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Douglas W. Shadle

Orchestrating the Nation

The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise

Oxford University Press 2015

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network February 13, 2018 Kristen M. Turner

One of the most neglected areas of musicological research is art music written by nineteenth-century American composers, thus Douglas Shadle‘s book Orchestrating the Nation:...

One of the most neglected areas of musicological research is art music written by nineteenth-century American composers, thus Douglas Shadle‘s book Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise (Oxford University Press, 2015) is a welcome, and much needed, addition to the field. It is the first comprehensive survey of American nineteenth-century orchestral music. Organized chronologically, each chapter also features a detailed critical analysis of a major work. Shadle unearths, analyzes, and advocates for a repertoire that has been erased almost completely from the historical and performance record. Along the way, Shadle debunks or nuances some of the most common narratives in musicological historiography on American music. Written in a lively, approachable style, he provides contemporary assessments of the music, while also contextualizing American symphonic works within the musical, cultural, and political history of the United States. Despite focusing on nineteenth-century music and composers, Shadle’s work resonates with and informs some of the controversies that dog classical music today, including the continued dominance of pieces by white male composers in the repertoire of the nations leading orchestras. He challenges the arguments that critics made then, and some continue to make today, that uphold the systemic exclusion of non-canonical music and works by composers from marginalized groups. Learn more about Orchestrating the Nation here.

Douglas W. Shadle is an assistant professor of musicology at Vanderbilt University whose research centers primarily on American orchestral music and American musical culture in the nineteenth century. His work has appeared in many journals and collected editions including American Music, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and MLA Notes. His article How Santa Clause Became a Slave Driver: The Work of Print Culture in a Nineteenth-Century Controversy won the 2016 Society for American Music Irving Lowen’s Article Award and a 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award. Orchestrating the Nation: The Nineteenth-Century American Symphonic Enterprise has been well-reviewed not only by musicologists, but also in the popular press in venues such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post. It was also honored with an ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award in 2017. Currently, Shadle is working on a short monograph for the Oxford Keynote Series on Antonin Dvořak’s New World Symphony.


Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.