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American Neoclassical Music

December 8, 2016

Yes, there was such a thing. Much of it was quite good. Not much is available now. So says Michael De Sapio at The Imaginative Conservative. His article is entitled, “The Forgotten Music of the American Neoclassicists.” He introduces a few names I didn’t know. My list of “recordings to listen to” just got longer.

Regrettably, just as American neoclassicism was in full flower in the years after World War II, its undoing was already underway. This was an era of musical politics, with composers and critics marshaling themselves into various ideological camps. The partisans of Stravinsky and the partisans of Arnold Schoenberg—the originator of twelve-tone or serial music—formed highly entrenched groups. The twelve-toners cast themselves in the role of the “progressives” and the neoclassicists in the role of retrograde conservatives. Avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez went so far as to declare that composers who did not follow the new trends were “useless.” Such aggressive polemics caused neoclassicism to become increasingly marginalized.

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