Early in the century, a handful of American composers began creating a new musical culture in the United States. Abandoning the European musical tradition, they protested the marginalization of American-born composers and struggled to displace traditional classical music in America. This movement, known as experimentalism, peaked during the 1950s and 1960s, when the music of composers like John Cage, Henry Cowell, and Charles Ives reached a new wide audience. This ethnographic account of experimentalism addresses the question of what social and political factors produced this avant-garde movement. Although European avant-gardism in music has been well documented, this is the first comprehensive account of the avant-garde in American music. This study chronicles the musical activities of the major figures and examines the development of a radical discourse among composers. Addressing experimentalism within the context of artistic and national politics, consideration is given to the effect of federal policies on arts support. This work will be of interest to ethnomusicologists and music historians, as well as to sociologists and anthropologists who study culture change.
About the Author:
CATHERINE M. CAMERON is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In addition to her long-standing interest in Western and non-Western music, she has done research and published articles on tourism, expressive culture, and economic change in the United States and the Caribbean.