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GOLDEN AGE

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PETER DICKINSON reviews two books on American music

 

As American music has moved closer to the centre of the stage in the later twentieth century it has become necessary to know more about the composers and the context from which they sprang.

In an article entitled American Music's Golden Age in the 1985 BBC Proms prospectus I wrote:

'If you add musicals and popular songs -- such as those by Kern, Berlin, Gershwin and Porter -- to the American symphonic tradition, no other country can match the United States for richness and variety of musical achievement through the first half of this century.'

That was even without mentioning jazz, or the second half of the century, and the whole American saga has moved on rapidly since then. New composers such as John Adams have captured a world market -- not always with the approval of magnificent old-stagers such as the ninety-two-year-old Elliott Carter, as his BBC interview with John Tusa recently revealed. Relatively obscure composers are reaching CD in the Naxos American Classics series and substantial books have appeared about composers such as Amy Beach, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Virgil Thomson, Gottschalk -- and now Copland. The whole scene has been massively worked over by Richard Crawford in his 976-page America's Musical Life (Norton, 2001, ISBN 0-393-04810-1) where all manifestations of music in America get their place on a democratic basis from the earliest times to the present.

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Copyright © 18 September 2001 Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK

 

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PURCHASE CAROL OJA'S BOOK FROM AMAZON

PURCHASE HOWARD POLLACK'S BOOK FROM AMAZON

 

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