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Aaron Copland in Latin America
Music and Cultural Politics
Carol A. Hess
University of Illinois Press, 2023
Between 1941 and 1963, Aaron Copland made four government-sponsored tours of Latin America that drew extensive attention at home and abroad. Interviews with eyewitnesses, previously untapped Latin American press accounts, and Copland’s diaries inform Carol A. Hess’s in-depth examination of the composer’s approach to cultural diplomacy. As Hess shows, Copland’s tours facilitated an exchange of music and ideas with Latin American composers while capturing the tenor of United States diplomatic efforts at various points in history. In Latin America, Copland’s introduced works by U.S. composers (including himself) through lectures, radio broadcasts, live performance, and conversations. Back at home, he used his celebrity to draw attention to regional composers he admired. Hess’s focus on Latin America’s reception of Copland provides a variety of outside perspectives on the composer and his mission. She also teases out the broader meanings behind reviews of Copland and examines his critics in the context of their backgrounds, training, aesthetics, and politics.
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Aaron Jay Kernis
Leta E. Miller
University of Illinois Press, 2014

The first full-length biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award, Aaron Jay Kernis achieved recognition as one of the leading composers of his generation while still in his thirties. Since then his eloquent yet accessible style, emphasis on melody, and willingness to engage popular as well as classical forms has brought him widespread acclaim and admiring audiences.

Leta Miller's biography offers the first survey of the composer's life and work. Immersed in music by middle school, and later training under Theodore Antoniou, John Adams, Jacob Druckman, and others, Kernis rejected the idea of distancing his work from worldly concerns and composed on political themes. His Second Symphony, from 1991, engaged with the first Gulf War; 1993's Still Moment with Hymn was a reaction to the Bosnian Genocide; and the next year's Colored Field and 1995's Lament and Prayer dealt with the Holocaust. Yet Kernis also used sources as disparate as futurist agitprop and children's games to display humor in his work. Miller's analysis addresses not only Kernis's wide range of subjects but also the eclecticism that has baffled critics, analyzing his dedication to synthesis and the themes consistent in his work. Informed and engaging, Aaron Jay Kernis gives a rare mid-career portrait of a major American cultural figure.

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About Bach
Edited by Gregory Butler, George Stauffer, and Mary Dalton Greer
University of Illinois Press, 2007
That Johann Sebastian Bach is a pivotal figure in the history of Western music is hardly news, and the magnitude of his achievement is so immense that it can be difficult to grasp. In About Bach, fifteen scholars show that Bach's importance extends from choral to orchestral music, from sacred music to musical parodies, and also to his scribes and students, his predecessors and successors. Further, the contributors demonstrate a diversity of musicological approaches, ranging from close studies of Bach's choices of musical form and libretto to wider analyses of the historical and cultural backgrounds that impinged upon his creations and their lasting influence. This volume makes significant contributions to Bach biography, interpretation, pedagogy, and performance.

Contributors are Gregory G. Butler, Jen-Yen Chen, Alexander J. Fisher, Mary Dalton Greer, Robert Hill, Ton Koopman, Daniel R. Melamed, Michael Ochs, Mark Risinger, William H. Scheide, Hans-Joachim Schulze, Douglass Seaton, George B. Stauffer, Andrew Talle, and Kathryn Welter.

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Alec Wilder
Philip Lambert
University of Illinois Press, 2013
 
The music of Alec Wilder (1907-1980) blends several American musical traditions, such as jazz and the American popular song, with classical European forms and techniques. Stylish and accessible, Wilder's musical oeuvre ranged from sonatas, suites, concertos, operas, ballets, and art songs to woodwind quintets, brass quintets, jazz suites, and hundreds of popular songs. In this biography and critical investigation of Wilder's music, Philip Lambert chronicles Wilder's early work as a part-time student at the Eastman School of Music, his ascent through the ranks of the commercial recording industry in New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, his turn toward concert music from the 1950s onward, and his devotion late in his life to the study of American popular songs of the first half of the twentieth century. The book discusses some of his best-known music, such as the revolutionary octets and songs such as "I'll Be Around," "While We're Young," and "Blackberry Winter," and explains the unique blend of cultivated and vernacular traditions in his singular musical language.

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The American Stravinsky
The Style and Aesthetics of Copland's New American Music, the Early Works, 1921-1938
Gayle Murchison
University of Michigan Press, 2013

One of the country's most enduringly successful composers, Aaron Copland created a distinctively American style and aesthetic in works for a diversity of genres and mediums, including ballet, opera, and film. Also active as a critic, mentor, advocate, and concert organizer, he played a decisive role in the growth of serious music in the Americas in the twentieth century.

In The American Stravinsky, Gayle Murchison closely analyzes selected works to discern the specific compositional techniques Copland used, and to understand the degree to which they derived from European models, particularly the influence of Igor Stravinsky. Murchison examines how Copland both Americanized these models and made them his own, thereby finding his own compositional voice. Murchison also discusses Copland's aesthetics of music and his ideas about its purpose and social function.

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The Apollonian Clockwork
On Stravinsky
Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schonberger
Amsterdam University Press, 2006
‘I think my music deserves to be considered as a whole’, Igor Stravinsky remarked at the end of a long and restless career, and that is exactly what the authors of The Apollonian Clockwork do. In 1982, convinced that there is no essential difference between ‘early’ and ‘late’ Stravinsky, Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schönberger were the first to write a monograph on the composer which radically breaks with the habit of dividing his works into ‘Russian’, ‘neoclassical’ and ‘serial’. In an essay which continually shifts in its approach, style and perspective, the authors elaborate on their insight that a single, immutable compositional attitude underlies the whole of Stravinsky’s oeuvre. By this token the book not only offers an analysis of the composer’s protean work and artistry but takes example by it as well.
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Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey
Allen Shawn
Harvard University Press

Winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in Concert Music Books

Proposing that Arnold Schoenberg has been more discussed than heard, more tolerated than loved, Allen Shawn puts aside ultimate judgments about Schoenberg’s place in music history to explore the composer’s fascinating world in a series of linked essays—“soundings”—that are both searching and wonderfully suggestive. Approaching Schoenberg primarily from the listener’s point of view, Shawn plunges into the details of some of Schoenberg’s works while at the same time providing a broad overview of his involvements in music, painting, and the history through which he lived.

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Art Music Activism
Aesthetics and Politics in 1930s New York City
Maria Cristina Fava
University of Illinois Press, 2024
Surrounded by the widespread misery of the Depression, left-leaning classical music composers sought a musical language that both engaged the masses and gave voice to their concerns.

Maria Cristina Fava explores the rich creative milieu shaped by artists dedicated to using music and theater to advance the promotion, circulation, and acceptance of leftist ideas in 1930s New York City. Despite tensions between aesthetic and pragmatic goals, the people and groups produced works at the center of the decade’s sociopolitical and cultural life. Fava looks at the Composers’ Collective of New York and its work on proletarian music and workers’ songs before turning to the blend of experimentation and vernacular idioms that shaped the political use of music within the American Worker’s Theater Movement. Fava then reveals how composers and theater practitioners from these two groups achieved prominence within endeavors promoted by the Works Project Administration.

Fava’s history teases out fascinating details from performances and offstage activity attached to works by composers such as Marc Blitzstein, Charles Seeger, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Elie Siegmeister, and Harold Rome. Endeavors encouraged avant-garde experimentation while nurturing innovations friendly to modernist approaches and an interest in non-western music. Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock offered a memorable example that found popular success, but while the piece achieved its goals, it became so wrapped up in myths surrounding workers’ theater that critics overlooked Blitzstein’s musical ingenuity.

Provocative and original, Art Music Activism considers how innovative classical composers of the 1930s balanced creative aims with experimentation, accessible content, and a sociopolitical message to create socially meaningful works.

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