My primary research project is a monograph, European Musical Modernism and the American Audience, 1880-1940. Other current projects and interests include jazz influences in Bob Wills’s western swing, Bernstein as a cultural ambassador, and Existentialism in Grunge. The monograph follows my dissertation on the comparative reception history of Arnold Schoenberg’s free atonal works in the United States, Great Britain, Austria, and Germany, which assessed the ways in which cultural understandings of the role and function of music influenced how listeners understood atonality. The presentations and archival research that guided this project gave rise to newly unearthed sources in the form of critical reviews, as well as larger discussions about the nature of modernism in music. This process has in turn sparked questions of how the concept of modernism in America related to the sound of European musical modernism in concert halls.
European Musical Modernism and the American Audience, 1880-1940 focuses on five cities that were crucial to the formation of American identity in relation to Western art music –New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland. The work will illuminate the relationship between seminal figures, contemporary intellectual and cultural movements, and sound, while providing a developed picture of how Americans at the turn of the twentieth century described and understood musical modernism in the concert hall. These cities each had their own distinctive character, evidence through programming choices and critical reaction. As the homes of the so-called “Big Five” orchestras they shaped both American scholars’ and the publics’ relationships to art music in the late nineteenth through early twentieth centuries.
Critical primary sources and archival materials that have been previously underrepresented in academic publishing (e.g. Frederick Stock’s papers, and the writings of James Huneker and Glenn Dillard Gunn) form the basis of this project. Through my focus on contemporary discussions of modernism this work will bring to light the ways in which Americans in the midst of modernity understood their environment and how their conceptions differed from those presented by later scholars.
More than bringing to light an important facet of our musical past, however, my research approaches a methodology for understanding the complex dynamic between how musical culture is transmitted and assimilated as well as the corresponding realities of how humans migrate and integrate into new communities. My primary approach is built upon a theory of music as cultural currency and as a place where identity is both created and expressed.This methodology is significant for not only framing historical debates of the relations between art and immigrant populations, but also for contextualizing current émigré and refugee experiences. Through this understanding, we can become more cognizant of the ways in which art and culture are both separated and inseparable from the people who create, identify, and reproduce them. Shining light on these differences between desirable and undesirable foreign influences opens a discussion of the multifaceted reality of cultural and national identity.