VINTAGE MODERNISM: EARLY EXPERIMENTALIST MUSIC FOR VIOLIN IN THE UNITED STATES
Liu, Francis M.
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The historical narrative of concert music in the early twentieth century has focused a great deal on the influence of European composers as well as the American composers who went to Europe to study. Often overlooked, however, is the influence of an entire generation of composers working in the United States during that time period. These artists experimented with polyrhythm, polytonality, dissonant counterpoint, and a whole host of other musical techniques in order to express their perceptions of a changing world. Over the years, the new techniques became associated with various movements including futurism, experimentalism and ultramodernism. Regardless of label, these composers were some of the first to introduce the new musical styles to the listening public.The recitals that make up this dissertation explore the sound world of experimentalist composers working in the United States during the early twentieth century. Serving as the foundation of these recitals are all four of the violin sonatas by Charles Ives, the “grandfather” of modernist music whose financial support helped to foster a whole generation of American composers. Also prominently featured is the music of Henry Cowell. His Suite for Violin and Piano, Mosaic Quartet (String Quartet No. 3), and Quartet Euphometric demonstrate the composer's use of cluster tones, dissonant counterpoint, polymeter, and indeterminate form. Additional works by George Antheil, Leo Ornstein, Wallingford Riegger, Dane Rudhyar, Carl Ruggles, and Ruth Crawford (Seeger) highlight other approaches taken by members of the ultra-modernist movement. Rounding out the repertoire for these recitals are works by Johanna Beyer and Conlon Nancarrow, both of whom either worked with or were influenced by Cowell in some way. All of the pieces selected date roughly from 1900 to the mid 1930's. Thus, the purpose of these recitals is not to provide a comprehensive overview of each composer's development, but rather to examine the influence and interconnections of a specific cross-section of the musical landscape.