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, Diamond, Corigliano, right up through Rochberg and Bolcom – a type virtually unknown in Europe. Because we never had Great American Romantic Music, someone’s always finding it irresistible to fill in that gap. Even the middle movement of my own Transcendental Sonnets is an attempt to figure out what an American Brahms’ Requiem might have sounded like.