Musical Thoughts


This Tuesday will be the first day of the last year of the teens decade of the twenty-first century. What defining characteristics will historians of the twenty-second century assign to this decade? Will there even be historians? Or will there simply be archivists of memes and gifs?

How will they remember the music? What movements and artists will survive the inevitable erasure brought about by the passage of time?

Hopefully in one hundred years someone, somewhere will see this post and leave a comment. What we can know, however, is how the year 1919 shaped out.

First, we should wish a happy 100 years to those very special babies that were born. Nat King Cole entered on March 17th, and Pete Seeger(who only died recently in 2014) was born on May 3rd. A couple weeks later on May 16th, Liberace was born in a glittery tux. Later in the year, American jazz drummer boy Art Blakey was born on October 11th.

Now, these musicians were good, but they weren’t really active in music during 1919. They had to master learning to walk before stepping out on the stage. So what was going on in 1919? Let’s look at the pop world first…

Irving Berlin and Cole Porter were hard at work churning out hits with songs like “I Lost My Heart in Dixieland” and “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” by the former, and “Old-Fashioned Garden” and “I Never Realized” by the latter. In most songs, people were singing about they’re new love for jazz, their laments on the impending nationwide Prohibition, and always about some girl named Peggy.

Everyone’s favorite neo-classical composers, Paul Hindemith and Igor Stravinsky, were busy writing in the year 1919. Hindemith released the perfectly-plain titled piece: Sonata for Violin and Piano in F Major, Op.11, No. 4

Straight from Mother Russia, a cash-strapped Igor Stravinsky publishes The Firebird Suite of 1919  with hopes that this abridged version of his famed ballet, The Firebird, for a smaller orchestra would generate more performance-rights income for the maestro.

Some of the most celebrated guitar composers were writing music for not the guitar. Joaquin Turina composed the Danza fantasticas for orchestra, while Heitor Villa-Lobos was working on his 3rd and 4th symphonies.

In the opera world, Sergei Prokofiev was composing for an opera called The Love for Three Oranges. I don’t want to ruin it, but a lot of crazy stuff happens in this plot.

1919 stood witness to a rapidly changing world. World War I was coming to a close and power was shifting all over the globe as the world grew more entangled. But 1919 was also a tumultuous time for music; jazz becoming increasingly popular, classical music heading in questionable directions, and pop stars being born. One thing that cannot be denied is the diversity of the musical landscape during that year. What will be performed from 2019 when this century is up?


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