This week America will sing its own musical praises
American Music Week is the American Music Center's way of calling attention to the riches of the music scene in this country. It is fitting that this be the first year of music week, since it is the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts, without which far fewer American composers would have seen their works come to performance. It is also the 85th birthday of Aaron Copland, who in many ways is the father of American music -- the first legitimate American voice in classical music.
Our classical music scene has long functioned with an inferiority complex about the merits of its own performers and composers. The history of serious music in this country has long been the history of assimilation of European trends and ideas in some sort of bland rehash. Even the more distinctive voices, such as Charles Tomlinson Griffes, owed a great debt to European music.
Copland made his sensational appearance on the domestic scene in the 1920s. Many great overseas composers settled down in the United States between World War I and World War II -- Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, and Bela Bartok come instantly to mind. Others, such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, settled here to write film music in Hollywood. These men all had various degrees of influence on a new generation of composers, who in turn went on to inspire others. Walter Piston, Roger Session s, William Schuman, Roy Harris, Howard Hanson, Elliott Carter all created music of importance and have been major forces in the instruction of younger generations of composers.
Today, if an American composer borrows from other cultures, other countries, it is for creative, rather than emulative, reasons. It is no longer even a question of finding a distinctively American voice, but rather a uniqueness of voice. The American has so much to draw on -- Broadway, jazz, folk music, non-American ethnic music, etc. It is this diversity, more than anything else, that American Music Week will be celebrating. The list that follows is offered as a sampling of the over 250 events th at are scheduled for those seven days. And doubtless your classical music stations will be airing more American music during the week.
Los Angeles: New Music America, through Nov. 11. This is the ``official'' festival, spread out over L.A., involving most of the important musical organizations of that city in multiple performances. Call (213) 689-9446 for information.
San Jose, Calif.: San Jose University is sponsoring a week of festivities that include numerous premi`eres, culminating in a gala concert by the music department (Nov. 10). Call (408) 277-2905.
Memphis: The Memphis Composers' Alliance is presenting a New Music Festival Nov. 4 - 10. For details, phone (901) 454-2400.
New Orleans: The New Orleans Public Schools offer five days of American music through New Orleans composers and musicians. Workshops, television interviews, concerts in the schools, and other activities are among the events. Through Nov. 8. Telephone (504) 524-4525.
Boston: Collage New Music Group in a concert of music by contemporary American composers. Longy School of Music (Cambridge, Mass.), tonight.
Minneapolis: Minnesota Orchestra performs an all-American program with works by Barber, Forsberg, MacDowell, and Schoenfield. Orchestra Hall, Nov. 6 and 9 at 8 p.m.
Santa Fe, N.M.: Orchestra of Santa Fe features works by William Schuman in its Nov. 10 concert in Lensic Theatre at 3 p.m.
Madison, Wis.: Wisconsin Union Theater and Leapin' Lizard Productions offers a folk concert with Doc Watson, a singer and acoustic guitarist, performing a range of music from 16th-century ballads to Appalachian, bluegrass, and blues tunes. Wisconsin Union Theater, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m.