AMERICAN EXPRESSIONIST COMPOSERS
FROM IVES TO CARTER
By Victor Magnani
From our vantage point nearing the close of the twentieth century, one may look at American Music and view the various currents which helped to define the music of our century. I would propose that three broad currents can be identified and, while I resist pigeon-holing artists, would suggest that most American composers can be placed in one of these three categories. The first current I would identify as Mainstream. This would include those composers who did not abandon tonality and would include, but by no means be limited to, those who consciously used Americana as source material for their work. Also included in this category would be those composers who followed the Neo-Classical or Neo-Romantic paths. Most visible in this category would be Aaron Copland, followed by Roy Harris, Samuel Barber, Walter Piston and the like.
The second broad current which has existed throughout 20th century American musical life I would call Experimental. This, as would be expected, has taken a variety of forms. It may be exemplified by composers like Edgard Varese, Henry Cowell, Conlon Nancarrow, Harry Partch, and John Cage, and may be expanded to include minimalists such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and LaMonte Young. It may be seen today in works of "Downtown" composers like John Zorn. These composers, while all extremely different, share interests in reevaluating the basic materials of what make up a composition, in investigating sound in and of itself, in a desire to free music from what they considered to be outmoded means of expression, to reflect in music the sound of an increasingly industrialized society, and to explore at the most basic levels pitch (micro-tones, clusters) and rhythm (for example Cowells' inventing a new notation for various sub-divisions of the beat into smaller and/or uneven units). This led many of these composers to novel use of percussion instruments (Partch went so far as to invent his own), to electronic means of realizing the sounds they sought (Varese), to mechanical means of producing their compositions (Nancarrow), and to a type of "conceptual" music where the idea behind the piece is as important, or even more important, than the piece itself (Cage).
The third broad current I would define as Modernist. Of course an argument could be made that all music written in the Modernist era should be called modernist, but I have in mind a somewhat narrower definition of Modernism. I would consider those artists who sought to expand upon the achievements of those early twentieth century artists who helped to define Modernism ( James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, T.S. Eliot in literature and poetry, Kandinsky and Picasso in painting, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg in Music1) in an evolutionary way, rather than a revolutionary way as is the case with Experimental artists, or some type of avoidance of the Modernist eruption as could be perceived to be the case with those in the Mainstream, as Modernists.
In American music I believe that this lineage begins with Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles, was continued by a much neglected group of "Ultra-Moderns" which included Wallingford Riegger, John Becker, Adolph Weiss, and Ruth Crawford-Seeger, and brought up to the present by a generation of composers who rejected the prevalent Neo-Classicism which dominated American musical life. This group would include Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, George Perle, and Elliott Carter, among many others. What these composers share is an interest in building upon the modernist foundation which they inherited. In music new harmonic, melodic and rhythmic procedures marked the beginning of the century. What these composers did was to take these innovations as their starting point and try to further the language of music, while still expressing the world in which they found themselves.
This division may be seen as an oversimplification, as I believe any categorizing of this type must be. Throughout their careers, individual composers they have gone through stylistic metamorphoses, or gradual evolutions, which would straddle these various categories. For instance Copland began his career as something of a dissonant modernist, with his First Symphony (originally Symphony for Organ and Orchestra) producing quite a scandal at its premier2. Even after his great successes with the Americana ballets Appalachian Spring, Rodeo and Billy the Kid, he returned to his modernist roots in late works which used twelve-tone technique in a highly personal way, including Connotations and Inscape. Composers such as Virgil Thompson held essentially experimental ideals or aesthetics (evolving out of Satie and Dada), but composed in what sounds like a fairly traditional, mainstream idiom. Also, a number of composers who I would identify as Modernist, most especially Sessions and Carter, began their composing career as Neo-Classicists and gradually evolved out of this style into their mature, Modernist idioms.
What this paper will chiefly concern itself with is a specific branch of the Modernist movement in American music, which developed a peculiar brand of Expressionism. It developed in part parallel to and in part directly out of the early Expressionist works of Arnold Schoenberg. The roots of Expressionism in Europe will be discussed, as well as contemporary developments in the U.S.. The ways in which Schoenbergian Expressionism and American Expressionism are similar or dissimilar will be explored. The lineage of American composers who could be identified as Expressionists will be traced from Ives to Carter, with the music of Elliott Carter being looked at in some detail. I would exclude from this group those composers who pursued integral serialism, or similar arbitrary systems, as ends in themselves, as this presents a type of structuralism somewhat at odds with the communicative concerns and faith in intuition characteristic of Expressionism. It is for this reason that Babbitt and Perle, who I have already mentioned, and many others who I have not but who followed similar paths, receive no detailed treatment.
I Roots of Expressionism in Europe
Developments Outside of Music
It is perhaps a foolish notion to think that the turning of a page on a calendar can mark a difference in epochs in the history of mankind. It would also be foolish, however, to try and deny that as the world left the 19th century and entered the 20th, that fundamental changes were not occurring in every phase of human life. The demarcation of eras is not so simplistic as stating that the 19th century ended on December 31, 1899 and the 20th century began on January 1, 1900. Yet in the last years of the 19th century there were seeds being planted which, in the earliest years of the 20th, would bear remarkable fruit. Nowhere can this be demonstrated better than in the arts.
If one were to turn to the visual arts, and important developments in the last decades of the 19th century, one would come upon the work of the impressionist painters Manet, Monet, Renoir and Degas. These artists were exploring new uses of color and light which would have profound affects on the generation which followed. They also found new subjects for their paintings in the dance halls and cafes which were part of their lives. In these paintings, extremely gay and frivolous scenes are explored, as well as the sometimes dark and despairing melancholy of the characters found in them.
The post-impressionist painters, including Van Gogh, Gaugin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Munch, became more interested in exploring what they perceived to be the "spiritual ills of Western civilization"3 at the close of the 19th century. Van Gogh, in particular, in seeking to free his painting from conventional methods in order to more adequately express his emotions, was an important forerunner of expressionism.
Somewhat later, after the turn of the century, other artists also felt the need to renew spiritual concerns in their art, and to turn away from what they perceived to be a decidedly decadent society. They sought to reinvigorate their art through contact with primitive and folk art, childrens art, and exotic (namely African and Asian) art4. The most important of these artists was Russian born Wassily Kandinsky.
Kandinsky was able to free his painting from representational images, using only form and color to produce works of intense expressive content. Kandinsky's aim was to bring to painting the degree of abstraction inherent in music, "to improvise in colours and forms and to express (himself) as only the musician5" had been able to before. To illustrate the connection with music, Kandinsky often named his paintings simply "Composition" with a number, reinforcing the notion of abstraction inherent in his images.
Kandinsky was greatly concerned with constructive elements in his paintings, and was an important "color theorist6". He was a teacher of great renown, being a central figure at the Bauhaus. He also was actively involved in promoting the cause of his artistic and spiritual goals, editing Der Blaue Reiter Almanach7, which included articles on music by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, and writing Concerning the Spiritual in Art, where he explains that it is his goal in his art to recapture the "internal truth which only art can divine" and which will be the "spiritual food of the newly awakened spiritual life"8.
With Kandinsky, we arrive at the true beginning of Expressionism. Expressionism as an early 20th century artistic movement was largely centered in Germany and Austria.
In German literature it was Thomas Mann who was probably closest to the Expressionists in his work. Born in 1875 to a German father and Portuguese-Creole mother, Mann's art was influenced by the contrasting characteristics of his hard-working north German father and his passionate, dreamy, vital southern European mother9. His art is characterized by "deliberateness, painstaking elaboration, and attention to structural relationships" which produce in his work "a satisfying sense of carefully constructed psychological contours10". Mann, like Kandinsky, concerned himself with what he perceived as Europe's spiritual crisis, a theme central to Expressionism.
A concern for the spiritual, a desire to expand the boundaries or available techniques to be better able to express emotions, and an overriding concern with the structural elements of art, and a trust in intuition and the instinct of the artist are some of the basic characteristics of Expressionism. These concerns can be witnessed in the works of Expressionist composer Arnold Schoenberg as well, particularly in those works composed between 1908-1920. Before turning to Schoenberg, it would be advantageous to set the stage, to examine the climate in music around the turn of the century, to look at which composers led the way for Schoenberg and the atonal revolution of Expressionism.
Composers, as well as painters and writers, were aware that the world was fundamentally changing toward the end of the 19th century. Their music in turn was changing as well. The Romantic movement, which stemmed from late Beethoven and reached straight through till the beginning of the 20th century, was bursting at the seams. Gradually, Hyper-Romanticism, an overexageration of Romantic tendencies, was becoming the norm. Pieces were getting longer, orchestras required were getting larger, some composers (Bruckner comes to mind) could be accused of being overambitious in their aims. Four seminal figures in music can be seen as the key to the transition from Romanticism, or Hyper-Romanticism, to Expressionism. They are Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Alexander Scriabin11.
Wagner, by stretching tonality to the breaking point through his consistently chromatic vocabulary, and his use of unprepared dissonance, provided composers who followed him (particularly Schoenberg) with an example of how music could exist beyond the bounds of key centered tonality. Wagner's interest in man's primitive beginnings, his desire to stress form over content and emotion over meaning also foreshadow expressionist concerns12.
Strauss used a harmonic language that at times bordered on atonality to express disturbed psychological states of extreme tension in his operas Salome and Elektra13. Most of Strauss' subsequent music would recoil from the emotional extremism of these works, and anticipated the Neo-Classical movement in its cooler emotional atmosphere14.
Mahler's contributions to the evolution of Expressionism includes his introduction of autobiographical elements in his works, introduction of intentionally banal or ugly passages, use of dissonant counterpoint, large melodic leaps, and dense textures some of which seem to involve superimposition of different music15 (something that would become typical of Ives and later Carter).
Among the elements of the legacy which Scriabin brings to expressionism are his unification of harmony and melody (his chords are sometimes based on piled up melodies, his melodies on dissolved chords), his condensation of forms, and his rejection of tonality16.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) began his composing life in an entirely traditional idiom, witness the early and un-numbered String Quartet in D Major. He gradually fell under the spell of those composers who seemed at that time to represent the twin pillars in the art of music, Brahms and Wagner. From Brahms he absorbed the way he would extend or abbreviate phrases, stretching them across bar-lines; and his ability to develop figures continuously. From Wagner he learned how to expressively manipulate themes, and how to build themes that would yield to this type of treatment; and how to view themes and motives as complex ornaments, and how to then use them against harmonies in effectively dissonant settings17.
Once Schoenberg had assimilated these principles from his predecessors, his music began to grow in expressive scope. His earliest well known pieces show the influence of Wagner most obviously. Early works such as the string sextet Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night) Op.4, the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande Op.5, and the massive Gurre-Lieder are prime examples. With his Chamber Symphony Op.9 a transition is beginning to occur. Here chords built on the interval of the fourth become the basic harmonic element of the piece, thereby undermining any traditional sense of tonality.
Beginning with the Second String Quartet Op.10, the third movement specifically, his music can no longer be analyzed with any reference to traditional harmonic motion. He had crossed the line and ventured into the world of atonality. This piece began a series of revolutionary expressionist masterpieces which changed the world of music forever. This group of pieces includes the Three Piano Pieces Op.11, The Book of the Hanging Gardens Op.15, Five Pieces for Orchestra Op.16, the monodrama Erwartung Op.17, the piano miniatures Six Little Piano Pieces Op.19, and Pierrot Luniare Op.21.
Rene Leibowitz stressed that the most essential accomplishment of Schoenberg, basic to his liberation from tonality and subsequent development of twelve-tone technique, was his reactivation of polyphony18. By this phrase Liebowitz is referring to Schoenberg's practice of making all the voices in a composition thematically related. There is no mere accompaniment, everything is thematic. There had been something of a dearth of counterpoint during the Romantic era, the most common texture being theme and accompaniment. Schoenberg sought to restore polyphony to its place of prime importance, making a contrapuntal texture the norm. Liebowitz identifies the beginning of this development in Schoenberg's language as Pelleas und Melisande, a work still clinging to tonal practices. Liebowitz goes on to suggest
that polyphony, since its very beginnings, has tended to formulate a compositional method which, beginning with an initial motivic cell (or basic musical idea), succeeds in constructing a work of rich and abundant musical invention from nothing but the varied developments of this initial cell19.
While this passage describes the works under consideration, those up to Op.21, it is clear that this conception led Schoenberg directly to the formulation of twelve-tone theory, the initial cell being replaced by the series.
A closer examination of one of the seminal expressionist works, the Five Pieces Op.1620, will illuminate many important points. It is a well documented fact that Schoenberg only titled the individual movements of this work at the request of his publisher21. Schoenberg felt that a sensitive listener would understand what the pieces were saying without needing recourse to 'programmatic' titles. He chose titles purposefully vague, or merely technical, so as not to interfere with the pieces expression.
However, the titles that he did attach to the pieces do, at least in some way, point to their expressionist intentions. The first piece is titled "Premonitions", telling us that the piece has to with an ominous psychological state of mind, a sense of anxiety pervades the movement. The second piece was named "Yesteryears", bringing the function of memory into play. It should be noted that Schoenberg was from Vienna, which was also home to Freud, whose ideas would not have been unknown to Schoenberg. The third piece bears the title "Summer Morning by a Lake (Colors)". "Colors" falls under the category of technical titles, since the piece is concerned with gradual changes in orchestration. "Summer Morning by a Lake" is anything but technical, but rather serves to call attention to the Expressionists interest in nature. Schoenberg, by naming the piece thus, was drawing attention to the idea that he tried to capture the delicate play of light and color as reflected in the water of a lake in this musical landscape. It helped to point out that in what might appear to have been a purely technical piece, there were essential expressive concerns as well. This is an example of the Expressionists emphasis on constructive elements, but always in the service of their expressive goals. The fourth piece is "Peripeteia", referring to the sudden and unexpected changes from one tiny fragment to another during the course of the movement. This type of discontinuity and fragmentation is typical of many expressionist works, thematic connections being stretched to their limits. In this movement we are presented almost with a type of stream-of-consciousness exposition of the materials. The fifth and last movement is titled "The Obligatory Recitative", descriptive of the continuously spun out melodic material, constantly varied. That the desire to avoid literal repetition was becoming a paramount concern to Schoenberg is evident from this movement.
Now I will turn to a brief discussion of some technical, as well as aesthetic details, in the individual pieces. In "Premonitions" various motivic cells (to borrow Liebowitz' phrase) occur in the foreground, often thrown into relief by effective orchestration. In the background there are a number of elements which are of great importance, for instance the long held chord in bass clarinet and bassoons beginning at measure 26. Throughout this piece sonority is used as an essential building block. The sound of the low woodwinds, flutter tonging in the winds and brass, cellos and double basses having important melodic material in their extreme upper register to give the phrases a straining quality, sliding chromatic chords in winds and brass beginning at measure 68 which combine to give a dense blur to the music, all of these are timbral elements which are inextricably intertwined with thematic materials and make up the very core of the piece. The piece also makes effective use of ostinato, especially in the strings from measure 26. This ostinato material then becomes thematic material and is thrust into the foreground at measure 57.
One point that I would like to bring out - Schoenberg is often taken to task for a lack of rhythmic invention, especially when his music of this period is compared with Stravinsky's of the same time. In this piece, though it makes use of relatively simple ostinato patterns, it does so with extraordinary subtlety. The meter at the start of the piece is 3/8. When the strings begin their ostinato at m.26, it is written in 4/8 meter, but fit in the time of a 3/8 measure, thereby setting up a 3:4 polyrhythm. This string ostinato then dissolves to a repeated three note phrase which continuously crosses the bar line in the 4/8 meter. This kind of crossing the bar line with ostinatos is utilized throughout the movement to great effect, and points to a rhythmic subtlety that is often overlooked.
In this piece Schoenberg also makes use of canonic technique to help achieve the wonderfully dense textures from m.63. From m.63-68 oboe, English horn and clarinets play phrases which are answered at the fifth at the distance of one eighth note in the horns. The double bass phrases from m.68 are answered by either bassoons or horns, the chords in the winds plus trumpet are answered (sometimes in inversion) by trombones from m.68-75, and the extremely high melody in piccolo, flutes and Eb clarinet is answered by two trumpets in unison. All of these canons going on at once contribute to the build up to the climax at m.77, a triple forte chord struck on the downbeat which crescendos in flutter tongue horns, tuba, trombones and bassoons. This immediately dissolves into a flutter tang chord in bass clarinet and bassoons (the same chord as m.26) trombone and tuba. At m.79 all this activity peaks the gong crash sets the whole piece into motion again as the piece lurches towards its conclusion.
The second piece, "Yesteryears" has a lazy, nostalgic quality, gentle orchestral colors as instruments are used in their quietest ranges, and hushed dynamics that serve to suggest a hyper-sensitivity on the part of the person (presumably the composer, but also the listener) who is looking back on their past.
The third piece is a study in "Klangfarbenmelodie", tone-color melody22. This piece may be viewed as Schoenberg reaction to Kandinsky's theories of color, in a musical piece. To sustain a piece of 264 bars with but the slightest melodic activity, to give primacy to the expressive qualities of orchestral color, can be viewed as representative of the Expressionists desire to constructively control their materials, and to approach in music the non-representational aspects which Kandinsky had brought to painting.
"Perpeteia" is the polar opposite of the previous piece. Here, all we are offered is glimpses into a phantasmagorical world where we are perfectly still and at rest one moment, then rushing to catch our breath the next. An unstable mind seems to be represented in this piece, one which flickers in and out of reality.
In the final piece of the set Schoenberg is approaching a-thematicism, a concept which would be tossed around, built upon slightly by Webern, but more or less abandoned. In "The Obligatory Recitative" it seemed that Schoenberg had pushed thematic connectedness as far as it would go. In the Op.19 piano pieces he resolved this by limiting the scope of his pieces, writing only very short works. That this was not an acceptable path for him is evident by his turning to literary models, using the poetry as form engendering material in Pierrot, used sometimes in conjunction with strict contrapuntal forms. Eventually his dissatisfaction with means of constructing his works would lead him to twelve-tone technique.
With the formulation of twelve-tone theory came the adoption of traditional structures. This is evident in the Piano Suite Op.25, and the Wind Quintet Op.26. This was also accompanied by a certain emotional restraint, a turning away from the emotional excesses of Expressionism. This phase of Schoenberg's career is often referred to as his Neo-Classical period. While none of his pieces of the years between World Wars sound remotely like Stravinsky's Neo-Classical works, the use of traditional forms and their more subdued emotional scope make this an apt description. It wasn't until much later that Schoenberg again would achieve in his work the emotional intensity that characterized his Expressionist masterpieces. Pieces such as the String Trio Op.45 and Survivor From Warsaw Op.46 recapture the fervor of the early Expressionist works.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that the years of Schoenbergs Expressionist creations border the two World Wars. After WWI a certain pulling back on the emotional reigns occurred in all aspects of society and the arts. That the atrocities of WWII and the changes thrust upon Europe in general, and upon Schoenberg in particular (he was forced to flee Germany) should bring an emotional urgency back to his music does not seem surprising. After the devastation brought about by the Second World War, that Schoenberg should again begin to ask important spiritual questions, and to do so that he would return to an Expressionist style, so tied in with spiritual concerns and mankinds need for spirituality, seems only logical.
II Concurrent Developments in America
As the 20th century began, the United States was witnessing vast changes just as was Europe. Colonial, rural ways were giving way to an industrialized, metropolitan way of life. Artistically, America was trying to come of age, trying to throw off the shackles of European traditions and find ways to create indigenous art works that would reflect the realities of American life.
Charles Ives, born in Danbury, Connecticut in 187423, (he died in 1954) was able to witness first hand this shift from the 19th to the 20th century. Son of a village bandmaster, Ives absorbed the American vernacular musical tradition firsthand. Later, his education at Yale, including studies with Horatio Parker, one of the leading American composers of his day, exposed him to the cultivated tradition of European Classical music in a thoroughly conventional way. Throughout his composing life, Ives would draw upon both the cultivated and the vernacular traditions he knew so well, making reference to both as he produced works that expressed the complex and at times contradictory world he found himself in.
Ives earliest surviving works reflect his conventional training, his First Symphony, First String Quartet, and many of the early songs later published in 114 Songs are all fairly traditional works. Gradually Ives began to incorporate more and more of the experimental ideas which his father had introduced him to as a boy into his compositions. His later works demonstrate how he would use these new resources to explore complex emotional, psychological, and philosophical issues in his music. In works like the Holidays Symphony, Three Places in New England, Second String Quartet, and Piano Sonata No.2 (the Concord Sonata) Ives was able to use his radical techniques to express both nostalgia for the vanishing innocence of the 19th century, as well as a unique type of Transcendental optimism for the 20th.
Choosing to live his life as a businessman rather than try to make his music cater to public taste, Ives spent almost his entire creative life working in relative isolation. He would find his most important inspiration not in the music of his contemporaries, but in the writings of the New England Transcendentalists, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. That his isolation may actually have aided Ives to forge his highly individual style, forcing him to "step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away24" is certainly a plausible notion. That these writers, more than any musician ever could, taught Ives how to speak with a truly American voice, to express the multiplicity of American life, the totality of American life, the unique beauty in both the coarse and the refined aspects of American life, cannot be disputed25. Ives relationship to Expressionism as an aesthetic movement is not as direct as that of the other composers discussed here, but it exists quite certainly none the less. Many writers have commented on the Expressionistic aspects in Ives music. Crawford and Crawford have identified his weaving of all experience from the sublime to the ordinary into his compositions, his belief in the ethical value of his music, his interest in new constructive elements but avoidance of rigid schemata, and most importantly his absorption with the philosophical-spiritual aspects of music26 as explicitly Expressionistic characteristics. Elliott Carter, in an article entitled "Expressionism and American Music" comments on the closeness in thinking between Ives and the European Expressionists27. A look at some of the works themselves will make the relationship clear.
The work for which Ives is probably best known is his Piano Sonata No.228, sub-titled "Concord, Mass., 1840-60". Each of the four movements of the work bear the names of individuals who were active in Concord during those years. The first movement is named for Emerson, the second for Nathaniel Hawthorne, the third for the Alcotts, and the fourth Thoreau. The four movements bear at least a surface resemblance to the traditional movements of a textbook Sonata. I will examine the Emerson movement, and try and discern in what ways it could be called Expressionistic.
When one looks at the first page of this extraordinary score, it is immediately apparent that there is here a multiplicity, a denseness of texture, a rush of ideas spilling over one another, that cannot be contained in, nor explained by traditional methods. The movement is made up of alternating sections marked "Prose" and "Verse", the "Verse" sections being in a somewhat more relaxed, song-like style. There are few bar lines, as these would simply contradict the sense of flow that is so essential to the presentation of ideas. Multiple ideas are presented simultaneously, almost from the outset. Anyone who has read Emersons' essays will recognize a correlation between the density of his thought and the density of the musical texture in this sound portrait of the philosopher. If one were to look at a printed page from one of Emersons' essays29, one would even begin to see a visual correlation between his prose and Ives music. Often Emersons' ideas come to him in such a rush that he doesn't bother to sort them out and put them in tiny, compartmentalized paragraphs. Pages can go by with no break in paragraph, sentences being strung together, gaining in cumulative strength as they rush forward like the orations of an evangelical minister. Emerson wasn't about to slow down the flow of his ideas so that his reader might catch up with him, he knew that watering down his thought would do no one any good. Only by raising his reader up, carrying him along with the flood-tide of his insights, might he be able to offer a glimpse at the Transcendental nature of the things which he was trying to express.
So too, does Ives present his ideas, his impressions of Emerson. His ideas were too "big" to be contained in any one key, to be boxed into any traditional form, or even to be contained within the two hands of a pianist (Ives notes in the score that many of the chords are too complex for all of the notes to be struck at once, even though a roll is not indicated. Conceptually Ives wanted those things played that he knew were practically beyond reason).
There are many points of purely technical interest in this movement which will serve to illustrate similarities in method between Schoenberg and Ives, thereby reinforcing the argument that Ives should be considered an Expressionist, but a uniquely American one. Most obvious is the fact that Ives presents many melodic motives at once in a highly polyphonic texture. As was stated earlier, one of Schoenbergs' chief concerns was the reestablishment of the primacy of polyphony. Ives, in order to present the multiplicity and diversity of American life, often worked in a made use of polyphonic textures. That Ives conception of counterpoint or polyphony was different from traditional notions of counterpoint is obvious. Ives wasn't often interested in treating "subject and counter-subject" in contrapuntal manner (though he did have recourse to this type of traditional writing, as it makes an appearance in his Fourth Symphony, specifically the fugue movement which was in fact taken from material used in his First String Quartet). Rather he was interested in the juxtaposition of different musics, often pitting two elements, each of which would seem to be complete in and of themselves, in ways found in nature. This type of texture in Ives music is often attributed to his childhood experience of hearing two marching bands playing different tunes, coming from different locations, converging and the gradually diverging30. This is similar to Mahlers' conception of polyphony31. Mahler was previously identified as a forerunner of Expressionism, and this type of complex texture plays an important role, though in a much more controlled way, in the first of Schoenberg Five Pieces discussed earlier.
Emersons' prose flowed naturally, with a primacy of expression that would have made any type of editing, or going back and sorting out, weaken the force of his argument. Ives' music in this movement has the same type of flow, a quality of improvisation that seems implicit in the work. The Expressionists placed great value on this type of immediacy, trusting implicitly the role of intuition over rational thought. This is another point of convergence between Ives aesthetic, by way of Emerson, and that of the Expressionists.
By eliminating bar lines throughout many of the "Prose" sections of this movement, Ives is trying to convey visually the sense of freedom intended in what could be termed the prose rhythms in the music itself. The effect of this is similar to Schoenberg's stretching of phrases over the bar line to achieve a similar plasticity of phrase. No longer is there a strong downbeat functioning to anchor the music to a steady meter. The musical lines are allowed to rise and fall as they wish, without having to be subservient to an stifling, steady beat.
Another technical feature which Ives shares with Schoenberg, one that wasn't mentioned earlier, is the use of octave displacement. In the "Verse" section beginning on page 8 of the study score, a melody is presented once with all the notes conjunct, in the same register. As the melodic material is repeated, individual notes are transposed into different octaves, introducing wide interval leaps which are so characteristic of much Expressionist music.
To turn to another work of Ives which may help to illustrate his Expressionistic qualities, I will now discuss "from The Housatonic at Stockbridge", the third of the Three Places in New England32. This is one of Ives most psychologically compelling works, and an excellent example of his orchestral style. Inspired by the poem by Robert Underwood Johnson from which it takes its name, it can be viewed essentially as a song-without-words, a setting of the poem "sung" by various melody instruments. That this is so is made obvious by the fact that the piece also appeared in a version for voice and piano.
An essential element of Ives style is the layering or juxtaposition of different musics, as was mentioned before in discussing the polyphonic nature of his works, or different styles of music33. In this piece a simple, plaintive, somewhat melancholy and nostalgic melody is presented over an "accompaniment" which consists of extremely dense, complex music in the upper strings. This high string music is full of irregular subdivisions of the beat, varying subdivisions of the bar, phrases which cross the bar line, all over simpler, slower moving harmonies in the low strings. This music is almost meant not to be heard, the violins are marked with a dynamic pppp, each lower group of strings slightly louder, but none louder than mp. All of these complex materials are there to provide a background canvas for the melodic material to float above. We are presented here with two views simultaneously. That a sense of space is being evoked is evident from many of the markings in the score - the lower strings in the beginning are instructed to be loud "enough to throw upper strings into the background", melody parts have a footnote telling them to be "sufficiently loud" to throw the strings into the background as well, the piano part at letter D has a note instructing the player and conductor that the part was originally conceived for "two harps at a distance", secondary melodic figures are marked "as a distant sound".
The way Ives structures this piece (similar to Schoenbergs Op.16, No.1) is to gradually move elements from the background to the foreground by increasing their dynamic level, adding more and more parts as the piece goes along. What this does is give the piece a cumulative effect, the progress of the piece is concerned with just this kind of additive density of texture. Ives builds up an ever more complex polyphonic structure that seems ready to burst at the seams by the time it climaxes with a huge tutti chord, marked ffff at letter J. This chord is held with a fermata and marked non decresc. Suddenly, the chord is cut off to reveal a small body of strings holding a chord ppp, which had actually been sounding underneath the tutti, giving the impression that the quiet string music was there all along, even though it seemed to have been obliterated in the ensuing rush of activity. The effect is like a curtain suddenly being pulled away to reveal an immobile backdrop, forcing us to suddenly reconsider those events which had occurred in the foreground in a new light.
To turn momentarily to a discussion of Ives work in general, I would like to make the point that I don't feel that all of his works could be considered Expressionist. Many of his pieces were written as experiments, attempts to establish a new musical continuity which could contain his revolutionary ideas. These works would place him more in the category with the Experimental composers, rather than the Modernist / Expressionist composers. In fact, it is often just this aspect of his work which gets the most attention, his supposed anticipation of every important 20th century technique from poly-tonality, to atonality, to aleatoric techniques, to the use of quotation and collage, to use of quarter tones and tone clusters. As the veracity of these facts is called into question, his status as an innovator par excellence is in jeopardy. I do not find this aspect of Ives ouvre to be the most important part of his legacy, nor do I even find it truly the most interesting. I think that what he was able to achieve in a number of masterworks in the expressive realm, paving the way for generations of American composers to be able to reject European models of taste and refinement in favor of a truly American expression, is his greatest gift to music. His best pieces, the ones that are truly deserving of a place in the standard repertoire (or at least the standard 20th century repertoire) are ones whose aims and execution share many features with his European contemporary Arnold Schoenberg, and which can truly be considered Expressionist.
Ives formed no systems, swore by no theory, believed in intuition and the primacy of emotion, and never followed hard and fast rules in the composition of his truly important works, works composed for expressive rather than technical or experimental ends. He moved well beyond tonality but would revert to simple diatonic progressions when that achieved his expressive aims. To understand his music and how it is constructed one must be willing to view it with an open and unprejudiced mind. That one may find things that aren't there if one looks hard enough is apparent in one example which I will site.
I was fascinated when I read Allen Forte's analysis of a passage from Ives' Unanswered Question in his book The Structure of Atonal Music34. The passage made me think that Ives had secretly invented set theory and that it was functioning at some level in this piece. When I looked at the musical example which Forte had so eloquently explained in terms of "equivalent sets" I was shocked to see that it was simply a Bb and C# in the trumpet part, the first two notes of the "question", first over a G major chord in the strings, and then over an A minor chord in the strings. There is no way that I believe that this passage was conceived as anything other than a harmonically unrelated trumpet melody superimposed over diatonic chords in the key of G major. Trying to understand this in terms of set theory does absolutely no justice to Ives intention, and just serves to obscure what is actually going on in the score. That it is possible to explain it away with highly technical but rather obscure terminology, while ignoring the simple fact of what it sounds like, where the passages quoted come from and move on to, does not help further our understanding of the piece in any way. In fact, I consider it something of an injustice. This doesn't even take into consideration the fact that the trumpet and strings are only loosely coordinated in terms of rhythm, which makes Fortes' analysis something of a moot point. This analysis does not explain the way this piece is structured, but only serves to help make Fortes' point, not to understand Ives', which should be the goal of analysis.
Carl Ruggles (1876-1971) is chronologically of the same generation as Charles Ives, and because Ives and Ruggles found in each other kindred spirits, they are more often than not lumped together as the first important American composers of the 20th century (quite often they are joined by Varese to complete the triumvirate). While this is a tidy way to view American musical history of the early 20th century, it does not tell the whole story, nor does it do justice to Ruggles who deserves to be considered an important figure in his own right.
The most obvious characteristic which separates Ives and Ruggles is their attitudes toward finished works. Ives left many of his manuscripts in disarray, the only way they found their way to performance was through the valiant effort of a whole series of deeply committed editors. Ives kept music written throughout his life, and incorporated both very early and very late works in his collection of 114 Songs. Ruggles on the other destroyed all of his early works, and was diligent about refining, editing, and polishing his few completed works constantly in an effort to strive for perfection. Ives did not concern himself with trying to develop a consistent, coherent style, rather choosing to make the play of contrast of different styles the subject of much of his music. Ruggles developed a personal idiom, an instantly recognizable style, which is at work in all of his mature compositions.
Part of their differences can be explained by the circumstances of their creative lives. Ives, after early health problems, all but ceased to compose at a time when he should have been enjoying his greatest artistic maturity. Ruggles composed his works mostly after the 1920's, when he had made the acquaintance of the music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern35. He shared with Schoenberg an interest in the visual arts and was a talented painter as well as composer. Yet, his music is as unmistakably American as is the music of Ives, but it is more consistently Expressionistic.
Technical points which help to define Ruggles musical language are easy to identify - intense chromaticism, use of dissonant counterpoint, non-repetition of melodic tones until (usually) at least 10 different pitches have been sounded, wide melodic leaps but which are still in some sense vocally conceived, and frequent fluctuations of tempo (accelerando, ritardando, tempo rubato, etc.) to achieve a kind of "prose" rhythm.
In his short work for six muted trumpets Angels36, Ruggles uses subtle changes in tempo and careful use of dynamics to delicately balance tension and release, and to give this somewhat static homophonic texture a sense of motion.
In his work for orchestra Men and Mountains37, the typical texture is dissonant counterpoint. Dissonant counterpoint simply places dissonant intervals, minor 2nds, major 7ths, minor 9ths, on strong beats and treats consonances as passing tones. Elliott Carter has noted that much of Ruggles music is basically a two-voice texture, giving his music a sound which is thin yet intense, making it seem un-European and helping to identify as the work of an American38. In the first movement, Men, the wide melodic leaps are apparent as they weren't in Angels (probably because of the limits of a trumpet ensemble), giving this music an ecstatic quality that strives for mystical breaking of earthly bonds, a striving for something beyond, something transcendental39.
The second movement, Lilacs, is scored for strings alone divided into first and second violins, first and second violas, first and second cellos, and double bass. It is similar to Angels in that it makes extensive structural use of dynamics and tempo. The third movement, Marching Mountains, gives a clue as to the interconnectedness of all of Ruggles works. His acknowledged masterpiece is Sun-Treader, which will be discussed shortly. One important motive throughout Sun-Treader is the steady timpani strokes with which it opens. In the original published score to Marching Mountains cited earlier, there is no timpani. In the recorded version of this work40 however, the steady timpani strokes are there, just like the beginning of Sun-Treader. I am not certain whether this was a mis-print in the original edition, or as I suspect that these works were connected in Ruggles mind in some way, and in an instance of his going over and polishing his works, he added the timpani to enhance the connection.
Sun-Treader41 is Ruggles longest and most important work. Here the wide melodic leaps become the norm. The opening melody is spun out over 13 bars, seemingly wanting to stretch out to infinity. A salient feature in Ruggles music, and one in which he differs greatly from Schoenberg in his free atonal Expressionist phase, is the literal or near literal repetition of important material. In Sun-Treader, the music of the opening three bars, strongly characterized by the timpani strokes mentioned in connection with Marching Mountains, returns at important structural points, and to define a type of long range harmonic motion. At m.1 the timpani pedals on Ab, at m.169 it pedals on G, and at m.221 on F#. At m.225 the timpani pedals on C, filling the function that in traditional music would be the structural dominant. Then from m.230 there is a kind of coda with the timpani inverting its prior motion, pedaling on F at m.230, on F# at m.231, and on G at m.232, with a single E at the end of its phrase. Finally it resolves on F# in the last measures, m.239-241. This F# is the goal note all along, and it is carefully approached from both directions, from the E and from the Ab, with the C as a "dominant" (in this case actually a tri-tone away). The F# is doubled in the bass instruments, giving it the role of root, or tonic. It is approached from a C directly before, reinforcing C's function as quasi-dominant.
This piece has the yearning spiritual quality which is to be found in all of Ruggles music. Because of his consistent style, and his own statements concerning his aesthetic similarities with Schoenberg, Webern and Berg42, Ruggles can truly be considered a full fledged American Expressionist.
III The Next Generation
The years between World Wars are generally recognized as important ones for American music, with many important native composers enjoying their first successes. It seemed as if a uniquely American style was evolving out of Parisian modernism (thanks in no small part to the influence of Nadia Boulanger, the French musician who so many Americans traveled to Europe to study with), American Jazz, and rural folk music. The fifteen year span between 1925 and 1940 saw the production of such important and influential works as Coplands' Music for the Theatre, El Salon Mexico, and Billy the Kid; Virgil Thompsons' Symphony on a Hymn Tune, Four Saints in Three Acts, Filling Station, The River, and The Plow that Broke the Plains; and Samuel Barbers' Overture to A School for Scandal, Adagio for Strings, and First Essay for Orchestra. These pieces, and others like them, seemingly laid a basis for an American style which made novel use of (but was still undeniably tied to) tonality, drew heavily on Americana for inspiration, and had the potential of being appreciated by a large segment of the general public. Many of these composers were associated with the New York based League of Composers, an organization formed to help further the cause of American composers and American music.
Active at the same time, though not as well known and subsequently much ignored, was a group of composers who were more inclined towards the avant-garde. In an article entitled "Expressionism and American Music43", Elliott Carter identifies them as "ultramodernists", and includes among them Ives and Ruggles (though Ives had more or less ceased composing by this stage), Edgard Varese, Dane Rudhyar, Henry Cowell, Wallingford Riegger, George Tremblay, Leo Ornstein, John J. Becker, Adolph Weiss, and Ruth Crawford-Seeger. Many of them were associated with the International Composers Guild, something or a rival organization to the League of Composers. Much of the credit for disseminating their music must go to Henry Cowell who, as publisher of the periodical New Music, presented their compositions to the musical world at large, saving them from complete anonymity. That the intervening years have not been generous in terms of recognition and performances of their works is a sad testimonial to the apathy everywhere apparent regarding difficult but un-sensational works of art, which is so characteristic of American culture.
Varese and Cowell, while of prime importance to American music, share what I feel to be essentially an experimental approach to composition. Varese explored the nature of sound, and the ways that pure sound, divorced from traditional notions of melody and harmony, could be used to construct pieces. Cowell was voraciously interested in exploring every resource that presented itself to him. His landmark book, New Musical Resources44, presents innovations in rhythm which would have profound influence of later composers such as Carter and Conlon Nancarrow. It would not be fair to try and label either one an Expressionist, so I will not deal with them further.
Leo Ornstein, whose piano music seems to combine the experimental qualities and unconventional virtuosity of Cowell's radical piano music, with a Bartokian acidity in its pounding seconds, is most often referred to as a "futurist"45 and will not be treated subsequently. Dane Rudhyar combined an interest in Eastern thought with densely expressive textures to produce some remarkable works like Granites and Three Paeans46, both for piano solo. He gave up composing altogether for many years, devoting himself to the field of astrology47. He began composing actively again in the mid 1970's, when he was in his 80's. His music shares with the Expressionists a desire for spirituality, but has an Eastern sense of calm that creates an atmosphere never encountered in the works of true expressionists.
George Tremblay (1911-1982) studied with Schoenberg and made use of an individual approach to twelve-tone technique in his compositions. By harmonizing each note of the row with its own chord, he approached a type of serialized tonality with strong diatonic shadings48. His willingness to use octaves to emphasize important pitches, or to strengthen a particular line, sets him apart from other expressionists, for whom the octave was to be avoided the way the tritone was avoided in Medieval music. His music is of impressive breadth, and shares many features with the Neo-Romantics so much in vogue today. I would not be surprised if his music undergoes a renaissance, given the current aesthetic climate, that is supposing it gets some type of exposure, which unfortunately is highly unlikely.
Another Schoenberg student was Adolph Weiss (1891-1971). Weiss was primarily concerned with adapting the numerological aspects of twelve-tone theory to his expressive aims49. That he wanted to spread the influence of Schoenbergs' twelve-tone theory can be seen in the analyses which accompany his Six Preludes for Piano50. He identifies the tone-rows in the pieces, points out how various motives are derived from the row, or conversely how the row was constructed from various forms of an important motive, and identifies inversions, retrogrades, and retrograde-inversions of the original row. The pieces superficially resemble Schoenbergs' piano pieces Op.11 and Op.19, but like much of Weiss' music, retain a more traditional approach to line or melody than did the Viennese. This is most evident in Prelude XI, marked "Tempo di valse lente", which certainly has the ghost of Chopin haunting it.
John J. Becker (1886-1961) is best remembered as a sympathetic and understanding friend to Charles Ives51. The two had in common the experience of isolation; - Ives isolated himself from the world of professional musicians because his own views on music were at odds with seemingly everyone else's during the period of his most fervent activity; - Becker experienced isolation because he spent his life in the midwest, cut off from major metropolitan centers where musical activity flourished. Becker benefitted from Ives example and from his encouragement, and managed to produce a unique and interesting body of work. While he is often grouped together with Ives, Ruggles, Cowell and Riegger to form the "American Five", his work is the least known of the bunch. Like the other composers of this group, he benefitted from publication in New Music, and a remarkable group of works he called "Soundpieces" exemplify his originality. Soundpiece No.252 is a string quartet sub-titled "Homage to Haydn". In this piece Becker combines typical classical era textures (homophony, simple imitative counterpoint) and phrases with a dissonant contemporary harmonic idiom to produce a work which at ones glances affectionately towards the past, yet realistically at the present and towards the future.
Soundpiece No.553, is a short piano sonata which contrasts chorale like harmonies, with rapid arpeggiation. A second section or movement, marked "Like a Scherzo", makes arresting use of clusters in a repetitive setting which looks like a minimalist score (small one or two measure phrases have repeat signs predominate). This is followed by a fugue in three voices, and a D.C. (all the way back to the beginning of the piece) al Coda, the coda being a dense blur of four chords struck fff, with the pedal held down throughout.
One of Beckers' better known pieces is his Symphonia Brevis (Symphony No.3)54. The first movement of this two movement work is in A-B-A form. The A section has passages of repeated chords in sixteenth notes rushing to a climax. The B section has passages of two-voice counterpoint superimposed over chords built on the interval of a fifth, rising and falling chromatically. The A section is then repeated.
The second movement is slow and broad, with long arching lines and a dramatic build up to a climax. Dense homophonic sections built of six and seven note chords are contrasted with sections in simple two-voice counterpoint, or even simpler octaves. The movement is powerful in its simplicity and directness.
Ruth Crawford-Seeger (1901-1953) is without a doubt the first important woman composer that America produced. If she had written no works other than her remarkable String Quartet 193155 she would have been assured of a place in the history of American music. In this piece she was able to foreshadow serial techniques, fascination with abstract number systems, and organization of non-pitch elements such as rhythm and dynamics that would become stock in trade of hard-line serialists decades later, all serving to make this work the prophetic masterpiece that it is.
Throughout much of the first movement the instruments seem to proceed independently of one another, developing different rhythmic and intervalic motives, stretching the tenuous relationships to the limit, eventually causing the movement to simply dissolve rather than conclude.
The second movement by contrast is made up of closely related motives, which give the impression at times of a single line or single gesture distributed throughout the four instruments.
The third movement is a study in motionlessness. Dramatic pushes and pulls, tensions and relaxations, are achieved through the highly refined use of dynamics, rather than through any melodic or motivic development. The one climatic outburst at m.75 is all the more affective due to the lack of motion that had preceded it.
The fourth movement is most concerned with an abstract play of numbers56. The first violin is pitted against the other three strings in octaves in a two voice contrapuntal texture. The first violin begins with a one note phrase, followed by a two-note, three-note, and so on until a twenty one note phrase is reached at the mid-point. The other strings begin with a twenty note phrase, which is followed by phrases of 19, 18, and so on until, again at the mid-point, a one note phrase is reached. At the mid-point the processes reverse themselves, until the first violin ends with phrases of 3, then 2, then one note, and the other string end with phrases of 18, 19, and finally 20 notes. While this sounds cold and theoretical on paper, in an affective performance the movement rushes breathlessly by the listener, leaving one unaware of anything other than the most profound inspiration at work.
Her music, while not abundant, is always interesting, expressive, and rewarding to the attentive auditor and the analytical scholar alike.
To me, the saddest case of neglect is that of Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961). Rieggers' music is strong, profound, mystical yet earthbound, embodying the most important aspects of American life and thought in a way that was unique, and I believe truly important.
Riegger found his true voice after confronting Schoenbergs' twelve-tone technique. Never rigid about serialism, Riegger made use of the series as a liberating, as well as a constructive force. In his most important work, Dichotomy57, Riegger uses tone rows to generate themes, but not as determining factor for all pitch choices. Like Weiss, Riegger is anxious to expose the theoretical aspects of his music, labeling the two integral tone rows A and B, and painstakingly labeling their appearances in the score, whether in original, retrograde, inverted, or retrograde-inverted form.
Many writers have tried to explain just how the piece explores its "Dichotomy", just where exactly this dichotomy exists. Closest perhaps to the fact of the matter are the comments of Frederik Prausnitz, who states that
the "dichotomy" exists on several levels; most obviously in those of linear expressive and rhythmic-metrical character; but fundamentally on that of structure, where conflicts are explored and exploited without apparent intention or hope of resolving them.58
This notion of exploring conflicts but not trying to resolve them is a uniquely 20th century American perspective, and I feel it to be one of the key elements in the music of the American Expressionists. Apparent in Ives' clashing marching bands, implicit in the dissonant counterpoint of Ruggles, it would become the basis for Rieggers' individual style. Later, similar notions would be taken up by Carter, in the context of a much more complex musical language. America, it turns out, is not so much the melting pot that our forefathers were promised it would be, but rather a land where disparities in customs, in beliefs, and in values, is the norm. It is a country where transcendental idealism is balanced by crass commercialism, where the work ethic of Protestantism is offset by self indulgent hedonism. Riegger uses the frustration caused by these contradictions to generate a glorious fury59; he confronts the "dichotomy" head on, but realizes that to achieve a synthesis and bring his works to tidy conclusions would not be honest. There can be no resolution, no reconciliation. His pieces may shriek and stop, or leave the listener dangling at the edge of a precipice; there is often no sense of closure, no sense of completion for the listener. But Riegger knew that there were no answers to the questions he was asking60, and to tack merely "satisfying" conclusions onto works which were so concerned with contradiction and conflict, would be a dishonest reflection of the world he saw all around him.
Mention should be made of Rieggers' use of fugue and passacaglia forms in his large compositions. Dichotomy, is a prime example of this. After an opening section based on the contrast between linear statements of the tone row and syncopated chords, the central section of the piece concerns itself with fugal writing, and the great thrust at the end is propelled forward by a passacaglia. These strict forms never sound merely academic, but embody a grandeur that was an essential part to Rieggers' conception.
For one who is unfamiliar with Rieggers' music an excellent place to start would be New and Old, Twelve Pieces for Piano61. Riegger often wrote music in a simpler style for amateurs and students. What he has done in this piece is compose a series of intermediate piano pieces exploring different techniques used in modern music. Similar in intent, though smaller in scope, to Bartoks' Microcosmos, these pieces are a virtual primer to the works of the "ultra-moderns". The score is complete with explanations of each piece, one piece being constructed using only major seconds, one from a twelve-tone row, one from the inversion of the row, etc. The most instructive piece may be the one written in dissonant counterpoint, with a simple yet affective explanation of how to write dissonant counterpoint. These pieces are fairly interesting in and of themselves, and would make an excellent teaching tool, particularly for an introductory course to 20th century music.
Rieggers' Symphony No.3, Op.4262 has many points in common with Dichotomy, but in a more mature and subtle form. A greater mastery in the handling of materials is evident throughout the work. Perhaps because of the longer stretch of time the Symphony is concerned with than Dichotomy, or perhaps as a result of the improved craftsmanship, a certain level of frenzy, which exists almost throughout the course of Dichotomy, is not reached in the Symphony. The way, in the first movement, Riegger has running string lines punctuated at different interval by chords in the winds and the brass, is reminiscent of another texture which would become a familiar feature in the music of Carter.
Only one year after he composed his Third Symphony, Riegger again composed a work which would prove as gripping and as dramatic as Dichotomy. This is his Music For Brass Choir, Op.4563. Many American composers have been particularly attracted to the brass instruments, perhaps as a relic of memories of marching bands, perhaps because the sound of the Jazz big band has infiltrated the collective subconscious to become something of an American cultural icon, perhaps because the brass can best invoke the majesty of a large pipe organ. Whatever the reason, much interesting music has been written for brass ensemble, and many orchestral works benefit from outstanding brass parts. In this work Riegger moves from huge cluster chords which would not sound out of place in the work of the European textural composer like Penderecki, Ligeti and Xenakis; to plaintive, arching lines; to soaring counterpoint all in a brief 8 minutes, carrying the listener to glorious and noble heights.
I would just like to reiterate the fact that I find it appalling that Rieggers' work is not better known. This is work of honesty and power, great integrity and glorious emotional content. His Third Symphony belongs in the category of great American Thirds which includes Coplands', Harris', and Schumans'. Dichotomy is a work which belongs in the standard 20th century repertoire. His teaching pieces should serve as vital living models in American schools, rather than being confined to dusty library shelves. That this is not the case only speaks badly for the state of the musical world, not for the music of Wallingford Riegger.
While not all of the music produced by this group of "Ultra-Moderns" is of the first importance, nor is it all of truly high quality, it does deserve a special place in the history of 20th century American music. It is important because it is the connective tissue, the missing link if you will between that first generation of important American composers - Ives, Ruggles, and Varese -, and later composers like Sessions and Carter. Their work points to the fact that an undercurrent of Expressionism has been a vital component in serious composition in the U.S. throughout the 20th century. They point out that this line of musical thinking is represented by a continuity, a long and essentially unbroken lineage which, though it is often overshadowed by the work of composers either more mainstream or more experimental than they, is undeniably a representative essential statement of important aspects of the American experience.
IV Later Expressionists
Andrea Olmstead, surely the most informed writer on the life and music of Roger Sessions (1896-1985), does not feel that Sessions music should be categorized as Expressionism64. Elliott Carter, on the other hand, categorizes the music he wrote from about the year 1937 on as Expressionistic65. Technically it can be said that his music followed a definite path from "neo-tonal" beginnings, towards a uniquely tonic centered but free atonality, to a liberal and personal use of 12-tone technique. Stylistically, his music moved from a unique Neo-Classicism to an ever more daring and dissonant language. I am more inclined to agree with Carter and identify him, at least in his later periods, as an Expressionist. Sessions shares many traits with the other American Expressionist composers discussed here, - a deep spiritual concern (which in his case manifested itself in his faith in progressive political leaders), an interest in the constructive aspects of musical composition, and a willingness to embrace contradictions and not force them into uneasy resolutions.
Early works like the First Piano Sonata, and First Symphony, show the influence of Neo-Classicism most directly. Steady rhythms, clear tonal resolutions, and traditionally derived textures are all evidence of this trait. Gradually his music became more contrapuntal, more dissonant, and more individual. His set of short piano pieces called From My Diary66 show this transition most clearly. The texture is no longer predominantly triadic; rather intervals like 2nds, 7ths, and 9ths are becoming commonplace. Number 3 in the set, in its brief 11 measures, typifies Sessions music of this period with remarkable clarity. The piece is intensely chromatic and consistently dissonant, yet there are subtle hints at the remnants of tonality. The opening minor 9th, F#-G, seems to deny any sense of "key", yet when the motive D#-D natural-D# appears in the bass, it has something of the quality of major 3rd - minor 3rd - major 3rd of the key of B. The constant secundal clashes blur the sense of key, yet there are always elements which seem, even if only momentarily, to point to a tonal center. What makes this less obvious is the way Sessions has replaced anything resembling a tonic triad with the complex chord built of the two initial motives (F#-G, and D#-D natural- D#). This sonority, particularly the ninth F#-G, becomes a kind of "tonic" in this piece, serving the same function as would a traditional tonic. This is a feature of Sessions writing which remained consistent even after he adopted Schoenbergs 12-tone method.
One of his most important works, and one which I feel fully deserves to be considered as an Expressionistic work, is his Piano Sonata No.367. Written in 1964 and 1965, it reflects a turbulent and troubling time in American life, a time which would have profound repercussions to this very day.
This work is full of difficulties for the pianist, rapid passages which make wide leaps, rhythmic complexities (which never drift into the numerical abstractions so frequently found in other composers music of this period), and a consistently polyphonic texture. All of these complications are put to expressive ends; never is the listener forced to listen to arbitrary number play, like in so much American serialism.
The first movement opens with the interval of a minor third, F-Ab, in the right hand, followed by an A natural in the bass. This chord becomes the "tonic", reappearing at the end of the movement. The movement traces a kind of arch, the outer sections are calmer and quieter, the central section more active, marked animando, with violent outbursts which will return to play such an important dramatic role in the last movement.
The central movement of this three movement work is a scherzo of uncompromising intensity. Constant changes of meter keep the movement curiously off balance, giving it the feeling of rushing headlong towards some unknown destination (or perhaps away from some real or imagined terror). Only in the two short "trio" sections of this A-B-A-B-A movement is there any rest, any chance for performer and listener alike to catch their breath.
The third movement is marked Lento e molto tranquillo (In memorium: Nov.22, 1963). The movement was composed to commemorate the day the John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As mentioned earlier, Sessions found a source of faith and encouragement in progressive political leaders, and had obviously been touched by Kennedys' attempts to lead the country in a new direction. This movement begins mournfully, leads to an oppressive middle section, marked by a violent climax in crashing chords, and then returns to the material of the opening. However, this opening material is changed in meaning because of the experience of the middle section, just as the country was forever changed by Kennedys' assassination. America, especially in regards to domestic matters, lost its innocence after Kennedy was shot. Attacks of leading public figures became a part of the American way of life. A coldness and harshness pervaded the country, torn as it was by the war in Viet Nam, the Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union, and increasing domestic unrest and (later in the decade) outright rebellion. Sessions Sonata manages to convey many of these feelings, but there is no resolution, which under the circumstances in this case could only mean resignation. Rather, it seems as if his faith has been shaken but not broken. There is a very definite sense that the music pushes onward, just as the nation had to push on, despite the violence done to it in the middle section.
Sessions music retains many traditional features, throughout stylistic periods, such as a traditional conception of melody and line, traditional concepts of phrase structure where "main" thematic material is connected with "transitional" passages (but in a distinctively contemporary texture far removed from simple melody and accompaniment), and frequent use of A-B-A form. Yet he puts all these elements to the service of an expressive vision which dealt honestly with the changing world around him. His music concretely demonstrates his humanism, his faith that the human condition will improve if we have the courage and insight to develop and progress.
The last composer to be discussed here will be Elliott Carter (born 1908). It is my belief that Carter's music represents a culmination of the Modernist / Expressionist developments in American music in the 20th century. His music is of unheralded technical complexity, yet is so powerfully moving that one often has the sense of being physically overwhelmed after hearing one of his works. He writes exhilarating, exciting, disturbing, profound, enjoyable, complex, contradictory works which break new formal territory with unprecedented success. He has found, without recourse to rigid doctrine, truly new ways to put music together, to make it connect as it goes from one moment to the next, all the while making sure that his music is audibly comprehensible. He may write above his listener, but never, with careful and committed listening, beyond him or her.
Carter began his professional composing career, similar to Sessions, in the much accepted Neo-Classical style of the day. His studies at Harvard and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger had given him the technical tools needed to churn out professional scores, but with little individuality. His craft was assured, but his artistry had not yet evolved equally. By drawing upon the influence of his acquaintance Charles Ives, and by drawing inspiration from the visual arts, literature and philosophy, he was able to make a stylistic breakthrough which would usher in one of the most important periods in American music history. At the same time, the late 1940's and early 1950's, many painters including Mark Rothko and Arshille Gorky underwent similar metamorphoses68. In poetry Robert Lowell, a poet whom Carter was later to set, gradually drifted away from a highly polished and well respected but essentially conservative style of verse, and developed the confessional style, deeply concerned with confronting honestly the varied experiences modern life thrust upon the poet69. Lowell is an instructive comparison, for he did not want to abandon the formal complexity of his earlier work, but rather sought ways to invigorate it, confronting issues of free verse in the context of his carefully controlled, well constructed style.
Carters own breakthrough grew out of dissatisfaction with his own music written up to that point, as well as with the prevalent styles in serious composition. His re-thinking of the most essential concerns of music composition led him
to question all the familiar methods of musical presentation and continuation - the whole so-called musical logic based on the statement of themes and their development. In considering change-process-evolution as music's prime factor, I found myself in direct opposition to the static repetitiveness of much early twentieth-century music, the squared-off articulation of the neoclassics, and indeed much of what is written today in which "first you do this for a while, then you do that." I wanted to mix up the "this" and the "that" and make them interact in other ways than by linear succession. Too, I questioned the inner shape of the "this" and the "that" - of local musical ideas - as well as their degree of linking and non-linking. Musical discourse, it became obvious to me, required as thorough a rethinking as harmony had been subjected to at the beginning of the century70.
His interest in the notion of "change-process-evolution" as the prime factor in music may be related to his Harvard studies with the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead71. Whitehead did important work in the area of process philosophy, speculating that the world is constantly in a state of change, that reality is pure process. Whiteheads most important ideas are set forth in his work called Process and Reality72, taken from a series of lectures dating back to 1927-28. His ideas would help provide the liberating influence for Carter as he explored new musical continuities.
The most important influence on the music Carter was to compose after 1948, however was undoubtedly that of Charles Ives73. Carter had known Ives when he was a boy, one of his high school teachers had been an acquaintance of Ives', and introduced Carter to him in the 1920's. Carter knew first hand much of Ives music beginning around this time. While he would move away from it stylistically while writing in the neoclassical vein, it would be his eventual confrontation of it's perplexing complexity and seeming contradictions that would help serve as models for the kinds of music Carter wanted to write. He even did Ives the honor of quoting him in his First String Quartet (as he did Conlon Nancarrow as well).
The first work that bears the fruit of these new ways of approaching the problems of composition is the Sonata for Cello and Piano74 of 1948. In this work Carter explore new rhythmic possibilities suggested to him in part by the music of Ives, in part by the player piano music of Conlon Nancarrow, and in part by the abstract speculations about rhythm put forward in Henry Cowells' book New Musical Resources. The technique of "metric modulation" makes its appearance here for the first time in Carters work. This is a process where gradual changes in tempo are accomplished by taking one note value, say an eighth note triplet, and making it equal a different note value in the following measure, say a sixteenth note. Imperceptibly, the tempo of the music has changed, though in at least one part the notes are actually moving at the same rate of speed. This technique, as it was more fully explored, would give Carter new ways to relate whole sections of a composition by their relative speeds, and enable him to construct grand rhythmic schemes which would eventually lead him to new formal discoveries.
Also making an important contribution to this work is the notion that Carter built up the materials not by trying to smooth over the differences in character between the cello and the piano and achieve a kind of homogeneity as was the usual aim in classical duo sonatas, but rather to emphasize the differences between the two instruments, the difference between struck strings of the piano and bowed (or plucked) strings of the cello. The music grows directly out of the sonorous possibilities offered by the choice of instruments, their differences more than their similarities. Here we find again the American Expressionist trait of not trying to reconcile opposites, but to find ways of relating their differences that are honest and meaningful.
Directly out of this concern grows another important trait that would recur through Carters music which followed, namely the opposition of "clock-time", represented by rigid steady pulses, and "musical-time", represented by subtle, uneven, syncopated, or quasi-rubato phrases. The opening of the cello sonata presents this quite clearly, the piano ticking out regular quarter notes, the cello playing in a rhapsodic, almost improvisatory manner. This type of conflict and confrontation would come to acquire intense emotional significance in later works like the Piano Concerto and String Quartet No.3..
Another technique that makes its' first appearance in the piece is the use of a "circular" ending, an ending which seems to lead directly back to the opening of the work, creating a circle. The sonata ends with the cello "ticking" away in even note values, while the piano has more expressive, seemingly rubato phrases, in other words the roles from the beginning have reversed but the material has returned. This type of procedure was undoubtedly influenced by James Joyces' use of the technique in Finnegans Wake75, where the first sentence of the book begins seemingly in mid-phrase, and the last sentence ending mid-phrase calls back to the opening of the book, the first sentence actually completing the last sentence.
While the Cello Sonata presents many new techniques, it doesn't truly approach a new discourse, still involved as it is with themes and development. It is, in this respect, still an essentially neo-classical work. The true breakthrough work was the String Quartet No.176, composed in 1951.
An obvious clue that the work is exploring new formal territory is the title of the first movement, Fantasia. This eliminates any expectation of textbook "sonata-allegro" form, and makes apparent that we are listening to the free reign of Carters' imagination. The opening is somewhat reminiscent of the opening of the cello sonata, the cello playing expressive, rhythmically irregular phrases, the second violin playing steady pizzicato pulses. The steady pulses are no longer simple quarter notes however, but dotted eighth notes. As the other instruments enter they present more new material, the first violin has high expressive lines, the viola steady quarter note triplets. Obviously the texture is much more complex than in the Cello Sonata, because of the contrapuntal possibilities offered by the quartet medium. Different musical motives become associated with different metronomic speeds, which are superimposed to give the work a sound unlike that of any other quartet. The only other music which seems similar are the player piano studies of Nancarrow, which Carter knew and admired77. The music is no longer constructed with themes and developments, but rather characteristic intervals, speeds and textures are used as constructive elements. These materials are never used arbitrarily, but always to achieve a specific expressive result.
The other important innovation in this quartet is the way the movements are divided. Important to this quartet was the change from one type of music to another, the way of getting from slow expressive music, say, to fast, exciting music, being the whole point of the piece. Carter realized that the changes from one movement to the next were the crucial junctures in the piece, and rather than separate the movements by pauses, he has the movements elide one into the next. The piece has four movements, but only two pauses. Furthermore, these pauses occur in the middle of movements rather than at the ends of movements. This emphasis on the change from one state to another is essential to the power and novel expression of the work, and find parallels in both the philosophy of Whitehead and in the emphasis on "epiphanic" structure in certain works of James Joyce78.
In the Variations for Orchestra of 1954-55, Carter found ways of translating the complicated rhythmic and time concerns articulated in his chamber pieces, into a work for large orchestra. The metrical difficulties as they appear in the Cello Sonata, and String Quartet No.1 would have posed insurmountable difficulties for a large symphony orchestra, but Carter didn't want to revert back to a simpler style of expression. His solution was to devise ways to articulate accelerating and ritarding tempi that would be practical to perform with an orchestra, yet which also managed to express the type of continuities explored in the chamber works, and which seemed to him to be indicative of the way things happened in modern life. Variation 4 deals with ritarding tempi, and Variation 6 with accelerating tempi, in ways that were wholly novel at the time.
Also important to note in this work is Carters appropriation of Ives technique of layering different musics on top of one another. Quite often different sections of the orchestra appear to play different types of music which gain their meaning by the way they are superimposed, rather than through developmental procedures.
Carter has mentioned that in composing his Variations he was conscious of the summing up characteristic of many important works in the form, from Bachs' Goldberg Variations, to Schoenbergs' Variations for Orchestra, which try to consolidate and sum up the advances of the music of their era. Carter attempted, and achieved, much the same thing in his Variations. A parallel can be drawn to Part Three of Robert Lowells' Life Studies79, where he confronts his poetic father figures (Ford Madox Ford, George Santayana, Delmore Schwartz and Hart Crane) to come to terms with their contributions and put them in perspective so that he could create his own style out of their innovations.
Carters' String Quartet No.280 of 1959 presents the four players as distinct individuals, each with its own character, mode of expression, and pitch and rhythm materials. The form is created out of the dramatic interplay of the four "characters", their interactions and confrontations.
In the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras81 Carter demands incredible levels of virtuosity, particularly from the soloists and percussionists, to create whole new worlds of sound which grow out of the essential opposition of the timbres of the piano and harpsichord, and of pitched instruments and unpithced percussion. This work involves a much larger time-screen, with large polyrhythmic waves operating to give the work its structure.
The most important work that Carter has written, in my opinion, is his String Quartet No.382 of 1971. (A convincing argument could be made for his Concerto for Orchestra as well, but I believe that the importance of chamber music in his ouvre gives the advantage to the Quartet). Here the four strings are broken up into two duos, Duo I the first violin and cello, Duo II the second violin and viola. Duo I is instructed to play quasi rubato throughout, Duo II in strict rhythm. Each duo has its own set of movements, Duo I has four movements, Duo II has six movements. Each movement is associated with a characteristic interval. The movements aren't simply played in order, but are cross cut and superimposed so that each one of Duo I's movements is heard against each one of Duo II's. The resultant form is a complex mosaic which presents a musical continuity of unprecedented complexity and disarming beauty.
Carters' music must be heard as a continuum, not as a related series of moments but as a flowing totality. Time is the most essential element to these works, the way they exist in time, the way they move from one moment to the next, the way the materials are affected by what has come before and by what follows them. An appropriate tool for analysis is a time line. This offers the possibility of seeing the interaction of the materials, the way recurrence of material functions. This, too, only offers a one-dimensional understanding - regard for larger issues of pitch and harmonic structure are not addressed - but since time is most essential to the very fiber of the work, it is an adequate place to start.
In the time line for Carters' Third Quartet, I have shown the superimposition of movements of the two duos. Structural intervals for the various movements are shown, as are timings, in an attempt to give an accurate presentation regarding actual time (if one were to make all the measures equal, one would not take into account all of the tempo changes which are interwoven throughout the work). I have followed the precedent set forth in the score, with Duo II on top, and Duo I underneath.
In the years after the composition of the Third Quartet, years when because the natural affects of age one would naturally expect a decrease in his production, Carters' output has actually increased. These late works take full advantage of the innovations found in the earlier works, and show themselves to be wonderfully expressive accomplishments. Among the most important are the cycle of vocal works A Mirror on Which to Dwell on poems of Elizabeth Bishop, In Sleep, In Thunder on poems of Robert Lowell, and Syringa on a poem of John Ashbery. Orchestral works include the Oboe Concerto, Violin Concerto, Penthode, and charming Three Occasions for Orchestra. He has also produced a wonderful series of miniatures like Espirit rude, Espirit doux for flute and clarinet, Enchanted Preludes for flute and cello, and Riconoscenza for solo violin. He has also capped his series of quartets with String Quartet No.4, a work which shows a certain relaxing of the tensions so powerfully embodied in the Third Quartet.
I believe that Carters' music stands as the barometer of musical achievement for the second half of the 20th century, in America as well as throughout the world. No other composer in my opinion has produced so many masterpieces, furthered the language of music in so thorough yet so aesthetically affective a manner, or provided a foundation which can be built upon in the future. His music is nothing less than essential.
V Conclusions and Further Considerations
Throughout 20th Century American music, Expressionism has played an important, and what is not always apparent, a continuous role in the works of individual composers. Expressionism, as explored here, is not so much a style as it is a shared aesthetic point of view, a shared system of beliefs. A desire to explore seriously the question of spirituality in the modern world, a striving for expression of a "Transcendental" reality, a willingness to embrace contradictory points of view and the realization that there may be no hope of resolution, are common bonds among the composers discussed here. Also common to those composers discussed here is interest in the constructive aspects of music, but a flexible approach to system. Most of the composers discussed embody a more subtle approach to the theoretical aspects of their compositions, in direct contrast to their hard-line serialist counterparts. Even Schoenberg stressed, after his invention and adoption of dodecaphonic technique, that his music was to be regarded as twelve tone COMPOSITION, not TWELVE TONE composition, the stress belonging on the composition not the technique. A belief in the primacy of intuition over system is apparent in all of the composers discussed here.
I find that the achievements of the composers discussed above provide the most fruitful models for ways to build music which is honestly expressive of American reality. Their examples serve me well when I approach my own compositions. I have learned from them all, some in small proportions, some in large. Most important to me are Ives and Carter.
Ives, the Ives of legend at least, provides a model of the type of integrity that one must have, in every aspect of ones life. His belief that the creation of music is intertwined with all other aspects of human life is an important idea for me. I share his interest in the Concord Transcendentalists; Emerson and Thoreau have been key influences on my thought. As a biographical aside I would like to mention that I grew up in the town of Concord, Staten Island. Specifically the Emerson Hill section of Concord. It is a commonly held belief that Emerson Hill was named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I have never found evidence that he lived there. His brother, however did, as did Thoreau who for two years served as tutor to the Emerson children83. I have convinced myself that the woods that I wandered around in as a boy are the same woods that Thoreau explored during his two years on Staten Island. This daydream of mine gives me some point of connection with Thoreau and Emerson, through Ives.
On purely musical levels, works like the Concord Sonata, Second String Quartet, and Three Places in New England provide many suggestions for approaches to harmony, texture, and ways to embody meaning in music.
From Carter I have adopted many of his innovations as a starting point for my own composing. His approach to virtuosity, and to rhythmic concerns have provided models which offer great possibility for future development. His achievements are so great that I cannot make claim to a full understanding of them all. Indeed, it is this very aspect of his work that I find appealing. There are so many angles, so many fruitful ways to study his music, that it seems nearly inexhaustible. There is so much information packed into each work that one could turn to it over and over again throughout ones life, always finding new technical merits, always finding new expressive meanings. This sort of densely packaged music is what I aspire to.
Of course one must take into account the forbidding technical difficulties of Carters' music. Writing music that only the best virtuosos in the world can play is dangerously limiting. To that end, I restrict the difficulties as best I can, while still trying to write honest expressive music that is of interest to me. Also, I don't feel that I have the command of large scale form necessary to make the kind of quantum leap into uncharted formal territory that mark Carters' most important works. As I restrict myself rhythmically, I also restrict myself with regards to form and material. Most of the music I have written is concerned with a more traditional type of theme and thematic development. To that end, I find the music of Sessions provides a wonderful model of ways to write music that still has a traditional basis, but which is uncompromising in its contemporary idiom.
All of these influences can be seen in my String Quartet. This work, while I believe it merits being listened to as a finished work, is for me very much a student piece. In it, I try to come to grips with handling large forms, with building a coherent and convincing large structure. The first movement approaches Carters' handling of the quartet as a group of four individual characters, but has recourse to traditional thematic elements, and developmental principles.
The second movement of the quartet may recall the music of Ruggles in the ecstatic quality of the lines, and in the use of dissonant counterpoint. The harmony, while consistently atonal, at times contains hints of my jazz background (though very subtle and not very apparent hints, I must admit). Certain individual chords could be analyzed as jazz chords with extensions and alterations, but usually without the root that would provide it with its tonal function. This is not used as a functional element, it is just a characteristic of the sonorities that I like to use.
There are, throughout the quartet, two related chords which serve a kind of tonic function, from which all the music grows and towards which it all progresses. The first is C - C# - E - F#. This tetrachord is an all-interval tetrachord (all eleven intervals can be derived from it and its inversion84) which is frequently found in the music of Carter. The other important structural chord is only slightly different, C - D# - E - F#. This tetrachord embodies a diminished triad, a sound which is characteristic throughout much of the Quartet. The movement from one chord to the other (in any available transposition) occurs at important structural places throughout as a kind of cadence.
The third movement is by far the most traditional, a Scherzo and Trio. Again a hint of my jazz background emerges, subtly transformed. The melody of the scherzo sounds like a kind of atonal be-bop, the melody of the trio like a jazz ballad. I find that this kind of subtle carry over from jazz to classical works more effectively than more self-conscious attempts at "Third Stream" (though of course in works like Prayer for tenor saxophone with string quartet and Triptych for soprano sax and strings, I do make use of the more overt approach).
The fourth movement of the quartet is concerned with violent rhythms, more characteristic of Bartok and Stravinsky than the Expressionists. The types of harmony used, however, move it well beyond Stravinskian primitivism with its poly-tonal clashes. There is much Bartok that approaches Expressionism, however85, and the combination of Expressionist harmony and Primitivist rhythm is not unprecedented.
In my Three Pieces for Orchestra (incomplete), there are a number of Expressionist tendencies in evidence. The first piece makes use of ever more dense textures as a climax is approached. This piece is quite consciously modeled on Schoenbergs' first of the Five Pieces, Op.16, and borrows quite liberally from associated gestures. The use of the strings to create a dense, indistinguishable web of sound which serves as a background canvas to the more foreground detail is similar in technique to Ives' The Housatonic at Stockbridge.
The second movement, a large scale A-B-A form similar to many found in Sessions' symphonies, contrasts an A section written in more or less two-part counterpoint (like Ruggles) with a B section that is a fugue. The use of fugue to express a kind of monistic view, is reminiscent of Riegger. The percussion writing in the A sections owes much to Carters' writing for the percussion in the Double Concerto.
Composers in the early years of the 20th century developed the language of Expressionism in reaction to drastic changes which were occurring, the horrors of impending world war, and the de-humanizing aspects of an increasingly mechanistic society. Today, as the 20th century winds down, we are faced with changes of equal significance. The Soviet Union, Ronald Reagans' "Evil Empire", is once again Russia. Now the threat is no longer global annihilation through thermonuclear war, but rather the detrimental effects dissolution of the Soviet Union is having on world economics, on human rights, on the viability of many small nations to effectively govern themselves, as the centers of power shift from week to week, and an unstable and highly volatile climate is predominate. South Africa is under majority rule for the fist time in centuries. An aging dictator is playing with nuclear fire in North Korea. The New World order is not as stable and safe as George Bush had wanted us all to think.
Society is no longer worried about mechanical contraptions taking over for humans; now computers promise to make our lives easier. Hidden inside the promise of easy ways to do everything from make bank deposits to meeting lovers, is the lack of real human interaction. People no longer expect to make meaningful personal relationships through encounters with other people. More common are computerized phone menus and automatic bank teller machines. Mankind runs the risk of losing its humanity through dis-use. Many are seduced by the promises of virtual reality (and virtual sex!). I think that our only real hope lies in improving ACTUAL REALITY. An essential humanism needs to be stressed, so that we don't lose ourselves to technological promises of escapism as solution. To face these things honestly and adequately requires strength, clear vision and intellectual rigor. This is, I believe, the most important thing offered to me as a musician by the legacy of Americas Expressionist composers.
1 Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism, Second Edition (Athens, The University of Georgia Press, 1993), 131.
2 Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland: 1900 Through 1942 (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1984) 103-104.
3 H.W. Janson, History of Art, Second Edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982), 626. Much of the discussion of the visual arts throughout the paper is derived from this classic text.
4 Richard Stratton, Preface to Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky, translated with an introduction by M.T.H. Sadler (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1977), viii.
5 Arnold Schoenberg, Style and Idea, Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, edited by Leonard Stein, translations by Leo Black (Berkely and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975), 144-145.
6 Paul C. Vitz and Arnold B. Glimcher, Modern Art and Modern Science, The Parallel Analysis of Vision (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984), 98.
7 Stratton, ix.
8 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1977), 9.
9 Ray J. Sherer, Twelve Short Novels, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1976), 618.
10 Sherer, 226.
11 John C. Crawford and Dorothy Crawford, Expressionism in Twentieth-Century Music (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993), 23-64.
12 Crawford and Crawford, 24.
13 Crawford and Crawford, 30.
14 Eric Salzman, Twentieth-Century Music: An Introduction, second edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1974), 11.
15 Crawford and Crawford, 48.
16 Crawford and Crawford, 56-57.
17 Schoenberg, 174.
18 Rene Leibowitz, Schoenberg & His School, The Contemporary Stage of the Language of Music, translated from the French by Dika Newlin (New York:Da Capo Press, 1975), 43.
19 Liebowitz, 57.
20 Arnold Schoenberg, Five Pieces For Orchestra, Opus 16, New Version, 1973 Edition, Edition Peters No.6061 (New York, London, Frankfurt: C.F. Peters Corporation, 1973).
21 Willi Reich, Schoenberg, A Critical Biography, translated by Leo Black (New York, Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1971), 51.
22 Charles Burkhart, Anthology for Musical Analysis, third edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974), 485.
23 Henry Cowell and Sidney Cowell, Charles Ives and his Music (London, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 4.
24 Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings, edited and with an introduction by Joseph Wood Krutch (Toronto, New York, London, Sydney, Auckland: Bantam Books, 1982), 345.
25 J. Peter Burkholder, in his important study Charles Ives, The Ideas Behind The Music (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985) has raised the question of at just what point in his composing career did Ives so completely fall under the spell of the transcendentalists. Stuart Feder, in Charles Ives, "My Father's Song": A Psychoanalytic Biography (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1992) points out that certainly by the time of his marriage, Ives interest in literature was providing him with inspiration for his composing. The influence of the Transcendentalists was certainly at work by the time Ives was working on the Second Sonata, but may not have been as strong as it he was later to claim it to be in his Essays Before A Sonata (published in Charles Ives, Essay Before A Sonata, The Majority and Other Writings, edited by Howard Boatwright (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1970))
26 Crawford and Crawford, 204.
27 Elliott Carter, The Writings of Elliott Carter, An American Composer Looks at Modern Music, compiled, edited and annotated by Else Stone and Kurt Stone, (Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press, 1977), 230-241.
28 Charles Ives, Second Piano Sonata, "Concord, Mass., 1840-60", (Edwin F. Kalmus, 1968).
29 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Portable Emerson, edited by Carl Bode in collaboration with Malcolm Cowley (New York: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1984).
30 Feder, 79.
31 Allen Edwards, Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds, A Conversation with Elliott Carter, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1971), 102n.
32 Charles Ives, Three Places in New England, an Orchestral Set, (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: Mercury Music Corporation, Theodore Presser Company, Sole Representative).
33 For an excellent discussion of this aspect of Ives music see Larry Starr, A Union of Diversities, Style in the Music of Charles Ives, (New York: Schirmer Books, A Division of Macmillan, Inc., 1992).
34 Allen Forte, The Structure of Atonal Music, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1973), 10-11.
35 Crawford and Crawford, 267.
36 Carl Ruggles, Angels, (London, Philadelphia: J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd., 1925).
37 Carl Ruggles, Men and Mountains (San Francisco: New Music, Vol.1, No.1, 1927).
38 Edwards, 32-33.
39 Wilfred Mellers, Music In a New Found Land, Themes and Developments in the History of American Music, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 65-71.
40 Carl Ruggles, The Complete Music of Carl Ruggles, Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor, Buffalo Philharmonic, CBS Masterworks M2 34591.
41 Carl Ruggles, Sun-Treader, San Francisco: New Music, 1934).
42 Crawford and Crawford, 267.
43 Carter, The Writings of Elliott Carter, 230-243.
44 Henry Cowell, New Musical Resources, with a preface and notes by Joscelyn Godwin (New York: Something Else Press, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1969).
45 Leo Ornstein, Music of Leo Ornstein, program notes to recording by Vivian Perlis, Composers Recordings, Inc. CRI SD 339.
46 Dane Rudhyar, Granites, Three Paeans for piano solo, (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: Merion Music, Inc., Theodore Presser Company, Sole Representative, New Music Edition, 1935).
47 Dane Rudhyar, The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music, (Boulder and New York: Shambhala Publications, inc., 1982), 193-194.
48 George Tremblay, Symphony in One Movement, program notes to the recording, Composers Recordings, Inc., CRI 224 USD.
49 Adolph Weiss, Theme and Variations for Orchestra, The Vienna Orchestra, program notes to the recording by Lester Trimble, Composers Recordings, Inc., CRI-113.
50 Adolph Weiss, Six Preludes for Piano, (San Francisco: New Music, Vol.2, No.3, April 1929).
51 A touching recording of this friendship is to be found in Evelyn (Mrs. John J.) Beckers' reminiscences in Vivian Perlis' Charles Ives Remembered, 177-183.
52 John J. Becker, Soundpiece No.2, no publication information available, copyright 1938.
53 John J. Becker, Soundpiece No.5, no publication information available, copyright 1938.
54 John J. Becker, Symphonia Brevis (Symphony No.3), (San Francisco: New Music, Vol.3, No.2, January 1930).
55 Ruth Crawford-Seeger, String Quartet 1931, (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: Merion Music, Inc., Theodore Presser Company, Sole Representative, New Music Edition, 1941).
56 Ruth Crawford-Seeger, String Quartet, The Composers Quartet, notes to the recording by Robert P. Morgan, Nonesuch H-71280.
57 Wallingford Riegger, Dichotomy, (San Francisco: New Music Orchestra Series, Vol.1, 1932).
58 Wallingford Riegger, Dichotomy, London Sinfonietta, conducted by Frederik Prausnitz, notes to the recording by Frederik Prausnitz, ARGO ZRG702.
59 Wilfred Mellers, 124.
60 Stephen Spackman, Wallinford Riegger: Two Essays In Musical Biography, (Brooklyn, New York: Institute for Studies in American Music, Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College of the CIty University of New York, 1982), 44.
61 Wallingford Riegger, New and Old, Twelve Pieces for Piano, (Boosey & Hawkes).
62 Wallingford Reigger, Symphony No.3, Opus 42, Second Revised Version, (New York: Associated Music Publishers, Inc., 1960).
63 Wallingford Riegger, Music of Wallingford Riegger, Composers Recordings, Inc., CRI CD 572.
64 Andrea Olmstead, Roger Sessions and His Music, (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1985), 26.
65 Elliott Carter, The Writings of Elliott Carter, 167.
66 Roger Sessions, from From My Diary, reprinted in Robert P. Morgan, ed., Anthology of Twentieth-Century Music, 255-263.
67 Roger Sessions, Sonata No.3 for Piano Solo, (Melville, New York: Edward B. Marks Music Corporation, Belwin Mills Publishing Corporation, 1969).
68 David Schiff, The Music of Elliott Carter, (London: Eulenburg Books; New York: Da Capo Press, 1983), 133.
69 James E. B. Breslin, From Modern to Contemporary, American Poetry, 1945-1965, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press: 19840, 110-142.
70 Allen Edwards, Flawed Words, 91.
71 Elliott Carter, Elliott Carter: In Conversation with Enzo Restagno for Settembre Musica 1989, translated by Katherine Silberblatt Wolfthal, ( Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in Maerican Music, Consertvatory of Music, Brooklyn College of the City of New York, I.S.A.M Monograph Number 32, 1989), 9-10.
72 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: the Free Press, A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1978).
73 At various times, and in various places Carter has in turn played up or down the power of Ives' influence. It seems that at his time he is more than willing to accept the mantle as the heir to Ives important achievements. Important accounts of their relationship can be found in Perlis, Charles Ives Remembered; Schiff, The Music of Elliott Carter; Edwards, Flawed Words; and Carter, The Writings of Elliott Carter.
74 I am indebted to David Schiff's excellent study of Carters music for many of the technical details presented throughout this section.
75 James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Penguin Books, Ltd., R.R. Donnelley & Sons, 1984), 3, 628.
76 Elliott Carter, String Quartet No.1, (New York: Associated Music Publishers, G. Schirmer, Inc., 1955-56).
77 Cole Gagne and Tracy Caras, Soundpieces: Interviews With American Composers, (Metuchen, N.J., & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1982), 89.
78 James Joyce, Dubliners, Text, Criticism, and Notes, edited by Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz, (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Penguin Books, The Viking Critical Press, 1983). See specifically C. C. Loomis, Jr., "Structure and Sympathy in Joyce's 'The Dead'", 417-422.
79 Robert Lowell, Life Studies and For the Union Dead, (New York: Farrar, Strau and Giroux, 1984), 49-59.
80 Elliott Carter, String Quartet No.2 , third, corrected edition, (New York: Associated Music Publishers, 1981).
81 Elliott Carter, Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras, (New York, Associated Music Publishers, Inc., 1964).
82 Elliott Carter, String Quartet No.3, (New York: Associated Music Publishers, 1973).
83 Thoreau, Introduction, 1-23.
84 C - C# = (enharmonic) minor 2nd; E - F# = major 2nd; C# - E = minor third; C - E = major third; C# - F# = perfect fourth; C - F# = augmented fourth; F# - C# = perfect fifth; E - C = minor sixth; E - C# = major sixth; F# - E = minor seventh; C# - C = (enharmonic) major 7th.
85 Crawford and Crawford make this case most eloquently, discussing some of the piano music, and in particular Bartoks' two violin sonatas. Crawford and Crawford also, it seems to me, go over the edge and try to make an argument for Stravinskys' early ballets to be called Expressionism. There is clearly a different aesthetic intention at work in The Rite of Spring than in anything that could be called Expressionism. On this point I must disagree with them.
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