“Joseph Horowitz is a force in classical music today, a prophet and an agitator”
— The New York Times (2005)
“Both on the page and the stage Horowitz is a formidable presence whose ideology is hard to miss. At the root of his work is his belief that American culture has been crippled by the New World’s unreflexive worship of Europe.”
— Gramophone Magazine (2003)
It’s become my good fortune to regularly produce 50-minute radio documentaries for the National Public Radio newsmagazine “1A” — programs that transcend soundbites.
The Propaganda of Freedom
Coming in September 2023
The perils of equating notions of freedom with artistic vitality – and lessons for today
Eloquently extolled by President John F. Kennedy, the idea that only “free artists” in free societies can produce great art became a bedrock of America’s cultural Cold War. But this dogma defied centuries of historical evidence--to say nothing of achievements within the Soviet Union.
Joseph Horowitz writes: “That so many fine minds could have cheapened freedom by over-praising it, turning it into a reductionist propaganda mantra, is one measure of the intellectual cost of the Cold War.”
In a post-pandemic Afterword, Horowitz assesses the Kennedy Administration’s arts advocacy initiatives and their pertinence to today’s fraught American national identity. He writes: “We are witnessing an erosion of the arts far beyond the arts challenge that worried President Kennedy. . . . The mistrust of federal arts subsidies I today encounter – even within the arts community itself -- is partly a residue, however unnoticed, of the propaganda of freedom.”
Horowitz shows how the efforts of the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom were
distorted by an anti-totalitarian “psychology of exile” traceable to its secretary general, the displaced Russian aristocrat/composer Nicolas Nabokov, and to Nabokov’s hero Igor Stravinsky.
In counterpoint, he investigates personal, social, and political factors that actually shape the creative act. He here focuses on Stravinsky, who in Los Angeles experienced a “freedom not to matter,” and Dmitri Shostakovich, who was both victim and beneficiary of Soviet cultural policies. He also takes a fresh look at cultural exchange and explores paradoxical similarities and differences framing the popularization of classical music in the Soviet Union and the United States.
In closing, Horowitz calls for “greatly increased government support [of the arts] at every level” and writes: “That the Kennedy White House failed to recognize the place of the arts in Soviet Russia says something not just about the Cold War, but about the United States, then and now. . . The United States won the Cold War. The cultural Cold War did not yield a victor.”
Challenging long-entrenched myths, The Propaganda of Freedom newly explores the tangled relationship between the ideology of freedom and ideals of cultural achievement.
THE MARRIAGE: The Mahlers in New York (A Novel)
My first novel tells the story of Gustav and Alma Mahler in New York City (1907-1911). Every Mahler biography known to me is written through European eyes and recapitulates Mahler's own ignorance of the New World — of the teeming musical life of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Marriage is partly conceived as a corrective. It is in fact the first book-length treatment of Mahler in New York ever written.
“The Marriage portrays Mahler with more power and poignancy than anyone else ever has. The writing is so profoundly personal, so searingly intimate, that it is sometimes painful to read.”
— JoAnn Falletta, Music Director, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
"With his unparalleled knowledge of fin-de-siècle classical music in America, Joseph Horowitz [has] brought us closer to Mahler and his wife Alma than any other author I have read. . . . . . . In Gustav and Alma Mahler, Horowitz has created two of classical music’s most convincing fictional portraits."
— Clive Paget, Musical America