The Pilgrims arrive in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who begin the well-documented sacred song tradition of New England. The psalmody of the Pilgrims and other early New England Protestants was "spare and plain", reflecting their Calvinist theology.
The Dutch Reformed Church in New York colony orders the precentor (voorzanger) to "tune the psalm" for the congregation to sing along; this practice consisted of the leader singing a line, which is then repeated, and often elaborated upon, by the audience. This practice is later known as lining out and is a crucial feature of African American church music.
The first documented music in New Sweden (now New Jersey) is from the military, when Governor Johan Risingh exited a fort with drums and trumpets or fifes playing to meet with the Dutch forces to whom he was capitulating.
The first permanent church organ in the United States, the Brattle organ, imported by Thomas Brattle, is installed in Boston at King's Chapel. The colonial American aversion to music, which was viewed as sinful, led to the church leaving the organ unpacked for a full year before actually installing it.
John Tufts publishes the first instructional book for singing in the country. It was extremely successful.
The lined-out style of hymnody begins to be criticized for abandoning conservative notation in favor of an oral tradition.
Reverend Thomas Symmes publishes an essay, The Reasonableness of Regular Singing, in which he proposes schools to educate the public in psalm singing. Such schools were to become a major musical institution in New England in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Amish arrive in Pennsylvania, thus beginning the Amish music tradition in the United States.
New England psalmody begins to grow more organized and disciplined, through singing schools and other institutions. Public concerts, held alongside lectures or sermons, begin to be held in small towns throughout the region.
Two psalm collections are published in Boston, the first two emphasize the music and instructions for singing the tunes over the sacred verses of the psalms. These were John Tufts' An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm Tunes and Thomas Walters' The Grounds and Rules of Musick, Explained. These two publications "began a new era in American music history: between them they formed a point of contact between music as an art with a technical basis and a public motivated to learn that technique". Walter's is particularly influential and highly regarded, and is the first book to be printed (by James Franklin) with bar lines in British North America.
The first singing school in the United States is formed in Charleston, South Carolina, where music is taught by John Salter at a boarding school for girls run by his wife. Salter is the first secular music teacher in the country.
The first opera written by an American to be both published and produced is The Fashionable Lady; or, Harlequin's Opera by James Ralph, which is premiered this year in London.
John Wesley's A Collection of Psalms and Hymns is the "first book of religious music published in the colonies".
The first newspaper advertisement concerning a fugitive slave with a reference to the slave's musical ability comes from American Weekly Mercury, about runaway Samuel Leonard of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, a half-Native American, half-African fiddler.
Georgia's Governor James Oglethorpe invites minister John Wesley to come with him to Georgia, on a ship with Moravian missionaries whose hymn-singing had a profound effect on Wesley, who would go on to lead the Great Awakening of Christianity, often expressed through music. Music historian David W. Stowe has called this the most profound event in the history of American sacred music.
John Peter Zenger is imprisoned in New York after publishing ballads about the political opposition. His lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, successfully argues that the jury should judge the law – whether or not the ballads were justly considered libelous – rather than simply the fact of publication. The not guilty verdict is a precedent for freedom of speech, freedom of the press and jury rights.
The slaves of the Stono Rebellion - the largest slave rebellion in British North America - in South Carolina are reported to use drums to recruit fighters, and music and dancing for emboldening the rebels. As a result, African American drumming is banned in South Carolina.
Religious persecution at home leads to a wave of German-speaking Moravian immigrants, who will play a vital role in establishing American concert music, become known for their brass choirs and become among the earliest instrument manufacturers in the country. They will settle in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania this year, flourishing and becoming widely known for their music.
The custom of giving African American workers vacations during the spring election period begins in Connecticut; the workers establish secular festivals that include song and dance, with elections of "governors" and "kings" as part of the celebrations.
Though the ban may not have been strictly or effectively enforced, the city of Boston prohibits theater entertainment, due to a Puritan influence that treated theater as a negative institution that symbolized a "preference for idleness and pleasure over hard work and thrift".
The British Museum has had a drum since this date, made in Virginia from local wood and deer skin, but in a manner typical of the Ashanti of Ghana, a major piece of evidence for African retention in African American music. It is also similar to the apinti drum of the Afro-Guyanese.
The British begin expelling the French-speaking Acadians from Canada, many of whom will go to Louisiana, providing an important foundation for both Cajun music and Louisiana Creole music.
An English surgeon composes the words to "Yankee Doodle", which will become the most popular song in the country in the latter part of the Revolutionary War. It will remain the only national song of the United States until the War of 1812.
Full military bands are sent to North America by the British, hoping to alleviate reluctance by the colonialists to join the British militias. New bands will arrive every year during the French and Indian War.
Francis Hopkinson begins playing harpsichord in concert; he would go on to be among the most influential composers of the colonial era, and the first American composer for voice and harpsichord.
James Lyon publishes in Philadelphia the "first American tunebook to address the needs of both congregation and choir", Urania, or a Choice Collection of Psalm-Tunes, Anthems, and Hymns. This tunebook offers "something for every kind of sacred singer" and "was the first American tunebook to bring psalmody straight into the commercial arena", showing "how psalmody... could find a niche in the marketplace". The collection features the first published American anthems, fuging tunes and hymn tunes. It is also the first work to identify its songs as "new", meaning composed in the colonies. Twenty-eight of the songs include both music and text, and are the first such printings in the country.
Andrew Barton's The Disappointment; Or, the Force of Credulity is the first American ballad opera, and the first opera with a plot based in the United States. Its libretto is the first of its kind (comic opera) written and published in the country. It is not, however, performed until the 20th century. The scheduled debut in Philadelphia is cancelled because the opera "contained personal Reflections [sic] (and) is unfit for the stage", according to the Pennsylvania Gazette.
A concert is organized by John Gualdo in Philadelphia; this consisted of a wide range of pieces, much of which was composed by Gualdo himself, leading some historians to refer to this as the first "composers'-concert" in the United States.
Roman Catholic missionary activity begins to "severely devastate" the civilizations of central coast and southern California, bringing new forms of Roman Catholic music to the indigenous peoples of California.
William Billings' The New-England Psalm-Singer is the first compilation of entirely American music and the first compiled by a native-born American to be published, first major publication by a singing master, and the first tunebook in the country dedicated to the music of a single composer. The most famous song in the compilation is "Chester", which will be an unofficial anthem for Americans during the Revolutionary War. Its publication begins a flourishing of distinctively American New England publications of sacred tunes. Billings himself will go on to become one of the first major figures in American music history, and is said to have been the first to introduce both the pitch pipe and the violoncello to the New England church choir.
English traveler Nicholas Cresswell notes a song which he describes as a "Negro tune". This "may well represent the earliest record of the influence of slave music on the white colonists". His work also contains the first reference to a banjo.
George Washington, worried that poor quality performance by musicians during drill practices would hinder military performance in battle, establishes tighter conditions for military bands in the Continental Army.
William Billings' The Singing Master's Assistant includes songs that link the plight of the Israelites in Egyptian captivity with the lives of Bostonians of the time. This tunebook influentially "treated Scripture not only as a guide to spiritual inspiration and moral improvement, but as a historical epic that, bringing past into present, offered timeless parallels to current events".
Andrew Law and his brother form a tunebook-printing company in Cheshire, Connecticut, beginning with 1779's Select Harmony, which reveals Law as a "champion of American composers, at a time when the notion that Americans could compose music at all was a new one".
Thomas Jefferson presents a view common to many of the upper-class elite in North America, in a letter to Giovanni Fabbroni complaining that American music was in a state of "deplorable barbarism".
A reorganization of the Continental Army establishes pay grades of military musicians and creates staff positions for drum and fife majors.
Due to a manpower shortage, military musicians come to be chosen from enlisted men, rather than from performers who enlisted solely as musicians. This is the first evidence of musicians doing soldierly duties in the American army.
The city of New Orleans bans slaves from dancing in public squares on holy days and Sundays until after evening church services.
The first Sunday school in the United States is established in Virginia; Sunday schools will become a major part of religious music instruction throughout the country.
The Stoughton Musical Society, which remains in existence today, is founded in Stoughton, Massachusetts; this is also the beginning of American choral societies. It may be the oldest continuous musical organization in the country, and is the oldest choral society in the United States, and has been called the "earliest musical organization of importance".
John Aitken becomes the first American publisher of strictly music, and the first to publish secular sheet music in the United States. Most of the music is composed or arranged by Alexander Reinagle. Aitken engraves Reinagle's A Selection of the Most Favorite Scots-Irish Tunes, which is the first use of punching tools to engrave music in the country.
Johannes Herbst, a Moravian bishop and hymn writer, begins collecting music manuscripts. His archive is not publicly available until 1977.
John Griffiths, an itinerant New England dancing master, publishes A Collection of the Newest and Most Fashionable Country Dances and Cotillions, the first collection of country dances in the United States.
The Constitution of the United States comes into effect, granting Congress the power to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries", the beginning of American copyright law.
A ban on theatrical music is lifted, for the first time since the American Revolution.
Congress passes a law requiring all able-bodied white males to join a state militia; the result helps spur the development of military bands, as opposed to fife-and-drum corps, which Congress authorizes for the first time the same year. The Militia Act standardized the instrumentation of military bands.
The ban on theater entertainment in Boston ends.
John Aitken ends his music publishing career for a time, as composer Alexander Reinagle become music director for the New Theater in Philadelphia. One impetus for Aitken's ending his business comes from increased competition, as the American music publishing industry diversifies and competitors arise in New York, Boston and Baltimore.
Andrew Law publishes The Art of Singing, a trio of books aimed at educating Americans in music; these publications "represent nothing less than a conversion in musical taste", as he abandoned American composers in favor of European principles of composition.
Ann Hatton and James Hewitt's Tammany; or, The Indian Chief is the both first American opera on a Native American subject and the first on an American subject of any kind. It is also the first with a female librettist.
Mid 1790s music trends
Though the publisher Andrew Law had gained fame for compiling American and British compositions in his tunebooks as equals, his increasingly British-oriented compilations begin to lose commercial ground to works that mix both American and British compositions, indicating a growing American musical sensibility.
The song "Hail, Columbia", set to the music of "The President's March", is published, with the intent of "arousing the American spirit"; it becomes one of the most popular and long-lasting patriotic songs in the country.
Samuel Adams Holyoke's first volume of The Instrumental Assistant is the first "comprehensive instrumental and collection of traditional music for band instruments published" in the United States.
François Delochaire Mallet of France, Gottlieb Graupner of Germany, and Filippo Trajetta of Italy announce the founding of a music academy in Boston, called the American Conservatorio of Boston, in the Boston Gazette on November 24. It is the first such institution in the United States and lasted just two years.
Reverend Richard Allen publishes A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns for Bethel Church in Philadelphia; this is the first such collection "assembled by a black author for a black congregation". The collection includes works by Isaac Watts and others, as well as some that are unattributed and may have been composed by Allen himself. It was also the first collection "to employ the so-called wandering refrains -- that is, refrain verses or short choruses attached at random to orthodox hymn stanzas".
William Smith and William Little publish The Easy Instructor in Philadelphia; it is the first shape note tunebook, which would become the standard for American shape note singing in the 19th century.
Richard Allen publishes his own hymnal, A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns, which becomes very popular.
Presbyterian clergy in Kentucky begin to hold camp meetings to promote Christian spirituality; these would go on to be run by Baptist and Methodist preachers as part of the Great Awakening of religious fervor.
Publisher Andrew Law begins to publish in shape notes, with the publication of the fourth edition of The Musical Primer. His system had been copyrighted, but was surpassed by William Little and William Smith's The Easy Instructor, which used a slightly different system and quickly became the standard for American shape note singing.
In Salem and western Middlesex County, Massachusetts, clergymen and other local leaders and singers begin advocating for a more formal and European style of religious musical expression.
mid-19th century music trends
Presbyterian clergy begin to hold camp meetings to promote Christian spirituality; these would go on to be run by Baptist and Methodist preachers as part of the Great Awakening of religious fervor.
Russian visitor Pavel Svinin visits an African American church in Philadelphia; this is one of the first written depictions of black church music in the United States.
The first use of the word hit referring to a success in show business comes from this year. The word is borrowed from the game of backgammon.
Early 1810s music trends
Three regions of shape note publishing take form, outside of New England: one was based in the South, especially Georgia and South Carolina, another was dominated by Germans between Philadelphia and the Shenandoah Valley, and the last stretched from Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley westward to Cincinnati and St. Louis.
In Boston the Handel and Haydn Society is formed to "improve sacred music performance and promote the sacred works of eminent European masters". This marks "a new stage in Americans' recognition of music as an art". It remains an influential part of Bostonian culture.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church is founded in Philadelphia, which "established a racial division in American Protestantism; music was to remain a major part of the Church's spiritual expression.
Thomas Funk publishes Choral Music, a songbook that helps establish the American shape note singing tradition. Funk's descendents will carry on his legacy in founding Ruebush-Kieffer, a publishing company that will be the predecessor of most of the Southern religious music publishing firms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Late 1810s music trends
Thomas Hastings begins composing works that use European harmonic techniques; he is one of the few American composers of the era considered to have mastered these techniques.
Music teacher, keyed bugler and bandleader Frank Johnson publishes Six Sets of Cotillions, establishing a career that will make him the leader of the "Philadelphia School", the first African American "school of classically trained composers". He also becomes the first African American to publish sheet music this year, and will later become the first widely acclaimed composer, both at home and in England, first to innovate a style or school elaborated upon by other individuals, first to give formal band concerts, and the first to perform with white musicians in public and the first to tour widely in the United States. He may be the first American of any race to tour abroad, in 1837.
John Fanning Watson, a Wesleyan Methodist, publishes a tract called Methodist Error, which criticizes clergy that hold camp meetings, on the basis that they were relatively racially egalitarian, and the music poorly-composed and performed, especially by African Americans. Though his criticism is not entirely aimed at African Americans, the features he most identifies as religiously inappropriate are characteristically African American. His chief complaint is the use of refrains "of their own composing", referring to those include in the hymnal of Richard Allen from 1801.
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^ abcHaefer, Richard. "Musical Instruments". The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. pp. 472–479.Diamond, Beverly; M. Sam Cronk and Franziska von Rosen (1994). Visions of Sound: Musical Instruments of First Nations Communities in Northeastern America. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN0-226-14475-5.Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
^Crawford, pg. 20; Crawford notes that "Florida Indians liked the psalm melodies and continued to sing them years after the Spaniards had massacred the French colonists, as a way of testing strangers to determine whether they were friend (French) or foe."
^ abcKoskof, "Musical Profile of the United States and Canada", pgs. 2–20, Garland Encyclopedia of the World Music
^Levine, Victoria Lindsay; Judith A. Gray. "Musical Interactions". The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.Howard, James H. (1955). "The Pan-Indian Culture of Oklahoma". Scientific Monthly18 (5): 215–220. Bibcode:1955SciMo..81..215H.
^Elson, The History of American Music, pg. 42; Elson cites this claim to Henry M. Brooks, antiquarian
^Crawford, pgs. 81–82; "Hopkinson himself claimed to be the first American composer in 1788, in a preface to the publication of Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano." Crawford notes that music historian Oscar Sonneck tested this claim in 1905, concluding that Hopkinson had a valid claim. Crawford also notes, however, that some historians would not consider any composer American until the ninth state ratified the United States Constitution in June 1788, and thus it is possible that Hopkinson was, in fact, referring to the publication of Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano as the first American composition.
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