcell's Dioclesian, vocal music by Monteverdi, keyboard music by J.S. Bach, and Continental cabaret chansons and acts from Scandinavia, Paris, Berlin, and Munich, in addition to hosting 'gypsy' orchestras, African American ragtime string bands, and exhibition dancers and singers from a range of traditions.

This presentation is work-in-progress based on a chapter of my current book project Music and the Military Body in London's West-End Nightclubs, 1912-19.

Location: Sally Baldwin Buildings, Block D, Room D003