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Essay about Fusion of Cultures in the Music of Louis-Moreau Gottschalk

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The American composer and pianist, Louis-Moreau Gottschalk (1829 – 1869), was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of the most culturally diverse areas in America during his time. His father, Edward Gottschalk, was of German-Jewish heritage, and his mother, Aimée de Bruslé, was a Creole of French-Roman Catholic background. The Bruslé family had fled from Haiti to New Orleans because of the rising slave rebellion. Also, his maternal Grandmother Bruslé and Sally, her African-American nurse, were originally from Saint-Dominque. The cultures of Gottschalk’s family resulted in his mixed heritage. His family background most likely triggered an interest in him to travel and tour many places during his musical career. He travelled to places including France, Switzerland, Spain, as well as the West Indies. All of the areas he visited influenced his music in some way.
Gottschalk’s unique blend of exotic cultures was key to perpetual fame during his time. By examining the compositions Bamboula (Op. 2) and Souvenir de Porto Rico (Op. 31), I will demonstrate how Gottschalk’s musical style represents an integration of Creole, New Orleans, West Indian, and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds he was exposed to throughout his life.
Gottschalk was a child prodigy, showing astonishing musical abilities at a young age. His father, against his mother’s wishes, sent him off to study music more intensively in Paris. During his time in Paris, Gottschalk studied piano with Charles Hallé, Camille Stamaty, and later studied composition with Pierre Maleden. Paris was just the beginning of the many places where he would compose some of his finest works.
Bamboula, one of Gottschalk’s early solo piano works, is part of a set of four pieces called the L...


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...Music.” Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root.
(Accessed 2 March 2012).

Perone, James E. Louis Moreau Gottschalk: a bio-bibliography. Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 2002.

Roger D, Abrahams and Nick Spitzer, John F. Szwed, and Robert Farris Thompson.
Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, c2006.

Starr, S. Frederick. Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: University of Illinois Press,
1995.

Thompson, Donald. "Puerto Rico." Grove Music Online. Edited by Deanne Root.
(Accessed 30 January 2012).

Thomas Marrocco, W., Gleason, Harold. “Music in America, An Anthology from
the Landing of the Pilgrims to the Close of the Civil War, 1620-1865”Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 18, No.2. (Accessed January 30, 2012).


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