What Is American Music?

Wednesday, January 18, 1950

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Tanglewood rountable discussion with examples played on piano. Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Irving Fine and Lukas Foss begin with a discussion of jazz and its assimilation. There is a lot of music that would not have been written without jazz existing first. Has influenced Eurupean music as well. Music that comes right out of jazz but doesn't sound like jazz, rhythmically. Europeans may be prone to thinking jazz begins and ends with George Gershwin. Some musicians they discuss: Bartok, Mahler, Roy Harris, Stravinsky, Debussy, David Diamond, Leon Kirchner, John Cage, Schoenberg.

They then proceed to many other areas: European music; 12 tone school; prepared pianos, which they define as a piano in which the hammers have been prepared with thumbtacks and the strings have been prepared with rubber or metal. They discuss opera, Marc Blitzstein and his latest work; Virgil Thomson and "The Mother of Us All"; Foss' latest opera based on Mark Twain; how much of America gets into the music.

For more on this gathering please go to:

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 8435
Municipal archives id: LT5519


Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Irving Fine and Lukas Foss


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About Miscellaneous

Programs ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s covering a variety of cultural and political topics.

From archival broadcasts of sewer plant openings to single surviving episodes of long-defunct series, "Miscellaneous" is a catch-all for the odds and ends transferred as part of the New York Public Radio Archives Department's massive NEH-funded digitization project, launched in 2010.

Buried in this show you will find all sorts of treasures, from the 1937 dedication of the WNYC Greenpoint transmitter to the 1939 lighting of the City Hall Christmas tree and the 1964 reception for Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

This collection includes some unique “slice-of-life” productions that provide a telling portrait of America from the 1940s through the 1950s, such as public service announcements regarding everything from water conservation to traffic safety and juvenile delinquency and radio dramas such as "The Trouble Makers" and "Hate, Incorporated."



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