Charles Tomlinson Griffes heralded a new era of twentieth-century internationalism for American music. Rather than restrict himself to writing American nationalistic or German romantic music like most American composers of his time, Griffes built upon his classical background to write eclectic new music that incorporated ideas from around the world, especially from France, Russia, and the Orient.
This thesis looks at the composer in terms of the musical culture in which he lived. It considers issues which affected American musicians and highlights many of the ways Griffes transcended the stylistic limitations of early twentieth-century American music. Analyses of the Piano Sonata of 1917 and the Roman Sketches, Op. 7 reveal Griffes' traditional background, particularly the influence of Liszt, and illustrate Griffes' integration of the forward-looking ideas of Ravel, Scriabin, Schoenberg, and other modern composers, as well as his anticipation of new twentieth-century trends.