Beethoven in America

Beethoven in America

Michael Broyles
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/27/2011
Format: Hardback 61 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35704-5
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2012 AAUP Public and Secondary School Library Selection

Beethoven permeates American culture. His image appears on countless busts and coffee mugs; his music is heard in movie scores, TV soundtracks, commercials, and pop songs; he is Schroeder’s god in Peanuts and Chuck Berry’s freaked-out parent in "Roll over Beethoven." In this book, Michael Broyles seeks to understand the composer as he exists in the American imagination and explores how Beethoven became a cultural icon. Broyles examines Beethoven’s appearance in a variety of contexts: American commercialism, the Afrocentrist and black power movements, and the modernist critique of Romanticism. He considers portrayals of Beethoven in American film and theater and the uses of his music in film scores, as well as references to Beethoven and his music in disco, country, rock, and rap. In the end, he shows that to examine Beethoven on American soil is to examine America itself.

Author Bio

Michael Broyles is Professor of Music at Florida State University and former Distinguished Professor of Music and Professor of American History at Pennsylvania State University. His most recent book, Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices (IUP, 2007), written with Denise Von Glahn, won the Irving Lowens Prize in 2007.


“A pop-cultural tour of Beethoven on American soil and in the American imagination through movie scores, TV soundtracks, commercials, pop songs, and even coffee mugs.”

“This book fills a great gap in our understanding both of Beethoven and of American culture. The panorama of this narrative encompasses antebellum rice plantations in South Carolina and the film studios of Hollywood, music critic John Dwight and rock star Chuck Berry, Theosophy and Black Power, Beethoven's sketches, and YouTube videos. ”
 — Christopher Reynolds, University of California, Davis

“[Broyles] serves as an intellectual, hyper-informed but genial tour guide to a potentially sprawling subject. Though the book is dense in research, it is never pompous; it could serve as a model for how serious musicological study can be generously shared with interested parties who don't happen to be in the same profession. ”
 — Santa Fe New Mexican

“[T]hanks to Broyles' book, we're a little bit closer to understanding Beethoven's lasting impression on American culture. ”

“Broyles pens an engaging and fascinating text, relying on copious amounts of research supplemented with myths and mysteries to rebuild and develop the image of Beethoven. . . . The language of [the] text is accessible and avoids unnecessary scholarly jargon or extensvie musicological terms. ”

“...[M]akes the case that not only was Beethoven the all-around musical stud of musical studs, he might be the greatest of all musical ingratiators, turning up in our American corner of the universe, again and again, and more than most of us realize.”
 — Washington Post Book World

“Beethoven in America remains an engaging and valuable work of cultural history. The breadth of Broyles's knowledge about Beethoven's public presence is astounding, and this is the rare academic book that has thoughtful discussions of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Adrienne Rich, Amiri Baraka, and Yngwie Malmsteen. That people from such diverse circles felt connections to Beethoven is brilliantly demonstrated, and this is ultimately a fascinating analysis of the strange career of Beethoven as a multipurpose icon. ”
 — Journal of American History

“[Beethoven in America] is packed with Beethoven facts and also takes a unique approach.”

“[T]his book is as much cultural history as musicology, and this makes it useful across disciplines. Like Beethoven’s person and music, it is varied and interesting and suggests many possibilities for future research.”
 — Music Reference Services Quarterly

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Table of Contents

Part 1. Arrival and Sacralization
1. Arrival in America
2. Defining Beethoven
3. Deification and Spiritualization
Part 2. Science, Scholars, and Critics
4. Beethoven, Modernism, and Science
5. "The Warm Tropical Summer of Sketch Research": Beethoven and the Cold War
6. Reactions to Modernism: Musical Meaning and the Classical Canon
Part 3. Beethoven and the Dramatic Arts
7. Beethoven on the Silver Screen
8. Beethoven's Music in Film
9. Beethoven in the Theater
Part 4. Beyond Classicism: Beethoven in American Society and Culture
10. "Beethoven Was Black": Why Does It Matter?
11. Beethoven in Popular Music
12. Beethoven Everywhere

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