Musical Nationalism: American Composers' Search for Identity

By Alan Howard Levy | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The art world of Paris in the twenties has been a rich source for the historian. What a brilliant array of people! But while much of this story has been told and retold, some important parts have been neglected, notably the activities of American composers. The neglect is doubtless due to the fact that the technical aspects of music are foreign to most historians. Indeed, music has generally, and unfortunately, been untouched by the cultural historian.

Several themes enter the story of American composers in Paris: the ways music did and did not fit into the general artistic activity of the Left Bank, the transmission of musical ideas from France to the United States and from the United States to France, the schooling Americans pursued in France, and the general interests of Americans in going to France. The last of these is the most complicated and inclusive. Like many who went to Paris, American musicians--Aaron Copland, George Antheil, Roy Harris, Roger Sessions, Virgil Thomson--disliked the stodgy old mores into which their country seemed to be relapsing after the Great War. Yet at the same time these Americans spoke of wanting to put America on the musical map, to see American music mature, and to come to grips with an American musical personality. This view, in contrast with the traditional expatriate disgust with America and the resulting anational or international approach to art, seems nationalistic. For American composers, nationalism and expatriation were not contradictory but complementary. The "old ways" of composing, the symphonic styles of Schumann and Brahms,

-vii-

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Musical Nationalism: American Composers' Search for Identity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - The German Orthodoxy 3
  • Notes 12
  • 2 - Americanism and French Impressionism 14
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - Paris and Neoclassicism 30
  • Notes 60
  • 4 - Expatriates, Frivolous and Serious: George Antheil and Virgil Thomson 62
  • Notes 82
  • 5 - Roy Harris and Strident Americanism 86
  • Notes 103
  • 6 - A Nice Jewish Boy from Brooklyn 105
  • Notes 125
  • CODA 128
  • Notes 137
  • ESSAY ON SOURCES 139
  • Index 161
  • About the Author 169
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