The Privilege of Romanticizing

Louis Arden Schuch (1876-1944) was a composer. Born in Germany, immigrated with his parents to the United States and settled in Auburn New York. He composed his problematic work titled “Mineola” in 1904. “Mineola” which translates to “pleasant place” in the Algonquian language. The piece’s alternative title is “The Wedding of the Indian and the Coon”. The piece is subtitled: “A Characteristic Indian Serenade”. The text is as follows:

“Mineola or the Wedding of the Indian and the coon” cover art

Out near the town named the Needles
There lives a pretty Indian maid
She is the Pride of the Kickapoo Indian
and her skin of Navajo shade
While out way up on a vista
A Coon perchance the maid to meet
and to her he took a fancy
 … every night and day
this Coon to her would say,

[chorus]
Won’t you be my Indian baby?
Love you yes indeed I do
I will make you happy, happy
Babe, now that I’ll be true

On the Indian reservation
Say you’ll be mine, don’t decline
the wedding of the Indian and the Coon

Told him she hadn’t thought of marriage
although she loved him heap much so
And if he expected her to Marry
To the Big Chief he would have to go
….
The ask’d what shall I say to him
In reply says dear don’t worry
have nerve drink some Tom Gin
As he said good bye that day
… to her did say

Where to even begin? Right off the bat, we have the term “coon” used to describe an African American man. This term came from the Spanish word barracón which was a large building constructed to hold merchandise, where slaves were kept for sale. This word was later anglicized into “barracoon” then shortened into the slag: “coon”. The first verse sexualizes the Native American woman emphasizing her skin tone. In the chorus begins “Won’t you be my Indian baby? Love you yes indeed I do” to be followed later in the piece by “Told him she hadn’t thought of marriage” which leads me to question motives/consent. Last but not least, the final verse mentions how the gentleman caller would need to ask the “Big Chief” referencing the Chief of that Indian tribe. Additionally, this piece says the love interest was from the Kickapoo tribe. This tribe was believed to be located in the part of the country that is now Oklahoma and Texas. I find it hard to believe that Schuch had any contact with this tribe in Auburn, NY. This piece is a whole new level of problematic. Written by a  German immigrant, a love song between two people of cultures to whom the composer does not belong nor know enough about to compose a piece of music. This is just scratching the surface on how people can completely abuse traditions they are not educated on.

Work Cited

Schuch, Louis Arden. Mineola or the Wedding of the Indian and the coon. Sheet Music Consortium, Duke Music Libraries. Auburn, NY. 1904. link

Schuch, Louis Arden Jr., Find A Grave.com link

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

Women and the Piano

This cover of a piece of piano sheet music shows a dedication to Jonas Chickering. Jonas Chickering contributed greatly to the prominence of the piano in the 19th Century. Manufacturers like Chickering were reacting to a demand for the piano, but they also contributed and helped shape this demand. The piano was a sign of gentility and decorated the home. Within the 19th Century, the piano was an instrument for female amateurs. Women were expected to keep the domestic area refined, and since the piano was accepted as a sign of refinement, women seemed to like using it as a way to improve their home. This use of the piano as a source of refinement by women in the home is reflected in the many design changes that the instrument underwent. In the early 19th Century, manufacturers capitalized on this idea of women using the piano in the home, and they created a design that functioned as a piano, as well as a sewing table, which could be used for the sewing that specifically women would do.

 

Women were also seen as having an emotional core to their being. Piano music published during and after the 1840s has an emotional character, and this demonstrates how the expectations for women, and beliefs about women also reflected the notion that the piano was a feminine instrument.

 

Manufacturers like those involved with Jonas Chickering perceived what people were looking for in a piano and in piano music. Their products came from preconceived notions about femininity and what people wanted and needed in music. It may seem like there is no way of telling whether or not manufacturers were reacting to the true demands of consumers, or creating a demand by perpetuating a perceived want, or need; yet, the manufacturers’ views and the composers’ views of women’s practical needs and musical tastes are evident.

Sources

Crawford, Richard. America’s Musical Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.

Dempster, William R. and Reynell Coates. “Oh Show Me Some Blue Distant Isle.” Philadelphia: John F. Nunns, 184 Chesnut St., 1841. Accessed October 23, 2017. http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/collection/124/022.

Kornblith, Gary J. “The Craftsman as Industrialist: Jonas Chickering and the Transformation of American Piano Making.” The Business History Review 59, no. 3 (1985): 349-68.

Leppert, Richard. “Sexual Identity, Death, and the Family Piano.” 19th-Century Music 16, no. 2 (1992): 105-28.

Thelonious Monk’s Centennial

With today being what would be Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to honor his legacy by making my blog post about him. Monk is widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists, and as a jazz pianist, I consider him to be one of my personal idols. Monk had a unique, unpredictable style while improvising, characterized by his angular melodies, use of dissonance, and a highly percussive attack. Monk is often credited as one of the founding fathers of bebop, the dominant style of jazz in the United States from the 40s to the 60s. Monk’s mastery at the keys is rivaled by his ability as a composer. A large amount of his compositions have made it into the standard jazz repertoire, including “’Round Midnight”, “Straight, No Chaser”, “Blue Monk”, “Epistrophy”, and many more. Almost as unique as his playing style is his sense of fashion, which typically included a suit, sunglasses, and a wacky hat.

 

The Monk song I decided to share in this blog post is “Straight, No Chaser” which is one of Monk’s most popular compositions. In this tune, Monk uses simple a simple 12 bar blues progression and a single melodic idea. The melodic idea is continuously displaced within the measure and has a unique ending each time. The result is extremely original and creative. Since it’s original recording in 1951, the tune has been covered by an array of jazz giants, including Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Keith Jarret, and Cannonball Adderley. Monk’s uniqueness and abrasive style made the general public slow to embrace him, but his genius was slowly realized over time. Thelonious Monk’s passed away in 1982, but he was certainly not forgotten. His impact on the state of jazz is immeasurable.

http://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/bibliographic_entity%7Crecorded_track%7C546472

Enjoy this recording of Monk playing with his combo in Italy in 1961.

Sources

ABBOTT, FRANCES. “Monk, Thelonious: (1917–1982) JAZZ MUSICIAN.” In The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 12: Music, edited by MALONE BILL C., by WILSON CHARLES REAGAN, 294-96. University of North Carolina Press, 2008. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469616667_malone.135.

Givan, Benjamin. “Thelonious Monk’s Pianism.” The Journal of Musicology 26, no. 3 (2009): 404-42. doi:10.1525/jm.2009.26.3.404.

Beach’s Variations and the Success of the American Female Composer

Amy Beach (September 5, 1867–December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was primarily self-taught in composition and was the first successful female composer of large works as well as the first president of the Society of American WomenComposers. She worked to further the works of young composers and was also known as “Mrs. H. H. A. Beach” at many of her concert piano performances.

This is the cover of a manuscript being held in the Amy Cheney Beach Collection, which is housed in the Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections of the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

This is the cover of a manuscript being held in the Amy Cheney Beach Collection, which is housed in the Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections of the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

Amy Beach’s Variations on Balkan Themes, op. 60 was one of many great works she composed for piano. Based on songs “of unknown origin” collected by Reverend and Mrs. William W. Sleeper during their time living as missionaries in the Balkan region, the variations play upon “O Maiko Moya,” “Stara Planina,” and “Nasadil e Dado,” among other Balkan folk tunes. (Beach did not collect any of the folksongs her works were based on.) The variations employ switches between different themes to make up their complex texture.

The following is a loose translation of the text of “O Maiko Moya,” which is the first theme introduced in the work. Although there is no text to be sung or read with this work (this is a piano work, after all) this is important to the structure of the work and is suggestive of the overall tone of the variations and the cultural background that they were based on.

“O my poor country, to thy sons so dear,

Why art thou weeping, why this sadness drear?

Alas! thou raven, messenger of woe,

Over those fresh grave moanest thou so?”

The different folk songs do not all have to deal with Balkan nationalistic pride, rather, some texts relate to the mountains, or a story of a grandfather planting a small garden. As is the case in any piece written as a theme with variations, the variations gradually move away from the original motivic elements and provide new context for different themes.

In her analysis of Beach’s Variations on Balkan Themes, Dr. Adrienne Fried Block suggested that Beach borrowed from Beethoven’s tonal scheme for his Six Variations, op. 34. Beethoven’s Variations was one of the pieces that Beach regularly performed in her solo piano performances and one of the few variations that she regularly played throughout her career. It makes sense then, that this piece had such an effect on her own music. The Balkan Themes were in minor, which affected the tonal adjustments she made to the piece and prevented her from using Beethoven’s Variations structure exactly as it is (it should be noted that the speculation that Beach borrowed from Beethoven is a part of Dr. Block’s correspondence to a E. Douglas Bomberger).

Overall, Beach’s Variations are lively, yet melancholy in mood. Beach was known to incorporate romanticism and delayed resolution into her work, later on moving away from tonality. It is no surprise that Beach has been declared the first successful American female composer of large-scale music, although I think it would be interesting to explore the published music of other female composers and try to understand where they “fell short” of the success of their male counterparts, causing America to have to wait until the late 1800s for a female composer of Beach’s accomplishment.

 

Beach, Amy. Variations on Balkan Themes, op. 60. Boston: Arthur P. Schmidt, 1906. http://javanese.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/0/0f/IMSLP08550-Beach_-_Op.60__Variations_on_Balkan_Themes.pdf.

Beach, Amy. Variations on Balkan Themes, op. 60. Performed by Virginia Eskin. Composed 1904.

Bomberger, E. Douglas, and Adrienne Fried Block. “On Beach’s Variations on Balkan Themes, op. 60.” American Music 11, no. 3 (1993): 368-71. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3052509.

Amy Beach: musician in spite of her family

Today many listeners of classical music are familiar with the music or at least the name of Amy Beach. A prodigy from a very young age who came to fame through her virtuosic piano performances made her lasting mark in her compositions. Her life was defined by her gender because women, especially those of Beach’s social standing, were not to support themselves. Even though her parents were distinctly aware of Amy’s talents, they stuck with the status quo plan for young women of the time: some formal schooling, lessons in the arts, and marriage.[1]

In her article published in many women’s magazines in the early 1900s she does not fault her family for so obviously holding her back when she had so much to do in music. Rather she saw her mother’s education style as a way to ease the young prodigy into music without becoming overwhelmed. Beach’s article almost exclusively focuses on the relationship between Amy and her mother, as well as her career as a performer and composer.[2]

Beach’s success as a musician almost depends on this sort of frame that women were expected to live in. There is no doubt that Beach could have done amazing things if afforded the right to a fancy musical education that men had available to them. However, her affluent family history and unique life story allowed (or forced) her to stand out among other women. I mention forced because Amy hardly had any choice in her study of music or the path it would take.[3]

Beach had the opportunity to become a self-taught musician after her little formal training because she did not have the duties of a domestic wife like many other women. After her husband’s death in 1910 she was able to take many tours of Europe and make her name even larger.

All of these facts make for a confusing picture of Amy Beach. On one hand we have a woman who is a prisoner in her time where women aren’t allowed to study music at high levels and must submit their wills to their parents and husbands. On the other hand we have Beach as a child prodigy who has led the way for other women composers after her and succeeded because of her circumstances, but could have thrived even more in a more accepting culture.

 

[1] Adrienne Fried Block, Amy Beach: Passionate Victorian, (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 1998), 298.

[2] Judith Tick ed., Music in the USA: A Documentary Companion, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 323-327.

[3] Walter S. Jenkins, The Remarkable Mrs. Beach, American Composer, (Warren: Harmonie Park Press, 1994), 66-68.

Charles E. Ives: Memos

When I was searching for Charles Ives correspondence in our music library, I came across a book called Charles E. Ives: Memos.  It is a collection, constructed by John Kirkpatrick from Yale University, of previously unpublished loose leaf writings of Charles Ives.  Some were initially handwritten by Ives himself, while others were written in shorthand by his secretary, Miss Florence Martin, and edited by him later.  After his death in 1954, these loose leafs were collated and organized by when they were written, and ultimately published in this book.  As with any correspondence collection, it does not include every single “memo” Ives ever wrote; it is believed this collection includes approximately three-fifths of his loose leaf writing.

The book is in three main parts: “Pretext,” “Scrapbook,” and “Memories.”  While it looks as if each section is written in prose, that may not necessarily be the case.  Kirkpatrick took the time to mark each piece, sometimes a paragraph or a few sentences, with identifying information revealing where those words came from.  “Pretext” focuses on Ives’ aims, his views on music, critics, and criticism.  “Scrapbook” reveals the composer’s notes on his own music.  “Memories” provides the reader with biographical and autobiographical information.

Below, I have included the pages from “Scrapbook” of Ives’ Second Piano Sonata, since we are studying this piece in class (number 30).  Ives provides insight as to how each of the four movements came to fruition.  He reveals that he never really came up with an ending for the first movement, “Emerson,” or developed one way to play it.  For the second movement, “Hawthorne,” Ives describes the cluster chords on page 25 of the score, how to play them and what effect they are supposed to have on the listener.  In his words about the third, “The Alcotts,” and fourth movements, “Thoreau,” Ives reveals that he had intentions of expanding his orchestration to include organ, strings, woodwinds, etc.  Some of the material from the fourth movement came directly out of a string quartet Ives had been working on but never finished.

Ives - Memos pgs 78-79

Kirkpatrick, J., ed. Charles E. Ives: Memos. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1972. 78-79.

Ives - Memos pgs 80-81

Kirkpatrick, J., ed. Charles E. Ives: Memos. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1972. 80-81.

Ives - Memos pgs 82-83

Kirkpatrick, J., ed. Charles E. Ives: Memos. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1972. 82-83.

 

These notes by the composer about his or her own pieces are eye opening, especially to the performer.  They are very insightful and allow the performer to get into the mindset of the composer, and learn more about exactly what the composer meant when he or she wrote the piece.

 

Kirkpatrick, J., ed. Charles E. Ives: Memos. New York: W. W. Norton &, 1972.

Copland – Paris, France in 1921 – His Early Victories

In June of 1921, Aaron Copland sailed to Paris, France to study music composition at the Palais de Fontainebleau. He gained much knowledge and experience with the help of his instructors Paul Vidal and Nadia Boulanger, as well as meeting new comrades like Harold Clurman. These individuals were formative in the early stages of Copland’s composing career and thus left an immense impact on his life and music. During his time in Paris, Copland had a great correspondence with his parents back in the United States.

 Copland in early 1920s

 

One particularly amazing written account of Copland’s early success in Paris is in a letter he wrote to his parents. Merely three months into his stay in Paris, Copland had an opportunity that excited him more than ‘any debut in Carnegie Hall ever could.’ The following shows a portion of his letter to his parents:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 5.52.58 PM

(Selected correspondence of Aaron copland, p. 39)

 

Copland’s gained great success in Paris very early on in his stay. In the next letter to his parents, he writes of another great victory–he sells his first composition to one of the biggest publishing companies in all of Paris. Copland writes to his parents with a delightful voice, comfortable expressing his unadulterated joy with his loved ones. Readers are lucky to be able to get such a glimpse into an intimate exchange of letters from a composer to his parents. Copland has left such a mark on music history in America, and to be able to read more closely at the details of the beginning of his career is unique and very telling of what he was experiencing in the moment.

At the end of his letter about selling his composition, with a charming tone Copland signs off saying, “So, we have a composer in the Copland family, it seems. Who says there are no more miracles. Lovingly, Aaron.” (Copland, p. 41)

 

Bibliography:

Copland, Aaron. Selected Correspondence of Aaron Copland. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press, 2006. Accessed March 23, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.

Image found at:  http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/media/loc.natlib.copland.phot0020/ver01/0001.tif/225

Henry Cowell’s Heavenly Music?

Anyone who has taken Music History alongside the Norton Anthology knows Henry Cowell as the composer of the epically stated The Banshee. However, The Banshee is not the only Irish mythological topic that inspired his music as noted by Dr. Charles Pease, writer of the “As I See It” column in the Evening News, published in San Jose, California in 1922.[1] This column does not specify which piece he heard, so I did some extra research to find out which piece is most likely.

The volume of The Evening News was published three years before Cowell’s The Banshee was premiered.  I found another piece written in 1912, entitled The Tides of Manaunaum: No. 1 of “Three Irish Legends.” This piece accurately fulfills all the descriptions found in Dr. Charles Pease’s article; it is based on Irish myths, voices “the crashing movements of the incredible forces and masses conveyed in strange ‘chord-clusters’, and includes “the old Dorian modes developed perhaps five or six centuries before Christ.” However, just because this piece includes chord clusters and the Dorian mode, does this piece really show a “World Closer to God?”[2]

The edition published in American Piano Classics selected by Joseph Smith includes the story according to John Varian:

Manaunaum was the god of motion, and long before the creation he sent forth tremendous tides, which swept to and fro through the universe, and rhythmically moved the particles and materials of which the gods were later to make the suns and the worlds.[3]

Yes, the low clusters the show the crashing tides against the shore created by the “god of motion” and the Dorian mode points back ancient Greece. But does this music really transcend over all other music the godly cosmos of another world? The ideas of chord clusters had been around as Igor Stravinsky used dissonant clusters in his music, and composers had been looking back to the Greeks for some time. Henry Cowell is just another development in the scope of music.

[1] Dr. Charles Pease, “As I See It: Cowell’s Cosmic Music World Close to God,” Evening News vol. 78 no. 73 (09-25-1922) : 6.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Henry Cowell, “The Tides of Manaunaum,” in Americn Piano Classics: 39 Works by Gottschalk, Griffes, Gershwin, Copland, and Others, ed. Joseph Smith (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001), 44.