The enlisted composer: Samuel Barber's career, 1942-1945 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Wright, Jeffrey Marsh, II
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Samuel Barber emerged as one of America's premier composers. In 1942, however, the trajectory of his flourishing career was thrown into question by the United States' entrance into World War II, and the composer's subsequent drafting into service. Being in the army nearly placed a moratorium on his compositional activity due to the time constraints of official duty. Yet Barber responded not only by maintaining his compositional momentum in the little free time that he had, but also by proposing new projects that would make it his sole, official duty to compose works that could be of potential use to the U.S. government. This dissertation examines the implications of a free artist being placed in an official role to write music at the request of the United States government. The idea of a composer writing music for a governmental patron is a notion normally reserved for composers in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, but was a reality on the American front as well. Barber's works during this period provide a lens through which to explore issues of musical propaganda, governmental patronage, genre expectations, and the construction of authentically American art forms. Throughout the war, Barber struggled to maintain his artistic integrity in the face of conflicting governmental expectations for his music and endeavored to compose works that would transcend their position in time and space to thrive in a post-War society. He was also confronted with supporting a military branch that had recently begun to persecute and shun homosexuals actively--a situation that set a crucial aspect of his identity in conflict with his employment. This study addresses how and why, despite these conflicts, Barber emerged as a dominant personality in American art music both during and after the war.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Music."
  • Neal, Jocelyn
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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