Voices of Stone and Steel

The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin

by Walter Simmons
(Scarecrow Press, 2011)

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Voices of Stone and Steel: The Music of William Schuman, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin is the second volume of a projected series, TWENTIETH-CENTURY TRADITIONALISTS, in which Walter Simmons offers comprehensive assessments of those composers who created significant, artistically meaningful bodies of work without abandoning traditional principles, forms, and procedures. Voices of Stone and Steel addresses the lives and works of three American Modern Traditionalists—composers who embraced aspects of Modernism in the their music, while maintaining an allegiance to traditional forms and means of development, as well as to aspects of tonality, at a time when such principles were out of fashion. Each figure is treated via a biographical overview, followed by a comprehensive assessment of his body of work and his current place in the pantheon of American composers. 

Voices of Stone and Steel is intended to be useful to students and scholars who wish to delve beneath the surface of the subject, as well as to concertgoers and record collectors who are interested in broadening their knowledge and appreciation of this aspect of the repertoire. No musical notation is used, and technical terms are kept to a minimum. A compact disc featuring representative works of each composer is included with the book.

The composers featured in Voices of Stone and Steel are often grouped together, as each was connected to the Juilliard School at overlapping periods during their careers. However, despite this and the fact that all three may be considered Modern Traditionalists, their musical personalities and creative outputs differed greatly. This book attempts to make abundantly clear their unique personalities and the individuality of each composer’s body of work. Click on the links below to read samples from the book, to learn how to order a copy of the book, and to read reviews.