This blog explores important pieces of American classical music through the twentieth century (one piece for each decade), and how they are products of the culture in which they were written.

Click here for a YouTube playlist of all the pieces analyzed here, and a few other relevant videos:


2 thoughts on “About”

  1. Kevin Scott said:

    While this is all well and good, I feel that there are many works from each of these decades that should also be listed, or mentioned in passing. Some of these works not only include works for the concert hall, but also the cinema.

    My choices? Ives’ fourth symphony, Copland’s Organ Symphony or Piano Variations (which doesn’t qualify, but the composer did orchestrate it in 1957); George Rochberg’s second symphony and violin concerto; Bernard Herrmann’s scores for Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Psycho; Paul Hindemith’s Symphony in B-flat for Concert Band; Elliott Carter’s Variations for Orchestra;George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children and Black Angels (the latter is for string quartet, but Crumb demands a lot more from these players than playing their instruments); and Wlliiam Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony.

    I don’t know which composers you would mention from the 2000s, since there are many, and we’re still in the midst of this decade, but it would be interesting to read your choice of composers.

    • I agree. There are so many other pieces I could have mentioned, and I had a hard time choosing only one for some of the decades. For the most part, I chose based on for which works it was easiest to find contextual analyses (since that is my main goal). I was trying to get a wide range of notable composers, too, which is why I didn’t feature Ives’ fourth symphony (although I did mention it ever so briefly in the article on “Short Ride in a Fast Machine”) or do multiple pieces by Copland or Adams or any of the other really influential composers. Also, I admit I was quite biased in some of my choices. For example, this blog was never supposed to be exclusively about music for large ensembles, but you will notice that I didn’t choose any chamber music. (Although it is arguably true that orchestral compositions tend to have a larger effect than, say, string quartets.) Also, I stayed away from film scores, simply because I don’t know all that much about them, and I personally prefer to listen to music that was originally intended to be heard in a concert hall. This has nothing to do with how important those pieces were, only a personal preference.

      As for twenty-first century composers, Philip Glass is one composer who continues to be active and important (but who I intentionally left out – again, a matter of personal bias). I live near Ann Arbor, so I’m frequently exposed to people like William Bolcom and Evan Chambers (both of whom I have met), and I think they bring an interesting new methodology to composition (as mentioned in the Daugherty post). Bright Sheng, Jennifer Higdon, and David Maslanka are a few others that come to mind. One really obvious choice for a piece would be Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls”, considering its place in the historical context. Those are just the ones that I can think of off of the top of my head.


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