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.
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.
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.
Winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in Concert Music BooksProposing 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.
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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