Date of Degree
DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
The music of American composer Edward MacDowell has, until recently, been largely dismissed by the academic musical community. It is often seen as sentimental and simplistic, not in keeping with the advanced trends in music at the turn of the 20th century. He and his contemporaries have been over-shadowed by composers such as Ives, Cowell, and other American composers of the twentieth-century whose music is perceived as more innovative and progressive. It is important, however, to remember that MacDowell's music was immensely popular during his lifetime, both in the United States and abroad.
In order to understand a composer's music, one must understand the culture in which he lived and worked, as well as the training he received as a musician. Learning about the composer's life, education, and the important political, social, and cultural events during the period in which he lived helps to inform the decisions we make as performers. Like all artists, Edward MacDowell was a product of his time. During his childhood and young adult years, Romanticism reigned. Impressionism, an extension of Romanticism, was beginning to develop in France. Nationalism was also a strong force as American composers were struggling to separate themselves from European traditions and create music that was uniquely reflective of their country. These philosophies and the effects they had on music have been discussed in great detail by many scholars. Another important philosophical movement during MacDowell's lifetime is the development of Transcendentalism.
This essay will examine the influence MacDowell's music education and life experiences had on his late character pieces. Woodland Sketches, op. 51, Fireside Tales, op. 61, and New England Idyls, op. 62 are three sets of character pieces that were composed by MacDowell during the last decade of his career. Small in scope and diverse in character, these works contain a noteworthy blend of Romantic and Impressionistic elements. MacDowell's philosophy of music as presented in his lectures also appears to be a strong influence in these pieces. Chapter 1 will begin by providing an overview of MacDowell's biography including his music education and his music philosophy. Chapter 2 will provide a summary of four of the ideologies that seem to have had the strongest impact on MacDowell (Romanticism, Impressionism, Nationalism, and Transcendentalism), highlighting key traits and characteristics of each philosophy. Chapter 3 will present a performance guide for Woodland Sketches, Fireside Tales, and New England Idyls, with reference to the influences discussed in chapter 2.
MacDowell's late character pieces contain a unique blend of elements from the traditions that influenced him as a composer. Through the process of studying these traditions, one can better understand MacDowell as a musician and make well-informed decisions as a performer of his music.
ix, 150 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 148-150).
Copyright 2013 Abbie Corrine Brewer
Brewer, Abbie Corrine. "A performance guide to selected character pieces of Edward MacDowell." DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) thesis, University of Iowa, 2013.