Date of Submission
My two concerts, A Prelude to Modernism and Rhapsodies in Red, White and Blue trace German, Russian and American nationalism in the 20th century. As an artist, I feel that it is imperative to see the connection between history and its subsequent art. The 20th century has brought the world corrupt leaders, wars and endless stereotypes. Through my research and performance, I illustrated the crisis of artistic and national identity through art songs.
A Prelude to Modernism
On the brink of two world wars, turn of the century Europe flourished with art, music and culture from across the continent. In the music world, composer’s exhausted tonal harmony and visual artists moved towards abstraction. Art of the Weimar Republic
went through a sexual revolution, heightening Berlin to the cultural center of Europe. In Russia, paintings of Monet and Manet hung in the Hermitage, and the music of French, German and Russian composers could be heard at the Bolshoi. My first senior concert features artists who struggled on holding onto ‘classical’ sentiments while experimenting with tonality. The program blends ‘isms’, that being Romanticism, Neoclassicism, and Modernism from Russia and Germany, two countries on the brink of political and social destruction. All the composers on tonight’s program struggled with writing music that was modern, while still holding onto Western music conventions. Composers like Richard Strauss succeed in writing that appealed to both sentiments, while Rachmaninoff stayed in the tradition of his mentor, Tchaikovsky. For A Prelude to Modernism, I have selected music that illustrates the conflict between tradition and modernity.
Rhapsodies in Red, White and Blue
I would like to introduce my second concert, Rhapsody in Red, White and Blue by picking up from my first concert, A Prelude to Modernism. In Europe, the 20th century heralded a crisis of national identity. The conventions of Western Harmony had been exhausted, and many composers struggled with holding traditional ideas in a radically changing art world. With the rise of fascism, communism and Nazism in Europe, dominant European artists, such as Schoenberg, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Hindemith fled to the United States. In California, the European masters of the late 19th and early 20th century were living next to American movie stars. As European composers began to re-asses their art music, American composers sought create their own musical identity. As a country, our popular musical forms are an amalgamation of other musical idioms that reach the extremes of sacred European music to African folk music. In the early 19th century, American composers began writing music that deviated from the European model. The most notable of these maverick composers was William Billings, who wrote sacred music meant to be performed by the people. The other major American composer of the 19th century was Gottschalk, Louis Moreau Born in Louisiana, Gottschalk’s music drew heavily upon the Creole culture. Intrigued by the exotic, European audiences appreciated the novelty of his work.
Today, the United States rivals all of Europe with our musicians, concert halls and opera houses. Unlike all of Europe, our ‘golden age’ of art music is very recent. Rhapsodies in Red, White and Blue traces the history of American art music in the 20th century. My second program highlights the early to mid 20th century development of the American sentiment, both emotionally and compositionally. The featured works draw influences from distinctly American musical forms, such as hymns, jazz, blues and popular song, which are tied together with a uniquely American sense of nostalgia.
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DeMartin, Leslie Anne, "'A Prelude to Modernism' and 'Rhapsodies in Red, White and Blue'" (2011). Senior Projects Spring 2011. 310.