Review by Choice Review
This book consummates over 30 years of research in the history and criticism of American music, during which time the author has become a senior scholar in the field. Crawford has looked at much music, from early psalmody to rock, and at an impressive amount of previous writing (107 pages of densely packed backnotes and a 14-page bibliography support and augment the text). He arrives at some fresh conclusions about the vitality and character of American music and suggests new avenues for investigation. The text is divided into four parts: a critical review of American music histories; an examination of teaching, composing, and performing as they have interacted and developed over the past two centuries; assessments of three composers as exemplars of their musical cultures (William Billings and 18th-century religious music, George Root and 19th-century popular song, Duke Ellington and 20th-century jazz); and the evolution of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" along many different paths. Using some basic themes to draw together these various topics, Crawford develops an inclusive view which differs from previous, more exclusive, attempts at explaining the uniqueness of American music; and he finds that the US economic system, rather than being antithetical to music, has supported a diversity of types, from popular to elite. The importance of his ideas and the clarity of his prose make this an important book for all readers interested in any aspect of American music. W. K. Kearns; University of Colorado at Boulder
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.