Serge Koussevitsky: Transcending Identity through Music.

The proposed paper looks at what happens to identity when it crosses borders and becomes transnational.  Specifically the paper will look at Serge Koussevitzky, conductor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924-1949, and what he did for American composers.  Koussevitzky was an avid proponent of American contemporary composers and served as mentor and patron of their works.  Composers such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss (an Americanized composer) were aided by Koussevitzky’s efforts and he disseminated their music to the American audience in a way other conductors, like Arturo Toscannini, would not.  Following a modern music aesthetic, Koussevitzky celebrated contemporary music rather than limiting himself to the traditional Western canon, an aesthetic that has won out over Koussevtizky’s own.  He furthermore supported the future of American music in establishing the music school at Tanglewood.  Through these actions, Koussevitzky transcended how he was initially identified when he came to the United States – as a Russian novelty.  By the end of his tenure there, Koussevitzky and his actions became in some sense Americanized.  This is particularly interesting with regard to connections because in a period that had both disconnection and connections with Russia (the U.S. Government recognizing the Soviet Government in 1933, enemies and allies in WWII and the commencement of the Cold War) Koussevitzky remained a beloved and respected figure in the Boston musical world as well as continued to support and stay connected with these American artists.  Koussevitzky remained a firm connection or network for contemporary composers in disjointed times.