The Virtue of American Power and the Power of American Virtue: Exceptionalist Tropes in Early Cold War American Musical Nationalism

Emily Ansari
While many American nationalist composers suffered from the early Cold War politicization of musical style, the careers of Howard Hanson and William Schuman thrived. This paper examines the music and writings of these two composers to argue that their success during the 1950s in part owed to the compatibility of their music's nationalism with mainstream political ideologies of the period. I argue that Schuman and Hanson's music evoked one of the central tenets of 1950s consensus culture:
more » ... n exceptionalism. Schuman promoted the virtue of American power by combining familiar nationalist tropes with an aggressive, hyper-masculine sound. Hanson's music also employed conventional nationalist markers, while its spiritual idealism showed evidence of the same exceptionalist philosophy in reverse: the power of American virtue.