Yankee Blues: Musical Culture and American Identity

Yankee Blues: Musical Culture and American Identity

Yankee Blues: Musical Culture and American Identity

Yankee Blues: Musical Culture and American Identity

Excerpt

Both Mason and Ives committed themselves to music as the crown of redemptive culture. But each man accommodated himself to his mission according to his own perceptions of its penalties and rewards. From childhood both men knew the scorn of peers who associated culture in general, and music in particular, with effeminate ineffectuality and undemocratic exclusivity. They struggled all their lives with permutations of these issues.

Mason and Ives grew into manhood during the early progressive era. Americans experienced the years from 1890 until World War I as a voyage into the unknown. They fit new sails to their great clipper "progress" and navigated into the shifting tides of the twentieth century. The United States had become a multiethnic urban society with an aggressively capitalist economy pressured by a broadening democratic ideology. Cities filling with immigrant Europeans and migrant Negroes seemed to breed a dangerous social disorganization. Robert Wiebe's phrase the "search for order" well characterizes the progressive mission. There was some consensus among progressives that before they could master the economic and political machinery of society, the idea of "order" itself had to be expanded beyond positivist ideas about ends and means. At its heart the "search for order" was an effort to rediscover a conscience collective , a spiritual sextant for the new century. Moral instrumentalism served progressivism as a loose- limbed "philosophy." For all its vaunted tough present-mindedness, instrumentalism was bound together by a faith that fed on imagined pasts and imminent futures. Typically, the ideal instrument of progressivism was education. In David Noble's words, "Education re . . .

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