American Music Before 1900 - the Native, the European, and the African

Brought to you by Hopkins at Home 

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February 24, 2021 - March 24, 2021 (5 weeks)

Wednesdays, 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM EST

Indigenous North Americans were surprised to discover Spanish, French and British explorers on their shores in the 1500s– and from the outset some were taught, believe it or not, to sing the Catholic Mass in Latin. But the story of American music soon includes British influence, and along with the other cultures mentioned, it was music of the enslaved from Africa that would co-mingle and flavor the music evolving in North America. This course examines how Native, European and African cultural materials come to play in all sorts of music -- sacred and secular, commercial and freely played, urban and rural, amateur and professional. Materials presented in these classes span the two centuries after Jamestown’s establishment and include plenty of live and recorded musical performances as well as rich, lovely images and relevant videos. 

Throughout these sessions we will explore and discuss the functions of music: ritual and worship, dance, oral history and story-telling, warring and protest, theater, and sheer entertainment. This broad, rich history includes ballads, spiritual and other songs, marches, dances, psalm- and hymn-singing and both commercial and classical expressions. Each of our five sessions will allow for interaction and question-driven discussion, plus some optional homework.

Week 1 - Overview – peoples of North America, Spain, France, England and Africa - a listening tour and comparison of what they bring to bear in America
Week 2 - Colonial Music, Sacred and Secular – how do the black and white hear each other?
Week 3 - Revolution & Constitution – the rise of the music business: theater, tavern, dancing assembly, and private home... how separated are the races, really?
Week 4 - From Fort McHenry to blackface minstrelsy to Hiawatha commercialization of the American story and the rise of elite classicism
Week 5 - 1850-1900 – assimilation through sheet music, opera and the concert stage

Links to resources related to this topic: - Our original website, now hosted by Mount Vernon.  Resources sections especially useful are the PACAN (newspaper) database, and the songster database - Pages from early 18th-c book including African music transcribed in 1688 in Jamaica; links to audio recordings on proper instruments, lots of other good background More than 30,000 pieces of sheet music - amazing way to teach about technology, abolition, politics, gender issues, etc. over a LONG stretch of time. - Hundreds of high-res pix of ballads printed in 1813 in Boston but covering lots of history back a half-century also; includes detailed descriptions, essays, and many now with audio recordings - Scroll down to 4th screen, “A New Song - The Governor’s Rout” -the story of a recently discovered 235-year-old song from Annapolis, Maryland - Scroll down for harpsichord demo, afterwards search for "Bullfinch" article about Martha's music book

Headshot of David HildebrandDavid K. Hildebrand (Ph.D. musicology, 1992) is a freelance performer, lecturer, recording artist, and faculty member of the musicology department at the Peabody Conservatory. His scholarly work and performances focus on early American music. For more than 20 years he served as the Director of The Colonial Music Institute. In 2012 David produced and narrated a one-hour national public radio special, “Music of the War of 1812” and served as the lead music historian for the nationally broadcast documentary film, "Anthem," the story behind “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He has written reviews and reader reports for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, American Music, and Oxford University Press.  Johns Hopkins University Press published his book Musical Maryland in 2017. He has appeared on C-SPAN television, "History Detectives," NPR and BBC radio.  David was a Research Fellow at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, both during 2016-2017 and 2020-21. David and his wife Ginger Hildebrand have been performing together professionally since 1980, and they have recorded and produced seven full-length CD recordings. This is David’s second Hopkins at Home course, previously presenting “Musical Maryland - from Colonial Times through the mid-20th Century.”

Follow Dr. Hildebrand on LinkedIn here.

 Event Date
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Start Time: 5:30pm
End Time: 6:30pm


Baltimore, MD 21218

Hopkins at Home

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