The Musicologists and I Take a Listen

Musicologist Tawa, summarized Beach’s compositions thus:

The compositions of Amy Beach normally contain melodies of expansive length. A few sound naively lovely, especially when she uses folk tunes . . . . Her harmony features chromatically altered chords of every description. Texture tends to opulence. Tonality is obscured by persistent secondary-key references and enharmonic twists. She enters into vehement climaxes, which can be lengthy and occasionally over the top. Her structures are employed flexibly and may tend to prolixity. The influence of Brahms. Liszt, Wagner, Franck, and MacDowall is detectable. . . . Her compositions can sound strongly passionate, sometimes close to frenzy, or delicately refined, sometimes burdened with sentimentality. Certainly her music is more intensely emotional than that of any other New England composers taken up so far (Tawa 209).

As I first read this description, I was intimidated. Given my lack of theoretical or academic pedigree in music, would I not be called something to the effect of “naively lovely” for having tried? But, no, I found myself emboldened by my coming to terms with the manly push from art school, the sexist value system that holds women back not only from being ourselves but from believing that our opinions count!

And I had my muse Amy Beach, demanding respect for both of us.

Why shouldn’t my opinion count? I have ears! I’m smart. I have a perspective on Beach’s music that no one else has had due to my particular music background, my knowledge and my place on the historical timeline. continues on page 16, The Musicologist and I