Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Music history of the United States to 1900
The influence of the music of African-Americans has most set the United States apart from that of Western Europe. While African Americans were looked down on by the majority of European-Americans and their culture was denigrated as low class, if not semi-barbaric as late as the 1930s, the music was wildly popular with the general public. The African banjo (a stringed instrument) became common in many styles of US music in the 19th century. Stephen Foster, by far the most popular American composer of that century, incorporated many African American rhythmic notions into his songs. The minstrel show was very popular, and was the first example of American music widely exported abroad. Perhaps the most important characteristic of African music, which survives to the present, is call and response, in which the singer(s) present a lyrical phrase and the audience issues some sort of reply. This characteristic has been present in African American music from spirituals to hip hop, and can be found in white-dominated country, rock and other genres.
Interestingly, some West-African melodies, such as "Lucy Long" and "Old Dan Tucker", were retained by white country musicians decades after they fell out of the repertory of the descendants of the Africans who brought the tunes over.
Prior to the late 19th century, U.S. music was dominated by occasional songs of great popularity. Examples include "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Dixie," "Jump Jim Crow," "Oh Susana ," "Oh My Darling, Clementine," "The Old Folks at Home ," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Just Before the Battle, Mother ," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." African-American spirituals were also popular, and were even played for Queen Victoria in 1871; she is said to have been moved to tears by the performance.
The upper-class during the colonial era promoted ensembles who played serenades, feldparthien and divertimenti , such as those composed by Mozart and Haydn. Natural horns and bassoons provided harmonic support for the melodic line, played by clarinets and oboes. Thomas Jefferson suggested this instrumentation for the U.S. Marine Band , and asked fourteen Italian-American musicians to form the nucleus of that influential group, and thus these ensembles were the origin of the American brass band tradition, which flourished in the 19th century, having moved from upper-class entertainment to that of the common folk.
Opera was also popular; the first opera to be performed in the US was Giovanni Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona in 1790. In 1883, sixty-five Italian-American musicians formed the orchestra at the newly-opened Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, which would become an important venue for opera in the country.
Western European opera and classical music provided the underpinnings for modern American music. Many claim that the first form of distinctly American music was jazz, which arose as a fusion of African and European forms (though most scholars would point to Native American music, Civil War ballads or the First New England School). African music provided the incessant rhythms and emotional qualities, while Europe contributed a focus on melody and harmony. The result was well-suited for both popular consumption (through simplified genres like ragtime and swing) as well as artistic works of great passion (eventually including avant-garde styles like bebop).
Native American music
Main article: Native American music
Native Americans had no indigenous traditions of classical music, nor a secular song tradition. Their music was spiritual in nature, performed usually in groups in a ritual setting important to their religion ; for some groups, music was the primary means of worship, and song was regarded as a direct link to the divine. Though many Native Americans claim their songs are unchanged since ancient times, there is no proof of thus (due to a lack of written records). Many songs were improvised .
For a long time, and continuing into the present, many American beginner's guides to learning the piano contain a song purported to be Native American in origin. In reality, these songs have little or no relationship to actual Native American styles, and are merely a vehicle to introduce left-handed repeated harmonic fifths or the minor mode in the melody.
It was not until the 1890s that Native American music began to enter the American establishment. At the time, the first pan-tribal cultural elements, such as powwows, were being established, and composers like Edward MacDowell and Henry F. B. Gilbert used Native themes in their compositions. It was not until the much later work of Arthur Farwell , however, that an informed representation of Native music was brought into the American classical scene.
Appalachian folk music
Main article: Appalachian folk music
The Appalachian Mountains have long been a center for cultural innovation, in spite of only sparse settlement by Native Americans and Europeans alike. Due to complex geologic reasons, the mountains and subranges were difficult to cross and included ridges of uninhabitable quartz mixed with valleys of soil unsuitable for agriculture. As a result, immigration of Europeans and their African slaves tended to be southern in direction, along the Piedmont area, and the Appalachian region was populated by poor Europeans, many of Irish or Scottish descent. This settlement occurred primarily from 1775 to 1850.
Celtic folk tunes and ballads continued evolving from their distant roots along the Appalachians, eventually forming the major basis for jug bands, country blues, hillbilly music and a hodge-podge of other genres which eventually became country music. These folk tunes adopted characteristics from multiple sources, including British broadside ballads (which switched their themes from love to a distinctly American preoccupation with masculine work like mining or sensationalistic disasters and murder), African folk tunes (and their lyrical focus on semi-historical events) and minstrel shows and music halls. Popular ballads included "Barbara Allen" and "Black Is the True Color of My Love's Hair ". The banjo was also introduced, having gone through numerous geographic movements since its invention by the Arabians and subsequent travel across Africa, the Atlantic and throughout the Americas.
Main article: Fiddle
A Scottish fiddler named Neil Gow is usually credited with developing (during the 1740s) the short bow sawstroke technique that defined Appalachian fiddling. This technique was altered during the next century, with European waltzes and polkas being most influential. Square dances, based on the cotillion, and cakewalks, an African American imitation of white dances and the Virginia Reel arose during the 19th century.
Main article: Lined-out hymnody
Lined-out hymnody, a religious music style perpetuated by the Old Regular Baptists, Primitive Baptists, et al., is often studied and classified as folk music. See Old Regular Baptist, Lined-Out Hymnody
New England colonial music
Main article: New England colonial music
The religious singing traditions of New England played an important role in the early evolution of American music. Beginning with the Pilgrim colonists, who brought the Ainsworth Psalter with them to the New World, church hymns were popular across the region. Common New Englanders soon developed their own traditions, which were viewed by some as degenerate and wanton.
New England choral traditions
The original Puritan immigrants to New England sang a number of spiritual psalms, but generally disliked secular music, or at least those varieties which they viewed as encouraging immorality and disorder. They also objected to the use of musical instruments in churches and a complex vocal liturgy, both being associated with Roman Catholicism. The well-known minister Cotton Mather wrote, in Directions for a Candidate of the Ministry, on the subject:
- For MUSIC, I know not what well to day.--Do as you please. If you Fancy it, I don't Forbid it. Only do not for the sake of it, Alienate your Time too much, from those that are more Important Matters. It may be so, that you may serve your GOD the better, for the Refreshment of One that can play well on an Instrument. However, to accomplish yourself at Regular Singing, is a thing that will be of Daily Use to you. For I would not have a Day pass without Singing, but so at the same to make a Melody in your Heart unto the Lord;... (quoted in Chase, p. 4, emphasis in that)
The Ainsworth Psalter provided most of the tunes in use in New England church music until the late 17th century, when congregations began abandoned the Psalter, claiming the tunes were too complex and difficult to sing.
The Bay Psalme Book (The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre) was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640; it was the first book of any kind printed in the English colonies of North America. It became the standard used by New England churches for many years, though it contained no music itself, merely providing psalms and pointing readers to other prominent publications. The Bay Psalm Book was faithful to its source, but did not produce beautiful singing. In 1651, then, a third edition was created, and became known as the New England Psalm Book ; this became the standard for many years. By this point, the evolution from the Ainsworth Psalter to the New England Psalm Book had steadily dwindled the number of tunes in use.
The practice of lining out was often common, though its presence and utility depended on the degree of illiteracy found in congregation -- generally, illiteracy was common, as was lining out. This was the process of a leader presenting one line of a song, then maintaining the first note for the congregation to match as they responded with the same line. This technique was also common in churches of Appalachia, such as the Regular Baptists of Kentucky.
The organ and the birth of the church band
Organs were the only instrument in use in church music during this era, and even this was not without controversy. Some claimed it to be inappropriate to use the organ in a religious setting. Indeed, after the death of Thomas Brattle, treasurer of Harvard College in 1713, he bequeathed his organ to the Brattle Square Church in Boston, but the church (which he had founded) did not think it proper, and gave it to the King's Chapel, which was the Church of England. Still, the organ was used in other New England churches. The first organ said to be designed for church use was installed in Newport, Rhode Island in 1733. Organs, however, were expensive and difficult to play. Only the largest churches could afford an organ and organist, and so many used more portable instruments, such as the bass fiddle, which was appellated "God's fiddle" to distinguish it from the much-maligned "Devil's fiddle" (violin), though there is no hard difference between any kind of fiddle and violin. Later, other instruments like the ophicleide, trombone, cornet, German flute, bassoon, violin and clarinet were added, thus birthing the church band.
Secular folk music
Though it had long been supposed that the religious aversion to secular music inhibited instrumental folk music in New England, recent research by Barbara Lambert, focused on the Boston area, shows otherwise. Personally-owned instruments recorded included the cittern, virginals, soprano clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, fife, flute, viol and violin and fiddle.
Despite some hostility on the part of ministers like Increase Mathers , dance music was popular in the New England colonial era, especially by the early 18th century, as the local population boomed with an influx of more settlers.
Though there is much in primary sources referring to folk music of the time, it is virtually all written by those who condemned the songs as uncouth. As such, little is objectively known. There was a distinction between the "Regular Singing" style of zealous reformers, mostly clergymen educatd at Harvard, and the "Common Way" of the folk. Reformers included prominent clergymen like Thomas Walter and Nathaniel Chauncey , many of whom regarded their style of "regular" singing as more sophisticated as well as more devout. The evidence, however, indicates that the common people's music was more complex, using techniques like ornamentation.
The formation of schools and societies promoting regular singing helped to spread the practice, and instruction books were published.
John Wesley's legacy and the spread south
In the 18th century, Americans composed a number of their own hymns, often based off the Old Testament; the English nonconformist Isaac Watts, especially his Hymns and Spiritual Songs , was also very popular. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, played a major role in revivalist hymnody after a trip to Georgia in 1735 at the invitation of James Oglethorpe. Wesley and his brother, Charles Wesley, went with Oglethorpe and twenty-six Moravian missionaries. The Moravian singing inspired John Wesley to study their music. He published a collection of translations of German hymns in 1737, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns, then return to England in 1738, attending meetings of the Moravian Brethren in London. There, during a reading of Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley had a spiritual experience and found his faith in Christ rejuvenated.
Main article: Great Awakening
After returning to America, Wesley became an important preacher in a rise of fervent Christianity called the Great Awakening, along with George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, among others. Wesley and his brother began writing a number of hymns, at first just words, and then with music beginning with a collection usually called the Foundery Collection .
Wesley and some other preachers fought against the embellishment of his hymns. In 1761, Wesley's collection Select Hymns, with Tunes Annext: Designed Chiefly for Use of the People Called Methodists directly singers to follow the tunes "exactly as printed" and to "sing in tune"; both directions were impractical, since most of the worshippers likely couldn't read music or carry a tune.
Nevertheless, the Great Awakening (and other hymnal styles from New England) spread south and changed from Wesley's strict formulas. John Cennick (known for widespread hymns like "Jesus My All to Heaven Is Gone ") and John Newton are likely the two most important individuals in the creation of Great Awakening-era hymns, which were sung at camp meetings. These hymns, sung at large gatherings, especially in the south, provided a basis for gospel and blues in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of the common features included Cennick's innovation of hymns sung as a dialogue, as well as Newton, a former slave trader who converted after reading On the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, whose wrote more than two hundred hymns that drew on his own experiences wrestling with sin, and proved extremely popular.
First New England School
Main article: First New England School
Compared with the older songs, Wesley and other new composers wrote with a simple structure. Rural farmers and workers expanded on these structures, creating complex songs which some musical conservatives railed against to no avail. It was in this context that a wave of itinerant singing masters, including William Billings, arose, creating hymns that remain standard across the country. This field was called the First New England School . Following Billings' pioneering footsteps were Supply Belcher, Andrew Law, Daniel Read, Jacob Kimball , Jeremiah Ingalls , John Wyeth , James Lyon , Oliver Holden , Justin Morgan and Timothy Swan .
The First New England School is usually considered the first uniquely American invention in music. The most characteristic feature was that the voices, male and female respectively, doubled their parts in any octave in order to fill out the harmony; this generated a texture of close-position chords that was unknown in European traditions.
William Billings was of special importance and popularity. A native of Boston, Billings was a tanner by trade, and was mainly self-taught in music. He did not always follow the standard rules of composition in his works, and has thus been called the "first American composer to emphasize strongly a creative independence and to flaunt his personal idiosyncracies in both his music and (especially) his published writings".
Supply Belcher, born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, though later based out of Farmington, Maine, is also especially well-known. His only published tunebook was 1794's The Harmony of Maine, which included anthems, fuging pieces, psalms and hymns, a number of which were secular. His songs were distinctively folky and down-to-earth. His contemporary Daniel Read, a Massachusetts-born musician who later moved to New Haven, Connecticut, was a popular musician who supported himself almost entirely off the sale of tunebooks. His first publication was entitled The American Singing Book; or, a New and Easy Guide to the Art of Psalmody Devised for the Use of Singing Schools in America. The title's use of psalmody is here referring to singing societies which were spreading across the country, and is used without religious connotations.
Billings, Belcher and Read were the beginning of a chain of tunebook compilers that grew increasingly secular, as the art of psalmody lost its religious importance. Other Massachusetts-born compilers followed in their footsteps, beginning with Jeremiah Ingalls of Newbury, Vermont. Their songs were generally fuges , and were disapproved of by religious authorities. Andrew Law was an important compiler as well; he felt that American music should be more like European, and is best known for organizing singing schools and tunebooks. In addition, he composed several songs of note, and invented a kind of musical notation called shape note.
Main article: Shape note
The music of New England quickly spread south, facilitated by the invention of the shape note notation. Andrew Law was the prime mover of shape note, which was a system of notation using different symbols for each of the four syllables used (in the fa-so-la-mi tradition). Later, three more symbols were added to correspond to the modern solfege. The different schools of shape-note singing are sometimes referred to as fasola .
In 1801, contemporaneous with Law, William Smith and William Little published The Easy Instructor , a textbook for choral teachers, using the shape-note system, which helped popularize the technique, at least in the South and Appalachia. Law and Smith and Little's systems can be differentiated by the lack of a staff in Law's version.
The end of popularity for shape-note in New England can be credited to Lowell Mason and Thomas Hastings . The tradition lived on in the south, and many of the hymns there composed remain well-known today. Some have been preserved due to the efforts of collections like William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835) and Ananias Davisson's Kentucky Harmony (1817). Davisson's Kentucky Harmony was published in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and included pieces taken from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's John Wyeth 's earlier shape-note collection, Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second (1813); Davisson even claimed some of Wyeth's compositions as his own, though it is likely that many or most had a folk origin. Davisson gave the principal melody to tenor singers, establishing a tradition that remained for many years. Walker's Southern Harmony sold more than 600,000 copies, an astonishing number for the time, using songs from William Billings, Singin' Billy Walker and Lowell Mason, as well as composer Handel.
By the 1860s, seven-note singing, written using shape-notes, were becoming increasingly popular and were regarded by many as more proper and correct. The German collector Joseph Funk was especially important in establishing this transition.
Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King published The Sacred Harp in 1844, using the shape note tradition as a basis for Sacred Harp music. This has become the most well-known modern form of shape-note singing.
The Shakers, or United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming , were a religion founded in Manchester, England by Ann Lee (Mother Ann). Lee had been born poor, and worked as a child in a cotton factory before her parents married her to a blacksmith. After giving birth to four children, all of whom died in infancy, Mother Ann came to view sexual intercourse as evil. Celibacy became an integral part of her religion; she was jailed for disturbing the Sabbath in 1772. Two years later, Shakers started moving to North America, settling in New England as far south as New York. Though their strange customs and British mannerisms caused some hostility by the colonists, as the American Revolutionary War was brewing, the Shakers grew in number and eventually spread as far south as Kentucky. Though Mother Ann died in 1784, the rituals she designed, which she claimed to have seen in visions, included passionate dances that were part of a battle between the holy Shakers and the devil and the flesh.
In 1762, Charlestown, South Carolina became the home of the St. Cecilia Society , the first musical society in North America. At the time, Charleston was a cultural center, attracting a number of musicians from Europe. Following the Revolution, more northern cities like Philadelphia, New York and Boston largely took Charleston's place. Philadelpha, home of the esteemed Alexander Reinagle, John Christopher Moller , Rayner Taylor and Susannah Haswell Rowson , was especially renowned for musical development. Reinagle became the most influential figure in Philadelphia's musical life, organizing a number of concerts, organizations and musical events.
The English singer Benjamin Carr was especially notable. He arrived in New York in 1793, along with his brother and father. They soon became prominent music publishers and vendors, owning stores in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Carr himself was a composer, organist, pianist and a publisher and editor. They published, in Philadelphia, "The President's March " in 1793; written by Phillip Phile , "The President's March" is one of the most enduring of American patriotic songs. The march was soon politicized, adopted by the Federalists as a rallying song.
The British James Hewitt was one of the most distinguished musicians of early American history. He was already renowned in London before moving across the Atlantic, accompanied by Belgian composer and violinist Jean Gehot . Hewitt became established in New York, organizing concerts and other musical events. His opera Tammany; or, The Indian Chief became controversial after its first performance. It was the first American opera to deal with Native Americans, and was sponsored by the New York Tammany Society , an anti-Federalist organization. Hewitt was the target of much invective from Federalists as a result.
The English organist, choirmaster and composer William Selby was a major figure in Boston's musical life, along with the Dutch organist, violinist and composer Peter Albrecht van Hagen and German oboist Johann Christian Gottlieb Graupner .
Gentleman amateur composers
The great urban centers of the mid-Atlantic included cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, and it was there that European classical traditions were best represented. Philip Phile , Johann Friedrich Peter and Alexander Reinagle were prominent composers of the era, though Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Philadelphia, remains the most well-known. One of his compositions, "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free ", is well-remembered as the first art song from the United States (though this is disputed); it is, however, lacking in originality and innovation to set it apart from European compositions.
At the time, professional musicians were looked-down upon and considered coarse. Gentlemen performers played often, mostly for other aristocratic audiences, and without pay. As the United States developed, the south became the land of deep socioeconomic divisions. Land ownership and the possession of chattel slavery became an integral component of a gentleman's livelihood, while in the north, the idea of a landed aristocracy never carried as much weight.
Main article: Lowell Mason
Perhaps the most influential early composer was Lowell Mason. A native of Boston, Mason campaigned against the use of shape-note notation, and for the education in standard notation. He worked with local institutions to release collections of hymns and maintain his stature. Opposed to the shape-note tradition, Mason pushed American music towards a European model.
Rural Pennsylvanian music
Main article: Music of Pennsylvania
Rural Pennsylvania in the colonial era was home to religious minorities like the Quakers, as well as important Moravian and Lutheran communities. While the Quakers had few musical traditions, Protestant churches frequently made extensive use of music in worship J. F. Peter emerged from the Moravian tradition, while Conrad Beissel (founder of the Ephrata Cloister) innovated his own system of harmonic theory. The Lutheran traditions of Johann Sebastian Bach, Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel and Walther were propagated in Pennsylvania, and the city of Bethlehem remains a center of Lutheran musical traditions today.
Main article: Mennonite
The Mennonites, followers of Menno Simon , settled in Germantown after emigrating from the German Palatinate and Switzerland between 1683 and 1748. They were led by Willem Rittinghuysen (grandfather of astronomer and mathematician David Rittenhouse). The Mennonites used a hymnbook from Schaffhausen, reprinted in Germantown in 1742 as Der Ausbund" Das ist etliche schöne christliche Lieder .
Main article: Ephrata Cloister
The Ephrata Cloister (Community of the Solitary) was founded in what is now Lancaster County on the Cocalico River in 1720. This was a group of Seventh-Day Baptists led by Peter Miller and Conrad Beissel, who believed in using music as an integral part of worship. Beissel codified the Ephrata Cloister's unique tradition in his Beissel's Dissertation on Harmony; here, he divided notes into two types. These were masters, or notes belonging to the common chord, and servants, or all other notes. Accented syllables in Beissel's works always fell on master notes, leaving servant notes for unaccented syllables. The Ephrata Cloister's hymnbook was large, consisting of more than 1,000 hymns, many of which were accompanied by instruments including the violin. Many of these hymns were published in the 1740s and 50s.
Main article: Moravian Church
Founded in 1457, the Moravian Church originally spread across Moravia, Poland and Bohemia before persecution forced the remaining faithful to Saxony, where they lived under the protection of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf . Zinzendorf wrote hymns, and led the Moravians to America, where they began missionary work in Georgia but with little success. They moved on to Pennsylvania, and founded the town of Bethlehem on the banks of the Lehigh River. A group then left for Salem, North Carolina (now a part of Winston-Salem).
Both in Salem and Bethlehem, Moravians continued to use music in their ceremonies. Instruments included organs and trombones, and voices were usually in choirs. Players generally played on rooftops for most any occasion, ensuring that they could be heard for great distances. A legend has arisen claiming that a group of Native American warriors approachied a Moravian settlement during the French and Indian War, but left after hearing a trombone choir because they believed it to be the voice of their Great Spirit. Moravians were devoted to missionary work, especially among African slaves and Native Americans; in 1763, they published a collection of hymns in the Delaware language .
Moravians also had a tradition of secular art music that included the famed composer Johann Friedrich Peter , who was a German born in Holland who emigrated to Bethlehem in 1770. He brought with him copies of compositions by Joseph Haydn, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Johann Stamitz and C. F. Abel . After living in Bethlehem for a time, Peter moved to Salem, where he founded the Collegium Musicum (in 1786) and collected hundreds of symphonies, anthems and oratorios. It was during this period that Peter also composed a number of well-respected instrumental pieces for twio violins, two violas and a cello; he also composed sacred anthems like "It Is a Precious Thing " and arias like "The Lord Is in His Holy Temple ".
The Moravian Church continued to produce a number of renowned composers into the 19th century, including John Antes as well as Francis F. Hagen , Johann Christian Bechler , Edward W. Leinbach , Simon Peter, David Moritz Michael , Georg Gottfried Müller , Peter Wolle , Jeremiah Dencke and Johannes Herbst . Herbst was also a noted collector, whose archives, left to the Salem church after his death, were made public in 1977; these included more than 11,000 pages of content. Salem has gradually become the center for Moravian musical innovation, partially due to the presence of the Moravian Music Foundation .
Main article: Pietism
In 1694, Johannes Kelpius brought a group of German Pietists to the bands of the Wissahickon River . These became known as the Hermits or Mystics of the Wissahickon. Kelpius was himself a musician, and he and his followers brought with them instruments that became an integral part of church life. In 1703, Justus Falckner was ordained as pastor of the Gloria Dei Church ; Falckner evidently believed that music was a very important element of missionary work, writing to Germany to ask for an organ, which he said would attract more Native American converts. Falckner was a Lutheran who wrote hymns such as "Rise, Ye Children of Salvation ". Kelpius was also a composer, and is sometimes called the first Pennsylvanian composer, based on his unproven authorship of several hymns in The Lamenting Voice of the Hidden Love . It is likely that he wrote the text, though the tunes are mostly based on German songs; the English translations in the collection are attributed to Christopher Witt , an Englishman who immigrated and joined the mystics, also building the a pipe organ, said to be the fist privately-owned organ in North America.
Main article: African American music
Brought to the United States as early as 1619, African slaves were from a variety of tribes from West Africa, including the Ashanti, Yoruba, Bini , Congo and Dahomean tribes. They spoke hundreds of languages; some came from rival tribes, or isolated communities with little connection to anyone else until the arrival of the slave traders. Some of the larger groups had extensive contact with the Muslims of North Africa and the distant cultures of East and Southern Africa.
Slaves brought with them work songs, religious music and dance, and a wide variety of instruments, including kalimba, xylophone, flutes and rattles. Perhaps the most important characteristic, however, was the call-and-response vocal style, in which a singer and the audience trade lines back-and-forth. This practice lent itself well to the burgeoning New England hymn tradition, and the two fields began commingling early in the nation's history. Another unusual characteristic of much African music is that, rather than begin and end a tune or phrase on a pure note as in Western music, African singers would slide onto or below the note.
The most distinctive component of African music, however, is the focus on the rhythm. In this respect, African folk styles are far more complex than anything developed anywhere else in the world. African music is usually polyrhythmic, made by a wide variety of percussion instruments, both pitched and unpitched, using numerous kinds of natural materials. Polythythms were imported along with slaves to the New World, where it has found its way to genres ranging from African American gospel to pop-swing and rock and roll.
Many slaveowners encouraged their slaves to sing as they work, believing that it improved morale and made the slaves work harder. They generally required that all tunes remain cheerful and pleasant in tone to ensure that this occurred. This music, when accompanied, used only a single drum or other object used for percussion. Since they were often without instruments, clapping and foot-stomping became an integral part of slave music. The banjo and various kinds of drums were the most important instruments, but African slaves also used varieties of panpipes, notched gourds played with a scraper (similar to a güiro) and rattles. The thumb piano was also known, similar to the African mbira or sanza. In addition, blacks soon mastered European instruments like the clarinet, oboe, French horn and, most importantly, the violin. Often, prominent gentlemen had black slaves act as musicians and entertainers. Some became quite prominent, like Virginia's Sy Gilliat , who performed at state balls in Williamsburg. His assistant after the capitol moved to Richmond was known as London Brigs and was a renowned player.
Main article: Drums
African slaves in places like Haiti, Brazil and the Dominican Republic retained the use of drums, and their percussion has formed an integral part of Afro-Caribbean and Latin music. In the British North American colonies, however, drums were prohibited; colonial masters had feared drums would be used as communication between slaves, and that their use may aid uprisings and rebellions. Drums did, however, remain a prominent part of the music of the French colony of Louisiana.
Africans in Louisiana
Main article: Louisiana Creole
In Louisiana, drums remained legal well into the 19th century. There, African slaves, many from the Caribbean islands, danced in large groups, often in circle dances. As of 1817, dancing in New Orleans had been restricted to the area called Congo Square , which was a hotbed of musical fusionism, as African styles from across America and the Caribbean met. Nevertheless, by 1820, opposition from whites in New Orleans and an influx of blacks elsewhere in the US caused the decline of Congo Square's prominence. The tradition of mass dances in Congo Square continued sporadically, though it came to have more in common with minstrelsy than with authentic African traditions.
Caribbean dances known to have been imported to Louisiana include the calenda , congo , counjai and bamboula . The congo had also been known earlier, mentioned as a social dance in colonial Richmond, Virginia.
Main article: Banjo
The banjo was a feature of slave life in America, mentioned by Thomas Jefferson, for example, in his Notes on the State of Virginia , which refers to it as a banjar, and notes that the instrument came from Africa. Other names included bangoe, banshaw, bangelo, banza, bangil and banjer. The instrument was described in West Africa as early as 1620 by Richard Jobson, but was present for some time before.
In North America, the banjo was typically made by hollowing out a gourd or calabash and attaching a long neck. The slaves then stretched a piece of animal hide, usually raccoon, over the bowl and attached four strings. Jefferson claimed that the banjar with which he was familiar was tuned to E-A-d-g.
Main article: Spiritual
In the 1830s, a Great Awakening of fervent Christianity began, leading to popular spiritual song traditions. During this period, the country was undergoing a religious revival that centered around outdoor worship gatherings (camp meetings), where hymns (camp songs) were sung, as well as itinerant preachers called circuit riders. The period began early in the century, with the first camp meeting occurring in July 1800 in Logan County, Kentucky. This was followed by an 1801 meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky which lasted for six days and attracted ten to twenty thousand people. Though originally run by Presbyterian ministers, Methodists and Baptists soon took over. Methodists brought with them hymns, written by John Wesley and his followers, which became very popular. Many songs were semi-improvised, stitched together out of wandering verses that were used in a number of different songs.
The Shakers also played a role in the Great Awakening, and their music, which included both hymns and work songs, began diversifying greatly during this period (1837-1848). The most well-known Shaker song, "Simple Gifts " (adapted by Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring), came from this period. Most of the new hymns were called "gift songs", and were revealed to the initiate in a vision by the spirits of Mother Ann, the sect's founder, angels, other historical figures or other races, such as Native Americans. They were not written at first, but eventually the Shakers created their own form of musical notation, and composers like Issachar Bates became renowned. By the end of the 1940s, Shaker meetings were a popular entertainment for non-Shakers.
African-Americans, still mostly enslaved, were not generally allowed to participate, they watched, and were inspired to use African vocal styles and rhythms with the English hymns. These songs were called Negro spirituals. While many were songs praising God or Jesus, others contained coded messages to fellow slaves and rhetoric or symbolically demanding freedom. Spirituals like "Steal Away to Jesus " communicated an impending escape, while "Let My People Go " and "Go Down Moses" overtly concerned Biblical Hebrew slaves as a symbol for African slaves.
Musically, spirituals were a descendent of New England choral traditions mixed with African rhythms and call-and-response forms. Shape-note hymns from the First New England School spread south, and were popular there long after New England had moved on. The hymns were simplified to the extreme, until they were nothing more than a tune and some religious lyrics; interacting with African American slave songs, the result was the spiritual tradition.
Main article: Blues
Following the Civil War, a form of song developed with some distinctive characteristics that may be of ancient origin, perhaps related to the call-and-response format. These songs consisted of three 4-bar phrases. The first two were identical and described a problem, beginning on the implied tonic and subdominant harmonies respectively. The third phrase indicates a reaction to the problem described and begins on the implied dominant harmony. All three phrases cadence on a sustained tonic occupying the third and fourth bar.
Main article: Ragtime
In the 1890s, more sophisticated African-American styles of the cakewalk and then ragtime music started to become popular. Originally associated primarily with poor African Americans, ragtime was quickly denounced as degenerate by conservatives and the classically trained establishment. In spite of the denigration, however, the style continued to gain widespread popularity and became mainstream; it was adopted by Tin Pan Alley at the start of the 20th century.
Ragtime shared similarities with both blues and jazz, the two rival forms of African American music at the time. It was primarily piano-based, and could be performed by a single person (more like the blues) or by an entire orchestra (more like jazz). Scott Joplin was the most famous ragtime musician.
Popularization of slave music
Main article: African American music
In the 1820s, genteel English-styled ballads were popular in urban areas. Many of the songwriters, however, were looking for something new, and were connected with the growing abolitionism movement, which sought to abolish slavery; these included most famously the Hutchinson Family Singers . The 1840s saw increased awareness of African American musical traditions, culminating in the publication of the first collection of African American songs, The Negro Singer's Own Book (1846). Some songwriters, including John Hill Hewitt and Stephen Foster, sought to incorporate what was then called Ethiopian music into their compositions. Songs with simple melodies and delicately-incorporated ornamentations like suspensions and appogiaturas were popular, including "I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair " and "My Darling Clementine". These songs, especially those by Foster, could be considered the beginning of American popular music . It has been called beginning of the "increasing influence of the Afro-American style of song and dance in American life" (Stearns and Stearns, Jazz Dance, quoted in Chase, 232).
Main article: Minstrel
Solo performers in blackface were well-known by the middle of the 19th century. Similar parodies of Africans had been popular during the late 18th century in England, and they spread across the Atlantic through the efforts of comedians like Charles Matthews , Thomas Rice and George Washington Dixon . Rice remains perhaps the best known, chiefly through the historical importance of his "Jump Jim Crow". The first minstrel group was probably the Virginia Minstrels, who performing in 1843 in New York City (Chase, 232), though E. P. Christy 's four-man show in Buffalo, New York the year before is another contender. Many other groups soon followed, usually using a banjo, violin, castanets and tambourine. Thomas Rice and other blackface entertainers adapted to minstrelsy; Rice wrote operas like Bone Squash Diavolo before his popularity declined in the 1850s. Another minstrel opera group was the Kneass Opera Troupe , which did blackface parodies of Rossini's La cenerentola , Balfe 's The Bohemian Girl and Auber's Fra diavolo . These parodies were given titles like Son-Am-Bull-Ole for a parody of Bellini's La somnambula , the invented title being a humorous reference to the violinist Ole Bull. Minstrel shows spread to London by 1846m and remained a major fixture in London until at least the 1880s.
By the end of the civil war, minstrel groups had appeared featuring actual black performers. Though their styles were no more similar to actual slave practices than those of the white minstrels, these groups billed themselves as more "authentic" and grew popular. Since many of the performers were light-skinned, black performers still rubbed their faces in cork, and entertained in blackface. This practice peaked in about 1872, having produced such stars as banjoist Horace Weston and comedian Billy Kersands .
Often said to be the first two important composers in American musical history, Emmett and Foster were songwriters, focusing on minstrel songs. They wrote many of the most popular songs of the century, some of which are still remembered today.
Emmett was born in Ohio to a family who immigrated from Virginia. He was uneducated but musically gifted, and eventually wound up in the Virginia Minstrels. He was familiar the music of the southern states, and his songs reflected his awareness of southern culture. These included "Old Dan Tucker " and "De Boatman's Dance ". Emmett's "Johnny Roach " includes the first use of the word Dixie to describe the south (Chase, 240). That song is one of several from the period written from the point-of-view of an escaped slave who pines for the plantation he has escaped from. Emmett wrote this song after joining Bryant's Minstrels in 1858, when tensions across the country were high, and controversy raged surrounding slavery, state's rights and the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Emmett's use of Dixie was as a personal name, given to a black postboy, and may have been used as to indicate that the character, played by a white actor, was in fact black. Emmett's later song "I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land", later popularized simply as "Dixie", was the beginning of the term's use to refer to the south. The song was an instant success, and soon became embroiled in a copyright dispute between several publishers. The song was so popular it was even played at the inauguaration of Jefferson Davis, and was re-claimed as a patriotic northern song by Abraham Lincoln at the end of the war.
Stephen Foster wrote numerous songs that remain well-known today, including "Camptown Races ", "Oh! Susanna ", "Old Folks at Home" and "Ching a Ring Shaw ". The last, technically titled "Sambo's Address to He' Bred'rin", urges its audience to emigrate to "Hettee" (Haiti, perceived as a "Negro Republic" in the Western Hemisphere).
Foster was born in 1926 to a farming family in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He played the piano as a youth and learned the rules of the "genteel", or upper-class traditions, though he was also fascinated by comin blackface songs. His first published composition was 1844's "Open Thy Lattice, Love", which was based on words by George Pope Morris and had previously been adapted for music by Joseph Philip Knight . In addition to the renowned blackface songs, Foster also wrote such parlor songs as "What Must a Fairy's Dream Be?" and "Molly! Do You Love Me?".
Main article: Banjo
The banjo entered the American national consciousness in the middle of the 19th century. Though originally only four-stringed, a five-stringed banjo was standard by the 1840s; this change is often credited to Virginia's only major blackface performer, Joel Walker Sweeney . The instrument is widely used in many kinds of African American folk music, and is likely descended from one or more African instruments. It is now a major element of popular music, especially country and bluegrass.
Main article: Blackface
A component of minstrel shows, blackface performances included white (or, more rarely, African American) singers dressed in bizarre costumes, their faces marked black with burnt cork, singing in a caricature of African American Vernacular English. Composers included E. P. Christy , Daniel Decatur Emmett and Thomas Rice; the latter's "Jump Jim Crow" was an immensely popular song, so well-known and widely-played that foreign leaders mistook it for the American national anthem. Other songs typically performed in blackface included "Camptown Races ", "Old Dan Tucker ", "Dixie", "Old Folks at Home", "Old Black Joe ", "Turkey in the Straw" and "O Dem Golden Slippers ".
Main article: Brass band
The early 1850s saw a growth in the development of brass band music. Brass bands were made up of brass and woodwinds, especially the E-flat cornet and soprano saxhorn. Many of these bands were associated with an Army regiment, while others were associated with the workers at a particular factory. Employers urging their employees to form bands were common in the United Kingdom at the time, and the practice spread through immigration to the US. These factory bands' concerts were probably rowdy affairs, with musicians and listeners dancing wildly with no spatial split between them. British bands were all amateurs, but America produced many professional ensembles as well.
John C. Linehan described the spirit of American brass bands, and specifically the Fisherville Cornet Band, formed immediately before the Civil War:
- (The band's) engagement by the Horse Guards, although a matter of pride, was nevertheless an occasion of dismay, for the boys for the first time in their lives had to play on horseback. As nearly all of them were novices in this direction the outlook was serious, for it is a question if there were half a dozen of the number that had ever straddled a horse. When the proposition was first broached in the band room, one of the saddest looking men was the leader, Loren Currier. He said he would vote to accept on one condition, and that was if a horse could be secured large enough to have them all ride together and give him a place in the middle. The proposition was, however, accepted. . . . It was a moving sight (the moving was all towards the ground, however), and the bucking broncos of the Wild West Show furnished no more sport, while it lasted, than did the gallant equestrians of the Fisherville Band while trying to train their horses to march and wheel by fours.
Besides the English tradition, German, Italian and Irish immigrants also had a major impact on the American brass band tradition. Forty-two professional German musicians, for example, formed the Seventh Regiment Band, one of the most famous brass bands during the 1850s and the only exclusively regimental band of the period; the bandleader, who went by the name Noll, used brass and reed instruments in duo proportion. German bandleader Friendrich Wilhelm Wieprecht was also influental, collecting full scores for his compilation of instrumentations of popular works, für die jetzige Stimmenbesetzung . Instruments included the bassoon, contrabassoon, bass tuba, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piccolo, oboe, French horn, saxhorn, drums and cymbal. Wieprecht was recognized at the time as a key figure in the reorganization of the Prussian military bands in meticulous, regimented detail and strict rules of conduct, rehearsal and musicianship. The Italian influence on American brass bands is perhaps best demonstrated by Francis Scala, a Naples-born immigrant who led the U.S. Marine Band . He was a clarinetist who always placed his instrument prominently in his band, and is largely responsible for popularizing the instrument in brass bands. Irish bandleader Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore was also influential, having introduced a wide range of reed instruments as well as developing instrumentation that allowed a large wind ensemble to approximate the effects of a full orchestra.
With the coming of the Civil War, the popularity of brass bands continued to grow. Promises of a famous band being attached to a regiment were used to induce recruitment, and the brass band tradition flourished. Following the war, huge peace jubilee concerts were held, where thousands of performers sometimes played.
Main article: Military march
Military style march music enjoyed great popularity, and most towns had brass bands that performed them. The most popular of the US march composers were John Philip Sousa, Henry Fillmore, and Karl King.
Music of other immigrant communities
Main article: Music of immigrant communities in the United States
Creole and Cajun music
Main article: Music of Louisiana
The city of New Orleans has long been a center for cultural innovation, and the pre-eminent city of the Gulf Coast. It is fitting, then, that the first major American classical composer was from New Orleans -- Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Gottschalk achieved fame in Europe, the first American composer to do so, and is well-remembered for his fusion of themes from ethnic folk dances in Louisiana into his piano compositions.
With French-Canadians from Acadia, white settlers of Scotch-Irish, French and Spanish descent, Native Americans and an abundance of slaves from the West Indies, New Orleans and the surrounding areas was a cultural melting pot.
Eastern European immigrants
Main article: Eastern European music
Starting in the 1880s, Eastern European Jews immigrated to the US in large numbers. They brought with them klezmorim, or musicians who played "Klezmer music" at weddings and other community events. Soon, the United States became the international center for klezmer music, and it became a major influence on jazz and other genres.
Into the 20th century, immigration from Italy, Ireland, Armenia, China, Germany, Finland and elsewhere was widespread. Most of these immigrant communities kept their folk traditions alive. Some produced musicians of great stature, such as Ukrainian fiddler Pawlo Humeniuk in the 1920s and 30s. Much later, Armenian oud player Richard Hagopian also became popular at home and abroad. The Slovenian polka master, Frankie Yankovich, has had perhaps more crossover success than these other stars; his period of greatest popularity was in the 1940s.
Main article: Tex-Mex and Tejano
Texas was part of Mexico until the mid-1800s, after the Mexican War, and its Mexican-American inhabitants played a mixture of ranchera, bolero and polka music called conjunto. To some extent an American version of accordion-led Mexican música norteña , conjunto was popular throughout Mexican communities in Texas.
Tin Pan Alley
Main article: Tin Pan Alley
In the later decades of the 19th century, the music industry became dominated by a group of publishers and song-writers in New York City that came to be known as Tin Pan Alley. Tin Pan Alley's representatives spread throughout the country, buying local hits for their publishers and pushing their publisher's latest songs. Song demonstrators were fixtures at department stores and music stores across the country, and traveling song demonstrators made circuits of rural areas. The industry was driven by the profits from the sales of sheet music. A piano was considered a must in any middle-class or higher home. Major 19th century Tin Pan Alley hits included "Only a Bird in a Guilded Cage" and "After the Ball Is Over".
Bice'waan Song is a recording from the Library of Congress, collected by Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche and published in 1897. The singer is George Miller, who was probably born in about 1852. It was described as: "The true love-song, called by the Omaha Bethae waan, an old designation and not a descriptive name, is sung generally in the early morning, when the lover is keeping his tryst and watching for the maiden to emerge from the tent and go to the spring. They belong to the secret courtship and are sometimes called Me-the-g'thun wa-an - courting songs. . . . They were sung without drum, bell or rattle, to accent the rhythm, in which these songs is subordinated to tonality and is felt only in the musical phrases. . . . Vibrations for the purpose of giving greater expression were not only affected by the tremolo of the voice, but they were enhanced by waving the hand, or a spray of artemesia before the lips, while the body often swayed gently to the rhythm of the song (Fletcher, 1894, p. 156)."
- Struble, John Warthen. The History of American Classical Music. 1995. Facts on File, Inc. ISBN 0-8160-2927
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- Chase, Gilbert. America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present. 2000. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-00454-X
- Crawford, Richard. America's Musical Life: A History. 2001. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393048101
- PBS' page on their series American Roots Music
- Friends of American roots music homepage
- Library of Congress collection of brass band materials
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