Despite all the warning signs in musical life—a shortage of significant new music, lowered standards in performance, and the declining commitment and sophistication of audiences and patrons—it is the fashion today to see serious music in America bursting forth at every moment and in every place. In order to sustain the fiction of a splendid present, it is necessary to treat music in this country as if it were an activity without a history. All those statistics so beloved of funders, grants recipients, and the media testify, supposedly, to a growth so splendid and a present so bounteous that any recollection of a usable past seems instantly dwarfed by comparison. Before World War I, it would appear, we had nothing save the barnstorming tours of such foreign celebrities as Kreisler and Paderewski; between the wars was the age of jazz and the big bands; after World War II whatever nascent...


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