Accepted Paper:

Mixing an imaginary salad: American aesthetics, ambiguity and crisis during 1914-22  
Deniz Ertan

Paper long abstract:

If the early decades of the twentieth century were marked by rapid change, growing pains and identity crises, to what extent was American music able to anticipate, express or support these diachronic and transnational tensions? Composer and conductor John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) stood at a historically vulnerable juncture, which was defied and circumscribed by extremities of pressure, comfort and creative imagination. His musical universe was defined and fostered by growth as well as crisis, pointing to a peculiarly American insistence on continuity and mobility that frame highly self-conscious explorations and re-orientations. His work and position, which underlined a certain psychological and aesthetical open-endedness, exemplified American musicianship in a general state of heightened urgency and (self-)adaptation. The aspiration was to keep on going, persisting that there was no ending for Americanism, and therefore to keep on marching—as was famously demonstrated by Sousa's music. Today, his legacy helps us understand how music dealt imaginatively with crisis—both on socio-political and interpersonal levels. When Sousa brought ragtime to Europe, Debussy expressed: "At last! The King of American music is here. …. Sousa beats time in circular motions, mixes an imaginary salad…and snatches a butterfly from the bell of a contrabass tuba."

Panel W020
Crises, imagination, and beyond: bringing aesthetics back into the anthropology of (popular) music