Musical Nationalism: American Composers' Search for Identity

By Alan Howard Levy | Go to book overview

of folk source that cannot be effectively spoiled by a poor setting."25 In addition to technical shortcomings, perhaps because of them, most early twentieth-century Americanists tended to cling to the older symphonic styles of Chadwick, Parker, and Paine. With regard to technique and musicianship, Gilbert and Farwell did not equal Griffes, Loeffler, or Carpenter. The best artist is at once technically competent, imaginative, and informed on the latest trends. Imagination is a given, but technical competence and up-to-date knowledge are more under individual control. For technique, musicians went to the best teachers and schools available, which in America as of 1920 meant Harvard and Columbia, where students were exposed to the latest developments in Western art music, with a decided French bias. For the final phases of technical training and in order to witness new trends at first hand, Americans went to Paris.

While wishing to be more capable than Gilbert and Farwell, American composers of the postwar generation shared their excitement about "American" music. But, as Aaron Copland recalled,

We were after bigger game. Our concern was not with the quotable hymn or spiritual; we wanted to find a music that would speak of universal things in a vernacular of American speech and rhythms. We wanted to write on a level that left popular music far behind --music with a largeness of utterance wholly representative of the country Whitman had envisaged. 26

For meeting all the needs--technical competence, modernity, and self-identity--the music world of Paris filled the bill.


NOTES
1.
From one of MacDowell's lectures at Columbia University, quoted in Lawrence Gilman, Edward MacDowell ( New York: John Lane Co., 1908), pp. 17-18.
2.
Copland, Music and Imagination, p. 101.
3.
Merton Robert Aborn, "The Influence on American Musical Culture of Dvořák's Sojourn in America" (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University School of Music, 1965), p. 175.

-28-

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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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