Sounds of the Metropolis: The Nineteenth-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna

By Derek B. Scott | Go to book overview

1
Professionalism and
Commercialism

The reasons the cities that are the focus of this study became important musical centers are to be found in the social and economic conditions that gave rise to an active concert life in each of them. William Weber says that by 1848 a commercial concert world had emerged in London, Paris, and Vienna, “over which the middle class exerted powerful, if not dominant, control.”1 Antagonisms provoked by commercial interests in music began in the same period. Richard Leppert relates the “implicit social antagonism in the ideological foundation of much nineteenthcentury aesthetics” to artists’ increased dependence on the cultural market capitalism was creating.2 Leonard Meyer has commented, “even as they scorned and mocked the middle class, the artists of the nineteenth century created for it.”3 Some composers depended for their livelihood on the wealthy bourgeoisie, and some musicians played low-status music because they could not find employment playing high-status music. This was also the age of musical entrepreneurialism, when many new opportunities for professionalism arose as new markets, such as blackface minstrelsy, the café-concert, and music hall, were opened up (see chapter 2).4 The first company of minstrels established in New York was under the management of E. P. Christy at Palmo’s Opera House, but “seeing a prospect of establishing themselves permanently in the Metropolis,” they moved to Mechanic’s Hall. Their subsequent and rapid financial success is indicated by the following figures. In 1852, they gave 69 concerts and made $1,848; in 1853, they gave 312 concerts and made $47,972.5 In Britain, the Era Almanack, an annual

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