What were—and are, for the phenomenon continues—the constraining? Music has always been a much-practiced, highly variegated activity in the United States. This musical diversity, and the contentious partisanship that has marked certain branches of it such as the recurrent tension between supporters of "classical" and "popular" music , reflect various more fundamental diversities and tensions within American life, involving such factors as race, ethnicity, social class, geography, and means of livelihood e.
Long before the arrival of settlers from across the sea, Native Americans had developed rich and varied traditions of ritual dance and song; European colonists and enslaved Africans carried with them from across the sea the musical dialects of their various places of origin and the desire to continue making music in ways and on instruments familiar and meaningful to them. These various musical traditions—Native American, European, African, and others not yet mentioned—then blended here into new hybrid languages and genres, but the extent and proportions of the blending varied a great deal.
The musical melting pot particularly welcomed certain stylistic elements from one or another of these repertoires or musical traditions: for example, the hierarchically structured harmonic vocabulary of European art and dance music combined in diverse ways with certain improvisatory rhythmic practices from African traditions, especially various kinds of syncopation.
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Other repertoires and traditions, notably the various Native American musics, tended to have much less impact on the country's emerging musical styles and genres. Scholars cite various inhibiting factors, technical as well as cultural. Wiley Hitchcock calls America's "vernacular" genres, such as the African-American spiritual leading to today's gospel music , the minstrel show and musical comedy, ragtime, jazz, and, more recently, salsa and other styles featuring prominent Caribbean African-Hispanic elements. Parallel with the broad stream of "vernacular" music making which of course also includes more strictly European-derived genres such as Anglo-American ballads and Country-Western music flows what Hitchcock calls the "cultivated" stream, which concerns us in this book.
In the mid nineteenth century this consisted of an entirely European-based yet cosmopolitan set of practices, preferences, and repertoires, including a more or less canonical yet eclectic corpus of sacred and secular works—for example, Handel's Messiah , Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor , and piano pieces by Stephen Heller, a Hungarian Jew who had, like the Polish Chopin, made Paris his home and successful base of operations.
These diverse works were transplanted more or less intact to the New World, and to them were added, increasingly with the passing decades, American works written firmly in this European tradition e. Certain strands of "cultivated" music making remained stylistically "frozen" for decades after first arriving on these shores: the German-speaking Moravian settlers of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, for example, for decades performed a relatively stable repertoire of string trios, choral motets, and the like, in a style close to that of Franz Joseph Haydn, and occasionally added to it new pieces written in a closely similar style.
Such unaltered continuity, though, was the exception to the rule. For the most part, the repertoire of "cultivated" music in America changed a good deal over the course of the nineteenth century, thanks not only to local influences but also to America's continuing contact with the Old World.
The latest pieces were shipped over, hot off the press, along with Irish linens, Scotch whiskey, French perfumes, and the latest installments of Dickens's novels. By around , many of the best young American musicians were going to Europe to study with the pianists Franz Liszt and Theodor Leschetizky, the violinist Martin Marsick, the singer Mathilde Marchesi, and other famed teachers in Paris, Vienna, and elsewhere, then returning to America to perform the pieces they had heard and learned—for example, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies and the Parisian operas of the German-born but Italian-trained Giacomo Meyerbeer—and, in many cases, to compose in up-to-date style and to teach.
Some stayed for years or even settled here permanently. New Orleans was the earliest exception and, "for much of the century," one scholar plausibly concludes, enjoyed "the best opera to be heard in America"—sung mainly in French, of course. A few paragraphs from this chapter appeared, in somewhat different form, in Ralph P. In addition to the people thanked in the Acknowledgments, Laurence Libin Metropolitan Museum of Art gave good advice and encouragement.
For one thing, there were few such halls until late in the nineteenth century, and even professional concerts tended to be presented in a wide range of venues: theaters, Masonic halls, parks and pleasure gardens, train stations. But formal and informal concerts were but one of many outlets for the love of "cultivated" music in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America.
Throughout the land, music of what we might call the "light classical" variety was a prime form of leisure-time activity and social entertainment. Dancing, for example, was accompanied by a few string and wind players, or maybe just a single violinist. Dancing masters in America, as in Europe, played a special "kit" fiddle small enough to slip into the coat pocket. Hard as it may be to believe today, amateur music making in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, indeed even in the first half of the twentieth, did not cease when a child finished his or her teenage years.
Adults regularly gathered to play chamber music and sing together; Thomas Jefferson, an avid violinist, made frequent use of his large collection of the latest imported trios and such, and many people knew the singing voices of their parents, siblings, or spouses well, having sung hymns, Stephen Foster songs, or operatic excerpts together at the parlor piano.
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Choral groups thrived in the churches, and by also in other meeting halls, sometimes handily mastering the hymns and secular partsongs of home-grown composers such as William Billings, and sometimes working their way in determined fashion through the demanding but rewarding oratorios of Handel, Haydn, and other European masters. Bands and small orchestras, too, sprang up everywhere, playing opera overtures, movements of symphonies, song arrangements, marches, waltzes—almost anything that had a pleasant tune and enough regularity of beat and phrase to set toes happily tapping.
All of this—from quadrilles for dancing, to choruses and bands—provided the fertile soil from which many of the musical institutions of America that support and promote "serious" or "classical" music sprang.
Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge's attachment to music, for example, was surely rooted in the family musicales of her youth, described lovingly in her mother's little booklet, Pleasant Memories of My Life. As Richard Crawford points out:. Foremost of the shapers [of America's musical life] have been the musicians themselves, who have worked as individuals in a commercial environment seeking to satisfy the needs of various social groups—for artistic expression, worship, instruction, entertainment, or participatory recreation.
Private citizens took lessons from music masters and even hired professionals to play chamber music with them or to perform for their guests. One such melomane, Elizabeth Ridgely, possessed a musical library in the s that testifies to her openness and that of her French-born teacher to a wide range of current European music and suggests that a substantial amount of amateur and professional music making went on at the Ridgelys' manor house Hampton, Maryland. But the first real "wave" of patronage as it is currently understood seems to come in the s.
It was then that Lowell Mason and Boston's Handel and Haydn Society began carrying out energetic organizational and promotional labors on behalf of music in the schools, churches, and concert halls. From then onward into the late twentieth century, patrons increasingly vied with the musicians themselves in their dedication to and active organizational work for the benefit of art music in America. The crucial, formative moment of music patronage in America, and of "classical music" generally, occurs in the decades just before and after During those years many of the institutions and practices that have remained characteristic of American musical life ever since were established and put on a firm financial and organizational basis.
These institutions and practices include the symphony orchestra, with its season-ticket holders in sober or sometimes even formal attire and its small-town equivalent: the half-amateur, half-professional community orchestra, often playing in a school or college auditorium, church, or town hall ;  the opera house with its decor in red plush and brass and its international casts, often singing in a foreign language; the conservatory and music school, earnestly filling the growing demand for trombonists, for coloratura sopranos, even for composers pondering, in newspapers and magazines, such questions as "Should we be writing symphonies in a distinctively American style?
From this long list of activities in music, a few have long been particularly identified with women: public school teaching, choral conducting—but not orchestral or band, except with all-female ensembles—and of course performance and studio teaching in voice, piano, and harp. Later in this chapter, we shall return to the question of women's expanding place in American musical life. Everything mentioned in the previous paragraph existed only in embryonic form, if at all, in the mid nineteenth century; nearly all of it had taken recognizable shape—and much of it was fully developed and flourishing—by the s.
The American university, the historian Robert A. McGaughey notes, hardly existed in , but by around , it "had acquired a form little changed since. Of course, the more things stay the same, the more they change. Musical life has been greatly altered since the s by shifts in American demographic patterns the shift of money and power from our urban centers to the suburbs or indeed to other geographic areas entirely, such as, recently, the Sunbelt and by cultural values that increasingly emphasize instant gratification as a goal, to be attained through the purchase of commercial goods.
Opera, in particular, has gained a major and often sophisticated "second" audience in the past ten years; thanks to electronic video whether in the movie theater or on television, videotape, or video disc , opera lovers, even in isolated locations, can "attend" performances of once little-known operas such as Verdi's Stiffelio , experience the dark power of Wagner's Ring cycle or Britten's Peter Grimes , and be devastated by the artistry of Teresa Stratas, Julia Migenes, or—in a gripping black-and-white video of Tosca , act 2—Maria Callas.
For further discussion of the opportunities. But "canned" music, even at its best, cannot replicate the experience of being part of a performance's "first" audience, that is, of hearing music in person, in a good hall, amidst a mutually inciting throng of several hundred or several thousand attentive listeners; and, for better or worse, America's system for delivering live performances of Western art music to the public or for the public to make such music itself remains, in its broad features, the one put in place around The growth and systematization—the "modernization," in the sociologist's term—of America's musical life around resulted in large part from the nation's immense industrial and economic expansion at the time, as the growing middle and upper classes, and even certain sectors of the working masses, increasingly found themselves with surplus cash and the leisure time in which to spend it: on modestly fashionable clothing, on books and magazines filled with enticing ads for consumer products, and, not least, on outings to amusement parks, theaters, and concert halls.
Some of the musical institutions mentioned earlier—publishing, journalism, the instrument trade—sprang up more or less spontaneously, in response to the pressures of the marketplace. But Beethoven symphonies and Wagner operas require long, costly rehearsals involving fifty or even a hundred highly trained, specialized performers.
Legendary Tristans, such as Jean de Reszke, do not come cheap. The laws of supply and demand simply could not produce affordable, accessible, yet still worthy performances of such works, any more than it could produce universities or hospitals. Federal and local governments have throughout most of the twentieth century provided cultural and charitable organizations with certain financial protections through income-tax deductions and local property-tax exemptions, but direct, European-style government aid would have been needed as well in order to fill the gap.
Despite the early efforts of Jeannette Thurber and others to change federal policy, direct aid was not a politically acceptable option until the creation of the—relatively modest, by European standards—National Endowment for the Arts under the Johnson administration in One s precedent for the NEA, though, should be mentioned. The New Deal's program in the arts e.
Memory of it fades with the passing years: its "Dime Concerts" in athletic stadiums, its hundreds of music-teaching centers across the country, and its creation—in , in New York City—of the nation's first public high school for music and art. Since the marketplace did not support orchestras, opera houses, and professional or even preparatory-level music schools, and since government money was rarely forthcoming, the gap was filled, as it was in other areas such as social work, by patronage—taking the word to include also volunteer organizational work unpaid labor.
But the lion's share of patronage funds, especially in the decades around , came directly from a small number of wealthy individuals and, to some extent, from the cultural "foundations" established by such individuals or their families. The great fortunes that piled up in the late nineteenth century were the direct result of industrial growth in an era of laissez-faire capitalism.
Until the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in , corporations, by virtue of their charters, were free to conduct business more or less as they liked, free of governmental regulation. As a result, the financial holdings of the Vanderbilt family, for example, reportedly exceeded those of all but a handful of the most developed nations of the world. Profits from industrial and other investments were so high that a family's income often far exceeded expenses, even after deducting for club memberships, yachts, town houses, country estates, world cruises, winters in sunnier climes, salaries for household staff, and bills for schooling, clothing, and medical care.
How to dispense the excess—or, in the language of the time, how wealth was "stewarded"—depended greatly upon the individual's whims and interests. For many, this meant beginning to deal with the socioeconomic disasters created in part by the capitalist system that had made their own families so comfortable.
In this project they were encouraged by the important "social gospel" movement within the country's Protestant churches. McGaughey notes, helped provide men of privileged class—including certain sons of the very men who had made the fortunes—with a way to make "respectable livings other than in the church or business.
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Fortunately for music lovers, the industrialists and their immediate families often gave a high priority to music, higher indeed than we today might think likely given the stereotype of the inartistic business mind. This is strikingly illustrated in Andrew Carnegie's ranking of the projects that he deemed most worthy of philanthropic aid, wherein music—under the heading "suitable concert halls"—came in fifth, after public parks and before public baths.
Foundations were the other major beneficiary in a rich man's or, less often, woman's will, and were usually administered by a council of his or her surviving. There was as yet no "science of giving," and although some notable examples of foundations, such as the Peabody Foundation , may be found in the late nineteenth century, few survived more than a few decades. Only in the twentieth century did foundations e. In the early s, the directors of the Carnegie Corporation financed a study to answer the questions "What aspects of music in America today seem the most important?
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Philanthropy was beginning to develop as a fine art, shaped largely by corporate bodies whose chief executives were men. Parallel to this more or less official, highly institutionalized story runs the more fragmented story of the other half at least of America's music lovers, the women, whose patronage and volunteer work is explored in this volume. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, a significant number of them did have substantial money of their own largely inherited , and in many cases, depending on the laws prevailing at the time in a given state, were free to spend it as they saw fit.
Yet, whatever the sources of their money, these women often exhibited entrepreneurial savvy in its distribution and were in many cases guided by relatively democratic and by standards of the day well-informed views on social and cultural policy. Moreover, these patrons of music, like women who supported the visual arts, theater, and dance, carried out their work in venues that were more publicly visible than the institutions of social welfare devoted to the care of the sick and poor, aged and young, that had been the primary out-of-home arena for female reformers in the early and mid nineteenth century.
In this way, they may have helped to prepare public acceptance of working women taking positions of authority for pay. And certainly they stand as major early examples of women who, freer of certain social limitations than most other women of their place and time, freer to act and to influence, could devote their energy and imagination to, in Mary Catherine Bateson's phrase, "composing a life" of varied and gratifying texture, not just.
Money, we said earlier, is only one way of contributing to a cause. Many women less affluent than a Mrs. Potter Palmer but still "comfortable" assisted the growth of musical institutions primarily through volunteer work, including the raising of funds from others. These women most often remain nameless in the chronicles of the major symphony orchestras, festivals, and educational institutions that still bear the imprint of their devotion and generosity.