Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle

Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle

Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle

Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle

Synopsis

Joseph Horowitz writes in Moral Fire: "If the Met's screaming Wagnerites standing on chairs (in the 1890s) are unthinkable today, it is partly because we mistrust high feeling. Our children avidly specialize in vicarious forms of electronic interpersonal diversion. Our laptops and televisions ensnare us in a surrogate world that shuns all but facile passions; only Jon Stewart and Bill Maher share moments of moral outrage disguised as comedy."

Arguing that the past can prove instructive and inspirational, Horowitz revisits four astonishing personalities--Henry Higginson, Laura Langford, Henry Krehbiel and Charles Ives--whose missionary work in the realm of culture signaled a belief in the fundamental decency of civilized human nature, in the universality of moral values, and in progress toward a kingdom of peace and love.

Excerpt

Fully twenty years ago, I decided that the most dynamic decade for classical music in the United States was the 1890s—a finding that contradicted conventional wisdom both about American music and about the “Gilded Age.” the latter term, roughly designating the period between the Civil War and 1900, originates with Mark Twain’s first novel, co-written with Charles Dudley Warner in 1873: The Gilded Age: a Tale of To-Day. Its genesis was a conversation in which the two writers expressed discontent with the state of American fiction. They also shared their discontent with the state of American democracy. the result is a long and tangled tale of Washington politics. Hypocrisy and bribery, poverty and violence are major themes. Readers of the book easily recognized Senator Abner Dilworthy as Kansas’s Senator Samuel Pomeroy, a watchdog for temperance and the Sunday School, who was caught offering cash for a nominating vote—and yet was cleared by a committee of Senate colleagues. the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872, in which a fraudulent company was found to have siphoned federal railroad money, was equally a fresh national memory. To many, the harsh iconography of The Gilded Age seemed just. and the label, with its pejorative associations, stuck.

I am far from being the only present-day writer for whom Mark Twain’s notion of a Gilded Age mischaracterizes a time and place he himself embodied. To be sure, historians need to periodize and label; to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.