Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

“Common Joys, Sorrows, Adventures, and Struggles”: Transnational Encounters in Amy Beach's “Gaelic” Symphony


Amy Beach's “Gaelic” Symphony is the most prominent nineteenth-century American expression of Irishness in music. Despite the reference to another country in its title, the work has largely been interpreted via the lens of American nationalism. Its historiography reflects the immense interest in national style in nineteenth-century American music scholarship. This article initiates a discussion about nineteenth-century American composers’ engagement with the world beyond their own national borders. It explores the “Gaelic” Symphony's transnational dimensions, which engage largely with two groups: concert music composers and the Irish diaspora. Regarding the former, the article illuminates nuances of intertextuality in Beach's style. It revises the historical narrative surrounding the “Gaelic” Symphony as a response to Antonín Dvořák's “New World” Symphony, finding multiple additional models for Beach's work. The “Gaelic” Symphony is positioned instead as a representation of concert music styles that valued cosmopolitan approaches and judged composers on the skill with which they consciously blended multiple streams of influence. Regarding the latter category of the Irish, the article contextualizes the symphony within a revival of Irish cultural practices taking place in the 1890s, revealing how constructions of Irishness in the symphony reflect Gaelic revival values and respond to social tensions between Boston's Irish-American community and the city's upper class.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

E. Douglas Bomberger , “International Tastes vs. American Opportunities,” in MacDowell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 180–97

Mark Evan Bonds , After Beethoven: Imperatives of Originality in the Symphony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996)

Peter Mercer-Taylor , “Rethinking Mendelssohn's Historicism: A Lesson from St. Paul,” Journal of Musicology 15, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 208–29

Joseph Horowitz , “Dvořák and Boston,” American Music 19, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 317

W. E. Vaughn and T. W. Moody , ed., A New History of Ireland, vol. 6, Ireland Under the Union, Pt. II, 1870–1921 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Paul F. Wells , “Elias Howe, William Bradbury Ryan, and Irish Music in Nineteenth-Century Boston,” Journal of the Society for American Music 4, no. 4 “Irish Music in the United States,” edited by Paul F. Wells and Sally K. Sommers Smith (November 2010): 401–20

Sven Beckert . The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850–1896. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Paul Berry . Brahms among Friends: Listening, Performance, and the Rhetoric of Allusion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

E. Douglas. Bomberger MacDowell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

J. Peter Burkholder . “The Uses of Existing Music: Musical Borrowing as a Field.” Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 50, no. 3 (March 1994): 851–70.

Richard Crawford . “Edward MacDowell: Musical Nationalism and an American Tone Poet.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 49, no. 3 (Fall 1996): 528–60.

Nicholas Marston . “Schumann's Monument to Beethoven.” 19th-Century Music 14, no. 3 (Spring 1991): 247–64.

Douglas Shadle . “Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Pan-American Symphonic Ideal.” American Music 29, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 443–71.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Society for American Music
  • ISSN: 1752-1963
  • EISSN: 1752-1971
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-society-for-american-music
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 25
Total number of PDF views: 61 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 434 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.