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A History of American Music

A timeline of musical styles from the colonial period to the Jazz Age. I will continue on when I have more time.

Emily Hall

on 31 May 2011

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Transcript of A History of American Music

The History of America Through Music The first book ever published in
British Colonial America, The Bay
Psalm Book, and other Puritan hymnals, showed the importance of religion in music. 1640 1700s As soon as slavery gained a strong foothold in the South, slaves began to convert stories from the Old Testament into song. These served as the basis for black spirituals, which would come into much greater popularity in the 1800s when black were allowed to congregate in churches. During the Revolutionary period, old tunes from the British Isles were adapted into fife-and-drum songs to rally support for independence. "Yankee Doodle" was originally an English song intended to mock the rebels, but the Americans used it for their own purposes as a symbol of pride. War of 1812 In 1814, Washington lawyer Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British warships. Inspired by the survival of the fort's flag after the seige, he composed the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry." Key later put the poem to the tune of "To Anacreon In Heaven," a popular British drinking song, and published it as "The Star-Spangled Banner." In 1916, president Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order declaring "The Star-Spangled Banner" the national anthem; Congress confirmed the order in 1931. Minstrel shows came into popularity during the 1830s, and with their entrance new songs were popularized, many of these serving as a basis to lampoon blacks throughout both the North and South. In 1851, Stephen Foster, the "father of American music," wrote "Old Folks at Home," better known as "Swanee" for one of these shows. Although achieving immense success, the song was criticized by abolitionists for its racist sentiments. Following this spiritual phenomenon, many new religious groups came into existence. One of these was the Shakers, who advocated gender equality and forbid sexual intercourse. In 1848, in Albert, Maine, Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett composed the dance hymn "Simple Gifts," which was later arranged by Aaron Copland in 1944 for the "Appalachian Spring" ballet, bringing it to public attention and fame. Antebellum Period The Second Great Awakening The Industrial Revolution and Gilded Age The late 1800s and early 1900s were extremely beneficial to music, as business tycoon-turned-philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie used their vast earnings to commission symphonies and concert halls such as Carnegie Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. New forms of innovative, strictly "American" music set the country apart from its European roots and ended the U.S's dependence on old-world music styles. The period marked the advent of ragtime music, as blacks Scott Joplin and James Scott, as well as the white Joseph Lamb, composed piano jigs that incorperated elements of traditional African music with classical European music and the marches of John Philip Sousa. Irving Berlin sparked the ragtime craze in the public when he completed "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. The style soon became well-known to Americans, both black and white, but many Southerners remained discriminatory against blacks, and used ragtime's quick tempos, colorful harmonies and crazed rhythms to argue for the naturally primitive behavior of black ragtime musicians. The racist parodies that came out of these criticisms were called coon songs, and they contributed to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, which would counter the musical innovations present in the later Harlem Renaissance. Civil War America's most devestating war also produced some of its most famous and impactful songs, representing the different goals, ideals, and pride of the Union and Confederacy. The Battle Hymn of the Republic was originally about John Brown, a militant abolitionist executed for murder and conspiracy, and was later adapted with different lyrics by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. "Dixie," possibly the most famous song from a minstrel show, was written by Northerner Daniel Decatur Emmett, and the Confederacy adopted it as its unofficial anthem. Ironically, although the song was post popular among Southerners and generally disregarded as having racist lyrics by the Union, it was one of Abraham Lincoln's songs, and he personally requested its performance during his 1860 presidential campaign. Other styles were being invented at this time. "Country" music began spreading with westward expansion with the use of steel guitars, harmonicas, fiddles and banjos, as cowboys sang old folk tunes on the prairie. Louisiana and other Southern states along the Mississippi River could most readily be speculated as the birthplace as jazz and the blues, as they grew in New Orleans brothels and honky-tonk bars. These genre, a couple of the most widespread American musical styles, was shaped by different influences from Africa, Spain, France and the Caribbean. The Roaring 20's and Jazz Age This massive blossoming of culture came after World War I, when the U.S's economy prospered from wartime production. Jazz and blues music exploded into popularity, and its musicans such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and "Jelly Roll" Morton did as well. This was fueled by many factors. The African-American cultural movement in New York--the Harlem Renaissance as it was called, blurred the lines of class between affluent blacks and those stricken with poverty. Women during this period used their new rights to act as true citizens, sporting short skirts and bobbed haircuts as they became independent, provacatively-behaving "flappers." The invention of the radio, and accessibility to the public of this device, spread the new music styles throughout the homes of America. People no longer had to leave their homes to listen to their favorite bands. When the Eighteenth Amendment passed, outlawing the sale of alcohol, people resorted to the consumption of liquor through secret organizations and speak-easies, the means by which Al Capone achieved his wealth and imfamy. The music and dances of this era, which some considered radical, reflected this urge to challenge authority. Sources

Google Images
"American Music Timeline", http://www.infoplease.com/spot/musictime4.html
"American Music Timeline, 1640 - 1890", http://www.americanmusicpreservation.com/Americanmusictimeline.htm Only a portion of America's diverse musical history has been chronicled here. After the coming of jazz, more styles such as rock 'n' roll, reggae, funk, and hip-hop came onto the American scene later in the 1900s, influenced by both the deep, tribal-sounding beats of African traditional chants and the advent of electronic devices that distorted music, creating the techno phenomenon of the 1980s. It may be concluded that the "melting-pot" nature of America' culture and ethnicities have allowed it to absorb many different styles of music from many different regions of the planet.
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