Appeal to the Masses

Can anyone recommend a really good 20th-century music history text, one including (or even limited to) European music, and extending past the 1970s? The ones I've seen are either terribly out of date or crap. I've already got a decent 20th-century American text. … [Read more...]

The Romance We Never Had

Fellow critic/blogger Alex Ross (currently on book leave) offers a thoughtful reply to my post on American Romantic painting vs. music: I think it's a terribly important topic, actually, why there is no great 19th-century American music. Composers feel that absence to this day. At the same time, it's a great thing. You couldn't have had a Cage if there had been a musical Melville. I'll see that, and I'll raise him: I think that absence helps account for the fact that America has produced such a stream of neoromantic composers - Barber, Hanson, … [Read more...]

Music Theory: Case for the Prosecution

As happens, I may have inadvertently answered the question of my previous post (oh hell, I'm not going to be cute and link to it, just scroll down) by the question I threw in at the last minute: "Is there something about musical pedagogy inherently more deadening than its visual analogue?" I think a large majority of musicians would surmise that there is. Let's think about it. My own adolescent experiences as a budding painter gave no more pleasure to anyone than did the semester I spent playing the cello, but I learned a little bit of how the … [Read more...]

American Romanticism: Music vs. Painting

My mother and brother came from Texas to visit. Looking for something touristy for us to do, I finally checked out, for the first time, the state park at Olana. A castle in detailed pseudo-Arabic style only five or six miles from my house, impressively overlooking the Hudson River lengthwise, Olana was the home and monument of Frederic E. Church (1826-1900), probably the most famous figure in the Hudson River School of painters. The first word I heard about the Hudson Valley was sometime around seventh grade; I gathered, by an inattentive … [Read more...]