Searching for Songs of the People: The Ideology of the Composers' Collective and Its Musical Implications

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The Composers' Collective, founded by leftist composers in 1932 New York City, sought to create proletarian music that avoided the "bourgeois" traditions of the past and functioned as a vehicle to engage Americans in political dialogue. The Collective aimed to understand how the modern composer became isolated from his public, and discussions on the relationship between music and society pervade the radical writings of Marc Blitzstein, Charles Seeger, and Elie Siegmeister, three of the organization's most vocal members. This new proletarian music juxtaposed revolutionary text with avant-garde musical idioms that were incorporated in increasingly greater quantities; thus, composers progressively acclimated ... continued below

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Chaplin-Kyzer, Abigail May 2018.

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  • Chaplin-Kyzer, Abigail

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The Composers' Collective, founded by leftist composers in 1932 New York City, sought to create proletarian music that avoided the "bourgeois" traditions of the past and functioned as a vehicle to engage Americans in political dialogue. The Collective aimed to understand how the modern composer became isolated from his public, and discussions on the relationship between music and society pervade the radical writings of Marc Blitzstein, Charles Seeger, and Elie Siegmeister, three of the organization's most vocal members. This new proletarian music juxtaposed revolutionary text with avant-garde musical idioms that were incorporated in increasingly greater quantities; thus, composers progressively acclimated the listener to the dissonance of modern music, a distinctive sound that the Collective hoped would become associated with revolutionary ideals. The mass songs of the two Workers' Song Books published by the Collective, illustrate the transitional phase of the musical implementation of their ideology. In contrast, a case study of the song "Chinaman! Laundryman!" by Ruth Crawford Seeger, a fringe member of the Collective, suggests that this song belongs within the final stage of proletarian music, where the text and highly modernist music seamlessly interact to create what Charles Seeger called an "art-product of the highest type."

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  • May 2018

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  • June 6, 2018, 1:19 p.m.

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Chaplin-Kyzer, Abigail. Searching for Songs of the People: The Ideology of the Composers' Collective and Its Musical Implications, thesis, May 2018; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1157558/: accessed August 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .