Arts and Sciences
My research is centered around Samuel Barber’s work for soprano and orchestra, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947). I am investigating this piece from a historical, cultural, and analytical perspective. Based on a text by James Agee (1938), the work paints an image of post-war life in America. My music analysis investigates how Barber creates a sonic image of life in an American small town, thereby capturing on several levels an "American" sound and experience. Specifically, I analyze how the [generic] "rhapsody"-like or rhapsodic quality (Barber's description in a letter of 1947), and the concept of spontaneous "improvisation" (Agee's program notes) -- both broadly related to the idea of freedom -- might help us understand some key elements of the music's sonic image of Americanness. My research is grounded on several sources on Barber's music, including scholarship by Benedict Taylor, Laura Danker, and Barbara Heyman. In addition, I rely on sources about "distinctly American" choral music and other 20th-century musical definitions of the "American Sound" and "American experience". My research shows that Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 paints a picture of the American psyche in the aftermath of World War II, which still allows for some new nuances to be brought forward.
McGinnis, Luke, "Americanism in Knoxville: Summer of 1915" (2020). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 897.