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Sounds of War: Music in America during World War II


"Musicians in America were deeply involved in all aspects of World War II, from military service to radio propaganda, whether in the Office of War Information or in the State Department. They included such well-known composers as Samuel Barber, Marc Blitzstein, Aaron Copland, and Roy Harris. Compositions such as Copland's ""Fanfare for the Common Man""; (1942) and his ballet ""Appalachian Spring""; (1944) were as much related to war-time concerns as Blitzstein's ""Airborne Symphony"" (1943-46) or Morton Gould's ""American Salute"" (1943). Yet little is known about these musical activities during the war, nor how music related to the broader political and institutional contexts of this time. My project is the first one devoted to the musical and cultural study of art-music in the United States during World War II. The main outcome of the project is a book, ""Sounds of War: Music in America during World War II"" offering historical and cultural interpretations of musical life in the United States between 1939 and 1946. The book will address the following topics: 1. American musicians in wartime, their various roles as teachers, administrators, or members in government committees, ranging from the military, through the OWI and USO, to the OSS. I will discuss the contributions not only of composers but of performers, scholars, and patrons. 2. The roles, contributions, and challenges of European musicians in exile in the United States and their often complicated interactions with Americans. 3. Musical performance and composition as sonic responses to war, from questions of genre and style (for example the symphony) to those of programmatic response (for example the composition of so-called “Americana”). 4. The use of music as a tool in propaganda and morale efforts, exploring from both an aesthetic and a political perspective the work by musicians such as Copland and Toscanini for the OWI, the State Department, the OSS, and other institutions."

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Wallotstrasse 19
14193 Berlin

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Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Joachim Nettelbeck (Dr.)
EU contribution
No data