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American Art Song: Overview

American song is as eclectic as the cultures that make up the USA. Its song style defies description. Ned Rorem is considered to be the foremost American song composer and the man who helped make american art song a great genre. Although American composers are interested in producing vocal works, they are still googly eyed over the genre of Opera.

That's your briefing on the matter. Now to some composers and a list of a few of their songs.


Amy Beach (1867 - 1944)

Beach is the first women composer in the United States. She wrote 117 songs and set texts of Shelley, Browning, Tennipon, Shakespeare, Hugo, Burns, Goethe, Heine, Schiller


Three Browning Songs: The years at the Spring - Ah, Love, but a day! - I send my heart up to thee!


In the twilight (Longfellow)

A Song for little May (Miller)

Charles Ives (1874 -1954)

Ives was innovative and experimental in his music, resulting in artistic and critical isolation. 20 years after quitting composing, his Third Symphony won the Pulitzer Prize. His musical features predate those of Stravinsky and Prokofiev.


Five street songs (Ives) - song cycle [the circus band]

1, 2, 3 (Ives)

The cage (Ives)

Tom sails away (Ives)

Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990)

Copland compositions have tonally symbolized and embodied the American landscape and American culture. He is most famous for Appalachian Spring (1945) which won a Pulitzer prize. He also won an Oscar for his film score The Heiress (1939). He also wrote a number of books on music.


Songs of Farewell (Whitman) - song cycle

Poems of Paul Verlaine (Verlaine) - song cycle

Twelve songs of Emily Dickinson (Dickinson) - Song cycle

Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981)

Barber was the most frequently performed composer in his generation. He wrote the first American Opera which was premiered at the MET: Antony and Cleopatra. (I heard it wasn't anything glorious...).


The Hermit songs (texts from 8th-13th centurties)

Sure on this shining night (Agee)

Nursery songs (Anonymous/Eugene Field)

O boundless, boundless evening (Middleton)

The secrets of the Old (Yeats)

Ned Rorem (1923 - present)

Rorem admits to always thinking vocally. He wrote 500 songs. He was friends with Poulenc and was greatly influenced by him. Rorem has written 8 books. Also, He is still kickin'.


Evidence of things not seen (36 poems by 26 poets) - journey through human life.

The Auden poems (Auden)

Last Poems of Wallace Stevens (Stevens)

Ariel (Plath)

Some trees (Ashbury)

Back to Life (Gunn)

William Bolcom (1938 - present)

Bolcom studied with Milhaud and Messiaen. He is fluent in classical and american (meaning Jazz, pop, rock) Techniques. He was greatly influenced by Charles Ives. He is also "still kickin' ".


Cabaret Songs (Weinstein)

Open House (Roethke)

Morning and Evening Poems (Blake)

I will breath a mountain (Song cycle of american women poets)


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