From contemporaneous reviews:
“Lots of modern music in town this week on account of the ISCM.”
–Aaron Copland, Handwritten Letter to Leonard Bernstein, May 1941
(archived at the U.S. Library of Congress and available online).
“More important than the music played this past weekend at the first two sessions of the 18th Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music is the fact that it was presented in this country for the first time. …. Whether or not the chaotic conditions abroad were the cause of its being given in the United States this year, we were due for just such recognition in the musical world. In the fifth decade of the twentieth century it may be well said that America has assumed musical leadership. The present festival is the kind of testimony to bear out such an assertion.
“In the Saturday night program two chamber works were played; in the Sunday afternoon session two orchestral numbers. They did not advance the cause of music to any noticeable extent.”
— Miles Kastendieck, “Festival of Modern Music Inaugurated,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 May 1941, p. 4.
“It was a curious and a sad experience to notice in the audience a certain few faces become familiar at previous festivals of this society held in different European cities in years past. For this festival, which has held as one of its objectives the assembling together, on terms of international understanding of the artists of many nations, is today itself a refugee from violence and tyranny overseas.
“[E]arlier festival programs of music by Europeans were disappointing because of the prevailing artificiality and sterility of the music. The European representatives had, however, a certain excuse for this, since conditions abroad have made it very difficult to obtain new music, genuinely representative of various national cultures, at this time. … The Americas have no such excuse, yet the program of music by composers of North, Central, and South America presented … was, if anything, worse than the preceding ones. … There was an audience of good size, and every composer has his friends.”
–Olin Downes, culled from three separate reviews of the festival
published in The New York Times
(“Concert is Given by World Society,” May 20, 1941;
“Chamber Music Program Heard at Library,” May 22, 1941
and “American Music Heard at Museum,” May 24, 1941)