Arthur Farwell

Arthur Farwell is best known for his works based on Native American themes, but he also used cowboy tunes, African-American spirituals, and Spanish-Californian melodies as the basis of his compositions. He is remembered for trying to free American music of European influences, and as the founder in 1901 of the Wa-Wan Press, which issued the music of living American composers.

--Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia

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About

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 23, 1872, Farwell studied violin as a boy, but it was not until he was an engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that he realized his vocation. Taking his degree in 1893, he studied for a time with Chadwick in Boston, but rebelled against his teacher’s academic drift. Encouraged by MacDowell, he sailed for Germany, where he studied with Humperdinck, among others, before returning to the States, teaching briefly at Cornell University, and eventually settling in Newton Center near Boston. Inspired by Dvořák’s approach to folk material, and impassioned by the belief that American classical music needed to incorporate native music, Farwell created in 1901 the Wa-Wan Press, which he named for an Omaha tribal ceremony affirming peace and friendship.

Published eight times annually for the first five years and then increased to monthly editions in 1906, Farwell published beautifully designed and engraved vocal and instrumental compositions supported by program notes and essays to advance the cause of this “new music.” Among the composers he published (in addition to himself) were Arthur Shepherd, Edgar Stillman Kelley, William Schuyler, and Henry F. B. Gilbert–all of whom had rejected the classicism of the Chadwick-Parker School. In 1912 Farwell became chief music critic for the Boston area for Musical America, and he turned the plates for the Wa-Wan Press over to G. Schirmer on a royalty basis. Unfortunately, Schirmer soon abandoned the project, and one of the most significant and idealistic efforts in our cultural history–an attempt to encourage American voices by publishing and disseminating their songs and poetry–disappeared. It is much to their credit, therefore, that Arno Press and the New York Times, with Vera Brodsky Lawrence as editor, issued a complete five-volume reprint in 1970.

Farwell’s own music was deeply inspired by the Indianist Movement of the late 19th century. Though his arrangements of tribal melodies (Three Indian Songs, op. 32, 1908) were colored by European harmonic practices, his later compositions departed boldly from the literal context of Native American music and responded, instead, to its spirit. This increasing sophistication is seen in his 1905 op. 21, Impressions of the Wa-Wan Ceremony of the Omahas.

By the 1930’s, Farwell’s music had developed a strikingly original, even avant-garde quality that continued until his death in 1952, in New York City. A figure of controversy throughout his life, Farwell’s artistic ideas–particularly his work in the Indianist Movement–still provoke discussion in a politically correct and largely myopic modern age that has difficulty understanding the contexts from which our artists come. Arthur Farwell’s credo, with all its Whitmanesque resonance–that it is only by exalting the common inspirations of American life that we can become great musically–surely stands at the heart of the pioneering spirit which has shaped all American thought and art.

–Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing

Photo: Arthur Farwell, [date unknown]. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Related Information

Recordings

Between the Bliss and Me. . . Songs to Poems of Emily Dickinson

(Ernst Bacon, Aaron Copland, John Woods Duke, Arthur Farwell, Lee Hoiby, Lori Laitman and Richard Pearson Thomas)

2009

Dvořák und seine Zeit

(Charles Wakefield Cadman, Arthur Farwell, Edward MacDowell and Charles Ives)

2004

An Old Song Resung

(Charles Wakefield Cadman, Arthur Farwell, Charles Ives and Charles Griffes)

1980

Paul Sperry Sings Romantic American Song

(Paul Bowles, Theodore Chanler, Arthur Farwell, Richard Hundley and Virgil Thomson)

1995

Where the Music Comes From

(Lee Hoiby, Celius Dougherty, Ned Rorem, Henry Burleigh, Samuel Barber, Arthur Farwell and Charles Griffes)

1991

Books

He Heard America Singing

By Evelyn Davis Culbertson

“Wanderjahre of a Revolutionist” and Other Essays on American Music

By Arthur Farwell and Thomas Stoner

The Art of Music, Volume Four: Music in America

By Arthur Farwell and W. Dermot Darby

Reprint of original 1915 publication

Songs

10 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 108

Song Collection

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

Song Collection

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

A Dawn Song (op. 69, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Charles O. Roos

Afternoon on a Hill

John Woods Duke

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Ample Make This Bed (op. 108, no. 7)

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 10 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 108

Aristocracy (op. 105, no. 8)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

As If the Sea (op. 101, no. 3)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: Four Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 101

Dark Her Lodge Door (op. 69, no. 3)

Arthur Farwell

Charles O. Roos

Folk Songs of the West and South, Op. 19

Song Collection

Arthur Farwell

Traditional

Four Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 101

Song Collection

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Good Morning, Midnight (op. 101, no. 4)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: Four Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 101

I'm Nobody (op. 108, no. 8)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 10 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 108

Inketunga's Thunder Song

Arthur Farwell

Arthur Farwell

Song Collection: Three Indian Songs, Op. 32

Papa Above! (from op. 108)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 10 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 108

Presentiment (op. 105, no. 12)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers (op. 105, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

Savior! (op. 101, no. 1)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: Four Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 101

Song of the Deathless Voice

Arthur Farwell

Arthur Farwell

Song Collection: Three Indian Songs, Op. 32

Summer's Armies (op. 105, no. 9)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

Tie The Strings To My Life (op. 107, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

The Butterfly (op. 108, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 10 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 108

The Grass So Little Has To Do (op. 112, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

The Level Bee (op. 105, no. 10)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: 12 Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 105

The Old Man's Love Song

Arthur Farwell

Arthur Farwell

Song Collection: Three Indian Songs, Op. 32

The Ravens Are Singing (op. 69, no. 1)

Arthur Farwell

Charles O. Roos

Three Indian Songs, Op. 32

Song Collection

Arthur Farwell

Arthur Farwell

Unto Me (op. 101, no. 2)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Song Collection: Four Emily Dickinson Songs, Op. 101

Wild Nights — Wild Nights! (op. 112, no. 1)

Arthur Farwell

Emily Dickinson

Audio

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    Sheet Music

    "Afternoon on a Hill"

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

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    Arthur Farwell Sheet Music

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    Arthur Farwell Sheet Music

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    Arthur Farwell Sheet Music
    (Emily Dickinson songs)

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    Folk Songs of the West and South, Op. 19

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

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    IMSLP: Arthur Farwell Sheet Music

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    Thirty-Four Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

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    Thirty-Four Songs on Poems of Emily Dickinson, Vol. 1

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Thirty-Four Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson, Vol. 2

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

    Buy via Boosey & Hawkes

    Three Indian Songs, Op. 32

    Composer(s): Arthur Farwell

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

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