American Music Volume 34 Number 4 Winter 2016

American Music Volume 34, Number 4, Winter 2016
American Music publishes articles on American composers, performers, publishers, institutions, events, and the music industry, as well as book and recording reviews, bibliographies, and discographies. Article topics have included the lyricism of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell’s „sliding tones,“ Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Henry Brant’s „Spatial Music,“ the reception and transformation of pop icons such as Presley and Sinatra, and the history and analysis of blues, jazz, folk music, and mixed and emerging musical styles.

Special Issue: Music and the Great War
Guest Editor: Gayle Magee

Introduction by the Guest Editor
Gayle Magee

From 2014 to 2018, events around the world are commemorating and memorializing the Great War, which took place a hundred years ago. The majority of the art installations, concerts, and other public memorials so far have taken place outside of the United States, marking the stronger profile of the war elsewhere. Some of this is no doubt due to America’s relatively late involvement in the hostilities and therefore the lesser sacrifice and loss compared to what many European countries bore. As we near the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I, the moment seems right to reflect on the diversity of music produced during this era from a transnational perspective, considering music not only within the United States but also across its northern and at its southern borders.[Read More]


National Service and Operatic Ambitions: Arthur Nevin’s Musical Activities during World War I
Aaron Ziegel

On 18 October 1917 Arthur Nevin reported for duty at Camp Grant outside of Rockford, Illinois, to begin what was surely one of the most arduous undertakings of his musical career. He had been recruited by the U.S. Army’s Commission on Training Camp Activities to serve as the cantonment’s song leader, a position responsible for instructing nearly forty thousand soldiers-in-training in the art of community singing. Soon thereafter, at a Saturday matinee on 5 January 1918, Maj. Arthur Nevin (wearing his army khakis) conducted the world premiere of his one-act opera A Daughter of the Forest at the Chicago Opera Company. Such simultaneous yet disparate musical endeavors are characteristic of this composer’s career path as he sought both to serve his country during wartime and to capitalize on performance opportunities afforded by the increasingly patriotic bent of the nation’s artistic scene.[Read More]

“This War Is Too Dreadful to Write About”: Composer George Whitefield Chadwick’s Reactions to World War I
Marianne Betz

When the United States officially entered the Great War in 1917, this resonated in a hitherto unknown wave of patriotism that affected the German-affiliated musical life in many American cities on various levels. A confusion of emotions emerged with the declaration of war. In Boston, George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931), one of the city’s leading composers and director of the New England Conservatory since 1897, even began to doubt the importance of musical activity as such. “Over all hangs this dreadful foreboding of impending calamity,” Chadwick wrote in distress. “How can one think of music when the future holds such dreadful possibilities?”2 Chadwick’s reactions, both verbal and musical, highlight the impact that the nationalism aroused by the war had on music and on musical activities. The severe blow that struck Boston’s cultural life as a result of the growing anti-German climate shook to the core the foundations of its most important musical ensemble, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and thus deeply affected Chadwick, himself a key figure in Boston’s musical networks, in terms of both his personal life and his productivity as a composer. [Read More]

“She’s a Dear Old Lady”: English Canadian Popular Songs from World War I
Gayle Magee

Since the 1920s, the Great War has been portrayed as a defining moment in Canada’s emergence from its British colonial past to an independent and unified nation on the world stage. Yet recent scholarship has questioned these long-held beliefs, suggesting that unification proved more elusive than independence, for the war actually sharpened the rift in English-French relations. As the Canadian military historian Jonathan Vance states, the war “strengthened the two nationalisms of French and English Canada,” in which “both societies gained a greater appreciation of their separate identities from the experience of war.”Read More

The Rehearsal
William Brooks

Wars occur in theaters. Entertainer Elsie Janis experienced the First World War performing on the front for American soldiers; for her, this was The Big Show. All shows need rehearsals, tryouts, and backers, and the Great War had all three. To Europe, the Great War was a happening, a somewhat unexpected, site-specific performance that mixed radical innovation with hidebound tradition. But to the United States, the Great War was a spectacle; the curtain rose at a fixed time and at a distance, and the country was in the audience for the first twenty months. When it finally made an entrance, at the start of the last act, it had had plenty of time to prepare; it had learned its lines, built its props, rehearsed its routines.Read More