V.com weekend vote: Who is your favorite American composer?
July 4, 2008 at 7:27 PM
It's the Fourth of July, and today, this weekend, people in the United States are celebrating Independence Day, one of our biggest national holidays. Besides those of us who like to read the actual Declaration of Independence (which is largely a list of complaints against...King George...) on this day, we Americans have other priorities for this holiday like:
not working cooking hotdogs and hamburgers on the barbeque beer watermelon fireworks ball games outdoor concerts!
My list of composers is very loosely based on music I've played repeatedly at Fourth of July and "American"-dubbed pops concerts. I stuck to the American composers, even though Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and Dvorak's New World Symphony are very frequently featured as well. I'm AWARE that this is a woefully incomplete list. So pick your favorite of this bunch, and then if your true favorite is someone else, please tell us about it below!
Then you will appreciate the story about when the announcer on our local NPR affiliate played the (Goodyear/Cincinnati) Leroy Anderson Piano Concerto. Mrs. Anderson was living in the area at the time, and called in to thank them!
Okay everyone, my bad! I knew I was leaving out something major. I did the poll over again to include Samuel Barber, and I also threw in Leroy Anderson (what would we do without him?). So sorry 'bout that, now you can vote over again! And it's the last time I'm doing it over; now if someone's missing, you just have to tell us about it!
It looks like I'm the only one so far who will admit voting for John Williams on this list. But his music really meant a lot to me growing up; still does. I love the big, sweeping, symphonic sound and the programmatic, thematic nature of the movie scores.
I wouldn't have thought of it if I hadn't just played a POPS concert, but I also think Henry Mancini's music is just wonderful--even better than Leroy Anderson (who we also played at that concert).
This isn't a ranking survey but Leroy Anderson certainly deserves to come out ahead of Reich, Glass and Adams but I only got one vote so I spent it on the composer of the greatest American violin concerto, the School for Scandal overture, the Two Essays for Orchestra, Medea's Dance of Vengeance, Knoxville Summer of 1915, and etc.
well this summer i have been bitten by the 'new' music bug, so i went with glass because i am playing his violin concerto now, but this summer i have also ended up playing quite a bit of micheal mclean, he's very cool, all of his music really grooves, quite refreshing. :)
Leroy Anderson donated his time and conducting skills to help out our then fledgling Stamford (Ct.) Symphony. As a thank you we did a whole second half of his music with him conducting. He lived in a modest house in Norwalk, Ct. and was as nice as could be. He told me he wrote all his music so High School bands and orchestras could play them.
"He told me he wrote all his music so High School bands and orchestras could play them. "
That's amazing inside information. I've noticed that the list of composers to choose from is people with appealing and strong personalities that come through in their music. Anderson, definitely. I think so much is easy to hide behind orchestration, almost any work or section can come across as at least "ok", you know? But Anderson isn't a victim of that. I was glad to see Foster get a vote or two also, for similar reasons. When you distill everything down to lyrics and melody, if you can pull that off then you're brilliant, there's no way to argue. I think people are thrown off by scale sometimes, or other things that really shouldn't necessarily factor in to evaluating the thing. THat's why I argued with someone here that it's at least as hard, possibly harder, to write a great song than a great symphony.
Ruth Seeger, definitely. Transcribed folk music meticulously for the Library of Congress and without her, Copland's most familiar music wouldn't exist. I've seen her called the greatest female American composer.
For next 4th, put up something by Thomas Jefferson. I heard he wrote some string quartets or something. Would be interesting to hear.
Great idea for a vote! All of these are remarkable composers, for sure, and I love several. But only one made it onto my quartet's CD, along with Mozart, Bach and other favorites: Anderson. I believe his life is heroic for all of us who love music, specifically instilling this love in the lives of students through his compositions. What better way to carry our tradition forward than by inspiring our youth. If you aren't familiar with his work go find a 101 Strings recording of Blue Tango, or listen to my quartet's on CDbaby. Anderson is totally unpretentious and from the heart which is why I believe his music is loved by young and old alike.
Well, you could vote obvious or you could vote good. My vote goes to Steve Reich basically because his Music for 18 Musicians is the best piece to come out of the states in the last 50 years, IMO!
Hey Laurie, what a great clip of Stavinsky conducting the Firebird. Such authority and focus. My personal favourite is Petroushka. Apparently Stravinsky hated the Karajan recording I have - which I love! The section where the orchestra sounds like a harmonium is spine tingling.
I don't know about Thomas Jefferson, but there is a string quartet (for three violins and cello) attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It was written with all four instruments using scordatura tuning, tuned in such as way that that the whole piece could be played entirely on open strings, enabling amateurs with no previous string experience to play it after a simple explanation about note values and which line (or space) related to which string to be played.
BTW, he also invented the glass harmonica, an instrument which Mozart (and also members of the French Court) fell in love with. Unfortunately, when the French Revolution came about, the peasants considered the music decadent and, by some, even Satanic, so the instrument was relegated to become only a footnote in history.
I would also add Randall Thompson to the list (his Testament of Freedom is a wonderful 4th of July piece).
I found something that I chopped out for someone else once, that might be interesting. 12 seconds of fair use, I would claim. It's from Italian Suite. At 6 seconds or so, what I hear personally is a dominant "turnaround" in the piano, taken directly from black gospel music. It's uncompressed, so if it won't stream right, just click play again on your player after it's finished the first time, and it'll play without any breaks then.
Greetings, Ray, I`m so glad oyu mentioned Ives. I worked on and performe din his 4th symphony as a lad and it wa sone of the most disturbing and interesitng muscial experiences I have ever had. A flawed but brilliant masterpiece. Cheers, Buri Not forgetitng the violin sonatas. I think there are four althouhg they may be breeding.....
It doesn't matter, because it's only academic. The link I put up, it only has one hit on it, which confirms my belief that no one honestly likes this stuff enough to listen to it anyway, behind closed doors.
When I was in school the story circulating between students was Ives was an insurance salesman. Over here we play up humble beginnings. Reading his bio online, I see he was more like owner of the company and wealthy enough to be a philanthropist. Lincoln was born in a log cabin, but the cabin was on about a million acres of land his family owned. Even Jesus, everybody thinks he was a humble carpenter's son, but I read somewhere that it was more like a construction company owner. Don't know how they got that information.
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