One of the most original and insightful surveys of American music is now available in a revised edition. Published to wide acclaim in 1965, Music in a New Found Land, in its original edition, selectively reviewed the development of American musical traditions from the 1600s to the early 1960s. With the addition of a new afterword and a revised bibliography, Wilfrid Mellers brings his book up to date, discussing the important developments in American music in the past 20 years.
A British musical scholar and composer, Wilfrid Mellers brings to this work not only his musical scholarship but the objectivity of a European writing about American music. "As an outsider," he writes, "I may see and hear things that cannot be experienced from within the American context." Mellers explores the development of unique musical traditions within the confines of America's shores, dividing his work into two parts, the first concentrating on "serious" art-music, the second on "popular" music, jazz, and show tunes.
Beginning with the "primitives" (the New England hymnodists), the section on "serious" music shows how the styles of all the great American classical composers developed. Mellers uses as examples only those composers whose work he considers to have had a lasting effect on the history of American music. Among these are Charles Ives, "the first authentic American composer"; Carl Ruggles; Aaron Copland, "the first artist to define precisely, in sound, an aspect of our urban experience"; Charles Griffes; and John Cage, who took abstraction to an extreme, considering each sound an audible event, with no past and no future. He also examines the importance of Samuel Barber and Virgil Thomson, decidedly non-avant-garde 20th-century composers, whose works are popular, he claims, because they appeal to Americans' regressive tendencies.
The second section charts the development of "pop" music, jazz, and musicals from parlor songs, work songs, and spirituals. Here, Mellers examines the appeal of Stephen Foster, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and John Philip Sousa; tells the fascinating story of Tin Pan Alley; and traces the development of jazz from its beginnings in the smoke-filled bars of Storeytown to a music that encompassed barrelhouse piano, piano rag, and blues and was played in Chicago, New York, and the Far West. George Gershwin, Mark Blitzstein, and Leonard Gernstein all receive their due, as do the jazz greats, band leaders, and showmen.
Mellers weaves into his study of American music discussion of American intellectual traditions, including Puritanism, transcendentalism, abstraction, and Dadaism--so that we have a history not only of American music, but of the way that music has fit into the intellectual preoccupations of the country. Also included are excerpts from American literature, samples of musical scores, references to specific recordings, and a selected bibliography. Updated through the 1980s, Music in a New Found Land now offers a new generation of scholars and music lovers an absorbing and authoritative study of the development of American music.show more