Commentary on songs and singing.
By Christie Finn
This essay was created as inspiration for teachers and young singers involved in the Mondavi Young Artists Competition 2018. For more information, please visit: https://www.mondaviarts.org/events/young-artists-competition
When you think of American song, which composers come to mind? Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, John Duke, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom? Amy Beach, Lori Laitman, Libby Larsen? Dominick Argento, Jake Heggie, John Musto? All of these well-known American composers have wonderful songs…and offer a great starting point for exploring a wide range of brilliant American composers!
For a general introduction to American song, our 13-program Song of America radio series is a good place to start; you can listen to it for free on our website.
The suggestions below focus on American composers whose body of work includes songs appropriate for young singers. These suggestions offer ideas on how to branch out from the general American art song anthologies. In general, the composers listed here have readily available sheet music for their songs.
By Pia Catton
Learning American history by listening to music may sound like a short cut, but when the teacher is opera star Thomas Hampson, it's more of a highbrow leg-up.By Stefan Drees
While American culture developed primarily in conformity with European standards during the 19th century, native elements began to receive attention in Europe beginning in the early 20th.By Joe Horowitz
Of the distinguished refugee composers chased to the US by Hitler, two - Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg - so memorably responded to Pearl Harbor that one is tempted to surmise that no American-born composer could have reacted with such exigent fervor to the Japanese attack.By Deane L. Root
Song in Walt Whitman’s America was an everyday affair, and it remains so today. His praise is not of humming, nor of half-remembered ballads, but of full-throated songs. The rhythm of work, or nurturing care, of playtime throbbed to the sound of song throughout life and across society’s many constituent parts.By Thomas Hampson
“America” has always meant different things to different people. The American poetic tradition is a particularly rich narration of our people and of becoming a culture--a culture chiseled with a fierce independence of mind and heart and soul unmistakably grounded in the very myriad of racial heritages from which it was born.