Part of the Rest Is Noise Audio Guide
Note: The first page number is for the hardback edition, the second number is for the paperback.
The story of American music in the early twentieth century cannot be separated from the story of African-American music. Will Marion Cook was a gifted black composer and violinist who failed to find a place in the almost entirely all-white classical world of the 1890s; instead, he turned to writing music-theater pieces and served as a precursor to jazz. Sheet music for Cook's song "On Emancipation Day" (see p. 127 / p. 138 of The Rest Is Noise) can be found in the sheet music collection of the Library of Congress. Here is the chorus, predicting (correctly) that black music will soon conquer the white world:
William Brown, tenor, and Ann Sears, piano; Albany 839-40.
The New World CD Black Manhattan provides an excellent survey of early twentieth-century African-American theater music, including songs of Harry T. Burleigh, Dvorak's student, and Will Vodery, Ziegfeld's star arranger.
The music of Charles E. Ives, the first great composer in American music history, is thoroughly documented online. The composer's papers are held at the Yale Music Library, which has a searchable online version of James B. Sinclair's catalogue of Ives's work. Much more can be found at the site Charles Ives Society. On this page devoted to Peer Southern's critical edition of Ives's Second Symphony, you can follow how Ives transformed Stephen Foster's tune "Massa's in de Cold Ground" into the first theme of the symphony's opening movement.
Here are the first two minutes of "The St. Gaudens in Boston Common (Col. Shaw's Colored Regiment)," the opening movement of Ives's Three Places in New England (pp. 133-35 / p. 144-46):
Edgard Varèse, the leader of the "ultra-modern" school in American music in the 1920s (pp. 136-38 / pp. 148-49), arrived in New York in 1915 and thrilled to the industrial sounds and rhythms of the city. He paid tribute in Amériques, which Leopold Stokowski conducted in Philadelphia and New York in 1926, to the astonishment of audiences and critics. In the video above, Pierre Boulez conducts Varèse's 1931 percussion masterpiece Ionisation. Varèse also played some bit parts in silent movies; below you can see him in John Barrymore's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (he plays first a murderous Renaissance nobleman and then a police officer), with an Amériques soundtrack.
At the listening pages of Art of the States you can hear music of other ultra-moderns, such as George Antheil and Carl Ruggles. At a site dedicated to the pioneering ultramodernist Leo Ornstein you can hear his Suicide in an Airplane. Here is the emphatic beginning of Ruggles's Sun-Treader (p. 138 / p. 150):
Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Boston Symphony; DG 429 860-2.
In the deceptively naive-sounding, surrealistic prelude of Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts (p. 140 / pp. 151-52), the orchestra establishes a steady 3/4 pulse (one-two-three one-two-three) while the chorus starts out in 4/4 time and wanders into several other meters thereafter:
Virgil Thomson conducting, 1947; RCA 9026-68163.
The official site for Mr. George Gershwin has a Schoenberg Center-style Jukebox where you can listen to extracts from the most famous Gershwin songs. Here are snippets of vintage recordings of "'S Wonderful" and "Fascinating Rhythm," two of Gershwin's most cunning numbers (pp. 144-45 / pp. 156-57):
Cliff "Ukelele" Edwards, recorded 1924, and the Ipana Troubadours, recorded 1927. From the album From Gershwin's Time, Sony 60648 (out of print)
In 1942, Arturo Toscanini conducted Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the NBC Symphony, and invited Benny Goodman to play the legendary clarinet solo that begins the work. The master clarinetist missed one note but nailed the style:
From The Young Benny Goodman: The King of Clarinet, Iron Needle 1306.
Here is the richly dissonant "Da-doo-da" chorus of Gershwin's masterwork Porgy and Bess (pp. 147-49 / pp. 160-62):
Simon Rattle conducting the London Philharmonic and the Glyndebourne Chorus; EMI 263729.
Porgy shows the influence of Berg's Wozzeck, which Gershwin studied closely after meeting the composer in Vienna in 1928 (pp. 146-48 / pp. 159-61). There is an underlying harmonic resemblance between Marie's lullaby to her baby in Wozzeck —
and the familiar strains of "Summertime":
Claudio Abbado conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, with Hildegard Behrens (DG); Simon Rattle conducting the London Philharmonic, with Cynthia Harmon (EMI).
Schoenberg pays tribute to Gershwin after his sudden death in 1937:
Duke Ellington's first original recording, "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" (p. 153 / pp. 165-66), with Bubber Miley as soloist:
From Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Duke Ellington, Decca GRD-3-640.
The piled-up dissonances of "Ko-Ko," from 1939 (p. 154 / pp. 167-68):
From Duke Ellington: The Blanton-Webster Band , RCA 5659-2.
The opening of Ellington's Black, Brown, and Beige, as heard at its world premiere in 1943:
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Jan. 23, 1943, Prestige 2PCD-34004-3.