Vanguard of American Music in 1950 - L-R, Serge Koussevitsky, Aron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss

What Is American Music? – 1950 – Past Daily: “Talking About . . .”

Vanguard of American Music in 1950 – L-R, Serge Koussevitsky, Aron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss

– “What Is American Music” – 1950 – WNYC-FM, New York –

American Classical Music was undergoing something of a metamorphosis after World War 2. Like everything else in the post-war world, the Arts in general were surging with new and daring ideas. Obviously, the mainstream even then took a while to adjust. New Music was coming in from those who believed change was good – and there were champions to the cause. Most notable during this period of time was the Music Director and Conductor of The Boston Symphony Serge Koussevitsky. He commissioned numerous works from the composers represented in this panel discussion and was one of a handful of supporters and programmed the works into his normal concert schedule, thus assuring an audience would witness what was new and challenging, rather than staying with a diet made exclusively of the tried-and-true.

This panel discussion, featuring Leonard Bernstein, Aron Copland, Lukas Foss and Irving Fine focuses on just where all this new American music was coming from – that it was a necessity if Music itself was to survive. Probably the two most notable were Leonard Bernstein and Aron Copland. Copland had already become a household name via his intensely Patriotic A Lincoln Portrait, as well as Appalachian Spring – music that was largely brought about by the era of the Works Progress Program. Bernstein was yet to achieve his greatest accomplishments but was well on his way with Broadway Productions of On The Town, which came from parts of his earlier Ballet Fancy Free as well as his First Symphony and Second Symphony “Age Of Anxiety”.

Sadly, this panel discussion is not complete – it’s the first half of a (presumed) one hour discussion. But it’s important enough to warrant even this abridged version.

American music as well as American culture in general were on the fast track to great upheaval – coupled with the Cold War and The Red Scare, it was the time of no turning back. Here’s a reminder of that. From July 31, 1950, the panel discussion “What Is American Music” broadcast over WNYC-FM.

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