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January 17, 1925

French composer, conductor and teacher of music Nadia Boulanger gave a lecture recital on “The Development of Modern Music” in the Assembly Hall. Visiting the United State as a guest of a committee of composers and conductors, Mlle. Boulanger made her American début on January 11, with the New York Symphony Orchestra, as the soloist in the prèmiere of the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra by her former student Aaron Copland.

She told her Vassar audience, according to The Miscellany News, that it was necessary to be “familiar with the vocabulary of modern music in order to understand its message since the change on the technical side, no less than in the spirit of music, has been extraordinarily rapid in recent years. Everywhere the tendency is the same, a reaction against established laws.” Exemplary, she said, of such iconoclasm was Stravinsky, “the most representative man today muscially speaking,” as The Misc. reported. “Instead of using the measure as a unit and dividing it always into the same number of beats, he uses a smaller unit and shifts the accent with extraordinary freedom…. The physical shock of unexpectedly recurring accents causes pain at first hearing.” Mlle. Boulanger illustrated her remarks by playing Dreams by the French composer Florent Schmitt and excerpts from Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps and singing melodies by her mentor Gabriel Fauré and by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

Mlle. Boulanger visited Vassar again in 1937 and 1962.

The Years