Arthur Farwell: Composer Career and the Most Famous Works

Subject: Art
Pages: 1
Words: 351
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: Bachelor

Personal Background

Arthur Farwell
Figure 1. Arthur Farwell (Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress, n.d.)

Arthur Farwell (1872-1952) was an American composer who devoted his life to promoting a ‘new American music’ which included the elements of traditional Native American and African-American music culture. Although originally, he did not plan to become a professional musician, he ultimately became one of the most influential composers in the history of the U.S., with more than 100 compositions (Library of Congress, n.d.). The composer first studied music under George Whitefield Chadwick and Homer Norris in Boston but later continued his training in Paris as a student of Alexandre Guilmant. Additionally, Farwell wanted to study under Edward MacDowell but could not due to financial reasons.

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Farwell’s evolutionary views were shaped by the existing socio-cultural sentiments among American composers. Indeed, the Indianist Movement that sought to incorporate Indian traditional melodies into Western music and create truly American music affected young Farwell greatly (Song of America, n.d.). In 1901 Farwell established Wa-Wan Press, where he and other composers published their musical and literary works (Song of America, n.d.). Yet, according to his son, after the composer’s death, most of these efforts were abandoned, and Farwell was mostly forgotten (Utsch, 2016). For this reason, many experts claim that he is one of the most underrated musicians in U.S. history.

The List of Famous Works

Composition Opus Year
Dawn 12 1904
Navajo War Dance, No. 2 29 1904
From Mesa and Plain, No. 2 ‘Pawnee Horses’ 20 1905
Impressions of the Wa-Wan Ceremony of the Omahas 21 1906
Three Indian Songs 32 1908
String Quartet ‘The Hako’ 65 1922

My Favorite Piece

Although I generally consider Farwell’s music as very impressive, I think his workpiece that I enjoy the most is Navajo War Dance No. 2, Op.29 (Emanuele Arciuli, 2021). It fascinates me with its interesting rhythmic pattern, dynamism, and combination of low and high notes. Together, they create sensations similar to those that appear while watching the movie when the main character is being chased by someone dangerous – when you are scared and feel a lot of adrenaline.


Emanuele Arciuli. (2021). Navajo war dance No. 2, Op. 29 [Video]. Web.

Library of Congress. (n.d.). Arthur Farwell (1872-1952). Web.

Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress. (n.d.). Arthur Farwell [Photograph]. Web.

Song of America. (n.d.). Arthur Farwell. Web.

Academic experts
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Utsch, G. R. (2016). Remembering American composer Arthur Farwell and his family: An interview with his son, Jonathan. College Music Symposium, 56. Web.