Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Music of the United States
The music of the United States includes a number of kinds of distinct folk and popular music, including some of the most widely-recognized styles in the world. The original inhabitants of the United States included hundreds of Native American tribes, as well as native Hawaiians and Inuits, who played the first music in the area. Beginning in the 15th century, immigrants from England, Spain and France began arriving in large numbers, bringing with them new styles and instruments. Africans imported as slaves provided the musical underpinnings of much of modern American music, including blues, jazz, rock and roll and hip hop. Other styles of music were brought by Hispanics from Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Cajun descendants of French-Canadians, Jews, Eastern Europeans and Irish, Scottish and Italian immigrants.
In contrast to many other countries, the United States has not had centuries of cultural evolution, producing a distinctive field of American music. Instead, the music of the United States is that of dozens or hundreds of indigenous and immigrant groups, all of which developed largely in regional isolation until the Civil War. It was only during the Civil War, when soldiers from across the country commingled, that the multifarious strands of American music began to crossfertilize each other, a process that was aided by the burgeoning railroad industry and other technological developments that made travel and communication easier. There had been some inter-regional development, however, such as the move south of shape note notation as New England preachers and churchgoers traveled south in the Great Awakening of religious fervor. The Civil War, however, brought people together from the whole of the country in army units, where they traded musical styles and practices. Indeed, with a few limited exceptions, such as New England hymns and Native American music (which predates the United States), the ballads of the Civil War were "the first American folk music with discernible features that can be considered uniqe to America: the first 'American' sounding music, as distinct from any regional style derived from another country" (Struble, xvii). The continuing hybrid nature of American music is highlighted by John Rockwell: "As a society built upon the very ideals of ecumenicalism and catholicity, as the leading technological and industrial nation of our time, and as the principal nexus between European high art and the musics of other classes and cultures, America stands at the forefront of the music of tomorrow."
The music of the United States can be characterized by the use of syncopation, long, irregular melodies (which are said to reflect the wide open geography of the American landscape) and elements of distinctively American jazz, blues and Native American music (Ferris, 10).
Main article: American roots music
Folk music in the United States is varied across the country's numerous ethnic groups. The Native American tribes each play their own varieties of folk music, most of it spiritual in nature. African American music includes blues and gospel, descendents of West African music brought to the Americas by slaves and mixed with Western European music . During the colonial era, English, French and Spanish styles and instruments were brought to the Americas. By the early 20th century, the United States had become a major center for folk music from around the world, including polka, Ukrainian and Polish fiddling, Ashkenazi Jewish klezmer and several kinds of Latin music.
Native American music
Main article: Native American music
The Native Americans played the first folk music in what is now the United States, using a wide variety of styles and techniques. Some commonalities are near universal among Native American traditional music, however, including the lack of harmony and polyphony, the presence of choiral vocals, the use of vocables and the descending melodic figures. Traditional instruments include the flute and many kinds of percussion instruments like drums , rattles and shakers.
Since European and African contact was established, Native American folk music has grown in new directions. Waila, or chicken-scratch music, is a fusion of Mexican-Texan norteño and European dance music like the polka and mazurka.
Main article: Music of Hawaii
The earliest known music of Hawaii was the hula, which featured a chant (mele) accompanied by ipu (a gourd) and 'ili'ili (stones used as clappers). Listeners danced in a highly ritualized manner. The older, formal kind of hula is called kahiko, while the modern version is auana. There are also religious chants called mele; when accompanied by dancing and drums, it is called mele hula pahu .
African American music
Main article: African American music
The ancestors of today's African American population were brought to the United States as slaves, working primarily in the cotton plantations of the South. They were from hundreds of tribes across West Africa, and they brought with them certain traits of West African music including call and response vocals and complexly rhythmic music.
The first slaves in the United States sang work songs, field hollers and, following Christianization, hymns. In the 19th century, a Great Awakening of religious fervor gripped both blacks and whites across much of the country, especially in the South. Protestant hymns written mostly by New England preachers became a feature of camp meetings held among devout Christians across the south. When blacks began singing sometimes adapted versions of these hymns, they were called Negro spirituals. It was from these roots, of spiritual songs, work songs and field hollers, that blues and gospel developed.
Main article: Spirituals
Originally monophonic and a cappella, spirituals are antecedents of the blues. Spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith, sung by slaves on southern plantations. Secular songs that also fall within the genre sometimes contained hidden messages of a slaveowner’s unexpected return, or of rebellion or escape. "Follow the Drinking Gourd," for example, contained a coded map to the Underground Railroad, instructing escapees to follow the Big Dipper (the "drinking gourd.") "Wade in the Water" was another such song that combined religious imagery and codified instructions for potential runaways.
Main article: Blues
Blues is a combination of African work songs, field hollers and shouts, chants and hymns and spirituals. It developed in the rural south in the 20th century.
Main article: Gospel music
Christian spirituals and the rural blues music were the origin of what is now known as gospel. Beginning in about the 1920s, African American churches began to feature early gospel in the form of worshipers "testifyin'", or proclaiming one's religious devotion in an improvised, often musical or semi-musical manner.
From these early 20th century churches, gospel music spread across the country. It remained associated almost entirely with African American churches, and usually featured a choir along with one or more virtuoso soloists.
Appalachian folk music
Main article: Appalachian folk music
Main article: Old-time music
Main article: Bluegrass music
Cajun and Creole
Main article: Cajun and Creole music
Tex-Mex and Tejano
Main article: Tex-Mex and Tejano
Jewish music - Klezmer
Other immigrant communities
Main article Music of immigrant communities in the United States
Main article: American classical music
First New England School
Main article: First New England School
Second New England School
Main article: Second New England School
Main article: American popular music
Main article: Ragtime
Tin Pan Alley
Main article: Tin Pan Alley
Early popular jazz
Main article: Jazz
Main article: Swing
Early popular blues
Main article: Blues
Early popular country music
Main article: Country music
Rock and roll
Main article: Rock and roll
Main article: Rockabilly
Main article: Surf
Main article: Gospel
Main article: R&B
Main article: Doo wop
Pop-folk: 40s and 50s
Main article: Counterculture
Main article: British Invasion
Main article: Psychedelic music
Main article: Soul
Main article: Funk
Singers and songwriters
Main article: Singer-songwriter
Main article: Progressive rock
Main article: Heavy metal music
Main article: Hair metal
Main article: Thrash metal
Main article: Punk rock
Main article: Hardcore punk
Main article: Disco music
Main article: Hip hop music
Main article: Gangsta rap
Main article: Alternative rock
Main article: Grunge
Main article: Indie rock
Main article: Religious music
Main article: Christian music
Main article: Jewish music
Main article: Theater of the United States
Main article: Broadway
Main article: Music education in the United States
Music festivals and holidays
Main article: Christmas music
- Crawford, Richard. America's Musical Life: A History. 2001. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393048101
- Chase, Gilbert. America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present. 2000. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-00454-X
- Williamson, Nigel and Mark Ellingham. "Try a Little Fairydust"; Ramiro Burr. "Accordion Enchilda"; Andrew Means. "Ha-Ya-Ya, Weya Ha-Ya-Ya"; Simon Broughton. "Rhythm and Jews"; Viv Broughton and James Attlee. "Devil Stole the Beat"; Simon Broughton and Jeff Kaliss. "Ultimate Gumbo"; Tony Seeger and Richie Unterburger. "Filling the Map with Music"; Nick Barraclough and Kurt Wolff. "High an' Lonesome". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 615-623. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
- Blush, Steven. American Hardcore: A Tribal History. 2001. Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-717-7
- The Vibe History of Hip Hop. 1999. Vibe magazine. ISBN 0609805037
- Struble, John Warthen. The History of American Classical Music. 1995. Facts on File, Inc. ISBN 0-8160-2927
- Unterburger, Richie. "Early Rhythm and Blues" and "Birth of Rock and Roll". Allmusic.com. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2003 from http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=UIDCASS70312222301011957&sql=J82
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk". Allmusic.com. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2003 from http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=UIDCASS70312222301011957&sql=J134
- Collins, Ace. The Stories Behind Country Music's All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. 1996. Boulevard Books. New York City. ISBN 1-57297-072-3
- Garofalo, Reebee. Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA. 1997. Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 0-205-13702-2
- Ferris, Jean. America's Musical Landscape. 1993. Brown & Benchmark. ISBN 0-697-12516-5
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