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Music in the Age of AnxietyAmerican Music in the Fifties$
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James Wierzbicki

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040078

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040078.001.0001

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(p.156) 8 Modernists
Music in the Age of Anxiety

James Wierzbicki

University of Illinois Press

This chapter demonstrates how when it comes to modernism in postwar America, the most influential European composers were the Frenchman Pierre Boulez, the Italians Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono, and the German Karlheinz Stockhausen. Being born between 1924 and 1928, all of them had seen their homelands torn by the clash of Allied and Axis forces, and they had been personally shaken by the violence that nearly brought the whole of European civilization crashing down around them. The Americans were slower to respond to the perceived need for a drastically new music than were the Europeans, and when their response did come it was not so blatantly confrontational. Although many of the American modernists also had personal wartime experiences as horrific as those of their European contemporaries, the heritage with which they had grown up was never so direly threatened as had been that of Europe.

Keywords:   modernism, postwar America, European composers, Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, European civilization, American modernists

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