From colonial times to the present, American composers have lived on the fringes of society and defined themselves in large part as outsiders. In this stimulating book Michael Broyles considers the tradition of maverick composers and explores what these mavericks reveal about American attitudes toward the arts and about American society itself.
Broyles starts by examining the careers of three notably unconventional composers: William Billings in the eighteenth century, Anthony Philip Heinrich in the nineteenth, and Charles Ives in the twentieth. All three had unusual lives, wrote music that many considered incomprehensible, and are now recognized as key figures in the development of American music. Broyles goes on to investigate the proliferation of eccentric individualism in all types of American music-classical, popular, and jazz-and how it has come to dominate the image of diverse creative artists from John Cage to Frank Zappa. The history of the maverick tradition, Broyles shows, has much to tell us about the role of music in American culture and the tension between individualism and community in the American consciousness.