Music Patronage As a "Female-Centered Cultural Process"
Ralph P. Locke and Cyrilla Barr
The various authors of the present collective work would most likely cheer the insightful agenda that the composer and critic David Schiff proposed in the New Republic just as we were all finishing our chapters. Certainly, his words delighted the two editors, who now gladly offer the finished book as one response to Schiff's wide-ranging call:
Until recently, of course, women have played very little part in [music] composition. . . . But women have long played a great role in performance, patronage, and pedagogy. Imagine twentieth-century music without [the harpsichordist] Wanda Landowska, [the composition teacher] Nadia Boulanger, [such patrons as] the Princesse de Polignac, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Betty Freeman, [or the professors of piano and violin, respectively,] Rosina Lhévinne and Dorothy DeLay. If performers were given their rightful place in the history of music, it could easily be shown that [Maria] Callas exerted a far greater influence on the course of opera in the past forty years than any composer did. Might not feminist musicology profitably shift the focus away from a male-controlled cultural product to a female-centered cultural process, and celebrate these areas of real feminine dominance? Our notion of music would be appropriately challenged and enriched.
Throughout the world and throughout history, women have been intensely involved in the consumption and (to varying extents) production of music. This was certainly the case for Western art music in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century America, the primary focus of this book.
A terminological aside may help here. What we call "Western art music" is essentially equivalent to what is often called "classical" music. It is characterized in part by its reliance on written musical texts—composed scores—that are highly prescriptive of the notes to be played and how to play them, far more so than tends to be the case with jazz or folk or popular music. The terms "art music" and
Some of the material written by Ralph P. Locke in this Introduction first appeared in an earlier form in his overview article, "Paradoxes of the Woman Music Patron in America," Musical Quarterly 78 (1994): 798–825. Some of the issues raised here are explored further in his "Women in American Musical Life: Facts and Questions about Patronage," repercussions 3, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 81–95, and 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 102. Besides the people thanked in the Acknowledgments, the authors would like to thank Philip Carli, Jean Pedersen, and Joan Shelley Rubin for pointing us to unsuspected sources or suggesting interpretive possibilities.
"classical music" are not unproblematic, but neither are any of the usual alternatives—for example, "serious," "concert," or "cultivated" music. Nonetheless, in part for reasons of convenience, some of the studies in this volume invoke one or more of these terms, or else simply refer to "music," "music students," "music lovers," and the like. The intended meaning is usually clear from context, just as it is when a rock fan refers—without further qualification—to his or her love of "music."
Singing and playing art music, and listening to such music being sung and played, were widely regarded in America as activities primarily suited to women and children (especially girls), with the significant exception that only men, generally, were permitted to make music professionally. By the early twentieth century, a male musician could moan in embarrassment that "eighty-five per cent of the music students are girls; seventy-five per cent (at least) of the concert audiences are women, and even the promoting and managing of musical enterprises is getting more and more into their hands." But, as Schiff correctly notes, serious studies of female involvement in Western art music have tended to focus on composition, an area of musical activity from which women have until very recently been (and still to some extent are) systematically excluded and discouraged, not least by being denied proper training, performance opportunities, salaried positions, and commissions.
Recent scholarship has succeeded in recovering the works and reexamining the sometimes conflict-ridden careers of a whole host of able and even remarkable women composers, from Hildegarde von Bingen in medieval Germany and Barbara Strozzi in Renaissance Italy, through Clara Schumann in Romantic-era Germany and Ruth Crawford in mid-twentieth-century America, to such prominent figures of today's musical life as Russia's Sofia Gubaïdulina and the Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Taafe Zwilich. Schiff, although presumably not wishing to minimize such compositional achievements (or the scholarly efforts that have made many of them known), draws attention to three other areas of music in which European and American women have been relatively more active and prominent in the past two centuries, areas that we might call the three p 's: performance, pedagogy, and patronage.
The performers, fortunately, are beginning to get their due in the written record (to the extent that they have not taken care of the task themselves, through autobiography), and so is the occasional pedagogue. This, oddly, leaves patrons as the least explored category of women participants in Western art music since around 1800. We say "oddly," for the woman patron is widely recognized enough to have become the butt of jokes and parodies galore. Furthermore, many of the women who were active as patrons—as tillers of musical soil—were not particularly obscure or self-effacing. Some, such as Coolidge and Polignac, even left extensive paper trails, which interested scholars might productively follow. As for those patrons alive and at plow today, many—Betty Freeman, for one—are willing to reflect publicly (if asked in a congenial spirit) upon their efforts, successes, and disappointments.
Money and Woman's Role
The story, or big parts of it, can be told, as it can be and is now being told also in artistic fields other than music. That it has not been told is the result, in part, of twin biases prevailing within the discipline of musicology and, more generally, within Western academic and "high-culture" circles.
In the first place, what philosophers might call the "idealist" conception of the work of art leads us to focus primarily on a small number of canonical masterpieces, to view them as, in some degree, transcendent, and to isolate them from the material—human and societal—contexts in which they were and are produced and diffused. Secondly, to the extent that we do try to place a given musical work in its social context, a deeply rooted "individualism"—a belief that artistic creativity is primarily a matter of individual genius—leads us to seek this context within the career and creative output of one person, the composer. A Mozart piano sonata, Mendelssohn's string octet, Ives's The Unanswered Question , Ruth Crawford Seeger's string quartet, Arvo Pärt's Fratres —each is viewed mainly or even solely as the manifestation of one individual's exceptional musical gifts, expressive drive, and personality. Less often, in contrast, are we encouraged to think in some detail about the different ways in which other members of the social body—the professional or amateur performer, the patron, the music educator, the critic, and the audience member or compact-disc purchaser—experience and influence music. All these individuals play essential roles in the musical life of a given place and time, enabling as they do the creation—and the continued, meaningful existence, in performance and interpretation—of those great musical works that we are taught to admire and love. Indeed, they could be said to "make music," in the sense that they make music possible, whether or not they actually set notes on paper, or strike bow against string.
Why then does the very existence of these various music makers sometimes go unremarked? In the case of the patron, at least, one reason is surely that this music "maker" tends to be a woman. A sadly reliable pair of feminist truisms holds that any work that is socially undervalued (e.g., childrearing, primary education, housework, patient care) will be assigned to women and that, conversely, any work that women do will be socially undervalued (scorned, underpaid, taken for granted) and, in the historical record, rendered to some extent invisible. Work in libraries, kitchens, and hospitals tends to garner acclaim, and decent pay, only when carried out by high-ranking men (e.g., famous chefs); music patronage, similarly, gets reported and discussed much more when the patron is a Henry (Lee Higginson), Otto (Kahn), or Paul (Fromm) rather than a Jeannette (Thurber), Elizabeth (Sprague Coolidge), or Minnie (S. Guggenheimer).
But, even in recent writings sympathetic to the variety of roles that women can play in music, the woman patron is rarely mentioned. Here the explanation may be that the woman patron does not match certain current feminist ideals, based as they are on the (laudable) goal of achieving public recognition and financial and professional parity with men. The Musical Woman , that fascinating, yearbooklike
compendium of lists and essays documenting women's work in music (primarily today and in the recent past), has been rightly praised for its "earnest eclecticism," which one reviewer admitted to finding "moving." Upon closer examination, though, one realizes that the editors of The Musical Woman do not offer all "musical women" an embracing welcome. The focus is almost entirely on women who have achieved, or are still striving to achieve, high status and visibility, preferably as full-time professionals: composers, conductors, performers, and college professors. Public-school music teachers do not get much attention in the series, an unfortunate omission. After all, the band, orchestra, Orff-instrument, chorus, and musical-theater programs that these teachers lead provide many Americans with a rare opportunity to be involved in (as children) and to witness (as parents) "live," participatory music making. In addition, such programs often offer people their only direct contact with even a stripped-down version of the Western art-music repertoire. Similarly, these schoolteachers' "general music" classes offer the only exposure that many will ever get to what is for better or worse called "music appreciation."
Even less noted in The Musical Woman are other groups of music teachers: those who earn "part-time" incomes running after-school piano or voice studios in their homes, and those who train vocal and handbell choirs or lead children's singing groups in churches and synagogues (often for low pay or none at all). As for patrons and other musical activists, there has been little beside an article on Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in the massive first three volumes of The Musical Woman . Coolidge is, of course, safely dead, and in any case, she was clearly a "musical woman," since she played the piano before audiences and took her composing seriously. One wonders whether we have reached the point where a woman cannot be called "musical" if she has never learned to play an instrument or read a score, however much she may help, say, to keep a chamber-music series afloat, or even to steer its policies and repertoire.
One way or the other, then, the woman patron of Western art music in America tends to get ignored (or—as we shall repeatedly see—condescended to or smartly reproached) on account of her gender, whether because she is a woman doing "woman's work" or because she does not fit the profile of the "new" or professional woman. In most writings on musical life, though, she gets neglected for a reason even simpler and sometimes more powerful than gender: her connection with money. Patronage, whether by women or men, often involves handing over cash to musicians, directly or indirectly, and many people who hold a somewhat worshipful attitude toward the works of the "classical" canon—an attitude that tends to result from the idealism mentioned earlier—feel that any mention of money distracts (or even detracts) from the cherished qualities of the object of their veneration. What they may not realize (perhaps because the issue is not often raised by music journalists, college music-appreciation teachers, and others in a good position to educate the public) is that any art that is highly professional and technically refined requires a solid financial base and a well-organized system of
dissemination, whether the artistic "product," as Schiff calls it, be a concerto, a play, or a book of short stories. Indeed, the way in which a performing art, especially, is funded affects the repertoire that gets performed and the way that that repertoire is marketed to the public, a point illustrated repeatedly in this book.
Exactly how patronage operates is, as has recently been said of American philanthropy generally, difficult to describe, because the interests of the various participating parties and constituencies are so various and their interrelationships at times idiosyncratic. But there can be no doubt about the centrality of economic issues to the healthy existence of such institutions as symphony orchestras, opera companies, or professional and community music schools. Many of the women described in the following chapters knew this. They shared today's veneration of Bach's or Mozart's or Wagner's or Copland's music, yet they dealt frankly—more frankly, indeed, than scholars have tended to do!—with such hard-nosed financial tasks as improving the composer's and performer's earning power or building for the community a well-constructed concert hall with comfortable seats and good acoustics.
In any case, money is only one ingredient—and, as our studies show, not always the most important or the hardest to attain—in the recipe that leads to effective and inspired music patronage. The same can be said of patronage of the other arts, especially modern art and dance. (This similarity is not surprising, given that patrons have often been active in several artistic areas; we might mention Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Betty Freeman, both treated in the present book, but also a major male patron, Lincoln Kirstein.) Precisely because the stigmas of money, privilege, and condescension tend to hang over such words as "patronage" and "patron" (and even more over "patroness"), several of the contributors to this book speak instead, at times, of "musical activism," by analogy to the social and community activism that has engaged the creative energies of so many American women of means, from Jane Addams of Hull House to Brooke Astor. Money, privilege, and even the snobbishness of certain "patronesses" do play a part in some of the stories we tell, but so do such things as hard work, clear thinking, networking, self-sacrifice, and a devotion to making life rich in ways that bank accounts may assist but cannot measure.
The Boundaries of This Book
The role of patronage in "classical music" (Western art music) is a large, unwieldy phenomenon, subject to the diverse encouraging and hindering pressures of place and time, gender and class, race and religion. In the hope of shaping a coherent book, we (the two editors, speaking for ourselves for the next while, rather than for all contributors to the book) made three early decisions to help delimit this vast subject, all apparent in the book's title and subtitle: (1) it would deal primarily with women rather than men; (2) it would deal (for the most part) with people who volunteered their time, efforts, and funds, rather than with professional musicians, administrators, and the like; and (3) it would focus on the American scene rather than try to deal with several different countries.
The first two of these self-imposed restrictions are closely intertwined and need to be discussed together, at some length. (The restriction to America will be treated afterward.) We chose to focus not just on women but on women patrons (and women volunteers), in large part because we wished to help redress two striking imbalances in the historical record (taken in its widest sense to include newspaper accounts and the like). The first imbalance derives from the professional/amateur dichotomy that structures cultural and artistic life in the modern age. Certain of the professional musicians and impresarios who, in the course of their (sometimes well-paid) careers, built or sustained the nation's leading musical institutions have had their story told, or have told it themselves, admittedly in versions that are often highly selective or one-sided. (The list includes, among others, Theodore Thomas, Oscar Hammerstein I [father of the Broadway lyricist], the Damrosch dynasty, Olga Samaroff, Arthur Judson, Sol Hurok, Rudolph Bing, Sarah Caldwell, and Gian Carlo Menotti.) We have, though, encouraged the authors to blur the line between the amateur and what we might call the "low-status professional"—for example, the high-school music teacher or community choral director—if that might prove helpful (especially in Chapter 7). Certain of the authors also problematize the very dichotomy between the two terms "amateur" and "professional," as in Chapters 9 and 10.
The second imbalance in the historical record that distressed us seems rooted even more explicitly in gender. The story of the male patron, we noted earlier, has often been told to the exclusion of that of his female equivalent. As with the professional musicians just mentioned, this does not mean that all has been said. Male patrons clearly deserve further study: surely there were complex gender implications in a man's involving himself—especially not for pay—in a cultural activity then regarded as highly feminine. The present book may help point in that direction by evoking at times, mainly for comparison or contrast, the work of Higginson and other male activists in music, and by giving at least glancing attention to a few supportive husbands. These include Henry Drinker, who was himself—as appears in Chapter 9 and Vignette J—a capable and scholarly musician unrestrainedly devoted to cultivating performance in the home. (On the interchapter vignettes, generally, see the section below on our book's structure.) Indeed, we might note that the social history of the arts provides striking support for the recent contention of Joan Wallach Scott and others that simple claims of male and female "cultures" or "spheres of activity" must give way to more complex explorations of gender as the site of ongoing contestation and resistance.
This book, in short, aims to take women patrons seriously both as women and as patrons. In order to give the book some chance at depth, we (the editors) added a third restriction, as noted above: it would deal only with women patrons in the United States . Patrons who were active in other countries are therefore not discussed, not even the remarkably influential one whom David Schiff mentions in the passage quoted earlier: Princess Edmond de Polignac, née Winaretta Singer, who, although heir to the Singer sewing-machine fortune, was raised in Paris and
functioned as patron almost entirely in that city. But Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Betty Freeman, both of whom Schiff mentions, are treated here (in their own words even), as are many other influential and distinctive American patrons, including Isabella Stewart Gardner, Jeannette Thurber, Harriet Gibbs Marshall, Sophie Drinker, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and Clare Reis. Some are portrayed in detail; others are discussed or quoted more briefly as instances of larger trends. But each amply deserves the scholarly attention that she receives here.
Still others, we should stress, could easily have been included, such as Eleanor Robson (Mrs. August) Belmont, who founded the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Elise Boyer Hall (of Boston), who commissioned works for saxophone from Debussy and others, the Nebraska-born Gertrude Clark Whittall, who contributed five Stradivarius instruments to the Library of Congress and endowed the concert series in which they have been used ever since, Mary Louise Curtis Bok (who founded the Curtis Institute), Ima Hogg (who spearheaded the founding of the Houston Symphony and served as president of the board of trustees for twelve years), Marjorie Merriweather Post (who gave more than a million dollars to the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.), Louise M. Davies (who gave $5 million toward the construction of the hall the San Francisco Symphony plays in and another $3 million to the orchestra's endowment fund), Catherine Filene Shouse (the founder of the Wolf Trap national park and summer festival), Alice Tully (of New York), or the less well-known women in cities across the country (e.g., Minneapolis) whose work is only now being uncovered. And another book entirely could be devoted to the women who did much to foster ballet and modern dance in the United States, whether through direct creative involvement (notably as choreographers and leading dancers), public lecturing, financial contributions (or personal and financial sacrifices), organizational work, or some combination of these. There is a major musical component to the story of dance in the United States: companies such as Martha Graham's, Laura Dean's, and Ballet Theatre (directed by Lucia Chase) have provided a base of operations and source of commissions for American composers (whether native or foreign-born) in the early stages of their careers, such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Halim El-Dabh, and, more recently, Steve Reich.
In deciding whom to include in our book, we were, to some extent, drawn to women for whom documentary evidence was plentiful or accessible. But we were also guided by the desire to present as diverse and representative a panorama as possible within the limitations we had set ourselves: Coolidge can to some extent stand for Whittall, despite the striking differences that observers such as Joseph Kerman have noted between their approaches to the support of chamber music. In addition, we felt that the book might reveal more about the problem of women's patronage if it sacrificed comprehensiveness and examined a relatively small number of cases in greater depth. Nonetheless, Chapters 1, 2 and 10, especially, and those documentary "vignettes" that present women not treated in the
chapters proper, may nonetheless help suggest how widespread and energetic the phenomenon of women's patronage in music was and is.
"Patron," "Activist," "Volunteer Worker"?
No one term suffices to describe all the women to be discussed in this book, and no available term, whether or not traditionally used by the women themselves, is free of evaluative connotations. "Patron" and "patroness" were once honorifics: Baroque-era musicians, in their dedicatory prefaces, often placed the patron just above the creative artist and just below Orpheus and the muses. Today, in contrast, the terms often carry echoes of excessive privilege (not to speak of the awkwardness of referring to women by a term deriving from pater ). Still, the editors and the contributors do not hesitate to use "patron" (although rarely "patroness"). "Activist" is the editors' current favorite; this book may be among the first to use it regularly in a musical context. "Volunteer" or "volunteer worker" is more often heard in regard to music, but it does not seem broad enough to include women who made primarily monetary contributions. Like "activist," though, it has the advantage of emphasizing a woman's agency—in this case, work done of her own free will, voluntas . It also helpfully suggests a link between women's work on behalf of music, on the one hand, and volunteer work in other areas, including what is sometimes called "social feminism": women organizing, without pay, to cure the ills of society, save the "fallen," comfort the poor, and so on. Lori D. Ginzberg nicely incorporates the word "work" into the title of her recent book on such organizations of unpaid "social housekeepers" (as they were also sometimes known) in the United States: Women and the Work of Benevolence . Seen this way, volunteering in music often amounts to unpaid labor—ranging from clerical to fully managerial and executive—in such fields as arts administration, marketing, and public relations.
But the word "volunteer" also carries a taint. "Volunteering was [and is] hardly a daring choice for modern American women," states Wendy Kaminer in her thoughtful book on the whole range of unpaid women workers (ranging from "candy stripers" in hospitals to antiwar activists). In the musical arena, too, volunteer work is sometimes viewed as too easy a compromise with the patriarchal system, in that it gives a woman an outlet for her energies and talents but without, as feminist critics rightly stress, granting her the legal and financial benefits, and the "strong, new, autonomous identity" (as Kaminer puts it) of a real, paying job, and of course also without the attendant risks and pressures that come with seeking and holding that job.
When one thinks about it, though, this argument is odd, or at least rather onesided (as Kaminer implies elsewhere in her book). Is it less courageous to contribute one's time and money than to be paid, as a modern arts administrator would be, to do the same kind of work? Surely these are just two different ways—and not the only two—of mobilizing societal energies for a project of some
difficulty and importance. Music is, after all, not unique: whole sectors of American society rely on volunteer workers—many of them (and in some situations most or all of them) women—if they are to function well, or function at all: one thinks of town councils and homeless shelters; libraries, literacy volunteers, and public schools; hospitals, blood-donor programs, hospices, suicide hotlines, and AIDS counseling centers; and scouting organizations, places of worship, political parties, and the whole range of issue-oriented activist organizations. There are even mayors of decent-sized cities (such as Portland, Maine) who receive no pay or a minimal honorarium, and many of these, too, are women. Much important work goes unremunerated, but as an aged alumna at a Smith College reunion noted, "Someone has to do it." And, given that U.S. government, at its various levels, has been relatively unsupportive of the arts (in contrast, especially, to the levels of support in Europe), that "someone" who "has to do" the job will as often as not have to be a volunteer, and more often than not is a woman.
The editors, it should be stressed, do not pretend to be pleased with this arrangement. But this book is primarily about real life; it is not, except at certain explicit moments or, more often, between the lines, about the various contributors' visions of how life—and musical life—ideally should be arranged. (An exception to this rule is the sustainedly interpretive concluding chapter, written by one of the editors alone.)
The Gendered Distortions of History
The present book, as we have already suggested, presents an argument, and evidence for that argument. It focuses on middle- and upper-class women patrons in order to demonstrate that they, taken together, formed and still form the predominant population of activists for and organizers of concert music and opera in the United States. We say this in full realization that individual men of means, such as Otto Kahn, have given millions to institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera. But, for a century now, American women have outnumbered men in music patronage ten or a hundred times over. Since most of them were and are less wealthy than Kahn was, they have tended to achieve results that are quite different from those associated with male patrons, or at least they have, in working toward similar goals to those of the men, developed distinctive working patterns, notably (as we shall see over and over) more collective ones. This, we quickly point out, is not to deny the diversity of patronage styles among women: for example, individual women of great wealth tended to go it alone (like their male equivalents) as patrons; and music-loving African-American women focused their energies on creating institutional structures that responded to the distinct needs and tapped the resources (e.g., the churches) of the African-American community (see Chapter 7).
The varied stories told here, and the many other stories that they, for lack of space, must "stand for," constitute a sturdy structural cord in the tapestry of
American music history. We say "cord," because this work was to a large extent intended to remain invisible, a support for the artistic work on the surface. Still, structural support needs to be recognized, if only in the scholarly literature. And yet, women's patronage has, until recently, gone nearly unmentioned in most standard texts and reference works, and its nature and extent have been insufficiently explored, much less thoughtfully theorized. This "distortion of omission" (as we might call it) concerning women patrons disfigures several of the otherwise most reliable histories of American music; it is even apparent, although to a lesser extent, in that model of scholarly thoroughness and insight, the recent New Grove Dictionary of American Music . Earlier we noted that scholars are generally hesitant to deal frankly with questions of money; as Richard Crawford puts it, the large topics of "institutions and economic arrangements" in American music "have been left in the dark by musicologists." But women patrons have been more consistently ignored, for reasons suggested earlier; and in the case of patrons who are both women and African-Americans the distortion of omission has been compounded by most musicologists' lack of familiarity with such basic historical sources as African-American newspapers.
The distortion of omission is one way in which those who construct the historical record silence or erase, however inadvertently or unconsciously, what does not fit the prevailing paradigm or myth—namely, here, male domination of the "creative" realm of human activity. Indeed, we might note that this myth is particularly misleading in regard to the place of the arts (including music) in American society, given that the arts—love of them, skill in them, except when carried out as a profession—were long assigned to the woman's realm and therefore prized as, precisely, feminine accomplishments.
There is another way in which evidence that does not neatly fit a paradigm gets silenced or erased; we might call this the "distortion of substitution." Pamela J. Perry, in a recent dissertation on music in Connecticut, has detailed several major cases in which "men were credited [in newspapers and books] with progress or success actually resulting from the initiative and benefaction" of their wives and other women, thereby polluting the historical record (although, thanks to Perry's efforts, not irreversibly); a recent study by Catherine Parsons Smith similarly demonstrates that the early stages of the founding of the Hollywood Bowl, shaped mainly by women, have been systematically disregarded by chroniclers and historians in favor of the later ones, in which men took over the lead.
The lack of easily available and reliable information about patronage of music and art shows in writings of more general import. Biographers and scholars have often failed to reconstruct in its full richness and contradictions the life of the early-twentieth-century middle- and upper-class woman; for to leave out, or pass over quickly as inessential, the art on her walls and the concerts she mounted at home (or helped establish in larger and more public venues) is to veil from sight the activities and engagements through which she often assumed her most nondomestic, most publicly influential (if not always publicly acknowledged) role. The
developments reported and studied here will thus need to find their rightful place not only in music history, as noted earlier, but also in the larger tapestries of American social and cultural history and American women's history.
The Structure of This Book:
Trends, Individuals, and Documentary "Vignettes"
The essays in this collection, we have said, cannot pretend to offer a fully comprehensive study of the topic. Taken together, though, they treat it in a manner that, the editors hope, is representative, intellectually challenging, and well grounded historically and theoretically. Five chapters study groups and trends (Chapters 1 and 10, which both offer broad overviews, although of different kinds, plus Chapters 2, 5, and 7), four chapters examine in closer detail the patronage work of a particularly active individual woman (Chapters 3, 4, 6, 9), and one (Chapter 8) falls somewhere between the two types, in that it discusses four individuals in moderate detail.
Among the major developments studied in one or more of the "trends" chapters are the concert-sponsoring activities of women's music clubs and women impresarios (Chapters 2 and 7) and women's founding and support of symphony orchestras (Chapters 2 and 5). Chapters 5, 6, 8, and 10 (as well as several of the documentary vignettes) shed some light on the phenomenon—often seen, even today, as surprising, paradoxical, or ludicrous—of wealthy women supporting composers of challenging and often-dissonant "modern music," whether "modern" would, depending on the period in question, have been taken to mean Wagner, Strauss, and Debussy (around 1900), Bartók and Henry Cowell (in the 1920s), or Mel Powell and John Adams (in our own day). That the names just mentioned are all male is not accidental: the frequent (although not total) lack of support for women composers by female (and of course by male) patrons throughout the period under study will also be addressed at several points, as will public reactions to and images of women's musical activism (beyond the "modern music" issue just noted). In addition, various of the essays illustrate how women's musical patronage meshes with, or contradicts, the broad explanatory schemes of such cultural and social historians and sociologists as Ann Douglas, Paul DiMaggio, Kathleen D. McCarthy, Lawrence W. Levine, and Anne Firor Scott.
The four "individuals" treated at length are Isabella Stewart Gardner, the art collector whose Boston home, now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, once contained a high-ceilinged concert hall that could seat three hundred listeners (Chapter 3); Jeannette Thurber, the woman who brought Antonín Dvorak[*] to America to head the National Conservatory (Chapter 4); Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the pianist, composer, and patron who endowed the Coolidge Foundation, donated the Coolidge Auditorium to the Library of Congress, and commissioned many works from important composers such as Bartók, Copland, and Stravinsky (Chapter 6); and Sophie Drinker, the author of Music and Women (1948), whose organizational activities in music reflected her strongly held views about
women's special gift for musical self-expression and women's rights generally (which mingled oddly—or perhaps not so oddly, after all—with her general political and cultural conservatism: see Chapter 9).
Throughout the book there will be, by intention, much overlap between "trends" and "individuals": the trend chapters, being based largely on documentary evidence, regularly mention the contributions of various individuals; and the four individuals chosen for chapter-length discussion represent important larger developments, including some not discussed in the more broadly focused chapters.
In addition, several larger issues are raised repeatedly throughout the book, although they are not highlighted in any one chapter:
1. Conflicting and changing attitudes toward the proper spheres of activity for middle- and upper-class women and men (including, for women, certain alternatives to—or extensions of—domesticity, such as voluntarism and "social feminism").
2. The intertwined factors of social class, race, ethnicity, and geographical location (east/west, town/city).
3. A specific aspect of point (2): the wide range of ideological and political investments that could motivate music patronage, including various forms of patriotism and nationalism (especially in wartime), but also (near the left end of the political spectrum) the Progressive-inspired desire to educate and empower immigrants and working people, and (at the opposite end) the arch-conservative program of constructing highly elitist and socially (racially, religiously) exclusive cultural institutions, such as the nation's opera houses around 1900.
4. The tendency of "serious" American music lovers to devote their energies to dissemination of the canonical works of European musical culture and to resist American music (including much American "art" music but also vernacular genres such as musical comedy, spirituals, and jazz).
5. The functions that musical patronage has fulfilled in women's lives, including the ways in which it has been altered by society's increasing willingness, especially in recent decades, to permit women to study music in all its aspects, perform publicly, and pursue the full range of professional careers in music.
The book's conclusion (Chapter 10) is devoted to a more thoroughgoing and frankly personal discussion, by one of the editors, of certain issues broached earlier, especially in the present Introduction and in Chapters 1, 2, 5, and 9. Some recent scholarly discussions of the "sacralization" of music in turn-of-the-century America, and the role played by patrons (whether male or female) in that process, are challenged, as are various widespread prejudices and misconceptions about the phenomenon of the woman patron of music. Recent changes in patterns of patronage, finally, are briefly addressed, especially those relating to the new conditions of musical life that have arisen with the growth of the electronic media.
As interludelike vignettes between the chapters, we include some particularly revealing (and annotated) unpublished or "lost" documents that provide a direct glimpse into various aspects of musical life and patronage. Each vignette that directly follows a chapter (i.e., Vignettes C, D, G, I, and J) relates to that chapter. When two or more vignettes are grouped together, the second or later ones serve as "further cases," often introducing patrons whose work illustrates some aspect not otherwise discussed, or treated only briefly, elsewhere in the book. Vignettes A and B are rather special, in that they together "frame" the time period to be covered in the book—from the 1860s or even, briefly, the 1830s up to the present day—and together hint at the variety of women's ways of working for music in America. Finally, many of the vignettes have the added advantage of allowing the voice of a given patron (whether or not she also has her own chapter) to be heard with relatively little editorial mediation.
The book is organized in roughly chronological sequence, although the chronology is tempered by certain connections of subject matter and complicated by the long life span and continuing patronage of some of the patrons here discussed, such as Coolidge. (Whether patrons are referred to as "Mrs." or by last or first or full name has been left to the discretion of the individual contributors.) In any case, we as editors have tried to make sure that each chapter can stand independently of the others. We look forward to this book being used by readers who may come from women's history, American studies, or other fields outside of music.
Throughout the book, all of the authors, even in the chapters concerned with larger trends, have, with our encouragement, anchored the discussion by referring to specific cases and archival documents. Many previously unpublished or nearly inaccessible sources of information have been consulted (e.g., letters, diaries, local newspapers), greatly reducing the need to rely on hoary generalizations or impressionistic observations. At the same time, though, we (the editors) do not advocate holding back from the task of interpreting the phenomena here uncovered. To begin with, the very process of selecting, summarizing, and arranging historical data is inevitably guided by the scholar's particular aims and by the audience being addressed. Beyond that, though, a study of this sort calls for the scholar, or so it seems to us, to enter imaginatively into the lives of the historical actors under discussion. This should not imply some sort of sentimental fusion between past (however distant or recent) and present, between historical "material" and historian; rather, it requires a perpetual and, we hope, creative tension—a constant corrective interplay—between evidence and interpretation. Our authors here face and also sometimes explicitly address the challenge of striking a dynamic balance—again, one must not imagine finding the perfect, static middle point—between, on the one hand, doing justice to the ways that women's work in music was perceived by the women themselves and their contemporaries and, on the other hand, submitting such testimonies to a more searching critique informed by, say, feminist and cultural theory (enriched, at times, by commonsense insight into basic human motivation and group dynamics). In particular, we feel, the historian
(and, in turn, the reader) should be wary of various stereotypical and demonstrably inadequate ways of depicting the woman patron: for example, as a selfless heroine battling overwhelming odds, or (the polar opposite) as a silly overprivileged dabbler. This problem of "reading" the patron will, as noted earlier, receive fuller discussion in Chapters 1, 2, 5, 9, and 10.
A Resembling Portrait?
What, one might well ask, would the patrons and activists themselves say (or have said) about the stories that we (the various authors) have constructed in this book? That, alas, is something we for the most part cannot know. But we have tried to let their own voices be heard more or less unmediated at various points in the chapters and, of course, in the vignettes, always remembering, though, that, as Carolyn G. Heilbrun puts it, women's writings (and interviews) about their own lives are often constrained by "the bonds of womanly attitudes."
But then, there is also no saying that these women's perceptions—even if we could know them in their fullness—ought to outweigh the views presented by the authors here. When Virgil Thomson composed a sonata-portrait of Peggy Guggenheim, she found it "not in the least resembling," yet the possibility exists that Thomson saw something in her as she sat before him in a chair (his usual way of doing a person's musical portrait)—reading, as it happens, his perceptive little sociological essay The State of Music —that simply differed from the image of herself that she preferred to project. Thomson knew and appreciated the contributions that women of means could make to the arts and not least to music. A large number of his 147 musical "portraits" of friends and associates are of women who were patrons, arts organizers, hostesses, or wives of gallery owners, although his verbal descriptions of the sitters (when they exist) make it difficult to know where to draw the line between a rich person who was broadly active in the arts community and one to whom he was personally indebted (and perhaps wished to become more so). The varied list includes Betty Freeman (interviewed in our Vignette B), Mary Reynolds ("from Minneapolis, friend of artists, and a bookbinder"), Helen Austin ("a gracious presence in Hartford all her life"), Cynthia Kemper (president of the Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City), Louise Crane (heiress of the Crane paper company and organizer of concerts at the Museum of Modern Art), Constance Askew (patron of artists and writers), and Mrs. Chester Whitin Lasell (Thomson's patron in his early years). Thomson's highly individual little pieces seek to capture the particular profile and force—the elegance, determination, "rock-bound" stolidity, or impulsive busyness—that he saw or intuited in each individual woman (or man, for many of Thomson's portraits depict male friends and associates).
The prose portraits, documents, and photos offered in this book represent a similar attempt to evoke a complex living reality: the richly involving, deeply com-
promised, still (to many of us) admirable and much-needed efforts of women—and men—to promote and foster musical art in America.
Before launching readers into the various detailed studies of individual women and groups of women that make up the core of the book, the editor's felt that some readers might find it helpful if the two of us laid out a factual and interpretive framework for dealing with (women's) patronage of art music in America. Our Chapter 1 thus examines, with a wide-angle lens, this rather puzzling American phenomenon: the largely voluntary building up of a demand for, and a means of supplying, a complex and costly, prestigious, "labor-intensive" performing art in a new and cumbersomely large nation. What were—and are, for the phenomenon continues—the (constraining? empowering?) contexts—musical, financial, social, cultural-ideological, psychological—within which art-music activists, especially female ones, devoted, and still devote, time, energy, and money to such a cause?