Sousa and American Attitude

In a comment to my last post on musical Americanisms, reader Bodie asked after another “forgotten giant” of American music, John Philip Sousa. (Taruskin does in fact mention Sousa, though only briefly and as a secondary point to his discussion of Charles Ives in Vol. IV.) So I thought I might let Sousa speak for himselfContinue reading “Sousa and American Attitude”


Musical Americanisms

Around the turn of the 20th century, Dvorak famously gave his predictions about the repertoires that would be the wellspring of an American national style. Though a hopeful prediction, it also served as a stinging reminder that no such style yet existed, something that American composers were well aware of. Between the wars, several candidatesContinue reading “Musical Americanisms”

Copland, Gershwin and Jazz

Some have complained that [Aaron Copland’s Piano Concerto] had no spiritual value, only animal excitement; but what else has jazz?  — Music critic (1927) [George Gershwin is] the man who made an honest woman out of jazz. — Publicity statement (1930s) Why did public and critical reception of the “jazzy” 1920s works of Aaron CoplandContinue reading “Copland, Gershwin and Jazz”

Vol. IV, Ch. 9 Playlist, Part I

Here’s a partial playlist for vol. III, chapter 9, “Lost—Or Rejected—Illusions.” Click through below for scenes from Prokofieff’s Love for Three Oranges. Prokofieff, “Classical Symphony,” (III Gavotte) Satie, Embryons desséchées (No. 3, “De podophthalma” begins at 3:43; end of this movement is a caricature of the extended coda in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony)

Stravinsky and the New Black Irony

One need only read the first half dozen or so pages of John Keegan’s history, The First World War (1999), to get a chilling picture of the social devastation of what was then known as the Great War. Almost an entire generation of young men was lost, and those who remained had witnessed unthinkable carnageContinue reading “Stravinsky and the New Black Irony”


Béla Bartók is not just known as a composer, of course. He also plays a prominent role in the history of ethnomusicology. In fitting with the transitional tendencies of the 1900-1920 period, a moment that served as a hinge between Romantic aesthetics and the “real” twentieth century, Bartók was not given entirely to exoticized representationsContinue reading “Composer-Ethnomusicologist”

A Bartók Playlist [Updated]

In the first half of his chapter on Bartók (Vol. IV, Ch. 7), Taruskin shines a focused spotlight on several of Bartók’s pieces, including Kossuth, Four Dirges, the set of bagatelles (Op. 6) for solo piano, his string quartet No. 4, and Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. Here is a partial listening list based onContinue reading “A Bartók Playlist [Updated]”

Emancipation of the (Rhythmic) Dissonance

RT’s juicy analyses of works from Schoenberg’s earliest period of “emancipated dissonance” are focused and compelling in their own right, but best of all – as Mark mentioned in a recent point – they challenge a certain oversimplified historiographical narrative that most of us, at one point or another, were inculcated with, namely that SchoenbergContinue reading “Emancipation of the (Rhythmic) Dissonance”