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Contemporary American Composers, a non-fiction book by Rupert Hughes

Chapter 6. The Foreign Composers

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Ours is so young, and so cosmopolite, a country, that our art shows the same brevity of lineage as our society. Immigration has played a large part in the musical life of the United States, as it has in the make-up of the population; and yet for all the multiplexity of his ancestry, the American citizen has been assimilated into a distinctive individuality that has all the traits of his different forbears, and is yet not closely like any of them. So, American music, taking its scale and most of its forms from the old country, is yet developing an integrity that the future will make much of. As with the federation of the States, so will one great music ascend polyphonically,--e pluribus unum.

In compiling this directory of American composers, it has been necessary to discuss the works only of the composers who were born in this country. It is interesting to see how few of these names are un-American, how few of them are Germanic (though so many of them have studied in Germany). Comment has often been made upon the Teutonic nature of the make-up of our orchestras. It is pleasant to find that a very respectable list of composers can be made up without a preponderance of German names.

The music life of our country, however, has been so strongly influenced and enlivened and corrected by the presence of men who were born abroad that some recognition of their importance should somewhere be found. Many of them have become naturalized and have brought with them so much enthusiasm for our institutions that they are actually more American than many of the Americans; than those, particularly, who, having had a little study abroad, have gone quite mad upon the superstition of "atmosphere," and have brought home nothing but foreign mannerisms and discontent.

Among the foreign born who have made their home in America, I must mention with respect, and without attempting to suggest order of precedence, the following names:

C.M. Loeffler, Bruno Oscar Klein, Leopold Godowski, Victor Herbert, Walter Damrosch, Julius Eichberg, Dr. Hugh A. Clarke, Louis V. Saar, Asgar Hamerik, Otto Singer, August Hyllested, Xavier Scharwenka, Rafael Joseffy, Constantin von Sternberg, Adolph Koelling, August Spanuth, Aime Lachaume, Max Vogrich, W.C. Seeboeck, Julian Edwards, Robert Coverley, William Furst, Gustave Kerker, Henry Waller, P.A. Schnecker, Clement R. Gale, Edmund Severn, Platon Brounoff, Richard Burmeister, Augusto Rotoli, Emil Liebling, Carl Busch, John Orth, Ernst Perabo, Ferdinand Dunkley, Mrs. Clara Kathleen Rogers, Miss Adele Lewing, Mrs. Elisa Mazzucato Young.

It is perhaps quibbling to rule out some of these names from Americanism, and include certain of those whom I have counted American because they were born here, in spite of the fact that their whole tuition and tendency is alien. But the line must be drawn somewhere. The problem is still more trying in the case of certain composers who, having been born here, have expatriated themselves, and joined that small colony of notables whom America has given to Europe as a first instalment in payment of the numerous loans we have borrowed from the old country.

For the sake of formally acknowledging this debt, I will not endeavor to discuss here the careers of George Templeton Strong, Arthur Bird, or O.B. Boise, all three of whom were born in this country, but have elected to live in Berlin. Their distinction in that city at least palely reflects some credit upon the country that gave them birth.


In the ninth century Iceland was the musical center of the world; students went there from all Europe as to an artistic Mecca. Iceland has long lost her musical crown. And Welsh music in its turn has ceased to be the chief on earth. Russia is sending up a strong and growing harmony marred with much discord. Some visionaries look to her for the new song. But I do not hesitate to match against the serfs of the steppes the high-hearted, electric-minded free people of our prairies; and to prophesy that in the coming century the musical supremacy and inspiration of the world will rest here overseas, in America.

Rupert Hughes's Book: Contemporary American Composers


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