Musical Nationalism: American Composers' Search for Identity

By Alan Howard Levy | Go to book overview

6
A NICE JEWISH BOY FROM BROOKLYN

Virtually all major American composers between 1870 and 1930 came from families who had lived in the United States for many generations. Quincy Porter's and Roger Sessions's American ancestries, for example, reach back to the seventeenth century. One group, however, was an exception--the East European Jews, from whose ranks came some of the most important American composers of the twenties and thirties, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Marc Blitzstein, Solomon Pimsleur, Elie Siegmeister, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Isham Jones, and Arthur Schwartz being the most famous. The Jews were the only recent American immigrants from whose second generation came any composers of consequence. There were no great Irish- or Italian- American composers in the twenties; only Jews. While the East European Jews were similar to other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century immigrant groups, they possessed numerous characteristics which were unique, and these help explain subsequent cultural patterns.

The primary difference between the Jews and other immigrant groups was that the Jews comprised an entire cross-section of their Old World society. While few members of the educated, affluent classses of Italy emigrated, for example, among the East European Jews all levels came over, from Talmudic scholars to skilled artisans to subsistence farmers. Also, this immigrant group was huge in numbers and concentrated in comparison with most others. With such quantity and social variety, it could

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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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