Howard Pollack Skyscraper Lullaby: The Life and Music of John Alden Carpenter.
Smithsonian Institution Press, 511 pages, $59

reviewed by Terry Teachout

No grave is as deep as that of the once-popular composer whose works go unheard after his death. Seventy years ago, John Alden Carpenter (1876–1951) was widely regarded as one of this country’s leading composers; today, he is little more than a footnote in the more thorough histories of American music. Had he been a woman or a member of a protected minority group, Carpenter would doubtless now be the subject of a full-scale revaluation, complete with foundation-subsidized recording sessions. But his middle name tells the story: not only was John Alden Carpenter a man, he was a wealthy scion of the sort of family that used to be called “distinguished.” (He was descended from John and Priscilla Alden through his paternal great-grandmother.) There...


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