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English Pastoral Music

From Arcadia to Utopia, 1900-1955

Reclaiming a beloved and lasting music from its critics

Covering works by popular figures like Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst as well as less familiar English composers, Eric Saylor's pioneering book examines pastoral music's critical, theoretical, and stylistic foundations alongside its creative manifestations in the contexts of Arcadia, war, landscape, and the utopian imagination. As Saylor shows, pastoral music adapted and transformed established musical and aesthetic conventions that reflected the experiences of British composers and audiences during the early twentieth century. By approaching pastoral music as a cultural phenomenon dependent on time and place, Saylor forcefully challenges the body of critical opinion that has long dismissed it as antiquated, insular, and reactionary.

"In this landmark study, Eric Saylor sensitively illuminates the contexts and meanings (including many dark currents) of a body of twentieth-century music that remains exceptionally popular with audiences, and yet is still frequently misunderstood and underestimated by critics and musicologists."--Alain Frogley, author of Vaughan Williams's Ninth Symphony

"Eric Saylor's English Pastoral Music is a brilliant new mapping of a repertory much admired but often misunderstood. Juxtaposing visions of Arcadian landscapes with the existential realities of war, Saylor reframes early-twentieth-century pastoral--idyllic and elegiac--as a modernist art form. Rich in biographical, social, and ideological perspectives, this study is both superbly researched and deeply felt."--Philip Rupprecht, author of British Musical Modernism: The Manchester Group and their Contemporaries


Eric Saylor is a professor of musicology at Drake University. He coedited Blackness in Opera and The Sea in the British Musical Imagination.

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