Making Music Modern

Making Music Modern : New York in the 1920s

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New York City witnessed a dazzling burst of creativity in the 1920s. In this pathbreaking study, Carol J. Oja explores this artistic renaissance from the perspective of composers of classical and modern music, who along with writers, painters, and jazz musicians, were at the heart of early modernism in America. She also illustrates how the aesthetic attitudes and institutional structures from the 1920s left a deep imprint on the arts over the 20th century. Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Virgil Thomson, William Grant Still, Edgar Varese, Henry Cowell, Leo Ornstein, Marion Bauer, George Antheil-these were the leaders of a talented new generation of American composers whose efforts made New York City the center of new music in the country. They founded composer societies-such as the International Composers' Guild, the League of Composers, the Pan American Association, and the Copland-Sessions Concerts-to promote the performance of their music, and they nimbly negotiated cultural boundaries, aiming for recognition in Western Europe as much as at home. They showed exceptional skill at marketing their work. Drawing on extensive archival material-including interviews, correspondence, popular periodicals, and little-known music manuscripts-Oja provides a new perspective on the period and a compelling collective portrait of the figures, puncturing many longstanding myths. American composers active in New York during the 1920s are explored in relation to the "Machine Age" and American Dada; the impact of spirituality on American dissonance; the crucial, behind-the-scenes role of women as patrons and promoters of modernist music; cross-currents between jazz and concert music; the critical reception of modernist music (especially in the writings of Carl Van Vechten and Paul Rosenfeld); and the international impulse behind neoclassicism. The book also examines the persistent biases of the time, particularly anti-Semitisim, gender stereotyping, and longstanding racial more

Product details

  • Paperback | 508 pages
  • 148.6 x 214.1 x 18.5mm | 358.34g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones and musical examples
  • 0195162579
  • 9780195162578
  • 1,362,139

Review quote

"Carol Oja's Making Modern Music is a rare achievement, at once an essential musicology study and a major contribution to our general fund of knowledge on America in the twentieth century...Thanks to this extraordinary book our knowledge of this vanished world is much enhanced. I, for one, will never view the 1920's in quite the same way again." Current Musicology "Wise, witty and compulsively readable...non-dogmatically postmodern. Eschewing a linear narrative, [Oja] writes short chapters that are narrowly and precisely focused rather than comprehensive. The result might be likened to the comic strip, that most post-modern of narrative forms, and the form fits the content."-Times Literary Supplement "Making Music Modern is a distinguished work of musical scholarship: a beautifully wrought blend of data and interpretation by an author with sovereign command of her subject. The topic is important as well as complex: not only how American composers grappled with modern currents but how European modernism extended its reach to a part of the globe that was in the process of changing from outpost to cultural capital. I unreservedly commend it."-Richard Crawford, University of Michigan "Making Music Modern is an absorbing book that gives a refreshing view of an exciting and pivotal time in the history of American music. Carol Oja has achieved a wonderfully readable book, backed by an impressive amount of research. It is filled with rich detail and vivid portraits of the colorful figures that made modernism the catchword of 20th-century music. Carol Oja brings this fascinating period to life in an original format that gives the reader an insightful and engrossing experience."-Vivian Perlis, Yale University "Carol Oja's Making Music Modern is an extraordinary contribution to the history of American music. Her sweeping panorama of New York's music in ferment is, by virtue of the nature of the city, also a brilliant view of the liberation of American composers from bondage to the European tradition. Professor Oja's generous serving of the political and social setting of American modernism and its creators reveals music as a living body within a universe of artistic credos, human relationships, racial prejudices, and economic needs. The book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the concert music of our time and the cultural life of New York."-Joel Sachs, The Juilliard School "A rare achievment, at once an essential musicological study and a major contribution to our general fund of knowledge on America in the twentieth century."-Current Musicology "A richly nuanced history that illuminates particular compositions as well as the general relationship between modern music and modern life....A compelling, insightful, and readable study of the fascinating world of new music in New York."-Notes "Brings a multidimensional perspective to examining the music scene in 1920s New York. Having unearthed extensive archival materials (including interviews, correspondence and little-known music manuscripts), Oja dispels many myths and considers art in conjunction with contemporary social, cultural, and political issues."-Publishers Weekly "Marvelous....[Oja] wisely recognizes both the internationalism of the music scene during the 1920s [and] the huge importance of the developing new music infrastructure that emerged during the 1920s....Oja avoids the cultural exclusivity so prevalent among musicologists in her virtuosic contextualization of the emerging new music in the broader world of arts and ideas....A remarkable study."-Institute for Studies in American Music "[A] superb exploration of the classical music scene in New York City during the 1920s and early 1930s....Profiles a variety of composers, both well known (Aaron Copland) and little remembered (Dane Rudhyar)....[Oja's] ability to show how styles such as neoclassicism and the use of technology or dissonance combined to form a new genre of `American' music is a distinguishing feature....Exhaustively researched and written in an intelligent, engaging style, this book is highly recommended."-Library Journal "Pioneering....This is important history, and [Oja] cover[s] all of it, conservatives and radicals alike, with fascinating sidelights on critics, female patrons of contemporary music and of course on individual composers....[Oja reveals] that modern music in the 20's was diverse and multicultural, with jazz and Latin overtones, women composers and one strong African-American, William Grant Still. And [she shows] that American modernism could be provocatively different from the European kind."-The New York Times Book Reviewshow more

About Carol J. Oja

Carol Oja is Margaret and David Bottoms Professor of Music and Professor of American Studies at the College of William and Mary. She is also the author of Colin McPhee: Composer in Two Worlds, which won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and American Music Recordings: A Discography of U.S. more

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12 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 25% (3)
4 50% (6)
3 25% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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