American Composers

Starting in the late nineteenth century, New York City became a world center for music publishing and performers. Largely forgotten today, at least by those under forty, American popular culture in the first half of the twentieth century swept the ciivilized world causing a certain amount of jealousy among European intellectuals that still exists today. The great US composers such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren and many others are not currently on the program at the symphony or the club. The symphony and the opera can perform the earlier classics without paying the high-dollar royalties required when one performs the American musical classics, the vast majority of which are still under copyright. In a recent conversation I was told that the fee for one song from the musical CAROUSEL exceeded the total cost for music arrangements for the whole rest of a three-hour concert. The fees required are so high that only the motion picture companies, which own the copyrights and don't have to pay, can feature certain works. Also, the great American composers wrote music that is best described as sophisticated jazz, which does not sound quite serious or difficult enough to impress the symphony-ball guest. Even the high schools must pay up if they want to put on an amateur version of a musical. The result, the current obscurity of the world's finest music, is that great entertainment in the form of sheet music and records can be obtained for a pittance if you know what to look for. Check the pages on this site and my book the, UKULELE PLAYERS GUIDE, for lists of the best composers, songs and recordings.

composers section: more about the composers and links to their music

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