Most histories of American music have ignored the presence of twelve-tone music before and during the Second World War, and virtually all have ignored its presence after 1970, even though so many major composers continued (and continue) to compose serially. This book provides a comprehensive history of twelve-tone music in America, and compels a revised picture of American music since 1925 as a dynamic steady-state within which twelve-tone serialism has long been, and still remains, a persistent presence: a vigorous and unbroken tradition for more than eighty years. Straus outlines how, instead of a rigid orthodoxy, American twelve-tone music is actually a flexible, loosely-knit cultural practice. The book provides close readings of thirty-seven American twelve-tone works by composers including Copland, Babbitt, Stravinsky and Carter, among many others, who represent a typically American diversity of background and life circumstances, and strips away the many myths surrounding twelve-tone music in America.
Introduction; Part I. Thirty-Seven Ways to Write a Twelve-Tone Serial Piece: 1. 'Ultra-modern' composers; 2. European immigrants; 3. Postwar pioneers; 4. An older generation (composers born before 1920); 5. Some serial neoclassicists, tonalists, jazzers, and minimalists; 6. A middle generation (composers born 1920–40); 7. A younger generation (composers born after 1940); Part II. American Twelve-Tone Serialism in Context: 8. The composition of twelve-tone music in America; 9. The history of twelve-tone music in America; 10. The reception of twelve-tone music in America; 11. Conclusion.