Retreat from Fame: Margaret Ruthven Lang, the once famous Boston composer, rediscovered

Donald George and Lucy Mauro

Volume XXXVII, No. 3
(Fall 2011)


Margaret Lang Rediscovered

The Doug Seroff Collection

New Instrument Collection at Nicholls State University

SAM Bulletin Moves Online

Music of Latin America Interest Group Report

From the President

A Note from the Development Committee

Student Forum

Upcoming JSAM Contents

New Members


Bulletin Board

Conference Calendar

I am glad, very glad, not to be active in any musical way, but only a thankful listener. So wrote the once noted American composer Margaret Ruthven Lang, in her 88th year, in a letter to Mrs. Edward MacDowell on June 5, 1955. (Johnston) Margaret Lang, some fifty years earlier, was known as "among the most prominent American women, whose position in the front rank of the best modern composers is no longer a question" (Program Notes, Baltimore Symphony Concert, March 14, 1901).  Indeed, so well-known and regarded was Lang and her works, particularly her songs, that, in 1912, Ethel Syford in The New England Magazine described Lang thus: “It is the more sensitively poetic truth and beauty which she strives for and attains, and it is this unfailing quality which makes her songs of a higher order than those produced by any other American composer.” (Syford, 22-23)

Why would someone who was an established composer, indeed who was “in the front rank” stop composing and allow herself to be forgotten? Margaret Ruthven Lang (1867-1972) published her first works in 1889 and went on to compose some 140 songs, solo piano pieces and chamber and orchestral works. Lang was the first American woman to have a work performed by a major American orchestra with her Dramatic Overture, Op. 12 performed by the Boston Symphony under the direction of Arthur Nikisch on April 7, 1893. Her works were championed by Edward MacDowell and noted performers of the day including Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Dan Beddoe and Alma Gluck. Lang’s publishers were Arthur P. Schmidt, Oliver Ditson and Theodore Presser; she received royalties into the early 1950s. Yet, about 1917, at the age of 50, Lang stopped composing. She lived some 50 more years and devoted much of her remaining years to religious work and taking care of her elderly mother.  While she kept meticulous business records of her published pieces, she destroyed many of her works, including her orchestral scores, following perhaps in the footsteps of her father who had all of his works destroyed at his death.

Margaret Lang was from the Lang family of Boston, the daughter of the prominent musician Benjamin Johnson “B. J.” Lang (organist, pianist, conductor and founder of the Cecilia Society and the Apollo Club) and Frances Burrage Lang, a singer. She was raised in an exceptionally musical home where she knew Dvořák and Paderewski as guests. The Langs knew Liszt and his daughter Cosima, Hans von Bülow and Richard Wagner, and Margaret knew the Wagner children as playmates. Margaret Lang studied with her father, Chadwick, Paine and Parker and also, as did many American composers in the late 19th century, in Germany.  Her music shows the influence of the German Romantic tradition, along with some French and occasional Eastern styles, all combined to create her own American sound.

When asked in 1967 why she stopped composing, Lang’s answer was: “Why did I stop, I had nothing to say.” (Mullins) In her own biographical notes in 1960 she states, not without a bit of pride, "My music writing stopped soon after The Heavenly Noel’s many performances in many places, with orchestra; with piano; and once at request, with organ, piano, and harp; - for much-involved housekeeping took place during my mother’s last housebound years.” (Lang) Theodore Presser published her final composition, Three Pianoforte Pieces for Young Players, op. 60, in 1919.

With the outbreak of WWI many German-trained composers turned away from the country of their studies and sought other models. Was Margaret Lang also a part of this turning away from the German model? If her training was no longer a part of American culture and the public was no longer pro-German in feeling, perhaps she stopped composing for this reason. Her great-nephew Fletcher DuBois often visited Margaret, his “Aunt Blossy” as she was known in the family, and said the family did not know why she stopped and that she never mentioned her compositional career to him, although he was familiar with her charming limericks and children’s songs as they were played in his family. DuBois first realized Lang’s importance in music when he “discovered” her in the Boston Library. (George and Mauro)

The “much-involved housekeeping” was expected of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lang was responsible for maintaining the household, hiring servants, and taking her mother’s place at many social functions as was expected of a proper Boston lady of the time.  Does this perhaps explain also her ceasing to compose? She felt an intense responsibility to her mother, to the detriment perhaps of her own artistic creation? Laure Blunsom cites two interesting events concerning Margaret’s work in “Gender, Genre and Professionalism.” Lang’s mother Frances Lang (an excellent musician) wrote in one of her diaries: “Maidie (Margaret) is writing another overture. She has finished Gretchen’s blanket;” thus Lang combined her musical work with her “female” obligations. (Lang) When Lang’s father held a reception for Dvořák, Margaret Lang stayed upstairs until all guests had gone, and then she came down to show Dvořák her compositions. (Blunsom, 55)

Margaret Lang also turned to religion and started publishing missives and booklets which she called “Messages from God.” These writings seem to have occupied much of her time and she was very happy to write them, publish them and send them to churches at her own expense; she described this as being done “anonymously, but with deep devotion” and “my life’s best work”. (Lang) Did this creative activity then act as a substitute for composition?  Margaret Lang lived out her life on Brimmer Street, in Boston’s Back Bay. As a “thankful listener” she also has the distinction of being the longest subscriber to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra performed a concert in 1967 in honor of Lang’s 100th birthday and installed a plaque on her seat, first balcony right, B1. Not one for ostentation, she could not be found at the reception honoring her after the concert because she had left early to catch the last train home as she had always done.

Although Lang destroyed most of her orchestral music and her studies, most of her songs and some piano works survive in libraries and collections throughout the US. Lang’s life, career and music represent a fascinating contribution to America’s musical history. As Rupert Hughes said in Contemporary American Composers in 1900, “Personally, I see in Miss Lang's compositions such a depth of psychology that I place the general quality of her work above that of any other woman composer. It is devoid of meretriciousness and of any suspicion of seeking after virility; it is so sincere, so true to the underlying thought, that it seems to me to have an unusual chance of interesting attention and stirring emotions increasingly with the years.” (Hughes, 438)

Works Referenced

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Program Notes, March 14, 1901.
Blunsom, Laurie Katharine. “Gender, Genre and Professionalism: The Songs of Clara Rogers, Helen Hopekirk, Amy Beach, Margaret Ruthven Lang and Mabel Daniels, 1880-1925.” PhD diss., Brandeis University, 1999.
George, Donald and Lucy Mauro. “An Interview with Fletcher DuBois, Great Nephew of Margaret “Blossy” Lang,” (accessed March 23, 2011).
Hughes, Rupert. Contemporary American Composers. Boston: L.C. Page and Co., 1900.
Johnston, Jim. Margaret Ruthven Lang & Family, “1925-1972.” (accessed March 23, 2011).
Lang, Margaret Ruthven. Diary, Sept. 29, 1892, Lang Family Papers, Boston Public Library as quoted in Blunsom.
------. Scrapbooks. Boston Public Library, as quoted in Johnston.
Mullins, John J. “Composer Margaret Lang, 101, just ‘wants to live forever.’”  
The Boston Globe, 19 February 1967 as quoted in Johnston.
Syford, Ethel. “Margaret Ruthven Lang,” The New England Magazine, March 1912.

The Doug Seroff Collection at the Center for Popular Music

The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University has recently added an exceptional collection on southern music to its holdings. The Doug Seroff African American Gospel Quartet Collection contains materials gathered and developed over thirty years of research by Seroff on the history of this important and influential musical style. It includes audio and video recordings, over 300 photographs (many unique), research notes, files of newspaper articles, and manuscripts dating from the 1870s through the 2000s documenting the rich history of quartet singing in Tennessee and Alabama.
The collection primarily chronicles the golden era of gospel quartet singing as practiced by groups like The Spirit of Memphis, The Swan Silvertones, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The personal manuscripts of John Battle, a founding member of the Grammy winning Fairfield Four quartet of Nashville, Tennessee, are included. Other highlights include audio and video recordings of historic performances, radio/TV appearances, quartet rehearsal sessions, and interviews with performers. A detailed finding aid for the contents of the collection is available from the Center for Popular Music. To access the collection, contact the Center for Popular Music by phone 615-898-2449, e-mail at, or visit the Center online at

New Instrument Collection at Nicholls State University

Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, is in the process of building a new instrument collection. Supported by a Louisiana Board of Regents' Traditional Enhancement Grant institutional technology match for $44,000, the collection, headed by Nicholls librarian Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith, the collection will include folk instruments (for example, a zydeco accordion and a Cajun rub board and triangle) as well as historic instruments (Western Art music), music therapy instruments, instruments for the disabled, and world music instruments. The grant also supports an interactive space for curriculum materials and collaborative learning for music instruction/the teaching of music within the library.

New computers and keyboards will help engage students who wish to learn how to read music notation, play an instrument, study music theory, or compose. The space will eventually become the new Arts-Media center—a self-contained interactive learning center that will include instruments, multimedia, scores, sound recordings, and music resources.

SAM Bulletin Moves Online

Beginning with the Winter 2012 issue of the Bulletin, the Society will be disseminating this publication primarily electronically. You will need to indicate on your renewal notice if you would prefer to have a print version mailed.  If you do not communicate a preference on your renewal form, it will be assumed that you are content with an electronic version of the Bulletin.

Please make sure that we have your correct email address in the database.  Check your Membership Directory!  If you have any questions, please contact the SAM office at or call us 412-624-3031.

2011 Meeting of the Music of Latin America and Caribbean Interest Group: Music of the Americas and the College Curriculum

Jennifer L. Campbell, co-chair

During the 2011 SAM conference in Cincinnati, participants of the Music of Latin America and Caribbean Interest Group gathered together for a session on ways to integrate American music, specifically the music of Central and South America, into the college curriculum. Two panelists, Alejandro Madrid and Brenda Romero, and a respondent, J. Peter Burkholder, were invited to share their thoughts on the importance of including Latin American music within the broader music history sequence. They were encouraged to offer their experiences with incorporating Latin American music into existing courses, as well as to suggest pedagogical techniques they have found useful in teaching this material.

The first speaker, Alejandro Madrid (University of Illinois at Chicago), presented a provocative paper that challenged the core foundation on which our music education system is built. He asserted that the current practice of teaching American music has been shaped by nationalism and argued that this method is largely outdated in today’s age of postnationalism and multiculturalism. To illustrate his point, Madrid reflected on how nationalism has affected our understanding of music in the United States, stating that musicology has validated a bifurcated racial (black-white) view of “American music,” thereby elevating jazz and classical art music above other types. In turn, this has led to a marginalization of various ethnic groups (and their music) that are part of the U.S. and caused a lack of consideration for other kinds of music important to African American communities.

Madrid called for a revolution of pedagogical practices within our music education system. He advocated for “the study of sound, its meaning, and its organization within specific cultural and social contexts” within a postnational framework, which would allow for a more cosmopolitan understanding of music free from nation-State boundaries and ideologies. As an example, Madrid noted the absence of Latin American music within music history survey texts, stating that this absence reflected the “invisibility of [Latin American] culture within the mainstream discourse of U.S. national identity.” Instead of broadening the current canon of repertoire to include select works from Latin American countries, Madrid proposed an approach that “recognizes the historically transnational musical flows between the U.S. and Latin America; an approach that ultimately aims at dismantling the myth of U.S. exceptionalism.” This type of postnational discourse would be aligned with current trends in cultural studies, breaking through the walls of the field of music and connecting to the questions being asked by the larger intellectual community.

Brenda Romero (University of Colorado at Boulder) also called for rethinking the current pedagogical attitude toward Latin American music. She emphasized the need to teach beyond the musical work itself and suggested that scholars broaden the content being taught by addressing the socio-political contexts (poverty, slavery, imperialism) that led to the creation of the music. Additionally, Romero insisted that musicologists grapple with the extra-musical issues of racism and prejudice in order to convey accurately the development of music in Central and South America, and she recommended the book Skin: A Natural History by Nina Jablonski as a helpful reference for someone trying to dismantle these topics. Romero also encouraged the inclusion of live performances by local immigrant musicians (when available) within the classroom. As Romero stated, live performances “make visible and tangible” those who make the music, thereby allowing students to connect the music itself to the people and their socio-political conditions.

After thanking Madrid and Romero for their presentations, J. Peter Burkholder (Indiana University) offered his response. He began by summarizing his perspective on Western music, which he had outlined in a recent article, “Music of the Americas and Historical Narratives,” published in American Music (2009). Burkholder argued that musicologists should acknowledge the importance of the “transatlantic tradition”—the transmission of music between Europe and the Americas that occurred in parallel to the musical developments within Europe—in order to understand and communicate the full historical narrative of Western music. He described how this viewpoint influenced his revision of A History of Western Music, stating “I have tried to include music of the Americas, from Argentina to Canada, as part of the narrative and repertoire taught in traditional music history surveys that use a textbook like [A History of Western Music]. Music of the Americas now takes up about 13% of the textbook, up from less than 1% in its first edition.” In addition to weaving the narrative of American music from the 16th century to present day throughout the textbook (now in its eighth edition), Burkholder included thirty musical works from the United States and three Latin American selections in the current anthology.

Burkholder commented positively on the innovations proposed by the other two panelists, but he also defended his position as a reformer who makes small but significant modifications. He addressed how his editorial role allows him “to broaden the coverage and refocus the emphases [of the text]…[but] not to write a completely different book.” He contended that making reforms and rethinking the discipline are not necessarily mutually exclusive, arguing “incremental change is change.” He noted that many music programs now include courses in jazz, popular music and non-Western music in addition to standard courses in the classical tradition, and he also cited examples of scholars who have been grappling with the more radical concept of “what music does” in exciting and interesting ways. In light of Burkholder’s philosophy, each of us—whether a reformer or a revolutionary—can help transform how the music of the Americas is integrated into the classroom.

The interest group has a resource list on the SAM website at

From the President

Katherine K. Preston

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Officers and Board of the Society for American Music have been hard at work this past spring and summer thinking about, discussing, and exploring ways to implement many of the suggestions that emerged in our Long-range Planning retreat last September, and from both the online survey that we conducted last January and the subsequent open forum at the our conference in Cincinnati. I would like to describe some of the ideas and proposals we have been discussing since last meeting as a Society in March 2011.

The various discussions and comments made it quite clear that one of the most important goals facing our Society is the need to define clearly our mission as a scholarly organization, and to ensure that our efforts are all designed to further that mission. This means, in short, that we need to identify our niche and put our efforts into activities that might help distinguish our society from others (like AMS, SEM, IASPM, etc) whose members also study American music topics. We have been exploring some ideas with these goals in mind.

One way to set ourselves apart is to make our conference more distinctive--less dominated, for example, by the paper-session format that is the norm in our discipline. This is particularly appropriate because, according to the survey, many SAM members consider the national conference to be one of our most important activities. Several years ago, in fact, the Board started to discuss new approaches, and recently implemented two changes: poster sessions and the seminar format. The former have been popular and widely accepted; the jury is still out, however, on the latter. We will probably give the seminar format a trial of several more conferences before making a final decision on whether or not to keep it as regular part of our conference.

In the last several months, however, we have been discussing two other conference-related ideas. The first is to make our meetings more interdisciplinary. We have long attempted to reach out to scholars in other fields (mostly music-related) by holding joint conferences with other scholarly organizations. The problem, however, is that such multiple-society conferences tend to be simultaneous meetings rather than joint ones, with a minimum of the true meeting-of-the-the minds that is our goal. For this reason, we are experimenting with the idea of setting aside several time-slots in the conference program to accommodate sessions that are co-sponsored by SAM and another society. A good example of this is a pair of sessions that will be part of our upcoming meeting in Charlotte, organized in conjunction with the Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE); these sessions were planned by Joe Horowitz (SAM) and Alan Lessoff (SHGAPE), and were accepted by the Program Committee. This was done in rather an ad-hoc manner this year, but the Board will be discussing in September the viability of jointly sponsored sessions in the future—perhaps with small and more-specific music-related organizations (The Charles Ives Society comes to mind, or the North American British Music Studies Association), or—perhaps even better—with societies outside our discipline (history, American studies, theatre or art history, sociology, and so forth). Such joint sessions might open up our research and thinking to input by scholars in disciplines completely outside of music, whose work could valuably inform our own, but whose scholarly societies would probably not be interested in a joint meeting. If you have ideas or opinions about this concept, please let me know.

Another conference-related idea that we have been discussing, and that is also coming to fruition, is the proposal that SAM sign on as a co-sponsor of smaller regional or niche conferences. In late February 2012, in fact, the Alfred Newman Symposium for Musicological Film Studies will be co-sponsored by SAM, the USC Cinematic Arts Library and Warner Bros. Archive, and the Institute for Film Music Studies. By the time you are reading this, you will have seen the call for papers. There are probably many other “niche” conferences that many of us attend that would be perfect events for co-sponsorship from SAM. One example is the second biennial North American Conference on 19th-Century Music, which I attended at the University of Richmond this past July. The papers presented there were almost evenly divided between European and American topics, and the synergy was marvelous. Attendance was strong, but co-sponsorship from an organization like SAM might have created a higher profile for the meeting. We consider such collaborative events to be beneficial in many ways. First, it can be a viewed as a response to some of our members who suggested (in the survey) that we create local chapters for regional meetings. Although the LRPC believes that we are not ready yet to go to that level, piggy-backing onto smaller regional meetings might serve much the same purpose by being part of a conference that is more local in nature. Second, since the Society would be co-sponsoring (not organizing), there would be little financial cost to us. Third, by lending our name and prestige to the smaller organization or meeting, we both help the niche conference and benefit from the publicity. The Board will be discussing this idea at our September meeting, but informal conversations suggest a real interest in pursuing this idea vigorously, and we solicit ideas and suggestions for collaborative opportunities in the future.

Finally—and again, in response to issues discussed by the LRPC and raised in the survey—the Development Committee has been hard at work identifying ways that the Society can facilitate research in American music, which was identified by an overwhelming majority of respondents as the principal raison d’être of the Society. The committee has had four conference-call meetings over the summer, and we are currently exploring the establishment of travel-to-collections fellowships. We have discussed creating an undesignated fellowship (perhaps named for a major contributor) to help pay for travel to a library or archive (similar to the Dena Epstein fund of the MLA), and are also investigating the possibility of creating collaborative short-term residencies at one or more major libraries or repositories around the country (see Larry Hamberlin’s essay below for further information). At the moment we are just in the talking stages, so please do not flood us with applications! But we solicit your ideas about such residencies and fellowships. And if you are interested in helping the Society raise funds for—or even to endow--fellowships of this nature, please be in touch.

I am always interested in your ideas, comments, opinions about the Society. If you have such, please zap me an email ( I hope to see many of you at the meeting in Charlotte!

A Note from the Development Committee

Larry Hamberlin, Chair, Development Committee

As you probably know, earlier this year SAM’s Long-Range Planning Subcommittee conducted an online survey or our membership, which has yielded valuable information about our shared values and priorities. A report on the survey at our March meeting in Cincinnati spurred some lively discussion and a sense that now is the time for our organization to make concrete plans based on this information. As chair of the Development Committee, I am please to say that work is underway to make SAM an even more effective organization for the promotion of American music.

Foremost among our shared values is the importance of scholarship on American music, which 95% of our respondents ranked as a core value. Likewise, our greatest challenge is a dearth of funding for that scholarship. While this is certainly not the only area in which progress can be made, it clearly stands out as a top priority for those of us on the Development Committee. For that reason, we have focused our work to date on creating new opportunities for funded research in American music.

At the forefront of these new opportunities are plans for residencies at some of our nation’s leading research institutions and collections, which SAM is currently developing in collaboration with those institutions. Under discussion are collaborative short-term residencies at the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library, the Center for Black Music Research, the Huntington Library, the Harry B. Ransom Center, the American Antiquarian Society, and the New York Public Library.

Also in the works are new sources of funding for travel to these and other collections. A third project in development will support the creation and maintenance of online digital collections. Further down the pipeline are efforts to support publication, conference travel, and greater diversity and inclusivity within our membership.

All of these initiatives are currently in the planning stages. Your ideas and suggestions are welcome, whether they pertain to creating new opportunities for research or—better yet—to raising funds for these projects, which ideally would be endowed. Feel free to contact me at

Student Forum: Looking Ahead to Charlotte

Brian Jones and Jennifer Myers

The annual meeting in Charlotte is still months away, but preparations for the Silent Auction and Student Forum Panel are already underway. The Student Forum organizes additional events at the meeting, and we are always looking for volunteers to help. If you’d like to get involved, please contact one of the co-chairs: Brian Jones ( or Jennifer Myers ( To find out more about the Student Forum, visit our page on the SAM website and sign up for the Student Forum Listserv. Also, look for us on Facebook! Sarah Suhaldonik has created a group specifically for the Student Forum. Please join us!

Silent Auction

The Silent Auction, held annually at the Society meetings, supports the Student Travel Endowment. As always, we will be seeking donations of books, audio/visual record­ings, and other related materials for the auction. All donations are tax deductible, and they can be shipped in advance of the meeting or brought directly to it. There will be an official call for donations in the next bulletin, but we encourage everyone (both students and the general membership) to start thinking about items now to donate this year.

The auction is coordinated entirely by Student Forum. If you would like to help with planning, acquiring materials, or running the auction, please contact co-chair Brian Jones ( You just might end up finding your own treasures in the process.

We look forward to seeing you in Charlotte!

JSAM Contents

Journal of the Society for American Music
Volume 5, Number 4 (November 2011)



A “League Against Willan”? The Early Years of the Canadian League of Composers, 1951–1960
Benita Wolters-Fredlund

The Origins of “Dissonant Counterpoint”: Henry Cowell's Unpublished Notebook
John D. Spilker

 “I Got That Something That Makes Me Want to Shout”: James Brown, Religion, and Gospel Music in Augusta, Georgia
Carrie Allen



 Beverley Diamond, Native American Music in Eastern North America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture
Chad Hamill

Marie Elizabeth Labonville, Juan Bautista Plaza and Musical Nationalism in Venezuela
Walter A. Clark

Robin Moore, Music in the Hispanic Caribbean
David García


Welta’q “It Sounds Good”: Historic Recordings of the Mi’kmaq, produced by Janice Esther Tulk
Ann Morrison Spinney
The Oregon String Quartet, And All That Jazz: Jazz and Rock Influences in the Contemporary American String Quartet
Julia Bullard

George Crumb, Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 11
Edward Pearsall

New Members

Nicolas Cherone, Newton, MA
Russell Clark, Urbana, IL
Judy Core, Tampa, FL
Gregg Geary, Honolulu, HI
Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo, NY
James-Christopher Kilbourne, St. Petersburg, FL
Tiffany Kuo, Claremont, CA
Kery Lawson, Iowa City, IA
Tamara Livingston, Roswell, GA
Erin Maher, Carrboro, NC
Megan Murph, Baton Rouge, LA
Susan Taffe Reed, Wyalusing, PA
Meghan Schrader, North Andover, MA
Stefan Wolf, St. Paul, MN
Leah Weinberg, Ann Arbor, MI
Andrew White, Washington, DC
Natalie Zelensky, Alexandria, VA


Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene, Tammy L. Anderson. Temple University Press, 2010. 231pp. ISBN: 978-1-59213-934-7. Paperback.

Luis-Manuel Garcia

In Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene, Tammy L. Anderson provides a sociological analysis of the Philadelphia rave scene, using qualitative, ethnographic methods. Notably, the historical scope of her ethnography (2003–2005) encompasses neither the emergence of the rave scene nor its pinnacle, but rather a period of waning that is characterized by uncertainty and change.

Raves can be loosely defined as all-night parties where DJs perform various genres of electronic dance music (hereafter, EDM), usually in unlicensed venues like warehouses, lofts, and studios. Although the American EDM scenes of the mid-1980s (i.e., garage in New York City, techno in Detroit, house in Chicago) featured events that fit this description, it was not until the late 1980s, when Chicago’s “acid house” subgenre caught on in England and fused with a neo-hippie ethos brought back from summers in Ibiza, Spain, that the term “rave” was coined to label this particular cultural phenomenon.

Raves went global during the next decade, spreading through hotspots in Continental Europe, India, Australia, and the Americas. In North America, this began in the early 1990s in urban centers like New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; by the middle of the decade, raves had exploded in popularity and could be found in nearly every mid-sized city across the US and Canada. Although there now exist several book-length accounts of EDM scenes—many of them grounded in a specific city—Anderson’s is the first to focus on a declining EDM scene; and, correspondingly, her most innovative and useful contributions come from her analysis of the factors that cause a scene to change, and the kinds of cultural work carried out by the actors who shape this change.

After an introductory chapter, Anderson prepares her analysis with a chapter dedicated to EDM events, providing a six-fold taxonomy: underground parties, corporate raves, music festivals, monthlies, weeklies, and superstar one-offs. Chapter 3 creates a typology of EDM participants arranged symmetrically into two groups of three: insiders (loyalists, stakeholders, hustlers) and outsiders (clubbers, pretenders, spillovers); she also enumerates the biographical factors that attract people to EDM: social alienation, avoidance of dominant gender/sexuality norms, and technological fascination. In Chapter 4, Anderson catalogs the various forces of change in the Philadelphia rave scene: generational schism, commercialization, formal social control, genre fragmentation, and cultural otherness/hedonism/self-destruction. Cultural work is the theme of Chapter 5, where she classifies the activities of EDM participants—particularly stakeholders—as restoration, preservation, or adaptation. Anderson travels to London and Ibiza in Chapter 6, where she encounters still-vibrant—but altered—EDM scenes and compares them with Philadelphia to determine which factors contribute to alteration, and which contribute to decline. She closes the book with an epilogue (Chapter 7) that summarizes the conclusions of previous chapters, ponders the future of EDM scenes (in brief: not very good), and provides brief descriptions of two “twenty-first century” nightlife scenes: gay men’s “circuit parties” and “mash-ups.” She also includes an appendix that details the project’s methods of ethnography, data collection, and data analysis. This condensed summary gives some idea of the intense proliferation of typologies in this book, which engendered some problems that I will discuss later.

The main strengths of Anderson’s study are its richly detailed ethnography, its synthesis of a broad range of sociological scholarship, and its focus on an EDM scene in decline, which produces an original contribution to the study of change in music scenes. Anderson situates the Philadelphia rave scene in its historical, social, and spatial context, providing the sort of descriptive detail that both bolsters her analysis and lends a vivid immediacy to the anecdotes that populate the book. She blends observation, interviews, and media-analysis to develop a rich ethnographic archive that she mines deeply and meticulously for insights on how the scene works—and, sometimes, how it does not work. Anderson also displays a broad knowledge of sociological work on relevant topics; nearly every chapter accumulates a bibliography that will be of interest to scholars of music scenes whose training is primarily anthropological or humanistic. Ultimately, the greatest value of Anderson’s work can be found in the latter half of the book, where she enumerates the factors that contributed to the decline of the Philadelphia rave scene (Chapters 4–6). She engages with scholarship in social studies as well as with interviews of people active in the rave scene to detail how these factors impacted the scene and what people did in response to these pressures. She then compares the rave scene in Philadelphia to that of London and Ibiza in order to glean potential explanations for why some scenes decline and others flourish.

The introductory chapter opens with a brief ethnographic anecdote, followed by a short history of EDM, an account of the development of the project itself, a description of the research site, a review of the relevant scholarship (particularly on scenes, subcultures, and neo-tribes), and an overview of the book’s structure. Anderson discloses here that she only discovered the rave scene in the early 2000s, cleverly making her entry into the Philly rave scene part of her ethnographic methodology as well as the narrative framing device for her interest in the twilight years of the scene: having arrived after the peak years, she found herself surrounded by talk of a bygone era of plenitude. This also foreshadows a problem in Anderson’s analysis; she entered a scene in the midst of change and uncertainty and assumed that the accounts she received of “authentic” raves were disinterested reports, thus failing to take into account nostalgia and the cultural work of historiography. Her definition of an “authentic” rave is based on the reports of scene “insiders,” for whom rigid and conservative definitions may have served the rhetorical purpose of registering dissatisfaction with the current scene or barring entry to new forms of EDM nightlife.

While preparing this review, I mentioned the title of Anderson’s book to a fieldwork contact hailing from the Philadelphia rave scene who had been active there during the time of Anderson’s research. “What decline?” he said, “The house scene is pumpin’ right now.” Anderson’s book, however, has an answer for him: these house music parties he was describing are not raves, but inauthentic and commercialized club events that have abandoned much of what makes raves special. This may seem like a harsh and nostalgically conservative judgment, but it follows directly from Anderson’s analysis (see, for example, her descriptions of “weeklies” and “monthlies,” pp. 38–43). As I will argue below, the gap between these two accounts of what a rave is—and the status of its continuity in Philadelphia—reflects an analytic gap in Anderson’s work regarding the politics of authenticity.

Anderson situates her study within the field of “scene studies,” drawing on the work of Will Straw, Andy Bennett, and Richard Peterson. There is some conceptual and methodological diversity in scene studies, however, and Anderson seems to side mostly with Straw, defining a scene as a nexus of cultural activity taking place in a geographically-bounded space; this organizational definition could be contrasted with Barry Shank’s semiotic conceptualization, which describes a scene as an “overproductive signifying community” (Shank, 122). In the former case, a scene is defined by how it is organized, in the latter, it is defined by what it (over)produces. In both cases, music scenes are distinctively animated by activities that blur the lines between performer and audience, producer and consumer. While Straw’s model may be most compatible with the goals of her project, perhaps Shank’s definition of a scene as semiotic overproduction might have provided a subtler instrument for tracing the boundaries and continuities of the rave scene. Additionally, while Anderson’s literature review provides a valuable archive of work from sociology, communication, and media studies, prominent anthropological work by scholars such as Anthony D’Andrea, Charity Marsh, and Graham St. John is virtually absent.

Each chapter in this book is structured around the development of a typology of some aspect of EDM scenes (e.g., types of events, types of participants, forces of change for the Philadelphia rave scene). Although Anderson provides detailed ethnographies of interviewees and thorough analyses of interview data, her consistent drive to schematize (and occasionally quantify) her qualitative data ultimately diminishes the descriptive richness of her work. Considering the messy complexity and constant flux of EDM scenes (and music scenes anywhere, I would venture), the static tidiness of her categories already raises concerns. She initially defines them as heuristic, Weberian “ideal types”—that is, abstract types that do not correspond to any real phenomenon, but instead help to make sense of the chaotic diversity of the social world. Through the course of the book, however, these ideas come to be reified; they drift from “ideal” to “real” types that determine the limits of what is legible as a “rave” event, person, factor, or activity.

For example, Anderson provides a typology of EDM participants in Chapter 3 that happens to fall into two symmetrical columns of “insiders” and “outsiders” (pp. 54–56). Insider loyalists identify strongly with rave culture and show allegiance to the scene through frequent attendance at events and patterns of consumption typical of connoisseurs (e.g., the collection of rare vinyl records), whereas outsider clubbers are committed to attending EDM events, but are more general in their tastes and less aware of subcultural markers. Insider stakeholders are mostly DJs and promoters, taking an active role in organizing the activities of the scene and maintaining its health, while outsider pretenders seek temporary and “counterfeit” loyalty to the scene in order to garner some form of social capital. Finally, insider hustlers are opportunistic entrepreneurs that provide support services (e.g., maintaining websites and discussion forums) and work in a secondary economy (e.g., selling drugs), while outsider spillovers find themselves at EDM events through convenience or accident, but have no affinity with EDM or rave culture.

According to Anderson, these “ideal types” were developed in dialogue with her insider informants (p. 55); how does this impact the manner in which this typology describes insiders and outsiders? She admits that there is possibly a gate-keeping agenda at play in her informants’ definitions, and so she reminds us that these labels have no real-life referents; but what is the explanatory power—the descriptive usefulness—of using terms and distinctions that carry such pejorative (or valorizing) charges? What are the consequences of presenting a photo of a young man—centrally framed with his face clearly visible—accompanied by a caption labeling him a “pretender” (p. 69)? At points such as these, it is not clear whether Anderson is describing or performing the cultural work of her insiders.

A related problem that subtends this book is Anderson’s notion of authenticity, which carries a lot of analytic freight in her work but remains underdeveloped. In Chapter 2, for example, she observes EDM events, interviews insiders, and analyzes print media to assemble an inventory of eighteen elements characteristic to “authentic” raves (p. 32). This already raises concerns about salience, as she does not differentiate between the relative importance of these characteristics: do glow-sticks matter more to ravers than a multinational beverage corporation’s logo plastered all over the event space? Which characteristics contrast most strongly with other nightlife scenes? She then takes this eighteen-dimension descriptive space and flattens it out to a one-dimensional line: the “rave-club culture continuum,” which also doubles as an authentic-commercial continuum. In the position most similar to “rave” (and therefore most authentic) she places underground parties, while superstar “one-off” events occupy the most club-like (and therefore most commercial) pole. In between these two poles, from most to least authentic, are corporate raves, music festivals, monthly parties, and weekly parties.

This linear model is problematic because it implies an a priori cultural difference between rave events and club events, between which gradations of difference can be traced, whereas raves and clubs are more like overlapping cultural fields within a larger field of EDM, with rhizomatic connections and no centralized point of reference. Furthermore, why is commerce necessarily the opposite of authenticity? This opposition seems to reproduce subcultural discourses of authenticity without deconstructing it. Admittedly, one advantage to this binary is that it strips away the ideological covering of the underground/mainstream binary; nonetheless, it does not prompt the author to rearticulate or expand Sarah Thornton’s groundbreaking deconstruction of the underground/mainstream binary. Ultimately, creating a continuum does not solve the problem of false binaries. As a result, Anderson ends up declaring that a corporate mega-rave is the next-closest thing to an authentic rave, while a weekly gathering of house fans around a local DJ is the second-most distant and commercialized. To me and to most of my fieldwork contacts in a variety of urban centers (Chicago, Toronto, Paris, and Berlin), this ordering is jarringly counter-intuitive.

This authentic/commercial binary carries into her chapter on cultural work (Chapter 6), where it is already apparent in the way that she establishes her terms of analysis. She begins by quoting the world-famous DJ (and Philadelphia native) Josh Wink, who describes the changes taking place in EDM scenes as “restoration, preservation, and transformation” (p. 114). Anderson takes up this tripartite formula to describe the kinds of cultural work that participants in the EDM scene undertake, but she makes one alteration: “transformation” becomes “adaptation,” thus implying a sort of passive acquiescence rather than a positive or aspirational metamorphosis; this is rather strange, considering the utopian and futurist ethos that characterizes many rave scenes. This occurs because Anderson’s logic of authenticity leaves no room for benign change; she derives authenticity from historical priority (i.e., earlier instances are more authentic), making any transformation to the scene necessarily a loss of authenticity. Although she acknowledges that change does not necessarily mean the decline of a scene (in the following chapter, she takes London and Ibiza as her examples), she nonetheless frames this flourishing as a kind of defeat. Scenes that continue to flourish do so by “adaptation,” which she describes solely in terms of commercialization, which, in turn, she has already defined as the opposite of authenticity. One can see this in how she frames these three types of cultural work: a subsection in her discussion of restoration is entitled, “The Restoration Challenge” (p. 121), while the corresponding subsection on preservation is entitled, “The Preservation Quagmire” (p. 125), and the subheading for adaptation simply reads, “Integration of EDM into the Commercial Music Industry” (p. 128). These subheadings imply that restoration is difficult but productive, preservation is futile and unproductive, and adaptation is all too easy and destructive (or over-productive, if one is tracking the capitalist production of value).

There is no conceptual space here for rave scenes to transform into something new and remain faithful to their “roots.” What if, for example, certain changes in the rave scene are considered a move towards authenticity by EDM participants? Anderson already points out that many of her informants appreciated the shift to nightclub events and the reliable amenities of these spaces, e.g., functioning toilets and a sound-system that works (pp. 84, 90), but “improvement” is not an operative term in her analysis. What if some ravers see the raves of the “golden era” as aspiring towards a plateau that has not yet been reached? Transformation, then, would be the most authentic kind of work. Picking up again on rave’s history of utopianism and futurism, if one wishes to retain some notion of authenticity, then one must also consider the possibility of being authentic to a scene that is yet to be realized. Nonetheless, if one drops the authentic/commercial binary and keeps a critical distance from the concept of authenticity, this tripartite division of scene-maintaining labor is useful and helpful. It can give clarity about how energies are directed, and why scene participants can sometimes seem to be acting at cross-purposes.
Similarly, Anderson’s work in Chapter 4 on the various factors (social, cultural, economic, legal, pharmacological) that have placed pressure on existing EDM scenes is invaluable. Not only does she assemble a tentative vocabulary for articulating scene change, but she also synthesizes previous scholarship on EDM from two intellectual streams that often remain isolated: deviance-oriented paradigms (criminology, epidemiology, and public policy in particular) and ethnographies/historiographies. She also begins to theorize how these forces interact with each other and what kinds of reactions they elicit from EDM scenes. This is expanded in the penultimate chapter (Chapter 6), where she conducts similar fieldwork in London and Ibiza. Although the ethnographic data for these locales is thinner and still analyzed through a problematic set of typologies, it illuminates her analysis of the Philadelphia rave scene and allows her to hypothesize which forces tend to steer scenes toward alteration rather than decline.

Anderson’s book remains innovative in many regards and richly descriptive of a particular place and time, although its claims are weakened by its reliance on typologies that alternately reproduce social hierarchies and flatten difference. The chapters on forces of change (Chapter 4) and cultural work (Chapter 5) will be of interest to any scholar of EDM scenes and scene transformation in general, although it may be difficult to disentangle these valuable insights from the problematic typologies upon which they are built. In a classroom setting, this book has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the proliferation of labels and categories can be frustrating for those closely acquainted with EDM while also confusing or misleading for others. On the other hand, these typologies also provide footholds for critical reading, as students can engage with specific definitions and trace how concepts impact analysis. Similarly, Anderson’s clear and accessible writing style will help students follow the trajectory of her argument and evaluate her claims. In an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course, it may be illuminating to read this book alongside another EDM ethnography that is less schematic or even explicitly anti-structuralist, which could spark a discussion about contrasting methodologies and theoretical frameworks.

Works Referenced

Bennett, Andy, and Richard A. Peterson. Music Scenes: Local, Translocal and Virtual. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004
D’Andrea, Anthony. Global Nomads: Techno and New Age as Transnational Countercultures in Ibiza and Goa. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Marsh, Charity. “ ‘Understand Us Before You End Us’: Regulation, Governmentality, and the Confessional Practices of Raving Bodies.” Popular Music 25, no. 3 (2006): 415–30.
Shank, Barry. Dissonant Identities: The Rock nRoll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
St. John, Graham, ed. Rave Culture and Religion. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Straw, Will. “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music, ” Cultural Studies 5, no. 3 (1991): 368–88.
Thornton, Sarah. Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.


Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Salvatore Basile. New York: Fordham University Press, 2010. 288pp. ISBN-978-0-8232-3187-4. Hardcover.

Robert R. Grimes

Salvatore Basile has written a fascinating book, but one that took me some time to appreciate. Even before I had been asked to review Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I had begun reading the work. I was initially disappointed with it because it did not meet my expectations—expectations raised by the work’s subtitle; this is more a history of musicians at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral than it is a history of the music. The author admits that in the early days of the twentieth century music at the church “would for a while be less interesting than the image of its musicians” (p. 63), but his work seems to indicate that this is true throughout most of St. Patrick’s history. While the author does provide titles of some musical pieces performed at the Cathedral, the book does not delve deeply into the musical, cultural, and sociological questions involved in a period of American urban Catholic liturgical music that emerged from the operatic repertory of the late nineteenth century, developed in the Gregorian-revival of the early twentieth century, and underwent remarkable changes during the second-half of the twentieth century. What Fifth Avenue Famous does, and does well, is chronicle the careers of the men and woman (the incumbent is the only female director of music at the Cathedral) who have led the musical life of St. Patrick’s through the years. Once I had adjusted my expectations, I enjoyed the book considerably.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a number of Catholic churches in Manhattan vied for the reputation as the most musical in the city. St. Peter’s on Barclay Street (the first Catholic parish in the city), St. Stephen’s on East 28th Street, and St. Francis Xavier on West 16th Street, developed formidable musical reputations, and were said to receive the latest Italian compositions in manuscript form even before they were published. The city’s newspapers at times “reviewed” the musical performances at Sunday High Mass, and often parishes appeared to compete with one another for bragging rights as to the best prima donna or the newest composition. The author sometimes seems to engage in this rivalry. For example, he writes that William Pecher, who would become the first musical director of the cathedral on Fifth Avenue, was in 1862 at St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, a church whose musical significance, he writes, was then “anchored in the past” (p. 2). That very year Dwight’s Journal of Music reported that St. Peter’s “has been celebrated among fine-art critics and church-goers for the sublimity of its sacred music” (June 28, 1862: 100). Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located between Mulberry and Mott Streets on the lower East Side (and still functioning today as a Catholic parish), did not have an equal musical reputation. Basile’s work, however, focuses almost exclusively on the present St. Patrick’s.

The book gives us a close look at what the life of a church musician in New York City must have been like over the last 150 years. Even for a musician as successful as the director of music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, life was difficult—long hours and low pay. James Ungerer, the second director of music at the new Cathedral, had to petition the Archdiocese for an increase in his pension so he could afford to enter a nursing home in his final days. Fortunately, his request was approved. In the 1970s and 1980s, John Grady doubled as music director at the Cathedral and organist for the Metropolitan Opera.

Since the earliest days of Christianity, there has been tension over the role of music in Christian worship, and the years since the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral opened in 1879, right up to the present are among the most tumultuous. It is clear the author does not side with the late nineteenth-century Cecilian movement that sought to return Catholic Church music to plainchant, Renaissance polyphony, and modern compositions modeled on these. Nor is he sympathetic to the motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini, of Pope Pius X in 1903 that banned orchestras, “theatrical” music, and women from Catholic choir lofts. He never directly mentions the work of the monks of Solesmes on plainchant, and gives only an oblique reference to them in mentioning that the assistant organist of the Cathedral spent three months studying "the method of singing and teaching the chant" with the Benedictines on the Isle of Wight, where the French monastery was in exile during the first decades of the twentieth century (p. 68). The approach of the Second Vatican Council was greeted with “rumors of extravagant, possibly unwelcome, change” according to the author (p. 173), although the changes that ensued did lead to the dismissal of the all-men’s choir and brought a new ensemble of men and women, as well as the return of orchestral music, to the cathedral.

We also see the delicate negotiations that take place between the musical director and the clergy as competing goals come into conflict. In the 1930s the rector of the Cathedral lamented that Pietro Yon, perhaps the finest musician to head the music at St. Patrick’s, “has a great reputation as a musician but he rarely gives us the sort of music our people care for” (p. 115). In the 1980s John Cardinal O’Connor informed then music director John Grady that Offertory anthems were “to run no longer than three minutes and twenty seconds” (p. 241). Mozart was not the last musician to have trouble with his archbishop.

There are so many fascinating facts contained within its pages that I wish the book included more documentation than it has. A few examples will suffice. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was apparently sung by the Cathedral choir in a liturgical context “on extraordinary occasions” (p. 47); these must have been extraordinarily long occasions. The Italian organist and composer, Pietro Yon, director of music at the Cathedral from the late 1920s into the early 1940s, tutored Cole Porter in music theory and composition. Roy Harris was commissioned to write a setting of the mass for the Cathedral in 1948—a commission completed but never performed at St. Patrick’s. Mary Lou Williams’ Mass no. 3 (better known as Mary Lou’s Mass in its choreographed form by Alvin Ailey) was performed in the Cathedral in 1975. There are, however, a few inaccuracies; for example, Mozart’s Requiem was not performed at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, but rather in his memory at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in January of 1964 (p. 183).

For musicologists—and perhaps especially for graduate students in musicology—this work is most valuable for both the history it records and the questions it leaves unanswered. What was the real impact of the 1903 instruction of Pope Pius X that banned women from singing in Catholic choirs—only reversed in 1955 and actually honored at St. Patrick’s, unlike many other Catholic parishes in the United States? Why is there no scholarly work on Pietro Yon, an influential musician in New York City and beyond through much of the first half of the twentieth century? This work could easily serve as a springboard for a number of doctoral dissertation topics.

The author, who is a soloist and cantor at St. Patrick’s, is clearly in love with the Cathedral and its tradition of music making. That love shines through, and he at times minimizes the difficulties and problems for music there, for example, the need to amplify the choir to overcome the air-conditioning system in the vast building. There is undoubtedly a great tradition of music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and each year on Christmas Eve there is no hotter ticket in town than one to Midnight Mass at “St. Pat’s.” Salvatore Basile has done a wonderful service in documenting the work of those who have made the tremendous musical history of the Cathedral possible.


Five Lines, Four Spaces: The World of My Music, George Rochberg. University of Illinois Press, 2009. 307pp. ISBN: 978-0-252-03425-1. Hardcover.

James Wierzbicki

The American composer George Rochberg (1918–2005) continues to fascinate, although perhaps less for his music than for his famous ‘conversion’ from hard-core serialism to old-fashioned tonality. The most popular story, circulated widely in program notes and radio commentaries, has it that Rochberg embraced nineteenth-century harmonic procedures because he found that an atonal vocabulary was incapable of expressing the range of grief he felt in the early 1960s when his teenaged son was stricken with and eventually succumbed to brain cancer. A less romantic but more credible story, easily gleaned from a careful reading of certain of the essays collected in The Aesthetics of Survival: A Composer’s View of Twentieth-Century Music (University of Michigan Press, 1984/2004), attributes the shift in style to a crisis of artistic conscience. Writing on the centennial of Arnold Schoenberg’s birth, Rochberg, in an article for Perspectives of New Music, likened the inventor of the twelve-tone method to the central character of Hermann Hesse’s 1927 novel Steppenwolf. In a paragraph remarkable as much for its literary grace as for its insight, Rochberg observed that just as Hesse’s protagonist suffered less from genuine lycanthropy as from a “sickness of the soul” triggered by his being caught “between two ages, two modes of life,” so Schoenberg was a comparable “genius of suffering” whose “internal experiences, particularly those recorded in his works from 1908/09 on, present us with an almost precise parallel to [Harry] Haller’s spiritual journey into hell.” Informed by other essays in the Aesthetics of Survival collection, a reader need not spend much effort to realize that Rochberg, in his eloquent comparison of Schoenberg’s spiritual agonies to those of Hesse’s fictional werewolf, was in fact writing in large part about himself.

An uninhibited first-person account of the agonies experienced by an artist “born” into one tradition yet at heart committed to another surely would make for a good read. Such an account, alas, is not to be found in Five Lines, Four Spaces. Penned in the few years before Rochberg passed, then edited by Rochberg’s widow and University of Pennsylvania music librarian Richard Griscom, the book deliberately focuses on the brighter aspects of an up-and-down, still controversial career.

Rochberg does not exactly dodge the big question. He admits that his rejection of serialism remains a “thorny” issue, “a matter of sufficient magnitude to warrant returning to any number of times” in a valedictory memoir. But he alludes to it far more often than he addresses it, apparently feeling that he had dealt with it quite enough, and with due intellectual rigor, in earlier writings. (See, for example, “The New Image of Music” (1963), “The Avant-Garde and the Aesthetics of Survival” (1969), “Reflections on Schoenberg” (1972), “Reflections on the Renewal of Music” (1972), and “On the Third String Quartet” (1974), all in the Aesthetics of Survival collection.) Preferring to make short what obviously could be a very long story, Rochberg notes that his radical change of style was “the outgrowth of a powerful positive, balanced by an equally powerful negative.” He sets up the dichotomy in no uncertain terms: what Rochberg calls “the positive” has to do, in essence, with craft, tradition, beauty, expressiveness, and sincerity; in contrast, “the negative” equates to the modernist movement that “from its inception sought to obliterate all vestiges of the past in all art, not just music” (pp. 31–32; emphases original).

That having been stated, up front and with a commendable economy of words, the rest of the book is by and large a recital of all the wondrous things that Rochberg experienced over the years. The reader will find here a bounty of lyrically descriptive praise for this or that performer who responded sympathetically to whatever Rochberg was trying to get at both before and after his famous ‘time of turning.’ There is considerable detail, for example, on his relationships with Isaac Stern, the Concord String Quartet, guitarist Eliot Fisk, and conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee (who in 2002 undertook the recording of all of Rochberg’s orchestral works with the Saarbrücken Rundfunk Orchestra). But there is virtually no engagement here with the many critics who thought the Schumann- and Brahms-like quartets (nos. 4–6), written in 1977–78 for the Concord Quartet, were ridiculously anachronistic; there is no explanation of why he felt it so necessary to severely ‘tighten’ his Violin Concerto after Stern premiered it in Pittsburgh in 1974 and then felt it just as necessary to ‘restore’ it in 2001, or of the possible reasons as to why his one and only attempt at opera (an adaptation of Melville’s The Confidence Man, premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in the summer of 1982) was generally regarded as a theatrical disaster. As is the privilege of an octogenarian, Rochberg here opts to paint a rosy picture of his life in music. Yet it is a picture washed over with bitterness.

Even in the first terse description of the “powerful negative” one finds reference to the “false prophets” of modernism and the “acrimonious modernist proselytes and zealots who still linger on in academic nooks and crannies” (pp. 32–33). Later one reads about “the oppressive, radical aesthetics of the avant-garde of Europe and America” (p. 64), about “the aesthetic death grip, the domination and intimidation of serialism” (p. 104), about student composers with “few or no observable skills” and attitudes “strongly tinged with solipsism” (p. 125), about people who equate composing with “arbitrarily throwing together abstract conglomerates” (p. 144), about the “powerful polemicists” who launched a “direct attack” on musical virtue (p. 260). Digs of this sort permeate Rochberg’s ostensibly cheery memoir, and they lead one to wonder why the author, toward the end of his supposedly ‘resolved’ career, still kept such a chip on his shoulder. They lead one to wonder, too, about why Rochberg never explains exactly what it was that drew him, in the first place, so strongly to the modernist techniques that later he repudiated.

One does not read a memoir such as this in the hopes of ‘catching’ the author in a contradiction. It is easy enough to set Rochberg’s dismissal of modernist music in general as mere “illustrations of theoretical-analytical thought processes” (p. 106) alongside his descriptions of the enthusiasm with which he once explored “the inner workings and uncharted subtleties of the twelve-tone world” (p. 254), or to juxtapose his demonization of “the mad-for-change modern” (p. 152) with proud citations of his own novelties (p. 90, in the case of the simultaneous tempos in the last movement of his 1960 String Quartet No. 2; p. 157, in the case of the “piano harmonics” he “invented” for the 1965 Contra Mortem et Tempus). But to do that would simply be to demonstrate the obvious.

In one of the few passages that actually do reveal something of his early involvement with serialism, Rochberg writes of Schoenberg’s Quartet No. 4 and “the deep ambivalence of love-hate that drove me on. I was simultaneously repelled and drawn to it. . . . The music sounded ugly and unbeautiful to my ears. Yet I was driven to keep at Schoenberg’s ‘secrets’ in order to forge for myself a language with which to say, in terms of my own time and experience, those things I wanted and needed to say, and to express them as consummately well as I could according to my lights” (p. 72).

That is as close as he comes to ’fessing up to his allegiance to modernist musical practice. Clearly, for most of his career Rochberg was a composer in conflict with himself, and from this memoir one gets the discomforting impression that the “love-hate” that so propelled him in his early years was never completely resolved. But inner conflict, even though it often hurts, can be fruitful; it was during the period of his most unsettled ambivalence, after all, that Rochberg produced his most enduringly interesting works. (For commentary on the 1965 Music for the Magic Theater and the 1972 String Quartet No. 3, see James Wierzbicki, “Reflections on Rochberg and ‘Postmodernism,’ ” Perspectives of New Music 45, no. 2 (2007): 108–32.)

Bulletin Board

David Ake has been named the new Director of the School of the Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith, Associate Professor/Reference and Arts-Multimedia Librarian at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, was awarded a Louisiana Board of Regents’ Traditional Enhancement Grant with institutional technology match for $44,000. (See related article above.) Goldsmith is the first librarian in many years in Louisiana to receive a BoR grant as well as early promotion.

Thomas Jacobsen wrote a feature piece, “The Century Mark, Lionel Ferbos turns 100 this month,” for the July issue of the New Orleans jazz mag OffBEAT. Ferbos (to whom Jacobsen’s new book, Traditional New Orleans Jazz, LSU Press, 2011, is dedicated) still plays at least one night a week at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe in the city's French Quarter.

Roger Lee Hall has been working on a series of multimedia discs. His latest project is available on a multimedia CD-R titled, “Weeping, Sad and Lonely” – Songs and Hymns of the Civil War Era. This disc contains 20 songs and hymns from the years between 1859 and 1869. Unlike other CDs which focus on just the battle songs and instrumental music, this disc features a wide variety of vocal music, including songs about Abraham Lincoln ("Lincoln and Liberty"), patriotic music of North ("Battle Hymn of the Republic") and South ("The Bonnie Blue Flag"), an Emancipation spiritual ("Go Down, Moses"), songs of longing ("Lorena" and "Willie Has Gone To The War"), and the poignant title tune: "Weeping, Sad and Lonely (When This Cruel War Is Over)." Also there are seven World Premiere Recordings: Four Civil War era hymns by Stephen Foster; a Shaker pacifist hymn received in a dream by Cecilia DeVere; a hymn of peace written by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes; and an arrangement based on a theme by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Hall also offers several titles in the Multimedia Americana Music Series [MAMS] including music of the Shakers, Lincoln’s era, and New England.

Ralph P. Locke (professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music) is a board member of the Journal of the American Musicological Society. He contributed an editorial to the most recent issue of that journal. Locke is presenting a paper at the AMS November 2011 meeting (in San Francisco), entitled “Musical Exoticism 1500-1750: Some Methodological Considerations and Case Studies.” The paper derives from his book-in-progress on how musical exoticism is manifested in “early music”; this book will form a kind of prequel to his Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections (which is now available in paperback). Musical Exoticism has been much praised, not least for its treatment of significant American works by Hovhaness, Partch, Reich, and Tan Dun—and a Josephine Baker song. Jann Pasler praised the book’s “subtlety and wide-ranging analyses,” particularly its “insightful” discussion of how longstanding exoticist conceptions are reconfigured in West Side Story.

Benjamin Piekut (University of Southampton/Cornell University) and Jason Stanyek (New York University) have won the 2011 Outstanding Article Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, for their article, "Deadness: Technologies of the Intermundane" (The Drama Review, Spring 2010, 14-38). According to ATHE's website, the award "acknowledges scholarship marked by methodological sophistication, complex and critical engagement with dramatic texts and performances, focused inquiries, and possible directions for future scholarship in a particular area." In the article, Piekut and Stanyek investigate the ubiquitous phenomenon of posthumous duets in popular music to make broader claims about the nature of technologically mediated agency, corporeality, and labor. Piekut has also been awarded a Summer Stipend from the National Endowment of the Humanities. He will use the grant to work on his new book project, No More Songs: Henry Cow and British Experimental Music, which analyses the history of British experimental music in the 1970s through the lens of the ensemble Henry Cow; and an Early Career Fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

Conference Calendar

CFP: The Alfred Newman Symposium for Musicological Film Studies presents From Nineteenth-Century Stage Melodrama to Twenty-First-Century Film Scoring: Musicodramatic Practice and Knowledge Organization in association with USC Cinematic Arts Library and Warner Bros. Archives, the Society for American Music, and the Institute for Film Music Studies at USC Doheny Memorial Library, February 23–24, 2012. The musicological study of film is exemplified today by interpretive “readings” of individual films, of film genres, or of some narrative aspect of film, thereby following the lead of literary criticism and film studies more than musicology. Because of that proportionately less attention is devoted to examining musical practice in film within the traditions of dramatic musical art. There is a need now for historical analysis and synthesis, such that individual studies can be related to a more comprehensive perspective in which music of the cinema is understood in the broader historical context of theater music. The Symposium will focus on exploring this system of musicodramatic knowledge organization and on understanding both its origins in stage melodrama and how the practice continues as a living tradition in film scoring today. To a greater or lesser extent current practice can be seen as “new wine in old bottles,” because while musical styles have changed, the same underlying musicodramatic schema has remained relatively unchanged. Papers and proposals for panel sessions and roundtables on this topic or other musicological aspects of film study should be sent to William H. Rosar at by October 15, 2011.
CFP: Volume! The French journal of popular music studies is proud to announce that a special issue on "Music & counterculture(s): rock'n'roll, the Sixties, the US and beyond" will be co-directed by Prof. Sheila Whiteley (University of Salford). Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2011. For full details please visit

CFP: “Hard Times” or “Great Expectations”? How the Victorians Saw Themselves: Midwest Victorian Studies Association Annual Conference Bloomington, Indiana, April 20-22, 2012
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth, we invited papers on his writings and influence, but the conference will also consider issues of Victorian reflexivity and self-representation. Among topics to be considered might be: Victorian ideas of progress and degeneration; social commentators, ethnologists and journalists; parliamentary reports and reform movements; mirrors, disguises, and masquerades; visions of heaven and hell; utopias/dystopias; photography and portraiture; autobiographies, biographies and histories; museums and exhibitions; and Victorian psychology and theories of identity. The conference will include a panel on teaching the Victorians, and proposals for topics and speakers are also invited. Held on the beautiful campus of Indiana University, the conference will include unique evening entertainment honoring Dickens, including a special film screening of the 1917 A Tale of Two Cities with live piano accompaniment, and a “Charles Dickens Variety Show” including music and magic lanterns. Accommodations are at the Indiana Memorial Union. Please submit an abstract! Papers or full panels are welcome, and should include 500-word abstracts and 1-page (only) vitas by October 20, 2011 to
For more information, see our website,

CFP: Sounds of the City
IASPM-US Annual Conference, jointly held with 2012 EMP Pop Conference presented by NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, New York City, March 22-25, 2012.
Charlie Gillett’s pioneering The Sound of the City declared, with its title, that the electrified roots music of Elvis and Little Richard was an urban synthesis: “In rock and roll, the strident, repetitive sounds of city life were, in effect, reproduced as melody and rhythm.” But the metropolitan modernities of popular music take many different forms: Nuyorican salsa, Ralph Ellison “living with jazz” in his apartment building, San Francisco open-air psychedelia, double dutch and breakdancing, Amadou & Mariam’s “fast food Dakar,” and beyond. So for this year’s joint International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US branch gathering and EMP Museum Pop Conference, presented by New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, we copyedit Gillett slightly and ask that presenters explore sounds of the city—the reverberations of people gathered en masse. All styles and eras of pop music are welcome. Please send proposals to organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at Eric.Weisbard@gmail.comThe deadline for proposals is Tuesday, November 15.Individual proposals should be 250 words with a 50 word bio.Panel proposals should specify 90 minutes with three presenters, or 120 minutes with four presenters. They should also include a 125 word overview, 250 words for individual proposals, and a 50 word bio, or a 250 word overview with multiple 50 word bios for roundtable discussions. We welcome unorthodox proposals and those that target a general interest audience. Registration is FREE for presenters and the public.  For more information on past Pop Conferences, go to

CFP: International Society for the Promotion and Research of Wind Music (IGEB)
 Proposals for papers or lecture-performances are invited for the 20th conference onwind music of the International Society for the Promotion and Research of Wind Music (IGEB) to be held in Coimbra, Portugal, July 12-17, 2012. The deadline for proposals is January 23, 2012. Papers focusing on the theme of the conference, “On the Border: Bridging the Path Between Tradition and Art” are especially invited, but papers on any aspect of wind music and research in progress are welcome. The lectures can represent the entire field of humanities in relation to wind music: musicology, ethnology, philosophy, sociology, and educational sciences. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for discussion. Papers will be considered for future publication in the Alta Musica series. Researchers are encouraged to submit abstracts on works in progress. Send a one-page abstract to Bernhard Habla at and Doris Schweinzer at Registration materials and further information may be found at

CFP: NABMSA Conference 2012
The 2012 conference of the North American British Music Studies Association will be structured around the theme of Anglo-American music and musical relationships. NABMSA is especially interested in papers that explore these connections, such as those on British brass bands in America, British-American folk traditions, and other transatlantic collaborations and influences. Proposals for performances and lecture-recitals of works with an Anglo-American angle are also invited, as are papers that draw upon interdisciplinary or broader cultural contexts and papers on figures or works celebrating important anniversary years in 2012 (e.g., Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Frederick Delius, Tippett’s King Priam). Graduate students are encouraged to submit; the best student paper presented at the conference will be awarded the Temperley Prize. Abstracts of up to 500 words for 20 minute individual papers, for paper sessions of up to four papers, or for lecture recitals lasting 40-50 minutes should be sent by February 1, 2012, to Kendra Leonard by e-mail to For additional information about the conference, see

Prize: Thelen Prize 2012
IGEB (The International Society for the Promotion and Research of Wind Music) invites nominations for the 2012 Thelen Prize. Established to commemorate Fritz Thelen (1906–93), one of IGEB’s co-founders, the prize is awarded to the writer of an outstanding dissertation in the field of wind music research. Nominations, including self-nominations, are invited for dissertations completed between 2009 and December 2011. Dissertations may be on any subject concerning wind music, in any language, from any country, worldwide. In addition to a plaque, the winner will be invited to present a paper at the next meeting of the Society, to be held in Coimbra, Portugal, July 12-17, 2012. The dissertation will also be considered for publication in IGEB’s Reprints und Manuscripts or the Alta Musica series. The titles and abstracts of all submitted dissertations will be announced in the Mitteilungsblatt, the Society’s Newsletter.
Nominations should include the following: one paper copy; one pdf file; and curriculum vita.
The deadline is October 24, 2011. Send to: IGEB, c/o Doris Schweinzer, Leonhardstraße 15, A-8010 Graz, Austria; or For further information see:

Conference: “Charles Ives: A Life in Music,” November 3-5, 2011

Hosted by the Arts Center at Strathmore (Bethesda, Md.) and supported by the NEA and the Ives Society, the Ives Project engages the pianist Jeremy Denk and the baritone William Sharp (both supreme Ives advocates) in a strategy for better acquainting American audiences with the Ives idiom. The Project includes songs, chamber works, and the Concord Sonata; letters, essays, and historic recordings; lecture/recitals by both Denk and Sharp; and talks by Tom Owens and myself. Further information: