I have a new book, just published: Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America’s Fin-de-Siecle. Here’s a sampling:
“If the Met’s screaming Wagnerites standing on chairs in the 1890s are in fact unthinkable today, it is partly because we mistrust high feeling. Our children avidly specialize in vicarious forms of electronic interpersonal diversion. Our laptops and televisions ensnare us in a surrogate world that shuns all but facile passions; only Jon Stewart and Bill Maher share moments of moral outrage disguised as comedy.”
My portraits are of Henry Higginson, who invented, owned, and operated the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Henry Krehbiel, who as the proactive “dean” of New York’s music critics was a leading catalyst for a nascent “American school” of musical composition; Laura Langford, who presented the Music of the Future fourteen times a week in summertime on Coney Island; and Charles Ives, who composed great American symphonies long before Serge Koussevitzky searched fruitlessly for a Great American Symphony during the interwar decades.
These are heroic figures for whom the notion that art is morally empowering was a vital catalyst and inspiration. My book ends: “Though not all supreme art is uplifting, or intended to uplift, culture as a moral force is a concept that fills human needs stronger than any dogmas, be they aesthetic, political, or intellectual.”
More info here.