The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview

The Amateur Spirit in Music Critic's Almanac January 27, 1929

Mr. Daniel Gregory Mason's book of essays grouped under the title The Dilemma of American Music contains much that is of interest to musicians primarily. The several studies of Beethoven, Vincent d'Indy and Stravinsky, the decidedly technical essays on rhythm, "The Tyranny of the Bar-Line" and the like are of this sort, although they are far from being out of the range of the cultivated person who takes a general interest in the fine arts. But the five or six leading essays of the book are addressed quite deliberately "to that large body of intelligent listeners-- neither 'high-brows' nor 'low-brows,' but plain men and women--who must contribute their active cooperation to our American musical art if it is really to live." To these people Mr. Mason has something very important to say, and, for my part, I think that the most devoted musicians, professional or amateur, will not do well to ignore his remarks.

In the title essay of the book Mr. Mason observes with some discontent and fear that we have no single musical tradition in America, rather a mixture of several traditions, beginning with German romanticism, and varied by involved strains coming successively from France, Russia, Spain, Scandinavia, England, and so on down to the wildest modernists of all countries. The effect upon American music in a creative sense has been bewildering. We have swallowed without digesting; American music from 1914 to 1928, in fact, is a "Music of Indigestion," and we have become "polyglot parrots." So the question is, whither are we heading? Are we going to be altogether cosmopolitan, or are we to develop some kind of particularized national

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