Academic journal article Notes

The Selected Writings of John Duke: 1917-1984

Academic journal article Notes

The Selected Writings of John Duke: 1917-1984

Article excerpt

The Selected Writings of John Duke: 1917-1984. Edited by Ruth C. Friedberg and Robin Fisher. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2007. [xii, 262 p. ISBN-10 0-8108-5867-3; ISBN-13 978-0-8108-5867-1. $45.] Bibliography, index, song catalog, appendix.

John Duke (1899-1984) has taken the unfortunate back seat in the twentiethcentury American canon, a situation both Ruth C. Friedberg and Robin Fisher have sought to rectify throughout their careers. Fisher recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation on Duke's songs ("The Writings and Art Songs of John Duke, 1917-1945" [University of Texas at Austin, 2001]). Friedberg's interest in the composer has spanned multiple decades, from her master's thesis on his songs ("The Songs of John Duke" [Uni versity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1962]), to her inclusion of Duke's work in American Art Song and American Poetry (Lan ham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1984). This volume is the first to present unpublished material by the composer, including excerpts from journals, drafts, sketches, and letters. Duke's materials were transferred to the Smith College Archives in 1984, and all of the texts included, save his letters to Friedberg, are drawn from that collection.

The writings are arranged mostly in chronological order, separated into seven main parts: a brief biography, excerpts from diaries and scrapbooks, essays, newspaper writings, drafts for a class at Smith College on the arts, presentations and publications, and oral history and letters. The diversity of texts and Duke's interesting and charming style are definitely the strength of the collection. For those unacquainted with John Duke, this book will provide a multifaceted look at the composer and his inner workings as a thinker and philosopher. Very little is given by way of biography, however, and the reader will learn more from the biographical timeline in the appendix than the "Life and Times" chapter. Friedberg and Fisher clearly shaped the tome around an agenda: to promote John Duke "the philosopher, critic, seeker after aesthetic verities, and musical arbiter of his time" (p. …

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