Orientalists and a Crusader

W. Anthony Sheppard

in Revealing Masks

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520223028
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924741 | DOI:
Orientalists and a Crusader

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The idea that the world contained undiscovered “musical resources” waiting to be exploited by the composer through encounters with the exotic was central to much twentieth-century American music. These resources included new scales, orchestral colors, and forms of music theater. The “excavation” by American composers of Asian music and, later, of African music has taken multiple forms. For some composers, experience with exotic cultures provided an entirely new conception of music; others attempted to immerse themselves in a detailed study of a particular musical culture and to create works within that tradition. The earliest symptoms of an Orientalist contagion in American music occurred at the level of melodic borrowing. Charles T. Griffes (1884–1920) and Emerson Whithorne (1884–1958), contemporaries and friends, employed Chinese, Japanese, and Javanese melodies (acquired through printed transcriptions) in their compositions of the 1910s and '20s, respectively. While Whithorne studied Asian music in the British Museum, Griffes encountered the exotic nearer to Whitman's Broadway. Of the first wave of American Orientalists, Griffes was the most successful.

Keywords: American Orientalists; exotic cultures; musical resources; American composers; Charles T. Griffes; Emerson Whithorne; Asian music

Chapter.  4477 words. 

Subjects: Applied Music

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