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The History of American Classical Music: Macdowell through Minimalism [Hardcover]

John Warthen Struble


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Book Description

Jan 1995
American classical music has come a long way in a short time. From the European-style music that was the norm at the end of the 19th century, a body of music has evolved that at the end of the 20th can be termed authentically and distinctively "American." The History of American Classical Music takes an in-depth, panoramic look at this amazing variety of music, how it developed and the often fascinating people who composed it. While the emphasis is on the 20th century, author John Warthen Struble goes back to colonial times to examine all the early influences: the hymns of the "First New England School"; the genteel musical traditions of the East Coast cities during the 18th and 19th centuries, the folk music of Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley imported by Scottish and Irish settlers; the indigenous music of the North American Indians; the African music brought over and adapted by slaves; the balladry, beginning in the 1820s and continuing even today; and the Creole and Gulf Coast music, an amalgam of French, Spanish, African, Cuban, Haitian and American influences. By the 1920s American classical music had reached its most active stage to date. Many conductors and musicians were willing to play it, enough dedicated patrons and promoters were willing to present it and a brilliant group of American composers existed who "spoke a language that the public was, on the whole, willing and able to hear, " a group that included the likes of Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Roy Harris and George Gershwin. As university music departments expanded in the 1920s and 30s, Americans like Howard Hanson, Roger Sessions and Walter Piston became influential teachers along with many European composerswho had fled the Nazis. An entire generation of composers were taught and influenced by these academics, and many of these new composers produced music that, at worst, antagonized audiences who found it difficult to understand. The author lays the groundwork for the emergence in th

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Perfect 12 Oct 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I originally purchased this book on account of its nice chapter on minimalism and its introduction by Philip Glass. Fortunately, I was very surprised to see myself devour the book's chapters on non-minimalist 20th century music as well. The book is well written and well categorized.
The book is essentially split into chapters based on style (in chronological order) starting with the very unknown 19th century American composers. The writing focuses more on the personal lives of the composers and how their pieces were received rather than a theoretical evaluation of style or its evolution. I actually prefer it be written this way since this book was my introduction to American classical music.
The minimalism chapter is good, especially when compared to other multi-stylistic books which only cover minimalism (and usually 20th century music) because they have to.
If I were teaching a class on 20th century music, this would definitely be a required text. Of particular interest is the concluding chapter on the author's views concerning the future of music; he brings up some interesting points worth mulling over.
I didn't care enough about the early American composers too much (Griffes, etc...), so my review doesn't reflect those chapters.
I certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in 20th century American acoustic music (electronic music isn't really covered).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative 11 Dec 2002
By Eric Stott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book- full of information and very readable, without being too tecnical or pedantic. I might fault the author for being a bit sparse on 19th C. American composers, but this is a matter of personal judgement and the need to keep the book within manageable length. Also in 1998 fewer works by composers such as Fry, Bristow, Lambert and John Knowles Paine were available for listening.
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