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Grant number: FA-50160-04

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FA-50160-04

Howard J. Pollack
University of Houston (Houston, TX 77204-0001)

Gershwin: A Critical Biography

For the proposed grant period, I intend to study and write about George Gershwin and his music as part of a larger project, namely a comprehensive critical biography of the composer intended for both the general reader and the specialist. I have completed the book's first portion, which largely concerns biographical matters, and much of the second portion of the book, which will survey Gershwin's work chronologically, and addresses various historical and critical concerns. Among the new thinking and research represented by this study are: a reconsideration of Gershwin's education and knowledge of the European tradition; a clarification of the facts about Gershwin's life; an engaged but even-handed approach to the matter of Gershwin's relation to African-American culture; a recognition that Gershwin wrote primarily for the theater; a realization that almost all of Gershwin's instrumental works exist in corrupt forms; a consideration of Gershwin's compositional practice through the study of his sketches; new ideas about the music itself; and an overview of the performance history of Gershwin's music. I would spend the grant period completing a first draft of the book, including two chapters on Porgy and Bess. This book hopefully will illuminate not only Gershwin's particular accomplishment, but offer new ways to think about the interaction of words and music, the competing demands of art and commerce, and the conflicts of ethnicity and nationalism, in the context of one of our great theatrical traditions, the musical comedy.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Music History and Criticism

Program:
Fellowships for University Teachers

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
2/1/2004 – 7/31/2004