Composers and Their Audience in the Thirties

Arthur Berger

in Reflections of an American Composer

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232518
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928213 | DOI:
Composers and Their Audience in the Thirties

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This chapter highlights the exclusivity of music enjoyed by composers and their small, intellectually elite audiences in the early 1930s, while they isolated the masses. This was the time during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s when democracy in America was at its peak and a new liberalism cast its spell over thinkers and artists of many persuasions who were also responding to the dialectical materialism and Marxist ideology emanating from Soviet Russia. The average members of the audience for serious music were inclined to assimilate to the rich man's “art for the few”. Around that time intellectuals were quite concerned about being accused of escapism and many of them felt embarrassed when they found that their music was inaccessible to the mass audience. The chapter explores the various ways in which American composers tried to win the attention and admiration of a wider audience, which had grown up around the radio and phonograph. On the linguistic level there was the strong but ill-conceived tendency to equate the word “progressive” in politics and the word “progressive” in art so that it applied in the most literal sense rather in the sense that a more progressive society may demand a more derivative, backward-looking art that is accessible to the masses.

Keywords: US composers; audience; communism; dialectical materialism; Marxist ideology; liberalism; intellectually elite audiences

Chapter.  5107 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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