New World Symphonies: How American Culture Changed European Music

Jack Sullivan, Author, Jack Sullan, Author Yale University Press $61 (282p) ISBN 978-0-300-07231-0
Sullivan, an English professor at Rider University (Words on Music: From Addison to Barzun), offers a brief but far-reaching book about cross-cultural influences. Dealing with literature, music, even mythology, Sullivan opines that the influence of America on the Old World was more profound than vice versa, and this assertion makes his book different from the usual Euro-originated views of the phenomenon (such as Wilfred Mellers's Music in a New-Found Land). Sullivan offers many detailed examples of New World-Old World cultural interrelations: Longfellow's influence on Dvor k and Poe's on Debussy and Ravel; how jazz inspired Stravinsky and Bart k; and how Hollywood and Broadway worked their magic on Weill, Korngold and Britten. Based largely on secondary sources, the book is composed of fairly leisurely chapters of straightforward narrative, uniting a variety of familiar information--particularly the last two chapters, about the influence of Broadway musicals and jazz on European music. Probably the best chapter is the one in which the author's past as a horror anthologist (he edited the Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural) is put to good use: ""New Worlds of Terror: The Legacy of Poe."" Sullivan ends the book with a discussion of jazz, sidestepping the greatest musical factor dominating European music in the last 35 years or so--American rock music. This oversight, however, detracts only little from an otherwise agreeable read. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/08/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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