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Bound for America

Bound for America: Three British Composers

Nicholas Temperley
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Bound for America
    Book Description:

    In Bound for America, Nicholas Temperley documents the lives, careers, and music of three British composers who emigrated from England in mid-career and became leaders in the musical life of Federal-era America. William Selby of London and Boston (1738-98), Rayner Taylor of London and Philadelphia (1745-1825), and George K. Jackson of London, New York, and Boston (1757-1822) were among the first trained professional composers to make their home in America and to pioneer the building of an art-music tradition in the New World akin to the esteemed European "classical" music. The three composers all began their work in London, one of Europe's greatest centers of music. Why, in middle age, would they emigrate and start over in uncertain and unfavorable conditions? How did the new environment affect their lives and careers? Seeking answers, Temperley compares their lives, careers, and compositional styles in the two countries and reflects on American musical nationalism and the changing emphasis in American musical historiography.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09264-0
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. ONE Emigrants and Immigrants
    (pp. 1-11)

    American musical life in the early federal period was active and varied, but it harbored few professional musicians. The term “professional” can be used either to indicate a certain level of training and proficiency or to denote a musician who expects payment and attempts to make a living by his art. In either sense, few were to be found. They could exist only in a situation where a sufficient segment of the population was able and willing to devote financial resources to music provided by others.

    We are dealing, of course, with Americans of European extraction. Native Americans and African...

  6. TWO William Selby
    (pp. 12-51)

    William Selby (1738–1798) gave up a moderately successful career as a London organist and composer, and emigrated to New England in 1773, where, after Independence, he achieved a position of musical leadership. He represented the styles and aesthetics of British, and hence European, art music, as opposed to the country or “native” school, founded on country psalmody, that was led by his American contemporary William Billings (1746–1800). His time in Boston was the very period in which the two styles were beginning to compete, and controversy between their respective supporters was warming up. Selby, to a great extent,...

  7. THREE Rayner Taylor
    (pp. 52-122)

    Rayner Taylor (1747–1825) was already forty-four years old when he crossed the ocean, and had come closer to achieving eminence in Great Britain than any other America-bound musician. Possibly the most gifted of our three composers, he arrived in Philadelphia too late in life to make the mark he deserved in the competitive musical world of that thriving city. He won esteem as the most brilliant organist in America; yet the theater, rather than the church, was the center of his career. Another factor that distinguishes him from Selby and Jackson is the French element in his background and...

  8. FOUR George K. Jackson
    (pp. 123-194)

    George Knowil Jackson (1757–1822) was one of the most talented composers among the group of British immigrants. In America he was venerated as a learned musician, but he failed to translate this reputation into financial success, and his motive for coming to America is hard to discern.

    Until Charles H. Kaufman’s 1968 thesis,¹ the fullest biographical account was that of H. Earle Johnson,² who like all earlier writers had largely relied on the only contemporary notice, the one published by John Rowe Parker two years after the composer’s death.³ In this case, Parker himself is the likely author. He...

  9. Conclusions
    (pp. 195-204)

    To migrate to America in the eighteenth century was not a step that any musician would take lightly. One who had a secure niche in the Old World would not be inclined to give it up for the unknown risks of the New, where earning a living was hard and unpredictable, and permanent appointments were virtually unknown. Why did William Selby, Rayner Taylor, and George K. Jackson decide to leave Britain?

    Their musical reputations in London were good enough to give the lie to the harsh judgment of Maurer, who claimed that the professional musician “came to America because his...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 205-220)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-228)
  12. Index
    (pp. 229-236)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-242)