Course Description: War and Peace: Music of the 40s

Dr. Robert Butts, Conductor, Composer, Educator – Montclair State University, Drew University, and Saint Elizabeth University
1 ½ hour, 5 Wednesday afternoons 1:30-3:00 pm
April 6, 13, 20, 27, and May 4, 2022  

Of all decades of the 20th century, the 1940s seems to be the least studied, with fewer books and/or articles.   Yet, the decade produced a lot of great music, as well as masterpieces in other arts.  Many musical works of the period have become standards of the concert and popular music worlds.  The 1940s were actually two cultural decades in one.  1940-1945 was marked by World War II.  1945-1950 was marked by the post-war boom in America and reconstruction in the rest of the world.  As the 1890s saw the major impact of technological change, so did the late 1940s – especially in transportation (new cars, diesel trains, jet airplanes) and communication (radios, 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records, drive-in movies, television).    

As soon as World War II ended, a new form of war emerged as The United States and The Soviet Union dominated world politics in what came to be called “The Cold War.”   Musically, jazz changed from big band swing to small band “cool” through a fresh style called “Bebop,” created by artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.  Country music 

became a major style through radio broadcasts and new artists – most notably singer/songwriter Hank Williams.  Singers replaced instrumentalists as star artists with the rise of artists such as Frank Sinatra.  Leonard Bernstein began his meteoric rise to fame and influence.  Aaron Copland became the sound of American composition.  Dmitri Shostakovich became the sound of Soviet composition.  European composers such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen explored extreme modernism while technology led to the beginnings of electronic composition.  Classic film scores were created by composers such as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, Dimitri Tiomkin, and others.  Rodgers and Hammerstein developed the Broadway Musical into its classic form and began what came to be known as “The Golden Age of Broadway.”

 Dr. Robert Butts has won acclaim as conductor, composer, and educator.  He is the director of the Baroque Orchestra of NJ, now in its 26th season.  He teaches/lectures at Montclair State University, the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, NJ Council for the Humanities, and Saint Elizabeth University.  He has conducted major orchestra and opera performances throughout NJ and the US, as well as guest appearances in Romania, the Czech Republic, Russia, Italy, and England. Dr. Butts received his M.A. in Musicology from the University of Iowa with a specialty in 17th and 18th-century music and a D.M.A. in conducting from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.  He also studied conducting at Julliard with Maestro La Selva. 

His awards include the 2019 Artist of the Year Award by the New York Classical Music Society; the 2019 Exemplary Leader Award from the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, the 2016 Tourism Award from the Morris County Tourism Bureau, the 2015 Comcast Newsmaker Award from Comcast, and the 2015 Honored Artist Award.

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