Another way is to distribute information, such as on this web site.
One formerly neglected area now receiving more attention is film music.
For more information on this subject, go to Film Composers and Soundtracks
See the list of rare music and interviews
with classical composers
in the American Music Recordings Collection (AMRC)
Also, the list of Composers in America and the Essential American Recordings Survey.
Is Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings
really a song?
In his book, This Will End In Tears: The Miserabilist Guide To Music,
Adam Brent Houghtaling included a list at the back of the book with
"The 100 Saddest Songs."
The No. 1 title on this very strange list was Barber's
Adagio For Strings,
to a BBC user poll in 2004.
Now the question has to be asked --
is this piece of music really a "song"?
A song by definition has both words and music. This Barber piece has music only.
Many years after it was composed, Barber did add words to his poignant (that doesn't mean it's "sad") music and he titled it, "Agnus Dei." But that is a choral piece and still not a song in the traditional sense since it is best classified as a sacred chorus. That choral piece is not even mentioned in Houghtaling's book, though he does give a detailed description of Barber's musical career and a listing of his major compositions.
So why then call it the "saddest song"? I believe it is because of the association to its use in the 1986 film PLATOON. In that context in the film it is played as a somber accompaniment to the horrible casualties of the Vietnam War.
There are also a few other classical pieces on the Top 100 list:
"Dido's Lament" by Henry Purcell (No. 14)
"Der Abschieb" (The Farewell) by Gustav Mahler (No. 26)
"Mille Regretz" by Josquin Des Prez (No. 34)
"Dies Irae" by Thomas of Celano (No. 46)
"Der Ldiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man) by Franz Schubert (No. 61)
"Con Onor Muore (To Die With Honor) by Giacomo Puccini (No. 67)
"Adagio in G minor" incorrectly attributed to Tomaso Albinoni (No. 74)
"Cantus In Memory of Benjamin Britten" by Arvo Part (No. 79)
"Prelude in E minor" by Frederic Chopin (No. 85).
A very odd assortment of classical pieces!
Did Samuel Barber intend for his beautiful Adagio For Strings to be used only for somber or tragic occasions? No.
This is just another example at how misinformed many writers can be about music classifications.
So, in the final analysis, Barber's Adagio does not belong on the list of 100 saddest songs. Will it be corrected in the next printing of the book?
It will remain a "song" to the mis-informed public.
-- Roger Lee Hall
Recommended Music Books and DVDs...
DVD: Composers in America - A Survey in Sound
DVD: Film Music Master: A Tribute To Bernard Herrmann
DVD: Leonard Bernstein on OMNIBUS television series, 1954 to 1958
Book: And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey by Studs Terkel
Book: For The Love of Music:
Invitations to LISTENING
by Michael Steinberg and Larry Rothel
Book: George Gershwin: His Life and Work by Howard Pollack
Book: Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life by John Adams
Book: The Hollywood Film Music Reader
The Music of America series:
Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein,
Aaron Copland, Charles Ives,
(Review by R. L. Hall)
THE 18TH CENTURY AMERICAN OVERTURE (S.A. Kennedy)
American Piano Concertos: Barber, Copland, Gershwin (S.A. Kennedy)
HUNGARIAN SKETCHES and CELLO RHAPSODY -- music by Miklos Rozsa
(S. A. Kennedy)
JAZZ NOCTURNE: American Concertos of the Jazz Age (S.A. Kennedy)
MOBY DICK and Sinfonietta -- music by Bernard Herrmann (S.A. Kennedy)
JOHN KNOWLES PAINE: Symphony No. 1;
As You Like It Overture;
PIANO MUSIC I: CIRCLES OF FIRE -- music of George Rochberg (S.A. Kennedy)
PORGY AND BESS (3 CD Set) -- music by George Gershwin (R. L. Hall)
THE RED VIOLIN CONCERTO and PHANTASMAGORIA -- music by John Corigliano
SERENADA SCHIZOPHRANA -- music by Danny Elfman (S.A. Kennedy)
SONGS IN TRANSIT - music by Tom Cipullo, Lori Laitman, Lee Hoiby, Melanie Mitrano, Beth Anderson, Gene Pritsker, Allen Jaffe, Paul Moravec, David Del Tredici (R.L. Hall)
SYMPHONIES NOS. 5 and 6 and ACCELERATION -- music by Roy Harris
(S. A. Kennedy)
SYMPHONY in F# and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING --
music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (S.A. Kennedy)
SYMPHONY NO. 8 -- William Schuman/ VARIATIONS ON "AMERICA" by Charles Ives (arr. Schuman)(S.A. Kennedy)
VINTAGE AMERICA -- Callico Winds (R. L. Hall)
VIOLIN CONCERTOS -- Miklos Rozsa and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (S.A. Kennedy)
Magazine Hall of Fame Survey
In the June 2011 issue of Classic FM Magazine published in the UK, out of the Top 300 Classical Works, only 10 American classical works (excluding film soundtracks) were chosen by its listeners and were on the so-called "Superchart" covering the years 1996 to 2011.
They are listed with survey numbers in reverse order:
291: Candide (Leonard Bernstein)
270: Rodeo (Aaron Copland)
253: Piano Concerto
148: Violin Concerto (Philip Glass)
140: Violin Concerto (Samuel Barber)
139: Fanfare For The Common Man (Aaron Copland)
115: Appalachian Spring (Aaron Copland)
87: The Ashokan Farewell (Jay Ungar)
46: Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin)
For Strings (Samuel Barber)
Four composers in The Famous Five were chosen by Classic FM listeners: Barber, Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin. Three of them are in The Music of America CD series.
But why so few American works in this Top 300 Hall of Fame Survey?
Would the same results occur in an American published music magazine?
But where are the curious listeners in search of different composers?
What would scholars or conductors select as their favorite classical works?
Would they select any works by American composers?
Would you like to offer your opinion of this survey or send in your own list of favorite works?
Send your list or comments to:
Hall of Fame Survey
Essay: Leonard Bernstein: The Total Musician by Jeffrey Dane
Essay: The Vanishing American Composer by Steven A. Kennedy
If you have researched music by an American composer from the past and would like to submit a short essay or report,
click on this link for the
Related AMP Links
American Music Timeline (1640-1890)
American Music Recordings Archive [AMRA]
American Composers Series
Essential American Recordings Survey [EARS]
Film Music Review (online magazine)
New England Music Archive
New England Composers No. 1: Edwin Arthur Jones
New England Composers No. 2: George Whitefield Chadwick
Preserving American Music DVD series
The Total Musician
Tunemaker Hall of Fame
If you have a website and would like to be listed as an Associate Web Link,
send all pertinent information to:
International Center for American Music
The International Center for American Music (ICAMUS) promotes knowledge and appreciation of American music and music making in the US. The Center maintains an inclusive orientation towards musical life in the United States, from its beginning to contemporary time. Significant attention is devoted to Early American Music. The Organization focuses on the study of musical sources, and on the unity and integration of research, teaching, performance and experimentation.
Society for American Music (Resources)
The mission of the Society for American Music is to stimulate the appreciation, performance, creation and study of American musics of all eras and in all their diversity, including the full range of activities and institutions associated with these musics throughout the world.
Song of America
We invite all lovers of song to explore connections between poetry and music, between history and culture, through the work of American composers and poets. Song of America is a database resource where you can listen to songs, learn more about them, read their lyrics, find scores, and link to relevant Web sites.