Ultramodernism and other Contemporary Offerings

Leta E. Miller

in Music and Politics in San Francisco

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268913
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950092 | DOI:
Ultramodernism and other Contemporary Offerings

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The San Francisco Symphony's repertory under Hadley and Hertz may have been appealing to the public, but it made few claims to adventurousness. Hadley, of course, was just getting a new organization off the ground, and, though he did conduct some works by U.S. composers, his most frequently programmed American composer was Hadley himself. Hertz inherited a more experienced ensemble, but he too approached his programming with caution, in part revealing his own preferences, but also probably reflecting his tenuous relationship with the board of governors, who were responsible for renewing his contracts. New music could potentially alienate audiences, and Hertz recognized the importance of maintaining high attendance. If the symphony's programming was conservative, the city's opera offerings were even more so. Traveling companies presented the same dozen or so works over and over, with a tiny sprinkling of unusual operas. In this conservative climate, there was plenty of room for an organization that would promote the avant-garde. That need was met by Henry Cowell, who almost single-handedly put San Francisco on the map during the 1920s and 1930s as one of the country's most adventurous locales for new music. In 1925 he founded the New Music Society of California. Ten years later critic Alfred Frankenstein would call it “the most important organization fostering modern musical creation in this country”.

Keywords: San Francisco; Henry Cowell; new music; San Francisco Symphony; traveling companies; New Music Society of California

Chapter.  13783 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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