The Great American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and by T. Austin Graham

By T. Austin Graham

Within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries, American authors pioneered a style of musical writing that rather actually resounded past the broadcast web page. Novels won soundtracks, poetry pressured its audiences to sing, and the ostensibly silent act of analyzing grew to become something yet. The nice American Songbooks is the tale of this literature, without delay an summary of musical and authorial perform on the century's flip, an research into the sensory dimensions of studying, and a meditation at the results that the preferred arts have had on literary modernism. The writings of John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Walt Whitman are heard in a brand new key; the performers and tunesmiths who encouraged them have their tales instructed; and the track of the previous, lengthy out of print and type, is recapitulated and made on hand in electronic shape.

A paintings of feedback located on the crossroads of literary research, musicology, and cultural heritage, The nice American Songbooks demonstrates the significance of learning fiction and poetry from interdisciplinary views, and it indicates new avenues for learn within the dawning age of the electronic humanities.

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Extra info for The Great American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and the Value of Popular Culture

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James Weldon Johnson, in his novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), revealed a seemingly peculiar but in some ways representative attitude by writing in the voice of a classically trained musician who excels at ragtime and, crucially, perceives little contradiction in his mixed talents. Early in the novel, the narrator condemns snobbery thus: American musicians, instead of investigating ragtime, attempt to ignore it or dismiss it with a contemptuous word. But that has always been the course of scholasticism in every branch of art.

As is hopefully being made clear by the sheer regularity with which Lucia was taken up in the period, a well-known song’s referentiality had considerable value for artists at the century’s turn, able as it was to establish a powerful and precise aural intimacy with audiences. Writers were and remain able to use music in the service of such effects because it has always had a pronounced capacity for being internalized by listeners. It has become something of a critical commonplace, moreover, that this process of internalization was intensified by the invention of phonographic recording.

Now critics spoke of a “Great Divide” between art and popular culture, arguing that modernist artists were almost fanatically concerned with dissociating themselves from the masses and retreating into a zone of superiority and privilege. Today, few scholars believe this diagnosis was correct or that the modernists ever perceived such a yawning chasm between the high and low arts, but the “Great Divide” theorists are nevertheless worth revisiting here because they had such a profound impact on subsequent discussions of American literature and popular culture.

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