Survey of American Music Fall 2023

  • Benjamin Franklin Creates the Glass Harmonica

    Benjamin Franklin Creates the Glass Harmonica
    Benjamin Franklin invents the Glass Harmonica (also called Armonica) in 1761 as an initiative to create American born art. He states that Americans should not develop a taste for "Art" until America could produce its own art. The instrument uses glass bowls in differing sizes that spin. By dipping fingers in water and gliding the fingers against the spinning glass, a sound is produced.
  • New England Psalm Singer

    New England Psalm Singer
    Composed by William Billings, the "New England Psalm Singer" consisted of fugues and anthems. It was the first book of original music composed by a single composer printed in America.
  • "Star Spangled Banner" Francis Scott Key's Lyrics

    "Star Spangled Banner" Francis Scott Key's Lyrics
    While there are many myths pertaining to the creation and officialization of America's National Anthem, one thing is for certain: Francis Scott Key did write down the lyrics of the "Star Spangled Banner" on a ship. The "Star Spangled Banner" was written as a song set to the tune of "The Anacreontic Song", and was commonly known as a broadside ballad.
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    Trail of Tears

    In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, allowing the government to exchange unsettled land for Native American lands.The Trail of Tears, the result of the act, was the forced displacement of five native american tribes (Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw,and Creek) from the Southeastern United States to the Midwest. It was named the Trail of Tears by the Cherokee people because of the amount of deaths and the effects it had on the natives.
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    Jenny Lind Tour

    Jenny Lind (AKA the "Swedish Nightingale") was a famous opera singer that toured America with the invitation of P.T. Barnum. She performed 150 concerts in 18 months, and was famous amongst the American people.
  • Gottschalk "The Banjo"

    Gottschalk "The Banjo"
    "The Banjo" is one of Louis Moreau Gottschalk's most popular compositions. It is a composition for piano in which the piano mimics the sound of the banjo.
  • Carnegie Hall built

    Carnegie Hall built
    Andrew Carnegie built Carnegie Hall to create a home for American art music. Today, it serves as one of the most famous concert halls in the world.
  • Antonin Dvorak "American" String Quartet

    Antonin Dvorak "American" String Quartet
    During his stay in the Americas, Dvorak composed the "American" string quartet, inspired by his appreciation of African-American spirituals.
  • Amy Beach "Gaelic Symphony"

    Amy Beach "Gaelic Symphony"
    Inspired by Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, Amy Beach made her own spin on the "American" sound by composing the "Gaelic Symphony". Because the population in New England had lots of Irish and Scottish immigrants, American music to Amy Beach contained many Gaelic folk tunes.
  • Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag

    Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag
    Scott Joplin, one of most well known ragtime composers, created the Maple Leaf Rag in 1899, and it became one of his most well-known works. The Maple Leaf Rag is used often as a model for ragtime composers and the great rags of the era.
  • W.C. Handy "St. Louis Blues"

    W.C. Handy "St. Louis Blues"
    W.C. Handy, the "Father of The Blues", was the first to publish Blues music and is credited with popularizing the genre. In 1914, he released "St. Louis Blues", which features the now standard 12-bar Blues. However, the piece also features a 16-bar bridge written as a "tango" according to W.C. Handy.
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    Broadway's 1st Golden Age

    The 1st Golden Age of Broadway contained great musicals such as "Oklahoma" and "West Side Story", making political and social statements and references.
  • First Commerical Recording of Cajun Music

    First Commerical Recording of Cajun Music
    The first commercially recorded Cajun song was a track called "Allons a Lafayette". The track was performed by Cleoma Breaux (guitar and vocals) and Joe Falcon (accordion and vocals), and the recording did so well that the duo was invited to record the song in New York City.
  • Florence Price Symphony No.1

    Florence Price Symphony No.1
    Florence Price's Symphony No. 1 won the first prize in the 1932 Wanamaker Foundation Awards, and later became the first symphony won by an African American woman to be premiered by a major American orchestra. The symphony was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1932.
  • Aaron Copland "El Salon Mexico"

    Aaron Copland "El Salon Mexico"
    "El Salon Mexico" quotes Mexican folk music, and contains four melodies in a one movement symphonic work. The work depicts a dance hall in Mexico City.
  • "God Bless America" Kate Smith Recording

    "God Bless America" Kate Smith Recording
    The relationship between Kate Smith and her recording of "God Bless America" is an interesting one; some would claim that Kate Smith is the reason "God Bless America" is timeless, and that "God Bless America" is the reason Kate Smith is as famous as she was. The tune, composed and revised by Irving Berlin, was premiered on CBS Radio's "The Kate Smith Hour", and it became a national hit. The lyrics garnered strong feeling of nationalism and pride in American people, painting America in glory.
  • Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial

    Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial
    Contralto Marian Anderson became a famous singer in the late 1920s and was popular in Europe. She performed for the Roosevelts at the White House in 1936 and her concert series at Howard University grew exponentially. Eventually, her concerts sold so well that she needed a bigger auditorium to sing at. However, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who owned Constitutional Hall, would not allow Black performers. Mrs. Roosevelt helped Marian give her performance on the steps instead.
  • Duke Ellington's "Cottontail"

    Duke Ellington's "Cottontail"
    Duke Ellington and Ben Webster performed "Cottontail" in 1940. The piece is inspired off of the chord progression in Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" and it features multiple improvisational solos as well as a saxophone soli section.
  • "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie

    "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie
    Recorded in November 1944 and Published in September 1945, "This Land is Your Land" is a national folk tune with a different message than "God Bless America". While "God Bless America" paints America with beauty and pride, "This Land" questions America's greatness. Two of the verses that are typically taken out of the song discuss America's greed on land and its lack of care to poor citizens. This call to attention speaks for the Americans who do not feel "blessed" by America.
  • Bluegrass

    While Bluegrass music appeared in the 1930s. the genre was not popular until the mid 1940s when Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys began performing. The term "Bluegrass" comes from the name of the native grass in Kentucky, where the genre was born. However, Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys are credited with giving the genre its name, and Bill Monroe is deemed as the "father of Bluegrass".
  • John Cage Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

    John Cage Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano
  • Folk Song U.S.A: The 111 Best American Ballads

    Folk Song U.S.A: The 111 Best American Ballads
    John Lomax and his son Alan Lomax documented and recorded folk songs throughout America as an attempt to document and collect these tunes for the Library of Congress. Their work served as a way to bring folk music to a nationwide audience, expanding the folk tunes beyond their regions of origin.
  • "We Shall Overcome" Civil Rights Movement

    "We Shall Overcome" Civil Rights Movement
    "We Shall Overcome" has a rich history. It deprives from the gospel song "I'll Overcome Someday" mixed with a few other songs from the 1700s. "We'll Overcome" appeared in 1945 during a labor strike, becoming a known protest song. Eventually, it evolved into "We Shall Overcome", an easy to learn tune that spread like a wildfire at protests. The song is quoted in the speech Lyndon Johnson gives after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Alan Freed and the Term "Rock and Roll"

    Alan Freed and the Term "Rock and Roll"
    Disc Jockey Alan Freed is credited with both coining the term "Rock and Roll" and helping spread the genre across America. The term "Rock and Roll" was a commonly used euphemism for sexual encounters within the African American community, and instead of calling the mix of R&B and country as "race records", Freed referred to the music by the euphemism.
  • "West Side Story" Premiere

    "West Side Story" Premiere
    Composed by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, "West Side Story" is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in Manhattan. The musical premiered in 1957, and the movie based on the musical premiered in 1961.
  • Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue"

    Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue"
    "Kind of Blue" introduces a type of Jazz that is completely based on modality and heavily dependant on its improvisations and complex chord progressions. It is credited with being Miles Davis' greatest composition, and it became his best selling record.
  • Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"

    Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"
    "Good Vibrations" was the first of its kind to immediately take over the charts upon its release. It is credited with being one of the first songs to use the studio as an instrument rather than a place to just record. The complex sound, use of multiple timbres, and tape splicing began a new wave of pop experimentalism. The song is credited with being one of the most important works in the rock era.
  • "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album

    "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album
    The eight album by The Beatles, a popular British rock band, is credited with being the first ever concept album. Concept albums are albums where the tracks are meant to be played in order and that the tracks hold more meaning together than individually.
  • Dolly Parton "Coat of Many Colors"

    Dolly Parton "Coat of Many Colors"
    "Coat of Many Colors" follows the story-telling tradition that traditional country music was built upon while adding a new layer with harmony, modulations, and wide instrumentation. The form is similar to a verse-chorus format, except there are two verse preceding each chorus and a transitional section separating the two parts. The story told is about a coat Parton's mom made with old rags, and how she was proud of it despite the children at school bullying her for it.
  • Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"

    Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"
    In 1979, The Sugarhill Gang released "Rapper's Delight", which is based on "Good Times" by Chic. "Rapper's Delight" is known for introducing hip hop to a wider audience and for popularizing hip hop.
  • "Walk This Way" Video (Aerosmith and Run DMC)

    "Walk This Way" Video (Aerosmith and Run DMC)
    Hip Hop and Rock were seen as complete opposites of each other, and while many Americans had a preference of one genre over the other, Run DMC's collaboration with Aerosmith quite literally broke down the barriers between the Rock and Hip Hop scenes. The video shows that the two genres do not have to live separately and can create amazing music through collaboration.
  • John Adams "The Death of Klinghoffer"

    John Adams "The Death of Klinghoffer"
    "The Death of Klinghoffer" is an American opera based off of the hijacking of a ship by the Palestine Liberation Front, where the hijackers murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year old Jewish- American bound by a wheelchair. The reception was controversial, especially with Leon Klinghoffer's daughters calling the opera "exploitative".
  • Titanic Soundtrack

    Titanic Soundtrack
    James Horner composed and orchestrated the soundtrack of the 1997 film "Titanic". The soundtrack contains multiple leitmotifs and utilizes both source music and underscoring.
  • Hamilton Premiere

    Hamilton Premiere
    In 2015, Lin Manuel Miranda composed "Hamilton", a broadway musical depicting the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton and his role in the American Revolution.The musical utilizes American genres such as Rap and Hip Hop to tell story, and features a predominately minority cast. He describes his choice in music and cast as "American then, as told by America now."