ilection for extramusical associations,nfor program symphonies and tonenpoems, for operas and other vocalnworks, for theoretical discussions ofnthe moral and philosophical implicationsnof their work—all attempts tongive concrete, palpable form to theirnnebulous inner states. Complete subjectivistsnwould not have bothered;nthey probably would not have composednat all.nThe effort on the part of modernncrihcs to dismiss Romanhcism is notnpurely malicious nihilism; it is alsonintended to clear the way for then”music of the future,” “atonal” serialism.nTwelve-tone music and the othernRube Goldbergian systems of modernismnare, incredibly, still believed to benscientific and rational approaches tonthe problems of tonal art. In fact, suchnmusic is often more hysterical thannthat of the most extreme Romantics,nalthough the range of emotions isnpractically confined to a gamut betweennconfusion and panic (with occasionalnhints of lethargy and blindnrage).nThe modern critic lives in constantnterror of having posterity heap abusenon him as it has on the contemporarynfoes of Beethoven, Wagner, and othernmusical innovators. He dreads the verdictnof the yet unborn, who will pronouncenhim a boor for opposing thenlatest auditory gimcrackery. The criticnpraises everything, and the more incomprehensiblenit is the more loudlynhe praises it, hoping to shine as anprophet in future editions of Grove’s.nThe only new music he ignores orndisparages is that which living peoplenmight actually want to listen to—nespecially modern Romanticism,nwhich he considers reactionary (readnAndrew Porter in The New Yorker ifnyou think this is hyperbole).nThe simplest and most effective waynto dismiss 20th-century Romanticism,nor any new music that does not conformnto the serialist dogma, is to pretendnit doesn’t exist. In this light itnis easy to understand the HarvardnDictionary of Music declaration thatn”new music is, briefly stated, anti-nRomanticism” or William H. Youngren’snoffhand remark in The Atlantic ofnDecember 1983 that “the rejection ofntonality by virtually all of this century’snserious composers has brought with itnunforeseen difficulties.”nIt is only a critic hewing to thenanti-Romantic, proserial line whoncould have come up with a catchphrasenas silly and superfluous as “thenNew Romanticism,” which one hearsnapplied to the work of certain recentnAmerican composers. The expressionnhas some value as a means of distinguishingntheir music from what isnchurned out by serialist academia, butnthe “New” is superfluous because Romanticism,nparticularly in this country,nhas never grown old.nAmerican Romanticism is, paradoxically,nan entirely modern phenomenon.nDuring the great age of Romanticismnin Germany, France, Italy, andnRussia, American music lay dormantnor toddled around uncertainly, unablento inspire any powerful individualnvoices. It was only around the turn ofnthe century that Charles Ives producednhis splendid Second and Third Symphoniesn(written before his descentninto eccentricity) and became the firstnAmerican composer to combine anuniquely personal style and a powerfulnmoral urgency with musicalnnationalism—three vital Romanticnprinciples.nIves’s music was, of course, practicallynunknown during his lifetime, butnhe was hardly singular. TwentiethcenturynAmerican composers like JohnnAlden Carpenter, Charles Griffes,nWalter Piston, Howard Hanson, RoynHarris, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber,nDavid Diamond—all of themnare, in one way or another, Romanticnin their fundamental approach toncomposition.nOf course, few if any of these composersnwould have admitted to beingnRomantics. The very word has becomendebased and cheapened, suggestingnsyrupy strings, bombastic brasses,nand pretty piano-playing. Nonhardheaded modern composer wouldnthink of allowing the insult of beingnbranded “Romantic” to go unchallenged.nBut the critical obfuscations on thisnsubject have filled it with turmoil.nThere is no longer even any clearnconsensus on who was or wasn’t anRomantic. Beethoven, to the 19thncentury the Father of Romanticism, isnnow often cleared of this charge bynmusicians and critics, who insist thatnhe was really classical. But if Beethovennwas no Romantic, then whatnabout Schubert, Mendelssohn, andnBrahms, whose music is just as much,nif not more, classical? What aboutnWagner, whose harmonic innovationsnactually mark him as the first modernncomposer? What about the hyper-nRomantic Berlioz, who didn’t like thenterm and avoided it?nIt is always possible to redistributenlabels and rearrange periods, but Romanticismnis neither a musical stylennor a set of slogans, but a musicalnphilosophy, a way of artistic life. Itninvolves a conception of music thatntakes full cognizance of its philosophical,nethical, psychological, and politicalnimplications. It is music specificallyncreated to transcend the classicalnconcept of music as mere sounds, evennif greatiy enjoyable and pleasurablenones. As J.W.N. Sullivan says in hisnbook Beethoven: His Spiritual Development,nthe composer “was altogetherntoo much convinced of the overwhelmingnimportance of good and evilnto take up an ‘art for art’s sake’ attitude,”nand the same applies, to onendegree or another, to every importantnRomantic composer, each of whomntook Beethoven as his chief point ofnreference. In truth, with his conceptionnof music as a moral enterprise,nBeethoven invented Romanticism innPOETRY lOURNALnEdited by Jane Greer. Traditional poetic conventions used in vigorous,ncompelling new works. Heartening manifesto for SASE. $3.50/sample.nPlains Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 23 37, Bismarck, ND 58502nnnJUNE 1987/47n