from Six Songs by Ernst Bacon, 1898-1990
In 1927, American composer Henry Cowell founded New Music, a quarterly journal devoted strictly to the publication of modern music. Prior to this journal, there were very few outlets in which American composers could publish their works because most publishing firms were reluctant to invest resources that would result in little or no financial gain. But with the inauguration of New Music, American (and some European) composers were not only afforded an opportunity to publish modern works, but were guaranteed that their works would be distributed to the publication's subscribers. As a result, composers now had a venue for sharing their compositional creations, as well an avenue for income, because any profits made were divided among the contributing composers.
Among the composers who benefited by having works included in the issues of New Music were Ruth Crawford, Charles Ives, Wallingford Riegger, and Carl Ruggles, and Virgil Thomson. Ernst Bacon, who contributed over 200 works to the American art song canon, also benefited from this publication when his Six Songs appeared in the January 1942 issue. The collection features Bacon's settings of the poetry of Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. The first song of the collection, Bacon's setting of Dickinson's "The Banks of the Yellow Sea," is a mournful cantilena with a "slow and nostalgic swing." Because of his ability to compose virile, forthright music to accompany, but not overwhelm, Dickson's delicate, economic poetry, Bacon is considered one of Dickinson's best interpreters.