The Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair in Chicago, 1893) was intended to represent the entire progress of human history, with American civilization as its culminating triumph. The Exposition celebrated the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World; it restaged that discovery in myriad ways: from the display of ““savage races”” on the Midway to the construction of an emergent American middle class as civilization's newest noble savages, hungry for education. Music was an integral part of the Exposition. America's musical elite took an active role in the fair's promotion and design. The Exposition also stimulated a flood of writing on the nature and future of ““truly American”” music. This article examines American musical culture at the Exposition, with attention to music as art, science, and commerce three categories at the heart of the Exposition's formal definition of music. The network of mutual reinforcements, contradictions and the related concepts of nation, race, and evolution has powerful implications for the ensuing history of music in America. Analysis of the educational agenda of music at the Exposition suggests it taught its visitors--5 to 10 percent of the American population--a great deal about race, class, nationhood, and their identity as consumers. Reading the musical criticism, speculative philosophy, and patriotic grandstanding that accompanied the fair shows how musical thought of the day relied on evolutionary theory.
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Review Article| November 01 2003
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Kiri Miller; Americanism Musically: Nation, Evolution, and Public Education at the Columbian Exposition, 1893. 19th-Century Music 1 November 2003; 27 (2): 137–155. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2003.27.2.137
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