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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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The purpose of this study is to explore how the social, cultural, and political environments of the post-9/11 period influenced the music composition of American classical composers, from the perspective of the composers. These composers are then compared to those of the New Deal and early Cold War eras. During both the New Deal and the subsequent anti-communist movement of the early Cold War era, composers and musicians made aesthetic choices because of the political climate. While much study has been done of the political engagement and activism of contemporary popular musicians, there is a dearth of research regarding classical composers. This dissertation is important as it provides a more nuanced look at the priorities of classical composers in the contemporary period. The author conducted a qualitative content analysis of interviews with American classical music composers who were actively composing during the 9/11 attacks and the ten years post-9/11. A content analysis was conducted comparing the results of the interviews with the priorities and aesthetic choices of composers who lived and worked through the New Deal era. There are six overall themes, or overarching influences, that emerged from the interview data. There are similar findings between the two eras such as that composers have a high aesthetic bias, wherein they want to compose substantial music that stands on its own and is deemed to be honest and authentic. One surprising finding from the interviews was that, despite hypermasculinity being a thread in much of the political science literature analyzing the post-9/11 period, only one composer spoke of it in the context of George W. Bush and the ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech, and another spoke of it in terms of the Donald Trump presidency. In addition, gender is no longer a prohibitive factor—out of five female composers interviewed, only one spoke about gender being a concern, and she only spoke of it in terms of her legacy not being forgotten like female composers of past generations. While composers of both eras use music to express their views, today’s composers are also looking to provide experiences that transform the listener, whether it is to become more politically engaged, to allow for better understanding and contemplation of political history, or to promote empathy and cross-cultural community connections.
Letcher, Christine E., "The Social, Cultural, and Political Influences on American Classical Composers Post-9/11: A Comparison to the New Deal and Early Cold War Eras" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3841.