Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class

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9780472116928: Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class
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"An elegant, erudite, and thorough study . . . The venture into music history and the impact, both positive and negative, of jazz on culture, and especially the emergence of a literary art theater, is the book's most obvious unique contribution . . . the analysis of the place of various critics and the audience in a period of major cultural change involving class, race, and ethnicity is especially welcome."
---Choice

"Highbrow/Lowdown stakes out the secret history of how that yawning abyss between mass culture and serious theatre came about---a dynamic that still plays out to this day both in the commercial and resident theatres. This intellectual study, a revelatory blending of music criticism and drama history, delves into the critical and artistic antagonisms between jazz and classical music, the serious and lively arts, as well as the old and new middle-class tastes."
---American Theatre


"A book about the fracturing of the theater audience in the 1920s using jazz as a lens. [Savran] points to jazzy composers such as Gershwin, who never got his due while he was writing because of his embrace of jazz . . . What is intriguing about Savran's book is how these class distinctions still hold true today."
---All About Jazz

Highbrow/Lowdown explores the twentieth century's first culture war and the forces that permanently transformed American theater into the art form we know today. The arrival of jazz in the 1920s sparked a cultural revolution that was impossible to contain. The music affected every stratum of U.S. society and culture, confusing and challenging long-entrenched hierarchies based on class, race, and ethnicity. But jazz was much more than the music---it was also a powerful cultural force that brought African American, Jewish, and working-class culture into the white Protestant mainstream. When the influence of jazz spread to legitimate theater, playwrights, producers, and critics rushed to distinguish the newly emerging literary theater from its illegitimate cousins. The efforts to defeat the democratizing influences of jazz and to canonize playwrights like Eugene O'Neill triumphed, giving birth to American theater as we know it today.

David Savran is Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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About the Author:

David Savran is Distinguished Professor of Theater and Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theater, CUNY Graduate Center. His books include A Queer Sort of Materialism: Recontextualizing American Theater and Taking It Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture, among others. He lives in New York City.

Review:

"Impressive in depth as well as breadth, Highbrow/Lowbrow rewrites 20th-centure theatre history." -- Shane Vogel, Indiana University, The Drama Review

"Like a canny fight promoter in the perennial American culture wars, David Savran puts the reader ringside for a blow-by-blow account of the Battle of the Brows--high, middle, and low. Setting Jazz Age entertainments at one another, with 'legitimate theater' duking it out with nightclub revues and movies pummeling vaudeville, Highbrow/Lowdown tracks the rise of heavy-weight Eugene O'Neill to the top of the card, but it also makes heroes of the referees--the drama critics and audiences who crowned the winners. This is performance history as an innovative 'political economy of culture,' and it's a knock-out."
—Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater, Yale University

(Joseph Roach 2009-02-03)

"Impressive in depth as well as breadth, Highbrow/Lowbrow rewrites 20th-centure theatre history."
—Shane Vogel, Indiana University, The Drama Review

(Shane Vogel The Drama Review)

"David Savran's thought-provoking book will cause scholars to reconceptualize American culture during the Jazz Age... Highbrow/Lowdown demonstrates the centrality of jazz as arbiter of class and taste in the formation of early twentieth-centry American culture." --Katie N. Johnson, American Studies (Katie N. Johnson American Studies)

"Savran treats an enormous range of ideas with virtuosic confidence. ... Everyone interested in twentieth-century American music culture can learn from Savran’s boundary-crossing book. His perspective from outside the confines of music scholarship brings fresh insights to our understanding of the cultural contests at work on multiple levels of society, and especially to those being enacted on stage."
 ---Journal of Society for American Music (Journal of Society for American Music 2013-07-10)

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Savran, David
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