The University of

Music 526: Music in the United States

Warren Steel
232 Music Building

A survey of styles arising in North American culture: imported and native, cultivated and vernacular. (3 credits)
The course explores issues in the history of music in the United States, including: distinctive features of the American musical environment, patronage, etc.; the borrowing and modification of imported styles; the influence of African styles and esthetic upon American music; the contrast between vernacular and cultivated styles of music; the reception of American music abroad; and the influence of the local cultural scene on American composers. Students will become familiar with representative examples of a variety of American musical styles from the colonial days to the present.


Topics for Discussion:

  1. The 18th century.
    1. Psalmody and sacred music.
    2. Oral traditions.
    3. Military, concert, and theater.
  2. The 19th century
    1. Singing schools and music education
    2. The rise of classical music: Heinrich, Fry and Gottschalk
    3. Sprituals and the minstrel theater
    4. The rise of the music publishing industry
    5. Classical music: the first New England school
    6. Parlor music and the rise of Tin Pan Alley
  3. The Twentieth Century
    1. The music of Charles E. Ives
    2. Ragtime, blues and jazz
    3. The American musical stage
    4. Concert music in the modern age
    5. Popular music since WW2

Course Requirements

  1. Attendance and participation in class discussion. (Bring Crawford to every class.)
  2. Reading and listening as assigned.
  3. Class work as assigned.
  4. Book review, due June 4. See supplementary readings or Crawford's bibliographic supplement (PDF format) for suggested topics.
  5. Class project, recorded anthology and essay, due June 18; oral presentations on June 22.
  6. One-hour midterm exam, June 8. Bring a blue book.
  7. Final examination, June 23, noon. Bring a blue book.

Study guides and links

  • Listening guide 1
  • Listening guide 2
  • DRAM: Database of Recorded American Music Free listening lab for UM students.
  • The old way of singing
  • Samuel Sewall leads the psalm.
  • The Regular Singing Controversy (Linda R. Ruggles) [beware heinous popup ads!]
  • William Billings on musick
  • David Steele (Dr. Steel's ancestor) on "Continuous Singing."
  • Samples of musical notation
  • Sacred Harp singing
  • "Negro Spirituals," by T.W. Higginson (1867)
  • "The Sorrow Songs" by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)
  • The Sy Oliver Story, part 1 (1974 interview)
  • American music video playlist
  • Dr. Steel's YouTube playlists
  • Wikipedia home

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