Experimenting with 19th-Century Programming Aesthetics: Edward McDowell's Woodland Sketches Op. 51 (1896)

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences


Music History

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 3-31-2023


Edward MacDowell was once one of the most influential American composers who later fell into obscurity. MacDowell’s Woodland Sketches Op. 51 (1896) —a cycle of ten short piano pieces — invites questions about programming, given that late-19th century programming practices involved frequent reordering and fragmentation of cyclical works. Research on Edward MacDowell has increased but how his music wa played, and in what order, has largely been left unanswered.

By exploring MacDowell‘s piano suite Woodland Sketches Op. 51 from a historical, cultural, analytical, and performative perspective, I found that MacDowell’s music was highly expressive and that its popularity was, not least, a result of the flexible performance practice and its space for artistic license, including out-of-order performances, which created unique narratives at each and every performance.

As concert programs continued to develop in the twentieth century, pieces were paired together in unique ways based on themes, keys, etc. Additionally represented in this time period is a gradual shift from unique programming to a quest to hear complete sets of music rather than excerpts today.

By investigating Edward MacDowell through a historical, analytical and performance practice perspective new discoveries can be made. MacDowell has an interesting history and his contemporaries often played his music as well. The music itself reveals themes of nostalgia and American nature and the way it was performed exposes shifts in programming. Overall, MacDowell is a composer at a turning point for music.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Logan Albright is a junior music education major that plays piano, clarinet and sings. Within music I have a strong interest in musicology learning more about music. In studying music I have wondered why music is played in the order it is and how they may have changed over time. By better understanding why pieces are programmed the way they are helps to develop a love in classical music and music in general for people.

For Artistic Presentations

I will need a piano

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