Category: Articles

Describe your best and worst memories of premiere performances David Del Tredici, Composer



David Del Tredici
Photo by Robin Holland courtesy Boosey & Hawkes

Best:
1976 premiere of FINAL ALICE in Chicago with Solti conducting and Barbara Hendricks, soprano soloist. Because the piece was so tonal — long stretches in the purest D Major — I was terrified the piece would be ridiculed by the public, press and players. As well, the performance apparatus was huge and unorthodox: winds/brass in 4, a siren, a theremin, complex soprano amplification, orchestral players asked to whisper.

What happened? The audience cheered and stood up, the reviews were ecstatic. I was on my way.

Worst:
Premiere of POP-POURRI for soprano solo, rock group, chorus and orchestra at La Jolla, California in 1968. This was the first piece I’d written with orchestra. The orchestration was a mess and the small orchestra unequal to the task. The conservative audience hearing electric guitars and saxes in a concert hall at this time (1968) were horrified. I felt as though I had just farted in church and then had to bow in recognition.

What do you expect to hear when someone says “American music?” David Nicholls, Professor of Music and Research Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Keele University, Staffordshire U.K.



David Nicholls
Photo courtesy David Nicholls

“Defining American Music”

What do we mean by “American music?” From a millennial perspective, the answer is apparently simple: as America’s Music, the Cambridge History of American Music, and The New Grove Dictionary of American Music make manifestly clear, it is synonymous with inclusivity. From Barber to barbershop, Cage to Cajun, and Ruggles to ragtime, it’s all there, reinforcing the contemporary view of American culture as pluralistic and multifaceted. Implicit in this definition, though, is the acknowledgment that “American music” cannot be quantified either stylistically or otherwise; rather than defining some aurally-perceivable nationalistic trait, the term actually identifies “music created by Americans, usually in America.” A century ago, the situation was rather different: there was no clear idea of what “American music” could or should be, let alone what it supposedly was. Indeed, it was only really during the 1930s that this identity crisis began to resolve itself, paradoxically at a time when stereotypical images of “American music” were at their most potent, both in America and elsewhere.

As is well-known, in 1893 Antonín Dvorák opined in the New York Herald that “the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies . . . These are the folk songs of America, and your composers must turn to them …” i Dvorák subsequently modified his view, suggesting that Native American melodies were also worthy of consideration; and in 1895, in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, he finally conceded that “the germs for the best in music lie hidden among all the races that are commingled in this great country.” In retrospect, Dvorák’s remarks are noteworthy on three counts: for their ignorance of both earlier and contemporaneous attempts at creating an “American music”; for their failure to understand the profound demographic and socio-cultural differences which existed between America and Europe; and for the fact that they were taken so seriously by so many people. ii

At the end of the nineteenth century, it was perfectly possible for European composers like Dvorák, Grieg, or Tchaikovsky to write genuinely nationalistic music, by integrating into the existing European musical lingua franca the folk music of their compatriots: they spoke a common musical tongue, but with characteristic and identifiable ethnic or regional accents. But in polyglot America no such musico-linguistic purity was possible, except in the most particular circumstances, such as the African American-derived pieces of William Grant Still, or the regionally based compositions of Charles Ives. Any other use of “folk songs” strikes me as disingenuous and appropriative — and I include here not just the obvious Aunt Sallys, such as MacDowell’s Indian Suite or the Alaskan Inuit melodies of Beach’s late String Quartet, but also Still’s Danzas de Panama and Ives’s setting of the spiritual “In the Mornin’.”

Somewhat ironically, just when Dvorák was encouraging American art music composers to borrow freely from African American sources, several interrelated popular music genres (all of which were to some extent intrinsically linked with African American culture) were about to enter the mainstream of American — and subsequently Western — cultural life. The meteoric rise between 1895 and 1925 of ragtime and blues (with their love-child jazz), together with musical theatre and Tin Pan Alley songs, could not have been predicted by Dvorák or anyone else; nor could the extent to which they would be perceived in the public imagination as the only authentic examples of American culture. The degree of their ubiquity by the mid-1920s is easily demonstrated: think of the “Golliwog’s Cake-walk,” La Création du Monde, L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Die Dreigroschenoper or Shostakovich’s “Taiti Trot,” an arrangement of “Tea for Two.” (Incidentally, anyone doubting the threat that ragtime and jazz apparently posed to the European cultural establishment at this time is directed to the outrageously racist remarks contained in part three of Constant Lambert’s Music Ho!. iii)

By the 1930s, a veritable smorgasbord of apparently incompatible musics sought approbation as the authentic voice of America. Apart from the popular music genres mentioned above, there was an assortment of art music contenders. The Second New England School and its descendants had created a substantial body of Eurocentric but often appealing music. Farwell and the other Indianists had taken Dvorák at his word in exploring the rich traditions of Native American music; a smaller number of composers had similarly approached the African American heritage. Copland, like Gershwin, had initially been drawn to a synthesis of jazz and art music, but by 1930 he had moved toward a hard-edged version of the neoclassical internationalism also espoused by a legion of Nadia Boulanger’s other American students. And then there were the self-styled ultra-modernists, with Henry Cowell as high priest, Varèse, Ruggles and Crawford among the communicants, and Ives as recalcitrant patron saint.

Perhaps the greatest myth of American music is the idea that a particular musical sound can somehow encapsulate the aspirations and fundamental character of the nation. Given the bewildering profusion of possibilities, the reality is rather of the pointlessness of attempting to justify a preeminent position for any single composer or genre. Yet for two authors writing in the early 1930s, it was this very multiplicity which was the key issue. Unlike Dvorák and his countless successors, who — in attempting to define American music — sought to privilege one genre, approach, or ethnic music above the others, John Tasker Howard and Henry Cowell adopted the all-embracing, anti-canonical, egalitarian approach customary today. As Cowell noted in the introduction to his 1933 American Composers on American Music, the bibliography of American music was, at the time, scant. Thus both his volume, and Howard’s 1931 Our American Music (which Cowell praised) set an important precedent. iv From them, one can trace a direct line of descent through Gilbert Chase’s 1955 America’s Music, to the more recent histories by Wilfrid Mellers, H. Wiley Hitchcock, Daniel Kingman, Charles Hamm and others.

Our American Music has been criticized for being “too genteel and ‘respectable,'” an “unmethodical, browsing chronicle,” compiled by someone who “fit Sonneck’s description of an American who wrote ‘as a European.'” v Yet for almost a quarter-century, Howard’s book was the only generally available account of American music. Crucially (and very unusually at this period), alongside its predictable chapters on art music stand substantial discussions of “other” American musics — folk, Native American, African American, popular song, and jazz — which occupy approximately a quarter of its pages. Howard’s tone may occasionally be pejorative, particularly in relation to Native Americans, but this was the unfortunate norm of the time and Howard was by no means the only culprit. The important point — one which would not have been lost on the very many readers of its first three editions — is that, in general, Our American Music examines all of its subjects with an admirable degree of dispassionate and scholarly interest.

That is not a comment one could honestly make regarding Cowell’s American Composers on American Music. Designated as a symposium, its tone is inevitably subjective rather then objective, and its overt aim is the promotion of ultra-modern art music. But the book is remarkable for two reasons: first, it includes not only a series of chapters in which composers as different as Howard Hanson and Ruth Crawford are considered by their peers, but also a second group in which general tendencies are examined. Among these we find sensitive and at times provocative statements concerning Latin American musics (Chávez and Caturla), African American composers (Still), oriental influence (Rudhyar), and jazz (Gershwin). Like Howard, Cowell took an unusually ecumenical view of American music.

American Composers on American Music is also remarkable for Cowell’s opinion, fundamentally different from Dvorák’s, that while “Nationalism in music has no purpose as an aim in itself . . . Independence . . . is stronger than imitation . . . [Thus] more national consciousness is a present necessity for American composers . . . When this has been accomplished, self-conscious nationalism will no longer be necessary.” vi Here as elsewhere, Cowell was the first to take his own advice, though one wonders whether he entirely foresaw the result of doing so. Later in 1933, in Modern Music, he argued that composers should “draw on those materials common to the music of all the peoples of the world, to build a new music particularly related to our own century.” vii For the remaining thirty years of his life, Cowell did just that, albeit inconsistently; the most immediate results can be found in a group of 1930s works which are so radical as to appear almost reactionary. “Ostinato Pianissimo,” the “United Quartet,” “Pulse,” and “Return” make extensive use of ostinato patterns; the apparent simplicity of their rhythmic material conceals a surprising degree of sophistication, not least in the relation between surface detail and overall structure. Three of the four pieces are written for percussion and utilize a plethora of unusual instruments, both invented and imported. Pitched material, where it occurs, tends to be consonant but nondiatonic, and includes artificial modes constructed along Asian and African lines. Drone accompaniments are the norm. Cowell’s remarks concerning the “United Quartet” apply to all four pieces: “[their] simplicity is drawn from the whole world, instead of from the European tradition or any other single tradition.” viii

Cowell was not the only American composer of the 1930s to adopt such a stance. Indeed, Harry Partch had, by this time, “tentatively rejected both the intonational system of modern Europe and its concert system.” ix Partch’s major creative accomplishments of the decade — including the Seventeen Lyrics by Li Po and the journal Bitter Music — exemplify his radicalism. Subsequently, he devised a new and comprehensive intonational system, built a unique ensemble of instruments capable of performing in that system, and created an all-embracing aesthetic for his work: corporeality. His frame of cultural reference ranged from hitchhiker inscriptions to Greek tragedy. More recent figures to follow in similar footsteps include Lou Harrison, Peter Garland, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and — arguably — John Cage.

That Partch, Cowell, and the others just named are American composers is unquestionable; but is their music American? Certainly none of them achieves “Americanness” through the superficial use of “American” ethnic material, by conforming to American generic stereotypes, or through association — retrospective or otherwise — with American subject matter. To my mind, though, their music — and that of many other so-called American experimentalists — is profoundly American, for it possesses at a compositional and aesthetic level the same qualities that were identified earlier in connection with the books by Cowell and Howard: those of inclusivity, open-mindedness, egalitarianism, and (in more technical terms) the hybridic synthesis of disparate elements into a cohesive and coherent whole. Given America’s official motto – “e pluribus unum” — the nation should be deeply proud of this music — but it isn’t. On the contrary, America has often shunned Cowell, Partch, and the other experimentalists I would identify as its most American composers. For while Harris, Sessions and Schuman saw the majority of their symphonies premiered by America’s foremost orchestras and conductors, only a fraction of Cowell’s twenty symphonies were afforded such treatment. Partch received little institutional support, and even in 1966, at the height of his artistic accomplishments, could complain with justifiable bitterness that “I went to the social security offices yesterday, and learned that the $538.20 check from the U.S. Treasurer is valid. It is my reward for having endured this society for 65 years.” x In 1997, Peter Garland moved into self-imposed exile in Mexico, as a result of “the effects of two decades of conservatism [that] have left people like me marginalized, probably permanently.” xi

The problem, I believe, has to do with the continuing dominance of American music and its institutions by outdated Eurocentric attitudes and values, which still equate nationalism with folk music of one sort or another. (And let’s remember that it was Gershwin, on page 187 of American Composers on American Music, who wrote that “Jazz I regard as an American folk-music; not the only one, but a very powerful one.”) These radical composers have failed — literally and metaphorically — to wave the American folk music flag, either at home, or on territory appropriated from others. As a consequence, and like some weird cult, their profound Americanism has moved them beyond nationalism into conflict with the nation.

While the term “American music” — not least as it came to be understood in the 1930s — is of necessity synonymous with inclusivity and plurality, this need not limit its manifestations to an infinite variety of self-contained musics, whose only common point is their creation by Americans, usually in America. For as the work of Cowell, Partch, and their successors demonstrates, it can also define a music so rooted in inclusivity and plurality that it becomes universal rather than national, a music that — as Cowell suggested — is “particularly related to our own century.” That the greatest musical legacy of the most self-consciously nationalistic country in the world should be a music unacceptable to its own musical establishment, is supremely (and tragically) ironic.

[David Nicholls’ essay originally appeared in the Spring 1999 Newsletter of the Institute for Studies in American Music at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music (www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/) and is reprinted here with his kind permission and the kind permission of ISAM co-editor Ray Allen.]


  1. The sources of this and the following quotations are reproduced in John C. Tibbetts, ed., Dvorák in America, 1892-1895 (Portland, OR; Amadeus Press, 1993): 355-84.
  2. See Arthur Farwell, “Pioneering for American Music,” Modern Music, 12 (1934): 116-22; Adrienne Fried Block, “Boston Talks Back to Dvorák,” I.S.A.M. Newsletter, 18/2 (May 1989): 10-11, 15; Block, “Dvorák’s Long American Reach,” in Dvorák in America: 157-181.
  3. Constant Lambert, Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline (London: Faber, 1934).
  4. Henry Cowell, ed., American Composers on American Music: A Symposium (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1933; reprint New York: Frederick Ungar, 1962); John Tasker Howard, Our American Music: Three Hundred Years of It (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1931).
  5. Richard Crawford (quoting Gilbert Chase), “Foreword,” America’s Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present, rev. 3d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987): xv.
  6. Henry Cowell, “Trends in American Music,” American Composers on American Music: 13.
  7. Henry Cowell, “Towards Neo-Primitivism,” Modern Music, 10/3 (1933): 149-53.
  8. Henry Cowell, [introductory remarks], United Quartet [String Quartet No. 4] (San Francisco: New Music Edition, 1937): [1].
  9. Harry Partch, Genesis of a Music, 2d ed. enlarged (New York: Da Capo Press, 1979): vi-vii.
  10. Letter from Harry Partch to Lou Harrison, 23 August 1966, A Lou Harrison Reader, ed. Peter Garland (Santa Fe: Soundings Press, 1987): 60.
  11. Letter from Peter Garland to David Nicholls, 9 June 1998.

What do you expect to hear when someone says “American music?”

Chen Yi Chen Yi
“I think that all musical works composed in the States AND influenced by American culture are considered American music.”
Judith Lang Zaimont Judith Lang Zaimont
“In a very real sense, it is the lifeblood of our country expressed in sound.”
Howard Mandel Howard Mandel
“America’s music is wide and wild, fed by hundreds of old and new musical strains.”
David Nicholls David Nicholls
“From Barber to barbershop, Cage to Cajun, and Ruggles to ragtime, it’s all there, reinforcing the contemporary view of American culture as pluralistic and multifaceted.”

What is American Music?

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

America is a land of immigrants and the culture of America has been formed and reshaped time and time again by the immigrants whose traditions get introduced here and then morphed into something completely new. When we speak of an “American tradition,” it is almost an oxymoron because it is our tradition to be always changing and always growing.

This month, we asked Tania León to serve as the Guest Editor of NewMusicBox. Together we chose the topics for our interactive forums: In The Second Person and Hymn and Fuguing Tune, and together worked out whom we should pose questions to. It all began with our lengthy conversation revolving around what it means to be an American composer. We both found it ironic that composers as diverse as Copland, Villa-Lobos, Tchaikovsky, Takemitsu and William Grant Still get lumped together as “nationalistic” or “ethnic” when at the same time Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, all of whom were highly influenced by German and Austrian folk songs, do not. What do you think? We decided to ask Chen Yi, Judith Lang Zaimont and Howard Mandel what the term “American music” meant to them. A week after our initial meeting at the American Music Center, Tania got all excited about an essay she had just read by British musicologist David Nicholls in the newsletter for the Institute of American Music at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music. From the other side of the Atlantic, he was touching on the same issues we were here in New York City. Thanks to Professors Nichols and Ray Allen at Brooklyn College, we are able to share this fascinating essay with readers of NewMusicBox.

To put our whole discussion in context, Sid Whelan has contributed a hyper-history exploring the impact of immigration and emigration on American music. Unlike our previous hyper-histories on composer-led new music ensembles, independent record labels, and the performance of American repertoire at U.S. summer music festivals, this project was much more conceptual. Unlike ensembles, record labels or festivals, which each form stories in and of themselves, each story here is a complex web of inter-relations. As a result, the various pieces of the puzzle form a variety of labyrinthine paths any of which you can choose to follow in order to get the whole story. As an added feature to NewMusicBox, each piece of the puzzle contains two RealAudio sound samples of musical excerpts. These excerpts only begin to scratch the surface of the rich musical tapestry that has resulted from composers coming into and going out of the United States.

We’ve also embedded RealAudio samples on every page of my discussion with Tania allowing you to get a flavor of ten of her compositions plus a few extras. Once again, SoundTracks features RealAudio samples of all 22 CDs featured in addition to complete tracking information and direct click-throughs for purchase on Amazon. Another 100 concert listings of American repertoire have been added to our Hear&Now calendar providing two months of information about events throughout the United States and abroad. Lastly, we’ve assembled a variety of news items of interest to the American new music community. Among them is news that a deal has been struck between ASCAP and MP3.com meaning an even greater proliferation of American music, in all its wonderful varieties, across the World Wide Web.

The Unlimited Flavors of American Pie: How Immigration and Emigration have Shaped American Music


Sid Whelan
Photo by MJ Sharpe

What is American music? If, in answering that question, we start by discussing roots music (in my opinion a more appropriate term in the context of American culture than “folk” or ‘traditional”) such as bluegrass, country, gospel, blues, zydeco and rockabilly, and then move on to pop and popular art music forms from hip-hop to jazz, from rock to R&B, from bubblegum to Broadway, the answer is not too controversial. The foreign elements of those styles and genres, and the ways in which those elements changed and became American, are well-documented and not overly disputed.

However, when we come to foreign musical forms played more or less intact in immigrant communities, such as klezmer in Crown Heights and Skokie, polka in Bethlehem and San Antonio, son Cubano in Miami and Cleveland, or bachata and merengue in Washington Heights and Adams Morgan, or when we speak of American composers consciously studying and emulating the concert music of Europe — like Copland studying in Paris with Boulanger — or European composers settling in the United States and reshaping American aesthetics — like Max Steiner or Schoenberg (both in Los Angeles!) — then the answer to “what is American music?” becomes far more difficult to suss.

The melting pot metaphor, which most American children are given in grammar school to help us understand the cultural impact of five centuries of continuous, pluralistic, multi-national immigration into North America, is very useful when seeking to understand just what American music is. But as all good cooks know, the issue of when a particular ingredient is added to the pot makes all the difference in the world, for garlic stewed two hours is a very different experience from garlic sauteed for two minutes. In musical terms, for instance, Jerry Garcia’s California/Mexican heritage is inaudible in the Grateful Dead’s music though that heritage is clearly visible in the band’s name and iconography. Contrast that with Latin musicians whose heritage is far more immediate, from Tania León, Robert X. Rodriguez, and Miguel del Aguila to Arturo Sandoval, Flaco Jimenez and Carlos Santana, or the recent American successes of Chinese composers like Tan Dun and Chen Yi, and you’ll understand exactly what I’m getting at.

Beyond the issue of when ingredients were added to the pot, it is crucial to acknowledge the central flaw in the melting pot analogy: food ingredients are inanimate and lack free will, obviously unlike the people who form America’s cultural gumbo. Since free will is central to being American, or even being a foreigner in America, this omission is crucial. What happens when an ingredient, in the form of a community or an individual musician, resists melting, or assimilating? What happens when a composer favors the influence of her heritage over the influence of her contemporary surroundings? When does an immigrant composer become an American composer — the minute he pens his first note on this soil, or is it a gradual process which comes to fruition much later on? What are the differences between composers who resist the impact of American culture and those who embrace and work with it? What happens when African musicians settle in America and perform mostly for audiences comprised largely of people from other ethnic groups? What happens when a composer like Dvorak or Esa-Pekka Salonen comes from abroad to listen, learn, perform and compose here only to go home again? What happens when an American composer, who lives a completely American lifestyle, reaches back many generations and single-mindedly pursues the musical legacy of his long dead ancestors — a legacy which was not handed down but has to be retraced, researched and re-created? What happens when an American composer emigrates and works in a country and culture which does not believe in assimilation? (Almost no Old World societies accept it.)

American musical history is a story of immigrants bringing their sounds and staying here to interact with musicians of other cultural backgrounds. It is a story of assimilated American natives who, in search of some cultural specificity in the general maze of American culture, pursued the musical legacy of their long-dead forbears. It is a story of journeymen and women who worked here, had an impact on us and were impacted upon by us, but then left.

 

Additional Pages:

What do you expect to hear when someone says “American music?” Chen Yi, Composer



Chen Yi
Photo by Jim Hair

Since music is a universal language, music composition reflects the precipitation of a composer’s cultural and psychological construct, I think that all musical works composed in the States AND influenced by American culture are considered American music. The modern society, especially the American society, is like a great network of complex latitudes and attitudes, everything exists in equal rights under different cultures (both historical and contemporary), environments and conditions. They keep changing at every moment and interact with the others, so that each experience that we composers come across can become the source and exciting medium of our creation. That’s why I don’t have a fixed scope, a frame of styles to expect to hear when someone says “American music”. I am very open to it. I always have to do some study on the music itself, and some research on the creative background(s) of the composition before I label it.

What do you expect to hear when someone says “American music?” Judith Lang Zaimont, Composer



Judith Lang Zaimont
Photo courtesy Judith Lang Zaimont

What is ‘American music’?

  1. It reflects the vital, energized, young and action-oriented nation we are.
    In general it’s color-sensitive, edgy and, more often than not, pulsed — wickedly pulsed. It likes to take chances, and, as befits our polyglot national character, sometimes incorporates a staggering variety of modes of expression.
  2. In a very real sense, it is the lifeblood of our country expressed in sound.
  3. Any/all music written or improvised by Americans.

What do you expect to hear when someone says “American music?” Howard Mandel, President of the Jazz Journalists Association



Howard Mandel
Photo courtesy Howard Mandel

America’s music is wide and wild, fed by hundreds of old and new musical strains. It starts with Native American chants, flutes, rhythms, North American colonies of the Spanish and French and Germans as well as the Pilgrims, in the community functions, dilletante artistry and diverse forms of entertainment, becomes a free-flowing “folk” music and simultaneously a “commercial” music around the Civil War — when black and white gospel, blues, ballad and later instrumental (“jazz”) impulses mix with immigrant Hispanic, Irish, Jewish, Asian and European traditional and art musics in the city and marketplace. Dissemination of American music through American technology has led to the powerful, polyglot pop and art musics America exports today. American music celebrates the individual — the composer, the visionary, the improvising artist, the “star”: so American music sounds like a multitude.

Memorable outdoor premieres you’ve heard and/or your most unusual exposure to a new piece of music

Greg Sandow Greg Sandow
“Was it an outdoor experience? I’m not sure, and who cares?…”
Michael Torke Michael Torke
“I remember a concert at the Tanglewood Music Center that had both David Del Tredici’s “Happy Voices” (from Child Alice) and John Adams’s Harmonielehre on the same program!”
Marilyn Nonken Marilyn Nonken
“…the sight of Brant –headgear, jumpsuit, etc.– will always stick with me: Ives meets Evel Knievel.”
Joseph Dalton Joseph Dalton
“Ironically, as I attend more and more concerts, year after year, the memorable ones are fewer and rarer…”

How Festivals can Attract New Audiences to American Music

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

Five years ago some friends of mine drove me down to a bluegrass festival in Stumptown, West Virginia — a more than 10 hour journey from New York City which was more time than I’ve ever spent in a car in my whole life being the die-hard urbanite!

 

At the Festival there were people camped out all weekend to hear such great American musicians as Jimmy Martin, Charley Waller and Larry Sparks. In fact, I was able to greet Jimmy Martin personally after his set. Upon telling him I came from New York, he greeted me saying “Suuuun, welcome to the YOO-nited States!” But later I was able to play some fiddle with him at an impromptu jam session he led from the back of his gig van. There are many people with similar reminiscences about Leonard Bernstein from his many years at Tanglewood.

Music festivals offer a unique experience for listeners to discover music informally and as a result are in a unique position to attract new audiences to unfamiliar music. Yet so many established music festivals in America resist taking the lead in reshaping American musical thought. Despite the absence of a comprehensive American new music assault this summer, there are still many laudable efforts outdoors nationwide which are the focus of the third NewMusicBox.

I visited Chicago for a talk with Zarin Mehta, Executive Director of the venerable Ravinia Festival, who described the limits along with the new potentials for festival programming. And while his musical passions are not exactly entrenched in the music of the here and now, we found a common ground. Mic Holwin scoured the nation in search of American repertoire in a hyper-history of summer music festivals. (To be consistent with our first two issues, she wondered if she would need to change her surname to Smith. We let her keep her name and the hyper-history remains every bit as thorough. In fact, this time we even have a picture on every page!)

We asked Michael Torke, Greg Sandow, Marilyn Nonken and Joseph Dalton to describe a memorable outdoor premiere they’ve heard and to describe their most unusual exposure to a new piece of music. We’d like to know your experiences as well and ask you to offer your opinion about the feasibility of an all-American new music festival as the perfect opportunity for new audiences to discover some of this great music. To help you discover new music, we’ve added RealAudio samples to all 22 recordings featured in this month’s SoundTracks.

Beyond the world of festivals, American music is the top story at the American Symphony Orchestra League who has made a firm commitment to promoting new American music both in presentations and concerts at ITS annual Conference as well as in a new Web site. ASCAP HAS honored orchestras and choruses devoted to presenting new American repertoire and BMI has held its annual awards for young composers. As usual, NewMusicBox features over 200 listings of American music performances during the next two months so even if you don’t have a chance to visit one of the Festivals there may still be an opportunity to discover a new work.