And after that burst of archaic nationalism, iTunes served up Elliott Carter's Fourth String Quartet. While I can't say I enjoyed the juxtaposition of hardcore modernism and patriotic pastiche, the quartet is always interesting. For good measure, iTunes followed with Barber's First Essay giving me a chance to assimilate my American music experience for the day.
On another level, American works are seldom the product of working methods characteristic of many important European composers, who have gone about their work in a systematic way, carefully coordinating musical means and ends at every level while weeding out initially accepted elements that did not contribute to their specific intentions. For often it seems that they must have formed a very clear idea of what they wished to accomplish, and were determined to pursue this down to the smallest details of their work. In my opinion, it is the very absence of this sharpness of focus and close coordination of means in terms of a very clarified musical intention that gives the good works of American music their special freshness and makes the listener sense in them an aesthetic point of view different from the more or less standard European one.
But wouldn't Carter's own methods be classified as European by this definition?