Musical Nationalism: American Composers' Search for Identity

By Alan Howard Levy | Go to book overview

5
ROY HARRIS AND STRIDENT AMERICANISM

One problem of developing an American music, capturing "the world Whitman envisaged," as Aaron Copland put it, was for the individual composer to conceptualize and thus define his America. Since cultural heritages varied greatly among Americans, these conceptualizations differed, and the result was not the emergence of an American music, but of many. The "provinces" spawned a variety of music in these years. So too did many ethnic and vernacular composers in genres of American urban centers.* This outcome, logical by hindsight, disquieted some nationalists at the time.

When used as an adjective of culture, "provincial" has held pejorative connotations of being narrow and awkward. Some members of a provincial culture--farmers, laborers--can ignore or even enjoy such an image. But any artist who wishes to speak to many rather than to a few meets a problem. Music nationalists like Henry Gilbert and Arthur Farwell did. They went about their task with a sense of mission. Constantly confronted by imperious critics who loathed any commerce with "lower" vernacular traditions, including those from the "provinces," Gilbert, Farwell, and their associates came to view their work as a campaign against

____________________
*
Provincial and vernacular are potentially overlapping categories, but they are not interchangeable. "Provincial" is a geographical separation which, in pre-1930 American art music, encompassed areas outside the nation's major music centers-- New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cincinnati. "Vernacular" is a distinction of genre, entailing cultures rooted in the nation's various ethnic, racial, and folk ways.

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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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