The Story of George Gershwin Essay - Critical Context

David Ewen

Critical Context

Ewen’s biography of Gershwin is one in a series of books relating to musical composers. This biography, dealing only with Gershwin, places him as one of the most important American composers and certainly as a critical factor in the creation of American music. As a textbook, The Story of George Gershwin is too specialized for the majority of schools, in which music is an elective in which singing or instrumental playing is stressed. For the specialized student, however, the book provides background material that will assist those who are preparing to interpret Gershwin’s work. The work will definitely serve as an excellent resource for the preparation of papers on the life of Gershwin and for the study of biographies in general.

The Story of George Gershwin provides insight into the remarkable success story of a composer whose songs continue to be played and enjoyed by all ages, opening a window into the fascinating, dynamic world of musicians and great artists. Ewen’s treatment highlights the interactions between historical events and the artistic accomplishments of that period, helping the reader understand the effects of economic, social, and political conditions on art. The book also allows young people to understand the drive and obsession that led to Gershwin’s success, and it inspires youthful musicians to continue their efforts, in spite of discouragement.

This biography sets the stage for an understanding of the early twentieth century, in which the world experienced a world war, went through a period of excited revelry and uncontrolled spending, and suffered through the Great Depression. The Story of George Gershwin points out dramatically the relationship between history and its reflection in the music of the world’s artists.