Amerigrove's Pedigree: On The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, with Susan Feder as editorial coordinator
The study of music in the United States has a history of its own that now stretches back nearly a century and a half. No event in that history matches the importance of the publication, in 1986, of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music.1 Amerigrove, as its makers have nicknamed it, is a monumental achievement by any standard. Indeed, many things about Amerigrove invite not so much critical review as awestruck admiration. Thumbing through Amerigrove, whether for the first time or the twentieth, one feels a sense of wonder and gratitude. First of all, there's so much of it: four volumes set in more than 2,600 double-column 8 1/2 × 11-inch pages and containing some 5,000 entries. Second, it looks so good: the generous layout and page size make even The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1980) seem a bit cramped, and many of the 900 sharply-produced illustrations make a strong impact. Third is the work's symbolic importance. There is something deeply satisfying in seeing the facts of this nation's musical history recast into the Grove format, edited crisply and meticulously, and hence seeming to endorse the significance of a field of study that traditionally has stood outside the academic establishment. Fourth is Amerigrove's sheer practicality, vastly simplifying American musical reference and research by offering up a prodigious store of accurate, accessible information. Finally, there is the feat of effective organization that Amerigrove represents. That editors Hitchcock and Sadie, Editorial Coordinator Feder, and Macmillan's Grove staff were able, between 1981 and 1985, to extract from some 900 contributors of widely varied interests and persuasions these accounts of so many different kinds of American music-making and to give them coherent permanent form in Amerigrove deserves to be ranked among the wonders of the scholarly musical world.
Amerigrove marks a new beginning in the study of music in the United States. If not precisely a millennial event—scholarly monuments, however deeply longed for, are sure to be taken for granted and carped at as soon as they appear—the publication of Amerigrove establishes a Great Divide in American musical historiography. Before Amerigrove (B.A.), academic scholars could consider "American music" a congeries of varied enterprises, only some of them worthy of a scholar's attention. "American music" was a selective label whose meaning depended entirely upon who was using it. (A New York Philharmonic program of "American music" at Avery Fisher Hall would overlap not at all, for example, with television's annual "American Music Awards.") In the post-Amerigrove age, however—1987 A.D. is the Year 1 A.A.—the tag "American music" resonates with a new ecological completeness. "If we have erred," the editors write, "we hope it is on the side of inclusiveness."2 Here is the key to Amerigrove's importance. By publishing, with considerable public fanfare, under prestigious auspices, and in sumptuous physical trappings, so much data about so many different kinds of American music, the editors have created a single subject where before there were many. In something of the way each of the thirteen British colonies gained new strength when it joined the United States of America, so each branch of American musical endeavor can be contemplated more richly when viewed as part of a diverse, complex whole: E pluribus unum.
Amerigrove's inclusive view of American music operates on several levels. Like a good index, the work embraces many categories of people, agencies, and approaches: composers, performers, teachers, publishers, scholars, critics, instrument makers, and even literary figures; also musical genres, institutions, businesses, instruments, ethnic groups, religious denominations, cities, and dances. A reader seeking information on any of these categories will easily find a network of entries pertaining to each. Within categories, inclusiveness also prevails. The American proverb, "You could look it up," applies not only to William Billings, Scott Joplin, Roger Sessions, and Bob Dylan, but to Amos Bull, Abe Holzman, Eric De Lamarter, and Bobby Darin. As the product of a scholarly generation committed to research, fascinated with information for its own sake, and accustomed to finding novelty in revivals as well as new creations, Amerigrove's inclusiveness flattens the distinction between the historical past and the present.
But certainly Amerigrove's most striking manifestation of inclusiveness lies in its determination to set informal music-making on an equal footing with music for the concert hall. The editors write:
In addition to the acknowledged (and, in the past, relatively well-served) traditions of American music that correspond to those of European art music, we aim to treat others of special significance in American life—for example, jazz, popular music of all kinds (including musical theater and popular song, rock, camp-meeting and gospel hymnody, country and dance music), the music of many of the religious denominations active in the United States, and the music of American Indian tribes.3
Amerigrove, in other words, adopts the view that the United States of America is a distinctive, socially and ethnically diverse nation whose musical achievements are best understood by considering the entire range of music-making that the American people have experienced.
Amerigrove invites consideration from many different perspectives. Indeed, an invitation to review so huge and so obviously important a work puts the conventional notion of a review to the test. How does one review a monument? The answer I've chosen is not to concentrate upon the monument itself but to seek its intellectual and methodological origins and to try to interpret its meaning. Nothing has been more decisive in shaping Amerigrove than its editors' wish to correct a perceived imbalance in earlier academic writings favoring "traditions of American music that correspond to those of European art music" over vernacular forms "of special significance in American life." My essay aims at showing some of the forces within American musical historiography that have fostered Amerigrove's ideal of inclusiveness.
It is obvious enough that Amerigrove's inclusiveness owes something to the climate of its own time. By the beginning of the 1980s, many forces had joined to ensure that "American music" could not be held to a narrow, exclusive definition. Inside academia the interests of historical musicologists had gradually been widening, the prestige of "popular culture" rising, and ethnomusicology and its approaches growing more acceptable. Outside academic circles a trend toward "ethnicity" and away from "melting pot" ideology,4 the advance toward equal status of "minority" causes of all kinds, and the skill of the popular-music industry at exploiting modern communications media all had a parallel effect. But if Amerigrove were simply a reflection of its time, it would hardly deserve to be called a monument. (Monumentality, after all, inheres not only in size but in worth and origins.) In fact, Amerigrove is an outcome of a long process. Its content and form are responses to two related issues that historians of American music have wrestled with through most of the century. Both can be put as questions. The first dates back at least to the time of the First World War: How can musicological research be applied to a work covering the whole of American music? The second has seemed central since the 1950s: What American musical vernaculars belong to the general history of American music?5
We have already seen Amerigrove's answer to the second question, which is that all American musical vernaculars belong to the general history of American music. An answer to the first is also implicit in Amerigrove's organization: musicological research, with its passion for specificity and detail, is especially well suited to presentation in a dictionary format. These simple, obvious-seeming answers, however, make little impact on anyone who does not know the stories behind the questions. In fact, while there are other ways of understanding American musical historiography, there is no more direct way to approach it than to tell those stories, in however brief a form. Through them, and through their manifestations in Amerigrove, perhaps we can understand Amerigrove's achievement in ways that an investigation of its contents alone could not provide.
* * *
The roots of Amerigrove's historiographical pedigree on this side of the Atlantic may be traced at least as far back as the publication of George Hood's A History of Music in New England (Boston: Wilkins, Carter, 1846). In search of the origins of American music, Hood believed that he had found them in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theological treatises and sacred tunebooks, which he unearthed and quoted at length. Hood made no claim for the aesthetic worth of the music he uncovered. Nor, indeed, do his nineteenth-century successors seem to have undertaken their researches with aesthetic rewards in mind. Nathaniel D. Gould's Church Music in America (Boston: A.N. Johnson, 1853), is the personal memoir of an aging, good-humored singing master, recounting the quaint and colorful foibles of the New England choir singers he had taught during fifty years in the business. Frédéric Louis Ritter's Music in America (New York: Scribner, 1883), the work of an immigrant composer and musician who became a college professor and historian of music, describes rather pessimistically the barriers to the building of a European-style concert life on American shores. F.O. Jones's A Handbook of American Music and Musicians (Canaseraga, N.Y.: F.O. Jones, 1886) is a dictionary of musical data, compiled chiefly through correspondence by a man whose other activities are unknown. W.S.B. Mathews's A Hundred Years of Music in America (Chicago: G.L. Howe, 1889), compiled by one of the generation's leading teachers, journalists, and critics, traces a century of musical progress, chiefly through biographical accounts.
These nineteenth-century writings all approach American music not simply as an art to be appreciated but as a human activity with a history deserving attention and study. They vary widely, however, in detail, reliability, tone, and even subject matter. By 1900, then, American musical history had been recognized as a subject. But neither the subject's content—its cultural sweep, its musical canon, its geographical range—nor the proper methods of studying it had begun to be acknowledged as matters for consideration and debate. In 1905, Oscar G. Sonneck (1873-1928), chief of the Library of Congress's Music Division from 1902 to 1917, published his first books. With them, scholarly research began to challenge journalistic synthesis as the driving force behind the writing of American musical history.
Sonneck, born in New Jersey but educated in Germany, returned to his native land in 1900 and spent the next two years in musical research. Instead of tackling American music history whole, he homed in on just one corner of it, working, he testified, "to fill in some evident gaps" in the field.6 In writing about the eighteenth century, Hood and Gould had dealt exclusively with sacred music. Their nineteenth-century successors seem to have taken that as evidence that the religious climate of eighteenth-century America had precluded the development of secular music. Finding no reason to challenge that belief, they left it unexamined. So until Sonneck came along, conventional wisdom held that the history of eighteenth-century American music was the history of psalmody. Sonneck shook that belief to its foundations. In the accumulation of newspapers, sheet-music, and other documents that lay on library shelves he found evidence of a lively secular concert life and the transplanting of the English musical theater to American shores. Taking a subject that most earlier writers had polished off in a page or two, Sonneck revealed it as an active, flourishing branch of the new nation's cultural life, which he documented in no fewer than five books published between 1905 and 1915.7
Sonneck achieved his breakthrough not so much because eighteenth-century American secular music was a fresh subject, but because he found a fresh way to approach American music. An able practitioner, Sonneck was also theoretically minded. While carrying on his research and writing, he worked out a historiographical method for the study of American music. Although he never formally set down his method, his precepts can be found scattered throughout his articles, speeches, and the introductions to his books.
In 1902, having uncovered vast stores of data on eighteenth-century secular music in America, Sonneck wrote the introduction to his just-completed monograph on "the first American composers," Francis Hopkinson and James Lyon. Here he criticized earlier scholars for having, through "prejudice," shirked research opportunities and hence written "antiquated" and "superficial" accounts of eighteenth-century American music.8 Two years later, in 1904, he confessed to the Bibliographical Society of America "a keen sense of humiliation" that so little bibliographical work had been done on American music. "Bibliography is the backbone of history," he declared, in his most ringing scholarly aphorism.9 In 1905 Sonneck's first books were published, one of them a bibliography. In 1907, in the introduction to Early Concert-Life in America, he argued that early American secular music had been misunderstood because historians had not learned to project themselves "into changing (and unchanged) conditions—the sine qua non of the historian."10 The historian's duty, Sonneck implied, was to reconstruct and absorb enough of his subject's musical world to imagine why it appealed to people of its own time. Finally, in an address in 1909 to the Internationale Musik-Gesellschaft, meeting in Vienna, Sonneck spelled out his belief that "musical topography [Länderkunde]," the study of musical life rather than of composers and their compositions, should be the focus for historians of American music. Music in American cities, recoverable to some degree through newspaper accounts, had hardly been studied at all, he complained. Moreover, as of 1909, one could not find much of anything written on American
church music, chamber music, orchestral music, choral music, opera, music in our colleges, the music trades, the manufacture of instruments, the music-publishing industry, musical societies and organizations, municipal and government interest in and subvention of music [or] folk music.11
Only when careful research had closed some of these enormous gaps, Sonneck counseled, could an accurate, responsible, general account of American musical history be written.
Sonneck's remarkable achievements and his high posthumous reputation have overshadowed the contributions of other scholars of his time.12 It should in no way diminish his luster to recognize that Sonneck's search for a new kind of historical truth about American music was not as lonely as it has sometimes been pictured. Sonneck had co-workers in this enterprise, and one who played an especially important part in the realization of Sonneck's scholarly agenda was Waldo Selden Pratt (1857-1939), professor of ecclesiastical music and hymnology at the Hartford Theological Seminary.
Pratt, who was apparently self taught in music, had attended Williams College (Class of 1878), done graduate work in Greek and aesthetics at Johns Hopkins, and served as assistant director for Greek archeology at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art before joining the faculty of the Hartford Seminary in 1882.13 Today Pratt is probably best remembered for his hymnodic studies and his standard textbook, History of Music, published by G. Schirmer in 1907 and appearing in its latest revised edition in 1935. But Pratt also addressed himself to the issue of scholarly methodology in music at a time when few, if any, other writers were thinking about it. In 1888 he delivered a paper to the Music Teachers' National Association (MTNA) on "The Scientific Study of Music." Here he explained that music was not only an art governed by aesthetics but a "science"—a human activity encompassing "objective phenomena" that, like biology, political economy, or literature, could be "analyzed, described, compared, grouped, and reasoned about."14 In 1894, he published an article explaining why "scientific" musical study belongs in universities.15 In 1907, he joined with Sonneck, Albert A. Stanley, and others to form the North American Section of the German-based Internationale Musik-Gesellschaft (IMG), which for almost a decade held yearly meetings as part of the annual convention of the MTNA.16 Pratt's high place in the tiny circle of musical scholars in the United States was dramatized in 1915. For in that year, the house of G. Schirmer established The Musical Quarterly with Sonneck as editor; and the first article in the first issue was written by Pratt. This seminal statement, entitled "On Behalf of Musicology," explained why that unfamiliar label was necessary. In doing so, it forthrightly declared the new journal's intention to deal in the coin of "genuine," "scientific" scholarship—scholarship governed
not by the impulses of personal preference or prejudice, not by the demands of practical instruction, not even by the problems of library economy and system, but by the essential possibilities of the subject.17
Pratt's article, which says nothing at all about American music, defines as "musicology" the approach that he had touted in the past and that Sonneck, without using the term, had applied to his studies of Colonial and Federal America.
The year 1915 represents an important moment in the historiography of American music. On the one hand, a crop of recent general histories was out: Elson and its first revision, Hubbard, and Farwell and Darby.18 On the other, Sonneck's books, his articles, papers, and speeches, the existence of the North American Section of the IMG, the founding of The Musical Quarterly, and Pratt's article in praise of musicology were circulating ideas that undermined the authority of those general histories and their predecessors. The literature published just in the year 1915 shows a profound disjunction between the way journalists, critics, and composers had been writing American music history and the musicological outlook of Sonneck and Pratt. In fact, it is precisely in that disjunction that the first of the two historiographical questions we posed above arises. To put that question tendentiously: if "musicological" method can uncover so much data on just one forgotten chapter of the subject, and if, as Sonneck advised, so much more research remained to be done on others, both remembered and forgotten, then how was it possible for a general historian to master and synthesize and represent it all in the space of a single work?
In 1920 a book was published that, by seeking to answer that question, mediated between the two historiographical factions. The book covered, in just one volume, an entire century and a half of organized music-making in the United States in precise, scholarly detail. By doing so, it showed that musicological method need not be confined, as Sonneck's works had been, to studies of obscure corners of American musical history. This book stands in a direct line with Amerigrove. Its title was American Music and Musicians, better known as the American Supplement to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Its author was Waldo Selden Pratt.19
Pratt's American Supplement is cast in an interlocking two-part structure. Part II contains dictionary-style entries in the customary Grove format. Part I, which Pratt called a "Historical Introduction and Chronological Register," contains essays introducing each historical period and short biographical notices of musicians active in that period. The Introduction's purpose, Pratt explained, was
not to describe the history of American composition or appraise the works or style of even its chief representatives, but simply to indicate the conditions surrounding that evolution and some of the social connections of musical effort.20
Pratt believed that "the history of music in America," by which he meant the United States and Canada, was "decidedly peculiar in many of its aspects."21 Only by sketching "the historic framework" within which "internal tendencies" (music and music-making) reflected "external circumstances"22 (historical events and processes), he wrote, could he show "the unusual way in which civilization and culture have here been established."23
By accepting the notion that, rather than simply a somewhat backward, provincial member of the Western family of nations, the United States was a society with its own unique artistic history, Pratt separated himself from earlier historians of American music—except for Sonneck. Pratt's "Historical Introduction," in fact, manifests Sonneck's belief that "musical life," rather than composers and pieces of music, was the proper focus for historians of American music. But of course Pratt's American Supplement is not a narrative history but a dictionary framed by a long introduction. How can musicological research be applied to the whole of American music? Pratt's answer is forthright and clear: by setting aside the narrative mode and writing a reference work rather than a book to be read serially from cover to cover.
The range covered by the American Supplement, revealing the musical vernaculars that Pratt considered historically significant, is also an early answer to our second question—a question that, while perhaps not a burning issue in Pratt's day, was to take on more and more intensity as time passed. The American Supplement covers the concert hall and opera house thoroughly; articles on composers, performers, and musical organizations dominate the dictionary. But, as a hymnologist and educator, Pratt also had a deep understanding of what might be called institutional vernaculars: peoples' musics sung and played as part of the activity of American churches and schools. The American Supplement is especially strong on psalmody and hymnody.24 Of folk music, Pratt wrote that "the essentially composite nature of the population . . . favors the entry and perpetuation of varied types." The closest thing to a national folk-music, "and that entirely one-sided and really untypical," he believed, were "the emotional religious songs of the 'Gospel hymn' variety or the transient crops of war-songs at one or two periods."25 When it came to other American vernaculars, however, Pratt had little to say. Although such stage composers as Reginald DeKoven, Rudolf Friml, and Victor Herbert received articles of their own, the American Supplement contains no article on the Broadway musical theater, or even operetta. As for commercial popular music, Tin Pan Alley, or composers in the traditions of Charles K. Harris, Harry Von Tilzer, Jerome Kern, or Irving Berlin, they received no mention in Pratt's book.26
Since the time of Sonneck and Pratt and the American Supplement, five major narrative histories of American music have appeared. Each has found its own way to balance "musicological" research with the ideas of comprehensiveness and concision. Each has also struck its own bargain with the range of American musical vernaculars it has chosen to cover. The different ways in which the authors have answered our two basic questions have allowed each to write a book sharply different from the others. Since these works have had much to do with shaping the historiographical climate in which Amerigrove was conceived and written, each is worth a comment.
John Tasker Howard's Our American Music (New York: Crowell, 1931 and later eds.) sought to meet the factual challenge of musicology by presenting data about a vast range of American composers, while omitting, however, all technical discussion of their works. (Our American Music contains no musical examples.) Strongly emphasizing the "cultivated tradition," Howard also recognized the Broadway stage, and he touched upon American vernaculars with a chapter on "Our Folk Music"—which dwells upon music of the American Indians, "Negro Music," and composers' uses of folk music in concert works—and another on "Our Lighter Musical Moments," which briefly outlines the development of Tin Pan Alley and jazz.
Gilbert Chase wrote America's Music (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955 and later eds.) in sharp disagreement with Howard's "polite"27 approach. He believed that the most important and distinctive American music was vernacular music. Therefore he devoted half his book to folk and popular music-making. What separated Chase from earlier historians was his strong, convincingly expressed empathy and respect for the spirit animating American folk and popular musics. Without condescension, yet without denigrating the cultivated tradition, Chase made plain Americans the heroes of his narrative. Charles Ives was for him American music's man of destiny, celebrating in his concert works the spirit of common folk by quoting everyday songs, hymns, dance tunes, and marches, and hence drawing together the formal and informal sides of American musical life, usually so sharply separated from each other.28 Though America's Music is full of musical examples—usually quotations of tunes and themes—Chase did not share musicology's fondness for close technical analysis of music.29 And the range of vernaculars he covered did not include the twentieth-century genres that were flourishing or just beginning to flourish at the time he wrote, such as Tin Pan Alley, country music, and white or black gospel.30
Wilfrid Mellers's Music in a New Found Land (New York: Knopf, 1966) is an appreciation, based on musical analysis, style criticism, and cultural interpretation, of the American music the author judges best. That includes twentieth-century works for the concert hall and stage and vernaculars showing Afro-American influence—especially jazz. On the other hand, Mellers was highly selective, omitting from his account most of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American music, most commercial popular music, and virtually all folk music.
H. Wiley Hitchcock's Music in the United States: A Historical Introduction (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969 and later eds.), though the shortest of this group of histories, is musicologically the best balanced. It covers the entire chronological sweep, offering analytical comments on American musical styles at every turn. Hitchcock set a high standard of compression and clarity of statement in this book. Writing for a multi-author, multi-volume series, however, he assigned American folk music to another writer, thus leaving uncovered, in Music in the United States, a large chapter of the story.31
Charles Hamm's Music in the New World (New York: Norton, 1983), the most recent general history, brings a full range of musicological knowledge—analytical and cultural—to bear on the subject. Hamm's view is that the chief agents in the unfolding of America's music were the successive waves of European immigrants and African slaves, who, from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, found new homes and new musical styles in North America. Hamm, like Chase, favors vernacular musics. He was the first academically trained historian of American music to embrace even the highly commercial genres of contemporary popular and country music with sympathy and enthusiasm. Yet, like those of his earlier colleagues, Hamm's emphases were bought at the price of omissions. Limiting his account to musics that, in his judgment, New World musicians changed from their Old World forms, he included no music that was not so changed.32
Sonneck's and Pratt's musicological approach, with its insistence that all data about music were potentially relevant to the writing of music history, left its mark differently upon each of the five general historians of American music we have discussed. Howard, believing that composers held the key to the nation's musical achievement, chronicled facts about a huge number of American composers. Chase celebrated the diversity and unpretentious artistry of the American people, using his research to bring music-makers of all periods deftly to life as figures in the American landscape. Mellers immersed himself in scores and recordings of the American music he admired, proposing a distinctively American canon and implying that the rest could be safely forgotten. Hitchcock synthesized his findings into a pattern ("cultivated" vs. "vernacular")33 in nineteenth-century American musical life that allowed him, and has allowed others since, to organize and interpret the new information that musicological research was uncovering. Hamm questioned the long-held assumption that commercialism fatally compromised musical quality, bringing a whole new range of data and a renewed populist ideology into the historiographical mainstream.
The general histories we have been looking at seem to suggest that the two fundamental questions of twentieth-century American musical historiography have begun to merge and that Amerigrove stands at their point of juncture. It is the nature of musicological research—research, in Pratt's phrase, bounded only "by the essential possibilities of the subject"—not to be satisfied with old answers to old questions. Rather, changing circumstances provide new answers that, in turn, lead to other questions. The passing of time brings about the creation of more and more new music, while the momentum of musicological inquiry and the growing interest in vernaculars brings older American music, and previously overlooked music, into the scholarly arena.34 Amerigrove's vast, widely varied contents thus can be seen as a logical outcome of a process of addition that has been going on since Pratt's day—a process implicit in musicological research and one that has gradually moved toward encompassing vernacular as well as cultivated traditions.
* * *
Amerigrove's attempt to bring so wide a range of American vernaculars under musicological control, side by side with more formal kinds of music-making, is a bold statement that in the years to come will surely influence the study of American music, and perhaps even American musicology in general. Its ideological premise goes far beyond music, reaching straight to the heart of the American experience. In 1915, composer Arthur Farwell wrote in the introduction to Music in America:
What a new world, with new processes and new ideals, will do with the tractable and still unformed art of music; what will arise from the contact of this art with our unprecedented democracy—these are the questions of deepest import in our musical life in the United States.35
Chase's America's Music was inspired, in part, by Farwell's challenge.36 But Amerigrove is by far the fullest response that has yet been made. For Amerigrove sets out conscientiously to chronicle music-making in a modern democracy—a society dedicated by tradition and law to fostering "a social condition of equality and respect for the individual within the community."37
These words go down easily enough on the page, because they reflect common American political ideas. Putting them into musicological practice, however, is quite another matter. For a team of academic authors—committed by training and inclination to discriminate and to judge, seeking out the best and most important and ignoring or condemning the rest—to embrace the entire range of American music-making is no mean accomplishment. Amerigrove carries out its commitment to American peoples' musics by extending, in defiance of academic custom, an attitude of respect to all manners of music, music makers, and audience tastes. Most entries treat their subjects within each subject's perceived framework of purpose rather than subjecting them to critical assessment or suggesting flawed or unworthy premises. Even Muzak, once called by an American composer "the single most reprehensible and destructive phenomenon in the history of music,"38 is informatively described in the Amerigrove entry on "Environmental Music," without a hint that some might hold it in contempt.
In Amerigrove, collective authorship and the autonomy of the entries allows each author to make the case for his or her subject without reference to any broader context. Thus, for example, Rosina Lhévinne and Liberace, pianists who appear in consecutive entries of almost identical length, inhabit entirely different worlds. Lhévinne, a fellow student at Moscow's Imperial Conservatory with "Rachmaninoff and Scriabin"—the assumption is made that the reader will know who they are without further identification—is praised as a "great" teacher who emphasized "beauty of tone, long line, and spontaneity of expression." On the other hand, Liberace, who once played under "the pseudonym Walter Busterkeys," is said to have championed "the virtues of family, religion, and patriotism" and to have performed "orchestrated arrangements of classical and popular works designed to show his elaborate keyboard technique." It would be foreign to Amerigrove's democratic mission to identify Liberace as a specialist in egregious musical schlock, a man whose immense audience appeal has baffled musicians. Rather, presumably out of respect for the large and devoted audience he won as an entertainer who used music as a fundamental part of his act, he warrants a straight-faced Amerigrove entry: sympathetic, "objective" treatment, similar in tone to that given Lhévinne, and based on the best information currently available, complete with bibliographical citations.
The editors' bold attempt to embrace the American music-making democracy, from its beginnings to the present, has made them vulnerable to attack. Purporting to cover everything, Amerigrove presents a big target, and more than one reviewer has already found it wanting in his own area of specialty. In addition, because a dictionary is more a compilation of existing work than an occasion for new work, it is only natural that the fields best represented in Amerigrove are those that already have received close musicological research. Following are some of the faults that reviewers have found in Amerigrove so far.
Gary Giddins, the jazz critic of The Village Voice, has declared in a blisteringly negative assessment that Amerigrove's attempt to "reflect the essence of American music . . . fails miserably." He explains:
European concerns are given priority, but with a twist: rock and contemporary pop styles are also treated in depth. More venerable pop styles are handled cursorily. Jazz, which one might argue is the essence of American music, is the bastard child poking around the kitchen for leftovers.39
Giddins backs up his remarks with lists of jazz musicians omitted or ill-represented in Amerigrove. Clifford McCarty, writing in The Cue Sheet: The Newsletter of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music, also has berated Amerigrove's editors for their too generous treatment of
rock, that degenerate and omnipresent phenomenon which may indeed constitute music for most Americans, yet which in three decades has yielded only a vast sump of stupefying puerility.
McCarty then details errors and omissions in Amerigrove's film-music entries.40 Donal Henahan, writing in The New York Times shortly after this "whopping dose of Americana" was published, admitted that he had already found the new work useful, but took the editors to task for not making "distinctions between popular and serious music." Fearing that Amerigrove would help to make "musical relativity" academically respectable, he warned that perhaps its "scholarly editors . . . will have to bear some responsibility for not helping to check the deluge of pop while there was time."41 William Youngren, in The Atlantic, on the other hand, praised Amerigrove's coverage of jazz, but found "the various white vernacular musics . . . treated quite skimpily." For Youngren the chief anomaly in Amerigrove is "the extraordinary amount of space allotted to American Indians," in his opinion a cultural group of far more interest to anthropologists than to music lovers.42 Finally, in by far the longest and certainly the most detailed and sympathetic review I have seen, Allen P. Britton detects and questions a rather consistent value system in Amerigrove, based on the length and range of entries in any given sub-field. Britton writes:
Black jazz artists get much fuller treatment than white jazz artists, and all jazz artists seem to get fuller treatment than opera singers, country artists, non-jazz pianists, string quartet players, and so on. Popular performers like Bing Crosby rate lowest, many of them failing to receive a biographical article at all. . . . Omissions of this kind reveal the systematic prejudice against pop artists of all races that continues to permeate American musicology.43
More criticisms will doubtless appear. As with the ones quoted, some reviewers are sure to object to features that others find praiseworthy. Such disagreements by no means discredit the criticism. In fact, serious criticism and the debate that follows it give life to a work of scholarship. What does it say about jazz, or about our understanding of it, that, as Giddins claims, Amerigrove fails to do justice to the musicians and critics—especially the black critics—who have shaped and interpreted its development during the recent past? Why have musicologists avoided the musical and cultural issues implicit in the various rock-based styles' domination of the popular music scene during the past thirty years? What kinds of "distinctions between popular and serious musics" might be both aesthetically enlightening and culturally useful? Why does the music of American Indian tribes, virtually inaccessible now to most Americans, deserve respectful commemoration and explanation in Amerigrove? On what basis can it be argued that popular performers of the Bing Crosby stripe rate a higher place in American music history than they have so far won? All of these questions, and others too, touch upon issues that deserve attention from those who are presumably best qualified to answer them: historians of music in general, and historians of American music in particular. It is a great virtue of Amerigrove and its critics that such troubling, fundamental questions—questions that most music historians have so far been reluctant to tackle—have been brought directly into the scholarly arena.44
In 1987, it seems fitting to recognize Amerigrove as both a map of terrain that has never been mapped before45 and as the first full embodiment of a challenge not so different from that of the United States Constitution, whose two hundredth anniversary is being celebrated this year. A recent commentator has described the Constitution not as a fixed, sacred text, to be interpreted literally, but rather as
a document designed to force future generations to constantly mediate the past and future, the conservative and the liberal, to forever wrestle over matters of principle, . . . to never lay aside our collective continuing dialogue over what it means to be an American.46
Allowing for their enormous and obvious differences—and perhaps setting aside a wish to avoid split infinitives—the Constitution and Amerigrove do hold in common two fundamental elements. Both gather previously separate parts together into one whole. And both, by doing so, force upon Americans a process of perpetual argument about the nature of that whole. Amerigrove manifests what historians of American music have been moving toward for years: a full realization of how difficult it is to decide, musically speaking, what it means to be an American.
1In the planning stage the work was called The New Grove Dictionary of Music in the United States. The change in title, replacing the awkward but more specifically accurate "United States' Music" or "U.S. Music" with the euphonious "American Music," appropriates for the U.S.A. a geographical designation coined for the entire western hemisphere. The American Supplement to Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New York, 1920) construed "America" more broadly than Amerigrove. "Throughout the volume," its author wrote, the words 'America' and 'American' are often used of the United States and Canada taken together [p. vi]."
2The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, ed. by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, with Susan Feder as editorial coordinator, 4 vols. (London and New York: Macmillan, 1986), 1:viii.
3New Grove Dictionary of American Music, 1:vii.
4See Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
5This term for informal music-making comes from H. Wiley Hitchcock, Music in the United States, 2d ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), 51. See n. 33 below for Hitchcock's definition.
6Oscar G. Sonneck, Francis Hopkinson . . . and James Lyon (Washington: by H.L. McQueen for the author, 1905; reprint ed., New York: Da Capo, 1967), viii.
7As well as Francis Hopkinson and James Lyon, Sonneck published Bibliography of Early Secular American Music (Washington: by H.L. McQueen for the author, 1905; revised and enlarged by William Treat Upton, Washington: Music Division, Library of Congress, 1945; reprint ed., New York: Da Capo, 1964); Early Concert-Life in America (Leipzig: Breitkopf and Härtel, 1907; reprint eds., New York: Musurgia, 1949; Wiesbaden: Saendig, 1969; New York: Da Capo, 1978); Report on "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Hail Columbia," "America," "Yankee Doodle" (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909; reprint ed., New York: Dover, 1972); Early Opera in America (New York: G. Schirmer, 1915; reprint ed., New York: Blom, 1963).
8Sonneck, Francis Hopkinson and James Lyon, 148.
9William Lichtenwanger, ed., Oscar Sonneck and American Music (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 29-30.
10Sonneck, Early Concert-Life, 92.
11Lichtenwanger, Sonneck and American Music, 89; quoted from "The Musical Life of America from the Standpoint of Musical Topography." Sonneck repeated this list seven years later in "The History of Music in America: A Few Suggestions," Papers and Proceedings of the Music Teachers' National Association (1916), reprinted in O.G. Sonneck, Miscellaneous Studies in the History of Music (New York: Macmillan, 1921), 336.
12Sonneck's books are easily available in reprint editions or in reworked form, as listed earlier. His other writings on American music have been collected by Lichtenwanger, as have writings by others about Sonneck. Tributes to Sonneck by Gilbert Chase and H. Wiley Hitchcock marked the centennial anniversary of his birth in 1973 (see Lichtenwanger, Sonneck and American Music, 206-34). In 1975, a national organization dedicated to circulating "accurate information on American music" was formed, naming itself the Sonneck Society.
13Otto Kinkeldey, "Waldo Selden Pratt," The Musical Quarterly 26 (1940):163-65.
14Music Teachers National Association, Proceedings (1890), 52.
15Waldo Selden Pratt, "Music as a University Study," Music 6 (1894):413-32.
16Pratt was treasurer from 1907 to 1911, while Sonneck was secretary. He then served as president until the group disbanded in 1916. See also Richard Crawford, The American Musicological Society 1934-1984 (Philadelphia: American Musicological Society, 1984), 3-4.
17Waldo Selden Pratt, "On Behalf of Musicology," The Musical Quarterly 1 (1915):3. Amerigrove's article on Periodicals (3:507) reproduces the first page of Pratt's article in facsimile.
18Louis C. Elson, The History of American Music (New York: Macmillan, 1904; rev. ed., New York: Macmillan, 1915). W.L. Hubbard, ed., History of American Music (Toledo, Ohio: Irving Squire, 1908); this book was Vol. 4 of the multi-volume American History and Encyclopedia of Music, of which Hubbard was general editor. Arthur Farwell and W. Dermot Darby, eds., Music in America (New York: National Society of Music, 1915); this book was Vol. 4 of the multi-volume The Art of Music, whose general editor was Daniel Gregory Mason.
19This book seems to have appeared in two forms in 1920: as a supplement to the second edition of Grove's Dictionary, attributed to Pratt and Charles N. Boyd, associate editor, and as an independent volume entitled American Music and American Musicians, attributed only to Pratt. (Kinkeldey, "Waldo Selden Pratt," notes that Boyd's name "is strangely absent from the title-page of this edition [p. 171]," which is the one cited in the present review as American Supplement.) A curious feature of the volume is that it serves both as a chronicle of events on American music and an updating of the whole Dictionary. The editor explains: "Inasmuch as the latest edition of Grove's Dictionary was issued ten to fifteen years ago, the publishers desired that this volume should include continuations of those articles that relate to the more conspicuous foreign musicians, as well as notices of some that for any reason were previously omitted. Accordingly, in the Dictionary proper will be found statements regarding more than a hundred musicians who are entirely outside the American field [p. vi]."
20Pratt, American Supplement, 87.
21Pratt, American Supplement, 3.
22Pratt, American Supplement, v.
23Pratt, American Supplement, 3.
24The article on "Tune-Books" carries a list of titles that still has not been bettered in print. And, almost alone among writers of his time, Pratt was evenhanded enough to recognize in the so-called "gospel hymns" of the late nineteenth century a legitimate form of cultural expression. "Such tunes," he wrote, "with their lilting, ballad-like verses, were seized upon because in a way they met the craving for folk-music [p. 224]." Articles on "Colleges," "Degrees in Music, Academic," and "Public Schools" are also detailed and valuable.
25Pratt, American Supplement, 207.
26Ragtime earned a very brief entry on p. 338.
27Chase, America's Music, xvii.
28In the first edition of America's Music, Chase's chapter on Ives concludes and hence climaxes the book, even though its placement there violates chronological sequence.
29In a later article, Chase declared that he considered it his task "not to get inside a piece of music with a microscope (otherwise known as theoretical analysis), but to account for the kinds of human behavior that produce this or that type of musical expression." See Chase, "The Shape of Time in America's Music," Journal of American Culture 4/4 (1981):104.
30Chase, America's Music, Revised 3rd ed. (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987) published too recently to be covered fully here, confirms and extends his interests in peoples' musics, including rock 'n' roll.
31Hitchcock writes in his preface that in dealing with secular music in the Colonial era, and with nineteenth-century informal music making, "I discuss a considerable amount of music now considered 'folk' musicbut in its function as the 'popular' music of earlier days; folk music per se is considered more broadly by Bruno Nettl in his companion-volume in The Prentice-Hall History of Music Series, Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents [p. x]." See also pp. 51-52n.
32See Hamm, Music in the New World, 655-56: "The most characteristic and dynamic music to emerge from American culture over the past two centuries invariably resulted from interaction among musicians of several different cultural, racial, national, and ethnic backgrounds. . . . Though I have dealt with a wider range of music than is found in any earlier histories of music in the United States, much has been left out. In fact, one could easily write another book, perhaps of equal length, dealing with the music I have chosen to exclude."
33See Hitchcock, Music in the United States, 51: "I mean by the term 'cultivated tradition' a body of music that America had to cultivate consciously, music faintly exotic, to be approached with some effort, and to be appreciated for its edification, its moral, spiritual, or aesthetic values. By the 'vernacular tradition' I mean a body of music more plebeian, native, not approached self-consciously but simply grown into as one grows into one's vernacular tongue; music understood and appreciated simply for its utilitarian or entertainment value."
34See Chase, "The Shape of Time," 96-99.
35Farwell and Darby, Music in America, vii.
36Chase, American Music, xvi-xvii.
37The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), s.v. "democracy."
38Roger Reynolds, quoted in H. Wiley Hitchcock, ed., The Phonograph and Our Musical Life, I.S.A.M. Monographs, No. 14 (Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1980), 16.
39Gary Giddins, "The Grove of Academe," The Village Voice, 13 January 1987.
40C[lifford] M[cCarty], The Cue Sheet, January 1987, 5-7.
41Donal Henahan, "Music View: Laying Out the Facts About American Music," The New York Times, 16 November 1986.
42William H. Youngren, "Music: American Soundings," The Atlantic, March 1987, 83-85.
43Allen P. Britton, review of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, American Music, V/2 (Summer 1987):194-203. The quotation is on p. 198.
44Martin Williams, "On Scholarship, Standards, and Aesthetics: In American Music We Are All on the Spot," American Music IV/2 (Summer 1986):159-63, is another step in that direction.
45See Richard Crawford, Studying American Music, I.S.A.M. Special Publications, No.3 (Brooklyn: Institute for Studies in American Music, 1984), especially p. 2.
46Rodney A. Smolla, "How Should We Celebrate the Constitution?," The New York Times, 25 January 1987.