Reception of the Pan American Association of Composers

The Pan American Association of Composers is an organization dedicated to the promotion of experimental contemporary music in the USA, Latin America and Europe. Its main motivation was dedication to the interests of American composers rather than European. Reactions to this music were not always favorable, in fact on many occasions audiences were hostile. Despite set backs, interests were aroused throughout the Western World. The Pan American Association of Composers was founded by Edward Varèse in 1928. It consisted exclusively of composers who were citizens of the countries of North, Central and South America.


“It is the hope of the association that the performance of North American works in Central and South America and of Central and South American works in the United States will promote wider mutual appreciation of the music of the different republics of America, and will stimulate composers to make still greater effort toward creating a distinctive music of the Western Hemisphere.”

– Edward Varèse

The Pan American Association of Composers membership was considered just a formality, consisting of composers only, yet many that were active on behalf of the Association were predominantly concert performers. Its most represented works were those of Latin American composers and represents the first major promotion of twentieth century Latin American composers. Eventually the PAAC would be recognized after presenting concerts more regularly. Charles Ives would fund a trip to Paris with Nicolas Slonimsky as conductor. The first concert was not well received but as with all new things, people grew more receptive of this new music.

“For two hours Nicolas Slonimsky bore down on the Philharmonic musicians until they finally made no secret of their ugly disposition. For an hour and three quarters the public submitted to the noise. But after the cacophonous tumult of Arcana by Varèse, they lost patience. The pandemonium broke loose. It was understandable. Nobody’s ears can stand this music for any length of time. It has nothing to do with music. It does not shock and it does not amuse. It is simply senseless.”

Although the Pan American Association of Composers would die due to neglect, it still accomplished its goal of prompting the composition and performance of the distinctive music of the Americas. It may have never reached the reception it deserved, at least the PAAC’s efforts weren’t entirely in vain.

Jamille Brewster –


Burkholder, J. Peter. “Ives, Charles (Edward).” The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd edition (October 2013) (accessed March 27th, 2017).

Morgan, Paula. “Slonimsky, Nicolas”. Grove Music Online (accessed March 27th, 2017).

Perils, Vivian. “Pan American Association of Composers”. Grove Music Online (accessed March 27th, 2017).

Root, Deane L. “The Pan American Association of Composers (1928-1934)”. Anuario Interamericano de Investigacion Musical, 8 (1972): 49-70.


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