The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity

Overview

The American musical has achieved and maintained relevance to more people in America than any other performance-based art. This thoughtful history of the genre, intended for readers of all stripes, offers probing discussions of how American musicals, especially through their musical numbers, advance themes related to American national identity. Written by a musicologist and supported by a wealth of illustrative audio examples (on the book's website), the book examines key historical antecedents to the musical, ...
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Overview

The American musical has achieved and maintained relevance to more people in America than any other performance-based art. This thoughtful history of the genre, intended for readers of all stripes, offers probing discussions of how American musicals, especially through their musical numbers, advance themes related to American national identity. Written by a musicologist and supported by a wealth of illustrative audio examples (on the book's website), the book examines key historical antecedents to the musical, including the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American burlesque and vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, and other song types. It then proceeds thematically, focusing primarily on fifteen mainstream shows from the twentieth century, with discussions of such notable productions as Show Boat (1927), Porgy and Bess (1935), Oklahoma! (1943), West Side Story (1957), Hair (1967), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Assassins (1991). The shows are grouped according to their treatment of themes that include defining America, mythologies, counter-mythologies, race and ethnicity, dealing with World War II, and exoticism. Each chapter concludes with a brief consideration of available scholarship on related subjects. An extensive appendix provides information on each show discussed, including plot summaries and song lists, and a listing of important films, videos, audio recordings, published scores, and libretti associated with each musical.
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Editorial Reviews

London Review of Books
Knapp does an excellent job of tracing the roots of the musical, avoiding much of the received wisdom. . . . When Knapp focuses on the structure of musicals, and how it works to move us and persuade us, he is very effective. . . .
History
Knapp's well-researched and comprehensive presentation transcends the purely musical point of view. In his exploration of the underlying sociocultural fabric of a number of works, he puts the American musical theater on a par with its contemporary arts of jazz and film.
The Historian
This close musical analysis, combined with broad cultural comments about the power of the American musical, is highly original and much needed, especially as a teaching textbook.
BBC Music Magazine - Andrew Lamb
The breadth of Knapp's reading is astonishing, and his discussion of the historical background of the musical is admirable. . . . Knapp writes extremely well, and not only his thoughts but also his suggestions for further study are well organized. So, too, is his consideration of the growth of the American union in the context of Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and The Music Man.
Kurt Weil Newsletter - Charles Hamm
This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings.
Stage Directions - Stephen Peithman
Raymond Knapp shows that while some musicals have served to reinforce the way people feel about America, many others have helped to challenge aspects of our culture that needed to be changed.
Current Musicology - Walter Frisch
[Knapp] offers new insights on each work and writes in an accessible, engaging style. . . . Knapp is . . . most effective . . . at negotiating the tensions . . . between work and context, and between part and whole.
Popular Music and Society - Edward Green
Raymond Knapp has an extraordinarily perceptive ear. As he surveys the history of the American musical, he hears things—important things, revelatory things—that earlier writers who have attempted, systematically, to traverse this vast territory have missed. Hardly a page goes by without a 'Gee, I didn't realize that' moment. . . . One of the loveliest features of these books is the generosity of the musical examples. Coordinated with the text are hundreds of musical excerpts which Princeton University Press has made available to readers through easy downloading from the Internet. . . . It is clear that there is much to praise about Raymond Knapp's work, beginning with his vast knowledge of the subject and his infectious enthusiasm for it.
" London Review of Books hael Friedman

Knapp does an excellent job of tracing the roots of the musical, avoiding much of the received wisdom. . . . When Knapp focuses on the structure of musicals, and how it works to move us and persuade us, he is very effective. . . .
" History McCoy

Knapp's well-researched and comprehensive presentation transcends the purely musical point of view. In his exploration of the underlying sociocultural fabric of a number of works, he puts the American musical theater on a par with its contemporary arts of jazz and film.
" The Historian sa Clapp-Itnyre

This close musical analysis, combined with broad cultural comments about the power of the American musical, is highly original and much needed, especially as a teaching textbook.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2004-2005 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism

Finalist for the 2004 George Freedley Memorial Award, The Theatre Library Association

"Knapp does an excellent job of tracing the roots of the musical, avoiding much of the received wisdom. . . . When Knapp focuses on the structure of musicals, and how it works to move us and persuade us, he is very effective. . . . "—Michael Friedman, London Review of Books

"The breadth of Knapp's reading is astonishing, and his discussion of the historical background of the musical is admirable. . . . Knapp writes extremely well, and not only his thoughts but also his suggestions for further study are well organized. So, too, is his consideration of the growth of the American union in the context of Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and The Music Man."—Andrew Lamb, BBC Music Magazine

"Knapp's well-researched and comprehensive presentation transcends the purely musical point of view. In his exploration of the underlying sociocultural fabric of a number of works, he puts the American musical theater on a par with its contemporary arts of jazz and film."—Ken McCoy, History

"This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings."—Charles Hamm, Kurt Weil Newsletter

"This close musical analysis, combined with broad cultural comments about the power of the American musical, is highly original and much needed, especially as a teaching textbook."—Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, The Historian

"This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings."—Charles Hamm, Kurt Weill Newsletter

"Raymond Knapp shows that while some musicals have served to reinforce the way people feel about America, many others have helped to challenge aspects of our culture that needed to be changed."—Stephen Peithman, Stage Directions

"[Knapp] offers new insights on each work and writes in an accessible, engaging style. . . . Knapp is . . . most effective . . . at negotiating the tensions . . . between work and context, and between part and whole."—Walter Frisch, Current Musicology

"Raymond Knapp has an extraordinarily perceptive ear. As he surveys the history of the American musical, he hears things—important things, revelatory things—that earlier writers who have attempted, systematically, to traverse this vast territory have missed. Hardly a page goes by without a 'Gee, I didn't realize that' moment. . . . One of the loveliest features of these books is the generosity of the musical examples. Coordinated with the text are hundreds of musical excerpts which Princeton University Press has made available to readers through easy downloading from the Internet. . . . It is clear that there is much to praise about Raymond Knapp's work, beginning with his vast knowledge of the subject and his infectious enthusiasm for it."—Edward Green, Popular Music and Society

BBC Music Magazine
The breadth of Knapp's reading is astonishing, and his discussion of the historical background of the musical is admirable. . . . Knapp writes extremely well, and not only his thoughts but also his suggestions for further study are well organized. So, too, is his consideration of the growth of the American union in the context of Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and The Music Man.
— Andrew Lamb
Kurt Weil Newsletter
This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings.
— Charles Hamm
Kurt Weill Newsletter
This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings.
— Charles Hamm
Stage Directions
Raymond Knapp shows that while some musicals have served to reinforce the way people feel about America, many others have helped to challenge aspects of our culture that needed to be changed.
— Stephen Peithman
Current Musicology
[Knapp] offers new insights on each work and writes in an accessible, engaging style. . . . Knapp is . . . most effective . . . at negotiating the tensions . . . between work and context, and between part and whole.
— Walter Frisch
Popular Music and Society
Raymond Knapp has an extraordinarily perceptive ear. As he surveys the history of the American musical, he hears things—important things, revelatory things—that earlier writers who have attempted, systematically, to traverse this vast territory have missed. Hardly a page goes by without a 'Gee, I didn't realize that' moment. . . . One of the loveliest features of these books is the generosity of the musical examples. Coordinated with the text are hundreds of musical excerpts which Princeton University Press has made available to readers through easy downloading from the Internet. . . . It is clear that there is much to praise about Raymond Knapp's work, beginning with his vast knowledge of the subject and his infectious enthusiasm for it.
— Edward Green
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691118642
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2004
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Knapp is Professor in the Department of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of "Symphonic Metamorposes: Subjectivity and Alienation in Mahler's Re-Cycled Songs and Brahms and the Challenge of the Symphony".

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Table of Contents

List of Figures xi
Explanatory Note about Audio Examples xiii
Preface xv
Part 1 Introductions 1
1 Contexts and Strategies 3
2 Nineteenth-Century European Roots: Models and Topics 19
Paris (and Berlin) 20
The Black Crook (1866) 20
London: W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) 29
H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor (1878) 34
3 Early American Developments: Minstrelsy, Extravaganza, Pantomime, Burlesque, Vaudeville 47
Minstrelsy 49
Extravaganza 59
Pantomime 60
Burlesque 61
Vaudeville 62
A Gilbert and Sullivan Postscript on American Minstrelsy 63
4 American Song through Tin Pan Alley 67
Minstrel Songs 67
The Early Tin Pan Alley Era 70
Classic Tin Pan Alley 77
Anything Goes (1934) 88
Part 2 Defining America 101
5 Whose (Who's) America? 103
Little Johnny Jones (1904) 104
The Cradle Will Rock (1938) 110
6 American Mythologies 119
Oklahoma! (1943) 122
Guys and Dolls (1950) 134
The Music Man (1957) 144
7 Counter-mythologies 153
Hair (1967-68) 154
Assassins (1991) 162
Part 3 Managing America's Others 179
8 Race and Ethnicity 181
Show Boat (1927) 185
Porgy and Bess (1935) 194
West Side Story (1957) 204
Fiddler on the Roof (1964) 215
9 Dealing with the Second World War 228
The Sound of Music (1959) 230
Cabaret (1966) 239
10 Exoticism 249
The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu (1885) 250
The King and I (1951) 261
Pacific Overtures (1976) 268
11 Afterword: Other Directions, Other Identities 282
Appendix A Art and Commerce: The Business of Making Musicals 285
Appendix B Additional Resources 289
Notes 319
Bibliography 341
Index 351
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