Sunday, July 6, 2014

Antonin Dvorak and the American Sound

This week, let’s take a look at Antonín Dvořák. You may wonder why I selected a Czech composer to include in our discussion of American music. Dvořák is actually known for creating some of the earliest “American” sounds in music. As a composer who sought to compose nationalist idioms in his music using folk and regional styles, Dvořák was called upon in 1892 to make the journey across the Atlantic to New York where he would become the director of the National Conservatory of Music. After his arrival, he realized that, on top of his directorship, he was expected to create an “American” idiom as he had done with the Bohemian sounds in his homeland.

After becoming immersed in the folk songs of this new land, Dvořák encouraged the young American composers at the National Conservatory to seek their vision through the music enjoyed by the people groups that surrounded them:  African Americans and Native Americans.

Do you find it interesting that Dvořák chose these people groups as his basis for the “American” sound when the Caucasian population was the dominant ethnicity in their society?

Join me Wednesday as I continue to talk about what elements Dvořák pulled from these African American and Native American influences.

1 comment:

  1. The main difference I see in Dvorak's "suggestions" on creating a Nationalistic music here in the U.S. compared to how he did it in his native Czechoslovakia is there he used the sound of folk songs the populace identified with. The concert-going public in America at that time were not the African-American slaves and Native Americans, nor did they identify with that music.It may have been music found in America, but it wasn't necessarily "American". It's my opinion that it wasn't until we created our own indigenous art form - Jazz - and it was incorporated into classical European musical forms such as the Symphony Orchestra, that we really did start to have a unique voice. Thanks so much for the evocotive insight Jessica! -Mark