“Poor Old Slave”

The work I’ve found is an interesting one from 1851. This manuscript is a short song arranged by a pianist by the name of George W. H. Griffin. I think this makes a particularly interesting piece to look at due to its place in history, being a work for voice modeled after slave songs, but arranged for chorus and piano. From the cover, it looks to be a work dedicated to a tenor by the name of “S. B. Ball Esq.” from the “Ordway Aeolian Vocalists.” Not much is kept on this ensemble, but as far as can be found in drawings of the composer, G. W. H. Griffin, it appears as if he is a white man.

There are certain implications to the usage of these lyrics, then, given this context. The song goes as follows: 

 

“‘Tis just one year ago today, that I remember well,

I sat down by poor Nelly’s side, and a story did she tell

‘twas ‘bout a poor unhappy slave, that lived for many a year

but now he’s dead and in his grave, no master does he fear

She took my arm, we walked along, into an open field,

and there she paused to breathe a while, then to his grave did steal

she sat down by that little mound, and softly whisper’d there,

come to me father, ‘tis thy child, then gently dropp’d a tear

(chorus)

The poor old slave has gone to rest,

we know that he is free

disturb him not, but let him rest

way down in Tennessee”

First off, being released in 1851, this song was released many years before the abolition of slavery, meaning that the lyrics are not about the past, but are a commentary on the present. Additionally, from context, the story seems to take place in the north, as it, first off, references Tennessee as being “way down,” but also brings up the idea that “Nelly,” is a black woman, and the child of a slave, who is not currently enslaved herself. With this, the song, I believe, is about empathy for those who have been and were being greatly harmed by slavery, and the intent of its singing and performance is to strengthen the idea that slavery is an immoral practice. Given the context of a presumably predominantly white choir, the context of the lyrics suggest that this is a bittersweet, but ultimately pleasant song about the white person’s perspective, knowing someone who has had a close loved one taken away from her, but is now free herself to tell her story.

-mika natal

Works Cited

Griffin, George W. H. “Poor Old Slave.” Duke University Libraries, https://idn.duke.edu/ark:/87924/r4fx7867f. 

The evolution of African American spirituals into western classical music

Since the beginning of African American music, the genre has evolved many times due in part to outside influences from other cultures and societal changes in America. Sorrow Songs became spirituals, which would eventually merge with western classical music. James Bland and H.T. Burleigh were some of the most influential African American composers in America during the turn of the 20th century. Due to their western education, they were able to effectively popularize and represent African American spirituals by combining the words and themes of spirituals with western classical compositions and arrangements.

James Bland was an African American minstrel performer and composer, some of his most famous compositions were “Carry me back to old Virginny” and “In the evening by the moonlight”. “Carry me back to old Virginny” is written from the perspective of a freedperson wanting to go back to the days of slavery. In this recording, the song is sung by a quartet of male singers and when reading the lyrics, the perspective of the singers seems to be that being enslaved wasn’t as bad as one might think. Although the song represents an African American point of view, the arrangement of the song is more western, with clear voicings for each member and more harmonized than previous forms of African American music which wouldn’t normally have this organized form.

The integration of western classical music into African American spirituals was even more apparent in Bland’s “In the evening by the moonlight”, a song about the experience of slaves. This recording starts with a western orchestral intro and much like the previously mentioned song, there is a lot more structure and harmonization in this piece. Interestingly, the pronunciations in the recording are also more “proper” English, rather than the English that was originally written in the lyrics.

H.T. Burleigh was surrounded by music from a young age, performing at local churches and events and later became famous for his adaptations of African American spirituals. Some of his most famous works are “Deep river” and “Go down Moses”. “Deep river” is a song of hope that expresses a desire for peace and freedom. From the sheet music, we can see that the piece begins with piano chords that this is not a traditional spiritual that might have been passed orally, rather it is a well notated piece meant to express the experiences of African Americans in a western style. 

The lyrics in “Go down Moses” don’t specifically relate to African Americans or even America, however, it was still meant to express many of the feelings of enslaved African Americans. When listening to this recording and looking at the sheet music, the accompanying parts are very intricate and western compared to what traditional spirituals might have done. Moreover, this song seems to have a structure where rather than having a call and response with other singers, the accompaniment has short interjections that just continue the melody.

 

I think that another important note that all of these recordings have in common is that the vocalists all seem to be classically trained compared to previous African American music where the performers weren’t necessarily trained. The main causes of this seem to be the notation of the music as well as more western influence. In my opinion, the notation of spirituals has prevented them from being lost to time or lack of representation, however, bias can also affect which spirituals get notated and which will be forgotten. The integration of western styles and instrumentation with spirituals seems to be a good idea in terms of increasing popularity and representation among other works in the US, but I wonder whether or not the songs still hold the same weight now that they have been combined with western music.

 

References:

Bland, James A, Columbia Stellar Quartette, and James A Bland. Carry me back to old Virginia. 1919. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/jukebox-651610/>.

Bland, James A, et al. In the Evening by the Moonlight. 1908. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/jukebox-121558/>.

Burleigh, H. T, and Oscar Seagle. Deep River. 1916. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/jukebox-655500/>.

Burleigh, H. T. Deep river song: old Negro melody. G. Ricordi, New York, monographic, 1916. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2011562023/>.

“Go down, Moses; Let My People Go! / Historic American Sheet Music / Duke Digital Repository.” Duke Digital Collections, https://repository.duke.edu/dc/hasm/n0708.

“In Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana.” IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana – Item Details, https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/inharmony/detail.do?action=detail&fullItemID=%2Flilly%2Fdevincent%2FLL-SDV-232069.

“In the Evening by the Moonlight.” High Brown Songs, 28 Apr. 2022, https://sheetmusicsinger.com/highbrownsongs/in-the-evening-by-the-moonlight/.

Lapitino, Francis J, et al. Go down Moses. 1924. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/jukebox-69931/>.

 

H.T. Burleigh and Black Excellence: An Idea of Freedom Through Hard Trials

Hard trials. Something every single person on this planet can relate to. When I think of hard trials the first thing that comes to mind is a difficult experience, finding yourself in a quagmire, if you will. In actuality, it is an unpleasant experience that attempts to prevent you from further reaching your desired goals. My question to you, dear reader, is how do your goals and desires differ from, or share similarities with, enslaved African Americans of the 16th, 17th and 18th century? I’m sure there is a lot to say about the differences in end goals between enslaved African-American and members of today’s current population, but a similarity I believe both parties would attest to in some way is the desire for freedom. Freedom comes in a variety of forms and entities, from the liberation African American slaves worked relentlessly to secure, to the inner landscape of one’s mind, where the desire is to free the self from the turmoil we all encounter. What this all boils down to is that freedom in all aspects is a sacred thing, and hard trials can be the building blocks of our lives, as long as we respect and adhere to their lessons with all of our love and strength. 

There is no better example of a composer who encapsulates aspects of freedom, hardship, faith and desire into his musical arrangements than H. T. Burleigh. H.T. Burleigh was one of the first African-American composers who utilized negro spirituals in his use of composing classical repertoire (both vocal and instrumental) and enjoyed public recognition and a high degree of success as a black composer. In Burleigh’s arrangement of “Hard Trials,” written in 1917 from his collection of Negroe Spirituals, the listener is likely to be deceived by the title in comparison to listening to the piece. Rather than a somber piece, it is almost cheerful in its tempo and lyrics. When you think of hard trials you may think of some of the examples I elaborated on above, trials accompanied by frustration and heartbreak, however Burleigh’s arrangement of this spiritual is one that emphasizes joy and hope over frustration and heartbreak. The piece incorporates textual ideas supporting the strength found in religioius doctrines including the deeply held beliefs voiced by a Methodist slave. The piece speaks to the strength and preservation that religion offers an individual, especially one who is enslaved, through the lyrics, “Methodis’ is my name, Methodis’ till I die, I’ve been reciev’d in the Methodis’ church.” I believe that the way these lyrics are arranged highlights the joy and promise of an afterlife that the singer aspires to, despite the brutality of white supremacy. The melody is written in E flat major, a key that brings a bright bounce and rhythm to it, painting the picture of a woman out on a leisurely stroll contemplating a brighter future and always moving forward despite the current harsh realities. It also depicts how religious faith is an aspect of one’s life that positively uplifts yourself and others, helping you overcome hardships when face to face with a difficult situation. 

Inside the front cover of Burleigh’s book of Negro Spirituals you will find notes Burleigh instructs the listener to read and reflect on before listening to his spirituals. An important aspect of this writing is the importance for the integration of both religion and music in one’s life to create a deep seeded spiritual experience. This mindset is required in his eyes, while singing spirituals and folk songs. Burleigh refers to a sense of spirit one must have and its priority over a uniquely beautiful voice. To Burleigh, this sense of spirit is idolized through the “spontaneous outburst of intense religious fervor.” This outburst is similar to the notion within the baptist and other Christian faiths to “get happy” and accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior. The spiritual musical score and its lyrics arranged by Burleigh are hopeful, aspirational and diametrically opposed to the harsh realities of day to day life as an enslaved person. The most compelling aspect of “Hard Trials” is that it is all accomplished within the realm of classical music by a black composer, and in this recording, featuring a world renowned black contralto soloist, Ms. Marian Anderson.

Works Cited

“H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949).” The Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035730

“Sheet Music Consortium: Home.” Sheet Music Consortium | Home, https://digital.library.ucla.edu/sheetmusic/#fieldquery=Slave%2520spirituals&amp;searchType=regular&amp;start=150&amp;rows=10&amp;keyword=Slave%2520spirituals&amp;titles=false&amp;names=false&amp;places=false&amp;publishers=false&amp;subjects=false

Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, https://spartacus-educational.com/USASsongs.htm

 

The Plantation Songs Known as Spirituals – Go Down, Moses, H. T. Burleigh

While looking through the Sheet Music Consortium, it occurred to me to look into songs I had some base familiarity with. Go Down, Moses is a very popular spiritual which came directly from enslaved African Americans at plantations. The song itself refers to Moses and the Hebrew people. In said story, the Hebrews are held captive by the Pharaoh. God tells Moses through the story of the burning bush to free his people from the Egyptian tyrant. Through sending plagues, flocks of locus, making the red sea red with blood and more catastrophes, the Pharaoh agrees to let the Hebrew people go. To the enslaved African Americans working their lives away, this spiritual was the promise of emancipation.

Included above are the notes in the front cover from H.T. Bureigh on the difference between spiritual and minstrel, how to perform this piece, and what this piece and these words mean. H.T. Burleigh writes about how to perform this piece, and what it means for African Americans. In order to sing correctly, you have to have soul, more than correctness of pitches. And you have to learn the difference between a spiritual and minstrel song. Burleigh invites the singer to feel the words, so that every man will be free. This brings up a question, what actually is the difference between minstrel songs and spirituals? A spiritual is a song that represents something to an audience, and to the performer. Its goal is to stir the people and help them think in a different way, or further affirm their beliefs. Spirituals have been featured in African American minstrel shows, but those shows also featured a wide variety of music: secular, comedy, and eventually spirituals. And few were better at arranging these spirituals as H.T. Burleigh.

On the topic of H.T. Burleigh, in Music 345, we have studied Burleigh, so that name likely rings a bell. H.T. Burleigh was one of the first prominent black composers. In his life, Burleigh had a small singing career and arranged art song but focused mostly on arranging and composing spirituals. His works are still performed to this day, about a hundred years later. The song itself has stood the test of time, being one of the most popular spirituals ever. But just as the song stands the test of time, so does this story. His words, in the front cover of Go Down, Moses invoke the message of the spiritual. This, of course, is something we continue to strive for today as a society. And yet, people still need to hear these words in order to believe them, and to understand that all people must be free.

 

Go Down, Moses; Let My People Go!, Burleigh, H. T. (Harry Thacker), 1917, Accessed 10/20/2022.

Examining the Portrayal of Native Americans in Early Twentieth-Century White Popular Culture

Born in Marengo, IL, pianist and composer Egbert Van Alstyne (1882-1951) was an accomplished musician whose musical endeavors appeared on Broadway and in vaudeville. In 1903, he got his big break from a piece he composed entitled “Navajo”, which musically demonstrates racist stereotypes of Indigenous peoples perpetuated by white Americans. He and lyricist Harry Williams later composed “Oh, that Navajo Rag”, a ragtime piece with text which further pigeonholes and generalizes the Navajo tribe. Unfortunately, Van Alstyne’s work is one of innumerable examples of how music perpetuated and upheld racist stereotypes in the United States. Van Alstyne’s work, among many other composers and artists, raises significant questions about the portrayal of Native Americans throughout history, and how these portrayals might have impacted us all. 

Unfortunately, Van Alstyne and Williams’ bigoted repertoire is robust. Many more of their compositions are centered around prejudiced views towards Native Americans, such as “Cheyenne” and “San Antonio”. And many other composers were publishing similar works at approximately the same time. For instance, Don Bestor’s “That Indian Rag”, Edward Coleman’s “My Indian Maiden”, and Theodore Morse’s “Wise Old Indian” were all published around the same time as Van Alstyne and William’s works. What is especially alarming is the popularization of Van Alstyne and Williams music. “Navajo” was later included in Marie Cahill’s Broadway musical Nancy Brown, and “Oh, that Navajo Rag” was recorded and performed in 1911 by Billy Murray, one of the most famous vaudeville singers of his time. The creation of this work might be considered by some to be disappointing but unsurprising; but what is certainly appalling is that audiences were listening and applauding. 

When studying American music, it is important to be acutely and consistently critical of those artists and creatives who helped to lay the foundations of the American cultural framework we live in today. While we frequently critique musicologists in this course for their malpractices and wrongdoings, perhaps we ought to consider the sins of the artist as more significant. Our artistic ancestors in some way influence the art we make and thus the world we live in today. The effects of their art is long lasting, and it is difficult to write off these artistic pieces as a product of their time when their impacts are felt today. 

 

Billy Murray. Oh, that Navajo Rag. Victor Records. 1911.  Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox-130930/.

 

Bestor, Don. That Indian Rag. Will Rossiter, 1910. 

 

Coleman, Edward. My Indian Maiden. The American Advance Music Co, 1904.

 

Ewen, David. Popular American Composers. New York, The H. W. Wilson Company, 1962. 

 

Levy, Lester S. “Growing Pains.” Give me Yesterday: American History in Song 1890-1920, University of Oklahoma Press, 1975, 169-195. 

 

Morse, Theodore F. Wise Old Indian. Theodore Morse Music Co, 1909. 

 

“Murray, Billy.” Grove Music Online, 3 Sept. 2014, https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2267265. 

 

Van Alstyne, Egbert. Navajo: Indian Characteristique March and Two Step. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co, 1903. 

 

Van Alstyne, Egbert. Oh, that Navajo Rag. Jerome H. Remick & Co, 1911. Accessed from: https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/metsnav/inharmony/navigate.do?oid=http://fedora.dlib.indiana.edu/fedora/get/iudl:469351/METADATA&pn=1&size=screen.

 

“Van Alstyne, Egbert (Anson).” The Grove Dictionary of American Music. 2nd ed. 2013.

Harry Burleigh: The Transformation of Spirituals into Classical Music

Many white composers compiled and arranged a multitude of African American spirituals for the western ear to consume, although more important to discuss is the influence of the first African American arranger to change the idea of what spirituals represent. Harry Burleigh was an African American vocalist, arranger, and composer who created a foundation for African American spirituals to be represented in classical music. Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, in the aftermath of the civil war, Burleigh was primarily influenced by the teachings of his grandfather, who lived in slavery as a child. Burleigh connected with original spirituals such as Deep River, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot. His experience surrounded by music as a child led to his desire to become a musician, ultimately receiving a scholarship to the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He had a prominent career in performing and extraordinary success in putting African American spirituals in the classical realm. Below is an arrangement I discovered on the Sheet Music Consortium that is a collection of spirituals, most specifically Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child, arranged by Burleigh in western classical notation.

Just as discussed throughout Southern’s book The Music of Black Americans, white Americans often have stereotyped and simplified African American music, creating a falsified notion of the deeper meaning behind spirituals. Southern points out that white observers often “misunderstood the singing and dancing of slaves, interpreting such activities as indicative that the slaves were unfeeling and uncaring.” He further shares that they saw African Americans as “a large flock of cheerful and contented slaves… ever merry and ever working with a song” (Southern, Pg. 77). This misconception seeped its way into popular culture as African Americans gained freedom and their culture was much more prominent, specifically through minstrelsy.

Minstrelsy was a meld of African American stereotypes built on the sole purpose of entertainment for a white audience, instilling a sense of shallowness in African American folk music. Burleigh used his talents to arrange fifty songs that could stand beside other classical staples to instill a feeling of respect and empathy for spirituals. For instance, he wrote that “it is a serious misconception of their meaning and value to treat them as minstrel songs or to try to make them funny by too literal attempt to imitate that manner of the Negro in singing them… their worth is weakened unless they are done impressively, for through all these songs there breathes hope, a faith in the ultimate justice and the brotherhood of man” (Bell). Alternatively, while western notation can take away the culture and freeness that might initially be in a song learned and sung through rote, Burleigh proves that western notation can shed light on a piece’s depth and seriousness.

Bibliography

Bell, Danna. “Link to the Library of Congress: Harry T. Burleigh—The Man Who Brought African-American Spirituals to the Classical Stage.” Music Educators Journal 104, no. 4 (2018): 9–11. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26588647.

Ramsey, Guthrie P. “African American music.” Grove Music Online. 4 Oct. 2012; Accessed 20 Oct. 2022. https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-1002226838.

Rubenstein, David. “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child / Historic American Sheet Music / Duke Digital Repository.” Duke Digital Collections. Accessed October 19, 2022. https://repository.duke.edu/dc/hasm/n0735.

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans a History. New York: Norton, 1971.

Record Importance

Humans are naturally creatures that like to sort things into groups. Why we do this – who is to say. Regardless of the why, we have collections of practically everything under the sun – rocks, weather, music, plants. You name it and someone has probably put it into some kind of collection or catalog.

In music, specifically in terms music of underrepresented composers (i.e BIPOC, women, etc.) these kinds of collections are vital. Us western classically trained musicians due to our training don’t tend to look outside the canon unless prompted because of the fact that there is so much that is “acceptable” already. Why do the work of finding something new?

But that’s the thing – it isn’t new. Black music has been here just as long in America as the white, but due to the fact that the music wasn’t white music in origin, most white folks thought it wasn’t worth exploring or promoting.

And yet, their bodies started filling jazz clubs and rock venues and suddenly the music meant something. The joke is on them – this music always meant something and it is because of that inherent worth that this music deserves to get played.

Which brings me back to why collections like “International Dictionary of Black Composers, vol. 1” and others like it are so important. The work of gathering the music has been done already – all you as the musician have to do is open it and look through to see what you find. You might just find a new favorite song.

 

Work cited:

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In! They Carried Toys and Propaganda!

In 1914, during World War I, an appeal was published in the Chicago Herald, asking American children to donate toys, sweets, and money to suffering children in Europe whose Christmases that year surely would not be as joyful. These donations traveled to Europe on the U.S.S. Jason, a Navy fuel/cargo ship, branded for this special journey as “The Christmas Ship,” or, “The Santa Claus Ship.” This appeal soon became a national movement, gathering involvement from the Red Cross and other organizations, and meriting a song to be widely performed (often by the children themselves!) to persuade children to donate gifts. This song was called “Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship!”1 and it was written by Henry S. Sawyer, who was a composer of popular piano and vocal music at the time (see on IMSLP, his incredibly problematic “Os-Ka-Loo-Sa-Loo,” among others). The song features a cheerful melody and inspiring words. It appeals to a child’s sense of wonder at the wideness of the world and the magic of Christmas, but the lyrics also raise some issues in terms of perpetuating propaganda. 

The front cover to Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship. Notice the whimsical sailboat with Santa himself at its helm.
Henry S. Sawyer, Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship. (Chicago, Illinois: McKinley Music Company, 1914).

The European children are referred to as “poor,” and “suffering,” implying not only their financial hardship but also poverty of spirit. The lyrics reference the “terrors” these children endure, including “fire, gun, and sword,” and homelessness. A written message on the back cover also contributes to harmful and sexist gender norms, asking girls to sew things then sell them, and asking boys to do chores and run errands for money. 

The actual “Christmas Ship,” A.K.A. The U.S.S. Jason, in November 1914. Not very whimsical, and presumably no Santa to be found.
Green, Mike. USS Jason (Fuel Ship #12) underway. Photograph. Nov 14, 1914. Library of Congress, LC-B2- 3291-3. http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/02/09021220.jpg (Accessed October 19, 2022).

However sweet the gesture and movement is, these descriptions contribute to the propaganda of wartime morale songs. While the lyrics do not directly insult enemies, the propaganda comes in the form of asking for money and instilling nationalism. If nothing else, this song trains American children that giving money during wartime is an important thing you must do for your country. Especially considering that 30 years later, many of these children will grow up to be adults during World War II, where money-pandering was a huge part of American propaganda. By asking American children to effectively be Santa Clause, this song could contribute to a superiority or savior complex that could result in nationalist ideals.  

People packing boxes of gifts for the Christmas Ship ahead of its departure.
Bain News Service, Publisher. Packing for Christmas Ship. 1914. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2014697999/.

Despite the propaganda, this effort was received very well by Europe. In an article published in November 1914 in the New York Times2
, the author reports that “the citizens of Greater Plymouth [England] manifested in every possible manner the heartfelt appreciation of the 6,000,000 Christmas gifts sent by the people of the United States to the unfortunate children in the war zone.” The receiving countries hosted banquets in honor of the ship’s arrival, and telegrams were exchanged on both sides. The ship’s arrival was met with excitement and gratitude, so clearly the propaganda worked. While this movement was a sweet idea, the execution perpetuates the nationalist propaganda that runs rampant during the wartime era, indoctrinating children into the compulsion to give money and ultimately fund the war effort.

Ragtime and the Stark Music Company

Ragtime is a genre of music created by Black pianists that was popular between 1890 and 1920. Known by such a name due to its highly syncopated nature (which was originally referred to as “ragging the time”), ragtime emerged initially in the Mississippi Valley as bar, cabaret, and club music played by “piano-thumping… black piano professors” (1) that was mostly improvisatory. This early ragtime was referred to as jig music, and was all but shunned by white populations. During the Chicago World Fair, many Black jig piano players were hired to play music written by white composers at Fair events, but they were not allowed to play their own music. As a result, they would play in the clubs, saloons, and other social spaces around the perimeter of the fair, which is where their music thrived (1).

It wasn’t until 1895 when the first ragtime tune, “La Pas La Mas”, was actually published, starting a new subgenre within ragtime known as classic rag (2). Classic rag was published as sheet music and was not intended to be improvised off of, rather being played exactly as written. Arguably the most famous classic rag composer was Scott Joplin, with his “Maple Leaf Rag” being the most popular of his works (3).

Cover art and first page of Stark Music Co.’s version of Joplin’s “Rag-Time Dance”. Full PDF here (5).

Like many composers of classic rag, Joplin was initially a jig pianist who then ventured into classic rag. In 1898, he first began submitting scores to publishing companies, but it wasn’t until meeting John Stillwell Stark, a white music publisher and music store owner, and playing for him in his store in 1899 that he entered a publishing contract. For Stark, this was the first Black and first ragtime composer he conducted business with (3), and this proved to be extremely profitable. The “Maple Leaf Rag”, Joplin’s first work published by Stark, is considered one of the first hit songs on sheet music and sold over 500,000 copies in the first 10 years of its publication (4).

With Joplin’s massive success, Stark decided that if he were going to sell more ragtime music, he would focus on publishing classic rag. Ragtime was a largely Black genre, and, predictably, Stark did not want to be seen as someone who particularly uplifted Black voices, and said that he “[advocated] no class of music”, but alternatively a publisher popular music and anything he thought to be “interesting or useful”, and ragtime just so happened to fit into those boxes. Stark didn’t just limit his classic rag roster to Joplin, but to other accomplished names like James Scott and Joseph Francis Lamb, as well as several of Joplin’s protégés. This turned his company into the primary supporter of and place to purchase ragtime music (2).

Cover art and first page of Stark Music Co.’s version of Lamb’s “Cleopatra Rag”. Full PDF here (6).

One result of the Stark Music Company churning out works by a star-studded list of ragtime composers was the spread of ragtime into white households and communities as a palatable morsel of Black American culture. The acceptance of ragtime seems to have been just another example of Black culture being appropriated and taken advantage of among the many that comprise American music history. One could argue that Stark’s opinion of neutrality rather than support could have been a factor in this, but I doubt Stark was influential enough himself to have significantly challenged his white audience’s overwhelmingly racist views.

Sources

(1) “From Piano Thumping to the Concert Stage: The Rise of Ragtime.” Music Educators Journal 59, no. 8 (1973): 53–56. https://doi.org/10.2307/3394278.

(2) Tichenor, Trebor Jay. “John Stillwell Stark, Piano Ragtime Publisher: Readings from ‘The Intermezzo’ and His Personal Ledgers, 1905-1908.” Black Music Research Journal 9, no. 2 (1989): 193–204. https://doi.org/10.2307/779423.

(3) Reed, Addison. “Scott Joplin, Pioneer: Part 2.” The Black Perspective in Music 3, no. 3 (1975): 269–77. https://doi.org/10.2307/1214012.

(4) “John Stark, 1841-1927.” The Library of Congress. LOC. Accessed October 19, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035817/. 

(5) Joplin, Scott. “Rag-Time Dance”. Sheet Music Consortium. St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1906. https://scholarsjunction.msstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3681&context=cht-sheet-music. 

(6) Lamb, Joseph F. “Cleopatra Rag”. Sheet Music Consortium. St. Louis, MO: Stark Music Co., 1915. https://scholarsjunction.msstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3482&context=cht-sheet-music.

Unconventionally Conventional: Francis Johnson’s “Celebrated and much admired voice quadrilles”

Despite being a black composer and bandleader in Philadelphia during the early 19th century, Francis Johnson was one of the most celebrated American composers of his time, period. While this undoubtedly had something to do with the liberal and progressive atmosphere of Philadelphia, it was also due to his talent and the innovative and experimental nature of many of his compositions. However, some argue that he merely excelled in existing genres and was popular not because of his unconventional style, but precisely because he catered to white tastes.1 I found a copy of Johnson’s “Celebrated and much admired voice quadrilles” in the Sheet Music Consortium database, which Johnson dedicated to a wealthy local businessman.2 The subtitle proclaims that Johnson and his band found “much distinguished success” while embarking on what was the first tour of Europe by any American band, revealing that his celebrity was not limited to Philadelphia.1 The quadrille was an elaborate dance form that was very popular among the upper classes in the first half of the 19th century.3 The circumstances of this piece’s composition and publication reveal that Johnson’s success had much to do with his catering to upper-class interests.

However, the music itself shows Johnson’s willingness to experiment. Popular music written by Johnson and others at the time was often published in arrangements that could be performed by amateur pianists in the home.1 As a result, this quadrille, written for piano and voice, is mostly very simple rhythmically, but Johnson also embellishes the piece with a more lively and rhythmically complex cornet solo. Johnson annotates his music with instructions to the dancers, in addition to the lyrics. The very idea of a “voice quadrille” was a novel one, as the genre was traditionally instrumental.4 The lyrics themselves are lighthearted, with a “laughing finale” that literally calls for the singers to sing “ha ha ha”.

While the quadrille was a highly ritualized genre that was popular among the upper classes, Johnson’s ability to play with the conventions of that genre shows that his success was not only a result of catering to upper-class tastes but actually a result of subverting them. Johnson provides an interesting example of the kind of creative mixing of genres that occurred when black Americans came into contact with European music, as his success came from privilege and access to white upper-class society rather than the oppression of slavery. Johnson achieved a number of firsts among American composers, showcasing his boldness and willingness to go beyond what was expected.4 In fact, Johnson was the first composer writing for white audiences to address the topic of slavery and the suffering it caused, showing that in some cases his success was actually despite this boldness. While his education in and use of European musical styles perhaps reflected a desire to fit in with the white cultural elite, along with a desire by that elite to embrace a black person who had proved himself able to assimilate, Johnson’s success was ultimately due to his ability to engage in the musical styles of the cultural elite and bring something new to them.

Citations:

1 Griscom, Richard. “Francis Johnson: Philadelphia Bandmaster and Composer.” University of Pennsylvania Almanac, February 14, 2012. https://almanac.upenn.edu/archive/volumes/v58/n22/bandmaster.html.

2 Schnurmann, Claudia. “His Father’s Favored Son: David Parish.” Immigrant Entrepreneurship. German Historical Institute, August 22, 2018. https://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entries/his-fathers-favored-son-david-parish/#Between_Philadelphia_and_Ogdensburg_1806-1816; Johnson, Francis. Johnson’s Celebrated and Much Admired Voice Quadrilles. Geo. W. Hewitt and Co., Philadelphia, monographic, 1840. Notated Music.

3 Skiba, Bob. “Here, Everybody Dances: Social Dancing in Early Minnesota.” MN History Magazine. Accessed October 18, 2022. https://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/55/v55i05p217-227.pdf.

Kramer, Hayden James. 2022. “Six Works by Francis Johnson (1792–1844): A Snapshot of Early American Social Life.” Order No. 29162008, University of Maryland, College Park. https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/six-works-francis-johnson-1792-1844-snapshot/docview/2688578944/se-2.

“What are your people singing about-for they are always singing.”

After searching a bit on the database, I stumbled upon a document called, “Plea for Negro Folk Lore,” published as the Freeman on January 27, 1894. In this article, author Miss A.M. Bacon argues that within a handful of years as of the publishing of this article, the history of black Americans would dwindle, and be reduced to nothingness-completely assimilated into society with no traditions, beliefs or ideas from the past. The thought that the new generation was not aware of the sufferings of their ancestors is frightening. To combat this rising problem, the author suggests the history of black Americans, specifically enslaved black Americans to be meticulously collected. Likewise, she argues that such knowledge must be collected by intelligent and educated black scholars in order to accurately inform from their own experience. Bacon numbers the types of information that must be collected: Folktales, customs, traditions, African words surviving in speech or song, ceremonies and proverbs. Through collecting these items, the history of black Americans can be compiled, so that everyone knows the struggles of the past.

One of the best ways to explore the past of black Americans is through the surviving words through speech and song. While people had recorded spirituals at the time, Bacon focuses on different kinds of songs. She references utterances, both musical and rhythmic. Further on, she poses the question to her audience of primarily black Americans, “What are your people singing about – for they are always singing – at their work or their play, by the […] or in social gatherings?”1 Bacon presents a clear call to action to notate such music, as it is these songs that contain the history, life and identity of the black American.

 

1 “Plea for Negro Folk Lore,” page 2, column 3, line 11-15

Plea for Negro Folk Lore.” Freeman (Indianapolis, Indiana) 6, no. 4, January 27, 1894: [2]. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B28495A8DAB1C8%40EANAAA-12C8A12E849E6750%402412856-12C8A12E9A8258B0%401-12C8A12F1D93D6A0%40Plea%2Bfor%2BNegro%2BFolk%2BLore (Accessed October 12th, 2022).

Harry T. Burleigh: accomplished composer, talented baritone… and Dvořák’s muse?

One of the most beloved African-American composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Harry T. Burleigh. Born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, he learned to sing spirituals from his mother and sang in various church and community events throughout his childhood. In his teenage years, he became known as a fantastic classical singer, and got to work at and see many famous people perform, such as Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño. Then, a few years after high school in 1892, Burleigh began to attend the National Conservatory of Music in New York on scholarship for voice (1).

But, by the title of this blog post, how does any of this relate to Czech person and well-known composer Antonín Dvořák?

Well, Dvořák happened to immigrate the United States in 1892 also to become the director of the National Conservatory of Music! He both taught classes and conducted the conservatory orchestra, which Burleigh also happened to become the librarian and copyist for. As a result of this, Dvořák and Burleigh worked together frequently, which eventually turned into a friendship. A particularly cute story from their friendship comes from a letter Dvořák wrote to his family back home that his son “[would sit] on Burleigh’s lap during the orchestra’s rehearsals and [play] the tympani” (2).

However, the relationship between the two bettered their compositions as well. Dvořák would often overhear Burleigh singing spirituals to himself while working or in the halls, and, not knowing much about spirituals, would talk to him about them and learn many of the songs from him. Dvořák then encouraged Burleigh to begin composing and arranging these spirituals (1). This would kickstart a prolific composing career for Burleigh, who incorporated spirituals into many of his original art songs, arrangements, and other compositions, and amassed a portfolio of over 200 works. Here is a review of his works from the Afro-American Cullings section of the Cleveland Gazette (3):

Dvořák also found ample inspiration in the African-American folk music he learned from Burleigh and gained a huge amount of respect for it. In fact, he was so displeased that white Americans did not care for African-American music that wrote several news articles in the New York Herald, in which he argued that the soul of American music lies in Black music, which the Herald’s white readers found difficult to swallow, to say the least. Here are a few words from an article he wrote in 1893, with even a picture of Burleigh (4):

Dvořák then composed his New World Symphony (here’s a link to its very famous Largo movement) based off several spirituals, the pentatonic and blues scale – all learned from Burleigh – and Indigenous music, and it gained massive acclaim and spreading rapidly throughout the country (3). Black communities across the country absolutely adored the work, and grew to become very fond of and proud of both Dvořák and Burleigh, as can be seen in this from the Cleveland Gazette (5):Thankfully, and radically for the time, Dvořák gave much credit to Burleigh for the conception of many of the ideas for his New World Symphony (2).

Sources:

(1) “H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949)”. 2022. The Library Of Congress. https://loc.gov/item/ihas.200035730.

(2) “African American Influences”. 2022. DAHA. https://www.dvoraknyc.org/african-american-influences.

(3) “Afro-American Cullings.” Cleveland Gazette, October 30, 1915: 4. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B716FE88B82998%40EANAAA-12BC1B62334A2850%402420801-12BA063BD57BDCD8%403-12DBB540D0E6C840%40Afro-American%2BCullings.

(4) Dvořák, Antonin. 1893. “Antonin Dvořák On Negro Melodies”. New York Herald, May 28th, 1893. https://static.qobuz.com/info/IMG/pdf/NYHerald-1893-May-28-Recentre.pdf.

(5) “[America; Dr. Antonin Dvorak; Mr. Harry T. Burleigh; Erie; Samuel P. Warren].” Cleveland Gazette, September 23, 1893: 2. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B716FE88B82998%40EANAAA-12C2B9DB2DFFBDD8%402412730-12C106453A9F6688%401-12D7B8B19C518AD0%40%255BAmerica%253B%2BDr.%2BAntonin%2BDvorak%253B%2BMr.%2BHarry%2BT.%2BBurleigh%253B%2BErie%253B%2BSamuel%2BP.%2BWarren%255D.

African American Sorrow Songs and Spirituals

The term “sorrow songs” was coined by W.E.B. DuBois and represented songs that expressed the suffering and unjust treatment of enslaved African Americans throughout the period of slavery in the US. Sorrow songs conveyed sadness and the lyrics and melodies were often very direct about the experiences that African Americans had while enslaved. DuBois commented that although the songs were unknown to him, he knew the songs as a part of himself. 

Many of the Sorrow Songs and Negro folk songs had lots of spiritual references because the only book that was read to slaves was the bible. Although Sorrow Songs implies hardships and literal sadness, there were still many songs that represented hopes and aspirations for a better future. The lyrics of these more hopeful songs would start with the hardships of slavery and gravitate towards a lighter topic of being enlightened by Christianity and the hope and faith that God will look over the slaves.

Due to the deep and meaningful lyrics in Sorrow Songs, many leaders and teachers recognized the significance of these songs for African American culture. They would often teach the importance of the melodies and lyrics of the songs and stress the respect that younger African Americans should have for their music. In a news article from the Chicago Defender in 1922, “A History of Music That Moved World: Story of Songs of Hope That Came From the Hearts of Slaves”, the author argues that these songs were so important for African Americans was because they were created by African Americans to express the African American experience through slavery. Moreover, the author states that certain other Negro folk songs don’t hold as much weight because although they reflected the African American experience, they were written by white men.

Although the term Sorrow Songs has become less prevalent and spirituals are more commonly known, the experiences represented through Sorrow Songs have not been lost to time. Spirituals have since evolved from the slave songs and Sorrow songs to become more polished forms of music that still maintain their characteristic moods that were created under intense hardships and deep sorrows.

 

References:

“A History of Music that Moved World: Story of Songs of Hope that Came from the Hearts of Slaves.” The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967), Dec 30, 1922, pp. 13. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/history-music-that-moved-world/docview/491968896/se-2.

Nobody knows the trouble I see sheet music. Easy Sheet Music. (2021, April 11). Retrieved October 10, 2022, from http://easysheetmusic.altervista.org/nobody-knows-the-trouble-i-see-sheet-music-guitar-chords-lyrics/

Peyton, Dave. “THE MUSICAL BUNCH: THINGS IN GENERAL SLAVE SONGS.” The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967), Nov 17, 1928, pp. 6. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/musical-bunch/docview/492211749/se-2.

Spiritual lyrics: Oh freedom. Negro Spiritual/Slave Song Lyrics for Oh Freedom. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2022, from http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/negro-spirituals/oh_freedom.htm

W.E.B. Du Bois. “”The Sorrow Songs,” from The Souls of Black Folk”. Book excerpt, 1903. From Teaching American History. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/the-sorrow-songs/

White Privilege Asserting Authority Over the Narrative

African American spirituals were infused with the experiences and emotions of enslaved people in the south as they utilized these religious folk tunes for praise, worship, and community. Many of these spirituals thrive today, performed by artists such as Nat Cole King, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and many more. However, some argue about the origination of these tunes, such as the musicologists recently discussed in class, like Henry Krehbiel and George Pullman Jackson. Throughout this blog post, I will discuss how the privilege of white men allowed scholars like Jackson and Krehbiel to argue the true origin of spirituals and how the power to change the narrative has primarily laid with the European white settlers.

The Primary document below is a piece of a newspaper listing published by the Afro-American Gazette, and it lists in chronological order the history of black achievement. Listed halfway down is the 1867 published book entitled Slave Songs of the United States. This book is also seen below. Written and edited by northern abolitionists William Francis Allen, Lucy McKim Garrison, and Charles Pickard Ware, Slave Songs of the United States was published in 1867. It was prominent in introducing written notation of spirituals that were never shared before; this book was the first space where the famous folk tune Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen was published. The three authors that gathered all 136 spirituals listed spent time during the civil war with recently freed enslaved people and, in turn, learned of the songs they used for worship.

Furthermore, William Allen gives background through the writing of the introduction to the purpose of this book and the biases it might hold. Allen admits that “the difficulty experienced in obtaining absolute correctness is greater than might be supposed by those who have never tried the experiment, and we are far from claiming that we have made no mistakes” (Slave Songs, Pg. iv). His identity as a white scholar with a Harvard degree and title as an educator in the civil war gives him an abundance of authority to hold the narrative of African American Slave songs. Thankfully, the book’s authors provide some credit for the actual creators of the spirituals; however, the main argument is that the privilege the three authors hold allows them to change the narrative just as scholars like Krehbiel and Jackson have done.

The score of Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, recorded by Charles Pickard, is a very prominent spiritual performed by many artists in pop culture. Consequently, the piece was recorded during a moment of grief, surrounded by when the population of Charleston. This song was specifically introduced to bring together the community in that moment of frustration. Those in the presence of the performance shared the intensity of emotions that flowed through the crowd. While the authors of this book were too in attendance, there stands to mention that the musicologists never could genuinely capture the integrity of the pieces through western, traditional transcription of music they later wrote down. Allen even remarks on this by stating that the mistakes embedded are “variations.” The issue, however, arises when these variations become the known versions of the original due to white privilege creating authority and power over all narratives.

One last primary document I came across is Frederick Louis Ritters’s book, Music in America, where he cites the Slave Songs of the United States and says it is “one of the best collections of old slave songs” (Ritter). At the time, it was the best collection of African American spirituals. Allen did indeed make recognition that these pieces were all derived from African Americans, that the notation depicted is the best that they can do and will only “convey but a faint shadow of the original” (Slave Songs, Pg. iv). Although, if we allow this narrative to represent African American culture and music, we allow authors like Henry Krehbiel and George Pullman Jackson to make claims of the white influence on black tradition.

 

Bibliography

Afro-American Gazette, vol. III, no. 2, 18 Jan. 1993, p. 12. Readex: African American Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12A7AD36E8864712%40EANAAA-12C5F06DC6F7F750%402449006-12C5F06DF9520AB0%4017. Accessed 24 Nov. 2022.

Allen, W. F. W. (1867). Slave songs of the United States. Smithsonian Library. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/slavesongsofunit00alle

Wenturiano. (2007, August 24). Louis Armstrong – nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen (1962). YouTube. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from Louis Armstrong – Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen (1962)

Ritter, Frédéric Louis. Music in America by Dr. Frédéric Louis Ritter. New York C. Scribner’s Sons, 1890. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2%3A%40EAIX-147E02D592F8DF60%40-1514D940AFDB4FF0%40449. Accessed 24 Nov. 2022. 

Booker T. Washington – A Model for Engaging with Spirituals

In class on Thursday, I mentioned potential issues with the readings from Krehbiel and Jackson. While differing in their overall intentions and attitudes towards African American music, both fall into pitfalls we often see with early ethnographic and ethnomusicology research: they try to engage with other cultures from an “academic”, western-central perspective. Rather than engaging with spirituals on their own terms, they attach western concepts of musical ownership and authorship to an aural tradition that was communally shared amongst African Americans.

In an address on behalf of Fisk University -a historically based black university in Nashville, Tennessee- Booker T. Washington contextualizes what Fisk Day (May 19, 1905) signifies, relating it to “The Songs of Our Fathers”, and titles it as such. Washington starts his address by invoking the image of slaves coming across the Atlantic and connecting it to what he views as the cultural significance of Spirituals. “…It is from these songs of our fathers, that their children of past generation… have received the inspiration that has imbued them with courage to have faith that right may win…” (1). Washington continues this line of thought with a literary analysis of a preacher, quoting and alluding to well-known hymns and spirituals without needing to mention them by name.  He contextualizes them, inviting people to think about the spiritual in the mindset of a slave. “What encouragement to the patiently waiting slaves had been the faith songs that had banished the sight of the auction block, the separation of mother and child, father and mother…” (2).

Washington makes the penultimate argument that Fisk day honors “the sacrifices, loving devotion and a belief in the possibilities of a despised people…” (3). While this address does not have the academic citations or research behind it that Krehbiel or Jackson exhibit in their writing, it serves as a model for how to engage with spirituals. Rather than focusing on the who, what when of spirituals, Washington focuses on the why and how which is all the more relevant to understanding the musical and cultural practice.

(1) “The Songs of Our Fathers. An Address Delivered on Fisk Day during the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition.” Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas) VII, no. 20, May 19, 1905: [3]. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12A7EF1A4AC47F2D%40EANAAA-12C8B913302F6748%402416985-12C8B9134BFB71A0%402-12C8B913A0F80C58%40The%2BSongs%2Bof%2BOur%2BFathers.%2BAn%2BAddress%2BDelivered%2Bon%2BFisk%2BDay%2Bduring%2Bthe%2BLouisiana%2BPurchase%2BExhibition.

(2) “The Songs of Our Fathers. An Address Delivered on Fisk Day during the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition.”

(3) “The Songs of Our Fathers. An Address Delivered on Fisk Day during the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition.”

 

“Sylvan Worship”

“Sylvan Worship” is an article written by Chicago Inter-Ocean writer William Eleroy Curtis, published September 18, 1875. The article outlines a description of a trip that Curtis took to witness a ‘spiritual’ in person. Overall, the article is rich with fetishistic language and othering behaviors, describing the events Curtis witnessed as a sort of foreign and outlandish ritual. Certain possibly offensive terms will be replaced with more modern and inclusive language in direct quotes, for the purpose of this blog. 

There isn’t much information on who William Eleroy Curtis really was, but we do know for whom he wrote, the Chicago Inter-Ocean, and when he lived; Curtis was born in 1850, and passed in 1911. From the way that he writes, I assume that he was a white man, given he uses language that refers to African-American peoples as something that he is not. For example, take how he opens the article: “No race is more devotional than the African, and no class of people does the camp meeting revival prove so effectual as with them.”

With this position in mind, I’d like to look at the language he uses, and what the intent of writing this article may have been. The language used in the work is fetishistic, and while it offers high praise to the traditions that it highlights, it treats them as a sort of somewhat barbaric and foreign, indirectly invalidating the authenticity of the practices. Take, for example, this description of a spiritual: “[Black] ‘Spirituals’ will forever exist among the curiosities of music, and at the camp-meeting the ‘Spiritual’ is seen in its strangest light and found in its most unadulterated flavor.” The use of terms such as “ unadulterated flavor” permeates this article in a way that doesn’t really do it any favors. 

So what was it trying to do? I think that the article was written as either a curiosity piece, from the point of view of the white man, or as a sort of “they’re not all bad!” article, meant to highlight the good that black spiritual practices are doing. Like other earlier musicology works that we have covered, the frame of this article is one that does not paint black or minority musical practices in an equal and fair light. Either good natured or neutral, this work doesn’t seem to bring deliberate harm, but it also isn’t doing all that much good, the way that it is written. 

“‘Sylvan Worship.’.” Weekly Louisianian, 18 Sept. 1875, p. 1. Readex: African American Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B767D21CB17968%40EANAAA-12BEC31400554038%402406150-12BC002A0EA02018%400-12D621523A4D1068%40%2522Sylvan%2BWorship.%2522.

Spirituals at a Teacher’s Festival during Reconstuction

The Educational column of the Loyal Georgian written August 24th of 1867 describes a teachers festival in which the educators sent to the south by the New England Freedmen’s Society get together to celebrate the education of the recently freedmen in various locations in the south such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis (“Teacher’s Festival”). At this event, it is described that at least two “Negro Spirituals” were sung by various attendees of the event. One of the spirituals was sung by a mother and daughter with the lyrics “I think I see sister Hannah, I know her by her garments, She’s a blessing in the land.” (“Teacher’s Festival”). The title has proven difficult to find, but the story of Hannah is frequently used as a demonstration of the good fortune given by God (Klein). All members of the group concluded their meeting with the Hymn “Old Hundredth” also known as “All People Who on Earth do Dwell” (“Teacher’s Festival”, “Tune: Old Hundredth”). 

Though the event itself did not have a musical nor necessarily spiritual focus, these pieces of music added great joy, celebration, and fellowship for those in attendance. This Teacher’s Festival was happening to celebrate the work of those educators in the south during Civil War Reconstruction (“Teacher’s Festival”). This event in itself is significant because it is one of the few positive effects of Reconstruction (freed people getting education) and it’s very important both musically and historically to acknowledge the fact that African Americans were celebrating other African Americans with black music. This was not a performance for an audience but rather an act of fellowship for a group of people that had known and would continue to know great hardship. 

 

This article brings to mind the words of W.E.B Du Bois when he said “They came out of the South, unknown to me, one by one, and yet at once I knew them as of me and of mine.” (Du Bois). It is clear both in this column and for Du Bois that this music was of great importance in passing along and celebrating black community. 

 

Sources

 

Klein (Abensohn), Lillian. “Hannah: Bible.” Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 31 December 1999. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on October 11, 2022) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/hannah-bible>.

Parkman, John, and W.E Stevenson. “Appointment: The New England Freedmen’s Aid Society, a Teacher of Freed People in North Carolina.” North Carolina Digital Archives, CONTENTdm, digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p15012coll8/id/10779/. 

“Teacher’s Festival.” Daily Loyal Georgian, 24 Aug. 1867, p. 3. 

“Tune: Old Hundredth.” Old Hundredth, Hymnary.org, hymnary.org/tune/old_hundredth_bourgeois. 

W.E.B. Du Bois. “”The Sorrow Songs,” from The Souls of Black Folk”. Book excerpt, 1903. From Teaching American History. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/the-sorrow-songs/ (accessed October 11, 2022).

How can minstrel shows be used to educate people on negro spirituals?

If one were to ask what a minstrel show was in today’s world, many outside of the study of music would most likely not have a solid definition foundation, but go back more or less 150 years and you will find it to be a popular event. As blackface comedy, it un-Americanizes negro spirituals that were already being told they were copies and variations of European compositions with simplified notes and less melodic melody. One example is Richard Wallschek. He states, “these negro songs are very much overrated”. 1
When a group of people is secluded to a style of living in one place, they will adopt and adapt what they learn to what they already know, how does that make it not American or stealing?

However, these minstrel shows were not creating a new genre of music, they were genuinely stealing Afro-American Folksongs. Frederick Douglass had a strong viewpoint on minstrel performers with the newspaper clipping below from the North Star article on October 27th,1848:

2

As one can see, there is a strong standpoint on how white people used their status and race to take advantage of and degrade slaves as a way of entertainment. Even the way they dressed and drew pictures was a way to demean and make fun of as if slaves could not have their own music and own culture.

3

The Virginia Minstrels quickly capitalized on popularity by showing America the first real minstrel show involving a minstrel ensemble in 1843. One could say that minstrel shows were done to show how cruel and unjust slavery could be. Or that it became popular during a time when slavery was being debated as more detrimental than beneficial and whites became more curious about black people.4

Eric Lott, the author of “Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class”, talks about how maybe minstrels were essential to the making of the white working class because they brought to light the issues of not only race but also class and gender. He even goes on to say that blackface potentially regulated the formation of white working-class masculinity.5

This understanding of minstrel music, unfortunately, fortunately, can lead to a deeper understanding of race and slavery.

 

1 Henry Krehbiel, Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music (1914), 11. 

2 “The Hutchinson Family-Hunkerism.” Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York) I, no. 44, October 27, 1848: [2]. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A11BE9340B7A005AB%40EANAAA-11D0A391B293AD78%402396328-11D0A391CBF9FAA0%401-11D0A39223979A50%40The%2BHutchinson%2BFamily-Hunkerism.

3Ryser, Tracey A. “‘A White Man’s Inadequate Portrait of a Slave’: Minstrel Shows and Huckleberry Finn”. Youngstown State University, August, 2004. https://digital.maag.ysu.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1989/6342/b19594422.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

4   

5Winans, Robert B. American Music 13, no. 1 (1995): 109. https://doi.org/10.2307/3052314.

The Illustrious Other: Does Art Differ from People to People?

“Othering” is a far too common concept we see in history. It’s a way for people to separate themselves from different groups of people – most commonly as a way to get a leg up on someone else simply because you think you’re better. Why the colonizer (and white people across the broad strokes of history) was so fond of this, is a simple answer really – for perpetrating white supremacy and making sure that everyone everywhere thought somewhere along those lines.

Poetry, for example, is a style of writing that transfers from people to people even though the subject matter changes from work to work. Would a reader have a feeling that one poem was written by a Black writer? Maybe given certain subject matters, but without proper context or explanation some would never guess.

Freedoms_Journal__June_8_1827

This page is full of poems written by many various writers, some named and some not. Regardless of citation of author, every poem on this page tells its own story. There is one on this page called Stanzas which is particularly beautiful. It reads as follows:

The author’s verbage describing music sounds like something any person (or poet in this case) would say. This kind of language is transferable and understandable by everyone.

Another form of description that can be transferable is accounts of travel. No matter who goes where, the older accounts we have of voyages across the sea have a similar format and a similar flow to their writing. The author will always talk about what they see and what their passage of time where they are visiting entails.

There is a sense of othering in most old accounts of history, and as much as we as a society now wish we could change it, we can’t. We take it for what it is and appreciate it for what it is/was.

Works Cited:

“An Historical Account of the Most Celebrated Voyages, Travels, and Discoveries, : from the Time of Columbus, to the Present Period…” (Baltimore, Maryland) 1802: Redadex: Afr0-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, https://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/Evans/?p_product=EAIX&amp;p_theme=eai&amp;p_nbid=O4BO4BLAMTY2NTQ1NjcyNi4xMjU3MjQ6MToxNDoxOTkuOTEuMTgwLjIwNg&amp;p_action=list&amp;p_queryname=10. Accessed 8 Oct. 2022.

“Poetry.” Freedom’s Journal (New York, New York), June 8, 1827: 4. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A132FB88A16969E1C%40EANAAA-132FC8A94D2B6A08%402388516-132FC0E9758971C0%403-138A3AC27A98F47D%40Poetry.

“Sylvan Worship”; an example of racist attitudes in 19th-century musicology

Front Page of “The Weekly Louisianian” on September 18, 1875 https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&sort=YMD_date%3AA&fld-base-0=alltext&val-base-0=spirituals&val-database-0=&fld-database-0=database&fld-nav-0=YMD_date&val-nav-0=&docref=image%2Fv2%3A12B767D21CB17968%40EANAAA-12BEC31400554038%402406150-12BC002A0EA02018%400&origin=image%2Fv2%3A12B767D21CB17968%40EANAAA-12BEC31400554038%402406150-12BC002A0EA02018%400-12D621523A4D1068%40%2522Sylvan%2BWorship.%2522

On September 18, 1875, an author with the surname “Curtis” wrote an article for a newspaper called “The Weekly Louisianian”, which was based in New Orleans, Louisiana. This article, titled “Sylvan Worship”, documents the author’s experience at an African American church where worshippers sang spirituals as a religious experience. The lens through which Curtis analyzes their experience in witnessing spirituals as a religious experience is especially interesting considering “The Weekly Louisianian” describes itself on the front page as “Journal of the Republican Party of Louisiana”, going so far as to further demonstrate their political affiliation through the motto, “Republican at all times, and under all circumstances.” Curtis’ article therefore gives an excellent example of how Southern, Republican white people in the nineteenth century perceived the spiritual practices of African Americans and the associated church music.

All of this being said, it is important to recognize that the meaning of “Republican” in 1875 is very different than how it is interpreted today:

“After the United States triumphed over the Confederate States at the end of the Civil War, and under President Abraham Lincoln, Republicans passed laws that granted protections for Black Americans and advanced social justice (for example the Civil Rights Act of 1866 though this failed to end slavery). Again Democrats largely opposed these apparent expansions of federal power,” (Wolchover).

Regardless of political party, the “othering” attitudes in Curtis’ writing are apparent and abhorrent. For example, Curtis states in his article, “Negro character has always been one of the most curious studies among human phenomena, and, although its peculiarities have been the theme of books and lectures for a hundred years, there is always something new and novel cropping out in association with the race.” By saying this, Curtis conveys the attitude that Black people are specimens and “phenomena” that need to be scientifically studied to understand, as if they are not humans with distinct voices, identities, and experiences. Curtis drives this point home by quoting the Black musicians and worshippers he observed in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which seems to have been used inappropriately with an overtone of condescension in order to undermine what the African American worshippers are actually saying and draw attention to linguistic differences. He even writes the lyrics of the hymn “Come, We That Love the Lord” in AAVE despite the fact that it was written by Isaac Watts, a white Anglican. Curtis does not seem to be attempting to purposely “other” the African American worshippers, in fact he praises the passion and intensity of the service. Curtis’ intrinsic racial bias comes through in vocabulary such as “primitive”, “barbaric”, and “pathetic” to describe the worship spirituals. Another interesting vocabulary choice is in the article title itself: “sylvan”. According to Oxford English Dictionary, “sylvan” is defined as “A person dwelling in a wood, or in a woodland region; a forester; a rustic”. Curtis’ use of this word almost implies that African Americans only live in rural country areas and are behind on cosmopolitan technologies and behaviors.

It is clear through the entire article that Curtis likely thought of himself as though he were scientifically observing a culture that was less developed than his own (which we know is problematic and inaccurate). This viewpoint parallels that of Frances Densmore’s while she documented Native American musical traditions around the United States in the early twentieth century. It is interesting to note that this article was released during Densmore’s lifetime (she lived from 1867-1957), so it can be inferred that racial othering and white supremacy in analyzing the music of other cultures was rampant in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Frances Densmore https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frances-Densmore

Sources:

Curtis. “Sylvan Worship.” African American Newspapers, Reader, 18 Sept. 1875, https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&sort=YMD_date%3AA&fld-base-0=alltext&val-base-0=spirituals&val-database-0=&fld-database-0=database&fld-nav-0=YMD_date&val-nav-0=&docref=image%2Fv2%3A12B767D21CB17968%40EANAAA-12BEC31400554038%402406150-12BC002A0EA02018%400-12D621523A4D1068%40%2522Sylvan%2BWorship.%2522&firsthit=yes.

The Weekly Louisianian, 18 Sept. 1875.

Wolchover, Natalie, and Callum McKelvie. “When and Why Did Democrats and Republicans Switch Platforms?” LiveScience, Purch, 14 Apr. 2022, https://www.livescience.com/34241-democratic-republican-parties-switch-platforms.html.

Origins and Ownership of Spirituals (Geepers!)

Since spirituals first gained popularity in the United States – and certainly since they became a common feature of vocal concert repertoire – many theories have been published on their origins. You think those origins are simple? Just read the 1943 George Pullen Jackson paper claiming spirituals were directly plagiarized from British folk songs,1 and you’ll realize our apparent shared understanding about the origins of this genre was once far from accepted.

One particularly interesting and egregiously racist perspective on spirituals’ origins was written by a Jeanette Robinson Murphy, in 1904.2  Murphy has abhorrent ideas about black people’s intelligence and role in society. And she in part attributes the emotional power of spirituals, as she observes it in black communities, to the ongoing influence of voodoo, which is demeaning to black people and disrespectful to the religion. There’s no small share of exoticization in her writing, either, if one examines the passages where she describes black people’s voices and lives:

But what’s fascinating is that she does acknowledge that the songs originated in black communities, though a product of acculturation and some amount of cultural syncretism, and she doesn’t claim (as some have) that black people are incapable of artistry without white influence.

Of course her language here creates an artificial distance between what she categorizes as “black” and “white” music – interesting, considering her acknowledgement of cultural syncretism. But through her racist lens, she’s somehow managed to preserve the cultural autonomy of black music in a way some of her contemporaries couldn’t. She performs some logical backflips throughout her work to preserve both her racist ideals and her genuine reverence for black music (too many to cite); maybe that logic is the only thing that actuates this dissonance.

But what’s even more interesting to me than Murphy as an example of racist psychology is the overlap between the ideas of those such as Murphy and the ideas of their black contemporaries. Murphy emphasizes the deep emotion ingrained in spirituals, and that of the performers; this is a focus her black contemporaries also uplifted. W.E.B DuBois’ “Sorrow Songs,” for example, connects the emotional potency and universality of spirituals to the generational trauma of slavery, and his assertions about spirituals’ direct descent from African folk music are essentially aligned with Murphy’s claims.3 Mrs. Booker T. Washington also draws this connection between the emotional resonance of black music and the horrors of slavery in her 1905 address about Fisk University and the Fisk Jubilee singers, given at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition:4

There are undeniable similarities between how Murphy understands and experiences spirituals and how at least these black authors understand and experience spirituals. Whether this is the result of some strategic essentialism, an emerging pan-African concept leading black public figures to emphasize the commonalities of their experiences as black Americans, political maneuvering, or just a genuine shared opinion, I cannot say. But when we’re studying music that has associations of “ownership” by one racial group or another, and music that has conflicting origin stories, these are the socio-historical questions we’re going to have to get comfortable addressing.

1 Jackson, George Pullen. White and Negro Spirituals: Their Life Span and Kinship. Locust Valley, NY: JJ Augustin Publisher, 1943.

 2 Murphy, Jeanette Robinson. 1904. “African Music in America.” In Southern thoughts for Northern thinkers and African music in America. New York, NY: Bandanna Publishing Company. https://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:EAIX&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=147E02CE09E20F50&svc_dat=Evans:eaidoc&req_dat=102FE1F6CA316FA2.

3 DuBois, W.E.B. “‘The Sorrow Songs,” From the Souls of Black Folk.” Teaching American History. Teaching American History, September 10, 2021. https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/the-sorrow-songs/.

4 “The Songs of Our Fathers. An Address Delivered on Fisk Day during the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition.” Plaindealer (Topeka, Kansas) VII, no. 20, May 19, 1905: [3]. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12A7EF1A4AC47F2D%40EANAAA-12C8B913302F6748%402416985-12C8B9134BFB71A0%402-12C8B913A0F80C58%40The%2BSongs%2Bof%2BOur%2BFathers.%2BAn%2BAddress%2BDelivered%2Bon%2BFisk%2BDay%2Bduring%2Bthe%2BLouisiana%2BPurchase%2BExhibition.

 

Roundup: A Selection of Black Musical Artists of the Early 1890s

In an article published in the Cleveland Gazette on November 4th, 1893, Walter B. Hayson provides an enthusiastic endorsement of the “company of remarkable songstresses” and other talented musicians among the black population.1 He claims that “just as the white race has its Patti, its Nordica, its Albani”, so are there similarly talented black artists, and sets out to provide examples of this talent.

Hayson laments the “coveting of empty titles” and the trend of “purposely [aping] the conventionalities in singing of a known artist”, describing such behavior as “groveling and distracting” and praising those singers who do not fall into this trap. He provides a detailed critique of the talents of several black male and female singers, applauding both good technical performance and “naturalness in stage presence” equally while criticizing poor execution and musical selections. He emphasizes that many of these performers are yet young while praising their talents, creating a hopeful tone for the future of black musicianship.

However, this hope betrays bias. Hayson was a celebrated educator, music critic, and activist who was later a founding member of the American Negro Academy.2 This highly elite institution sought to bring together black leaders in various fields with the aim of “the promotion of literature, science, and art; the culture of intellectual taste; the fostering of higher education; the publication of scholarly work; the defense of the Negro against vicious assaults”.3 This reflected the concept of the “Talented Tenth” which was espoused by W.E.B. DuBois, which held that the most highly educated and skilled black people would be able to uplift all black people through their achievements.4 Hayson later publicly responded to Antonín Dvořák’s support of black music, provoking a wave of backlash against the idea of black music being originally black.5 This in turn prompted the work of Krehbiel and Jackson that we have analyzed.6

This ideology is present in Hayson’s article, which seeks not only to give a summary and review of the most talented black musicians of the time, but also to claim ownership of these artists by the black population at large. He repeatedly refers to “our young singers” in “our midst”, establishing a sense that these artists represent all black people in some way.1 He also says of H.T. Burleigh that “the best wishes of us all accompany him in his new work”, deepening this impression and asserting that the “best wishes” of all black people are aligned in wanting these young artists to find success. Burleigh in fact found greater musical success after the World’s Fair in which he was performing, and eventually became an activist in his own right.5 In optimistically profiling the promising young black talent of the time, Hayson reveals the hope that their success could be used as a tool to improve the situation of black people in America. While this hope is innocent in itself, it prescribes a specific model for success for black people as individuals and as a group: becoming part of the Talented Tenth meant subscribing to Western ideas of correctness or success in music and other spheres, and their success meant that these values applied in turn to all black people.

Sources

1 “The ‘Queen Of Song.’ A Fair Criticism of Mrs. Flora Batson Bergen and Others of.” Cleveland Gazette (Cleveland, Ohio), November 4, 1893: 1. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2%3A12B716FE88B82998%40EANAAA-12C2BA16C77495A8%402412772-12C106455169BF98%400-12DB0D86AB1C7020%40The%2B%2522Queen%2BOf%2BSong.%2522%2BA%2BFair%2BCriticism%2Bof%2BMrs.%2BFlora%2BBatson%2BBergen%2Band%2BOthers%2Bof.

2 Moon, Fletcher F. “American Negro Academy (est. 1897).” In Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience, by Jessica Carney Smith, and Linda T. Wynn. Visible Ink Press, 2009. https://ezproxy.stolaf.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/vipfff/american_negro_academy_est_1897/0?institutionId=4959

3 Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “American Negro Academy.” Encyclopedia Britannica, August 28, 2014. https://www.britannica.com/topic/American-Negro-Academy.

4 Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Talented Tenth.” Encyclopedia Britannica, May 23, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Talented-Tenth.

5 Snyder, Jean E. Essay. In Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance, 102–11. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2021.

6 Henry Krehbiel, Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music (1914), 11-28; George Pullen Jackson, White and Negro Spirituals (1943) 265-268 and 278-289.

Garcilaso de la Vega and the Music of the Viceroyalty of Peru

Garcilaso de la Vega was born the “illegitimate but loved son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess” was born in 1539 in the Viceroyalty of Peru, only about 5 years after the Spanish took advantage of the Inca civil war, and conquered the area. His peculiar situation allowed him access to both a Spanish education, and a good deal of exposure to the Inca culture of where he was raised.

In Vega’s account, he describes the various musical stylings of the Indigenous people in 1602 Peruvian culture. He mainly focuses on panpipe players who were requested to play for the court. A panpipe is an instrument of four reeds, each, as Vega described it, resembling treble, tenor, contralto, and counter-bass voices. La flutes are also mentioned (flutes with 4-5 notes often played by shepherds), and both types of instruments are used for programmatic music. 

It is interesting to note that Vega is, in some capacity, both Spaniard and Inca, but he still describes the music of “Native Americans” as an outsider. He writes with a similar stone cold curiosity as Francis Densmore in all her many accounts of Native American music centuries later, which proves both to dehumanize the people he describes without truly showing any sort of malice towards them either. 

 

However, what makes this cold curiosity so interesting is that Densmore was hundreds of years removed from the beginnings of Native American displacement. However, Vega is writing from what is truly a new empire, less than a hundred years removed from the era in which Inca was its own empire, and a well-governed, well-documented one at that (Britannica). Considering the fact that the Inca Empire was just that, an empire, makes it even more curious that Vega would consider them “Native Americans” since they held a similar governing body to Spain. 

 

 

In a way, this account could also be seen through a similar lens to Eileen Southern’s newspaper clippings of advertisements for slaves in early American newspapers. It is almost as if the musical abilities of these people who are considered to be “less than” make them more valuable, both literally and figuratively in a certain sense, where either the slaveholder or the court is slightly more reverent of servants with musical abilities. Obviously, we must address this idea with the caveat that the curiosity of the colonist as it pertains to the indigenous person or slave, does not in any way make their treatment of these people less egregious. 

Works Cited:

 Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Inca”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Aug. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Inca. Accessed 3 October 2022.

 Densmore, F. (1929). Pawnee music. United States Government Printing Office.

 “Garcilaso De La Vega: Description of Inca Music (1609).” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1541276. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

 Southern, E. (2006). Chapter 2: The Colonial Era. In The music of Black Americans: A history (Third Edition, pp. 25–27). essay, W. W. Norton & Company.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers: International Acclaim as an African-American Ensemble in the 19th century

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were the first and premier ensemble of Fisk University in Nashville, TN. The university was founded in 1866 as the first American university which offered a “liberal arts education to men and women irrespective of color”; the Jubilee singers began traveling and performing five years later, in 1871, where they began performing to raise money for the university. They performed for American and British audiences until 1878, including for president-to-be James A. Garfield, from who they received a glowing review and for whom they gave an inscribed version of their book of songs.

handwritten diary page of James A. Garfield from September 30, 1880

A diary entry from President James A. Garfield

handwritten inscription dated August 9, 1880

An inscribed version of “The Story of the Jubilee Singers; with their Songs” given to President Garfield as a gift by the ensemble on August 9th, 1880.

Through religious music, the Fisk singers reached audiences never thought to be possible by a group whose members were born into slavery. In 1877, they travelled to Germany on their world tour. In the land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, the Fisk Singers used Christian messages and content to entice audiences to listen. While the Fisk singers made waves in the history of music, it was only through a lens of the music and the religion of the colonizer that they were able to sell themselves. Scholar Toni P. Anderson was the first to provide critical historical scholarship the Fisk singers. As Stephen A. Marini writes in their abstract on Anderson’s work, “Anderson’s principal contribution is to place Fisk University and the Jubilee Singers in the context of what she calls “Christian Reconstruction,” the AMA’s militant program of Evangelical religion, liberal education, and acculturation to Victorian values and norms designed to produce proper leaders for the four million newly freed slaves. Immediately after the war, the Congregationalist-led AMA [American Missionary Association] undertook heroic efforts to create Christian colleges in the South to serve the Freedmen. Fisk University in Nashville (1866) was designed by its leaders Adam Spence and Erastus Cravath to be a prime embodiment of this Christian Reconstruction strategy.” Fisk University’s roots in colonial and Christian traditions enabled the Fisk Jubilee singers to have the success that they had. Were it not for these connections, the Fisk singers would not have been able to sell themselves to religious audiences, especially how they did overseas.

Fisk Jubilee Singers - Wikipedia

The Fisk Jubilee Singers

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A Musical Declaration of Patriotism: Uncle Sam’s Not So Subtle Message to Spain

Today’s performers have access to a wealth of information to place their musical selection in the context of modern discourse and consider the role and presence of gender and racial stereotypes in the art and lyrics. Any performance that draws from the vast repertoire of patriotic American musical lyrics written in the late 1800’s provides an abundance of racial and gender stereotypes, fueled by the ignorance that permeated society at that time. Nowadays, the American music cannon is often seen as a source of racist ideology promoting images and lyrics that maintain the status quo of white supremacy.  A little research, coupled with the desire to find and spread the truth, exposes the tendency in American patriotic music to promote traditional and stereotypical ideologies.

 While American patriotic music is a genre that readily falls under the umbrella of misinterpreted music, the music of New Spain (colonial Mexico) also faces a similar disconnect. There is a tension in reviving its music which lacks any “local content” as a whole (Davies). According to Davies, New Spanish music, “is overwhelmingly European in character and congruent with conservative European practices. The absence of local vernacular content overwhelms its presence in this aesthetically austere music” (Davies). This is an example of music around the world that is misinterpreted and misunderstood due to a lack of education and understanding on the subject. This missing content was intentionally diminished by white European influences. 

A primary source selection that I want to draw attention to comes from the genre of American patriotic musical cannon and has also been misinterpreted time and time again. Found in the Latin American Experience database, “The Yankee Message or Uncle Sam to Spain,” written in 1898 by Edward S. Ellis and Chas M. Hattersley, glorifies the Spanish-American War, Cuba’s independence from Spain, and the impact on U.S. monetary interests. During the Spanish-American War era, songwriters were similar to yellow journalists as they made popular songs to celebrate the war and honor victories and heroes (PBS). The self interest and self righteousness of the United States is present in both the lyrics and illustrations of Ellis’ and Hattersley’s song. The cover art is composed of patriotic symbols including the U.S. Flag, an eagle, and a knife. Each illustration signals an allegiance to freedom and liberty, core values espoused by the U.S. Similarly, the lyrics point out the patriotic ideals of the U.S. government:

We’ve got the boys to do it

A million men and more

We’ve got our new born Navy

And deweys by the score

These Eurocentric lyrics make it clear that their actions are right, sending a direct message to Spain from Uncle Sam and reinforcing the notion that if they simply act like Yankees, all their issues will be resolved. 

During my research I also stumbled across an alternate edition of the piece, this time titled “Free Cuba” instead of “The Yankee Message.” This alternate title suggests a poor attempt once again at the United States trying to manipulate and influence people’s perceptions of them as a dignified nation at the time. “The Yankee Message” title suggests power and strength and boils down to a negative declaration to the opposition rather than the perception of hope and a desire to do the right thing in the alternate title, “Free Cuba.”

The lyrics in all showcase honor and patriotism however, a deeper dive reveals a surface level attempt at this. The American’s lust for Cuban independence is reflected in lyrics glamorizing combat, colonization, and the liberation of Cuba from Spain. “The Yankee Message or Uncle Sam to Spain” is a musical declaration of patriotism and power, disguised as a fun loving cannon of America’s pastimes.

Sources:

“Patriotic American Sheet Music.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1470303. Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

Hattersley, Chas. M. Free Cuba; or, Uncle Sam to Spain. Pond & Co., Wm. A., New York, monographic, 1873. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/sm1873.15560/>.

Public Broadcasting Service. (n.d.). Crucible of empire : The Spanish-american war – PBS online. PBS. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/crucible/frames/_music.html

Music in the California Missions

Mission building was one of the primary methods of conquest the Spanish used over the native peoples of California. Beginning in 1768, Gaspard de Portolà, accompanied by Father Junipero Serra, built twenty-one missions up the coast of California (then called Alta California, as opposed to Baja California) from present-day San Diego up to San Francisco (1). Here is a map made by Irving B. Richman of the approximate mission locations around 1798-1804, which was during prime Spaniard mission-building activity:

Missions were not just elaborate Catholic churches, but were the centers of communities that were built around them. The towns, run by one or two Franciscan priests and a handful of soldiers, were intentionally built around missions so the Spanish could force the indigenous folks of the area into their way of life. This included wearing woven clothing, learning Spanish and Latin, eating European produce, utilizing European agriculture methods and technology, and – most importantly – converting to Catholicism and its culture.

Music played a large role in the Catholic faith of the time, and the indigenous peoples were taught both to sing and to play instruments for masses. The Spanish introduced an entire orchestra’s worth of instruments, including organs, woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion instruments. Evidence of the teaching of Western music theory includes this large fresco depicting a Guidonian hand, which can be compared to an old form of solfège, on a wall of Mission San Antonio.

The music performed in California missions is the most documented and preserved of any Spanish colony in the US. Musicians wrote and performed both plainchant and polyphonic music during masses, and the most popular way of recording works was by making choirbooks, both with music and with information regarding teaching (2). Pieces were written both in Spanish and in Latin, and could be either sacred or secular. Some of the standout composers of the Missions were Fray Narciso Durán of Mission San José, who was so renowned for his skill that he wrote choirbooks and manuscripts for other missions to use and teach from, and Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, who even wrote music in the Mutsun indigenous language (2).

While the culture of the music in missions, as well as the music itself, has had a lasting impact on Latinx culture as a whole, the treatment of these peoples within missions was horrifying. With European colonizers brought European disease, which wiped out much of the indigenous population. Indigenous inhabitants of the missions were treated as slaves with consequences of torture, starvation, solitary confinement, and execution for disobedience (3). Music may have been one of the few sources of joy for the approximately 20,000 indigenous people on the missions, and its study cannot be separated from the cruelty the Spanish inflicted upon them.

Sources:

(1) “Historical Timeline – California Missions”. 2022. California Missions. https://www.missionscalifornia.com/historical-timeline/.

(2) Summers, William John. “California Mission Music”. California Missions Foundation. https://californiamissionsfoundation.org/articles/californiamissionmusic/.

(3) Smith-Christopher, Daniel L. “Missions and Native Americans.” 2022. The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2256931.

“…subordinate to a central spirit”: An 1854 Concert Review Rooted in Christian Communism

An article published in the June 17, 1854 edition of The Circular reviews a recent choral and orchestral performance at New York City’s Crystal Palace 1, an exhibition venue built to rival London’s own Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace opened in 1853, but was soon closed in 1854 due to financial constraints. Just four years later in 1854, the building and all its contents burned down.2

John Bachman, Birds Eye View of the New York Crystal Palace and Environs, 1853. Hand-colored lithograph. The Museum of the City of New York, 29. 100.2387. Image and caption from the Bard Graduate Center’s Exhibition: “New York Crystal Palace 1853.”

The Circular, a community-written and edited newspaper, makes sure to emphasize its values to its readers. The front page of this edition features the newspaper’s “fundamental principles,” “leading topics,” and “general platform,” all emphasizing a devotion to the Christian faith and the institution of Communism and Socialism.

An excerpt from this edition of The Circular‘s front page, detailing their mission and values. “Music in the Crystal Palace.” Circular (1851-1870), Jun 17, 1854. https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/music-crystal-palace/docview/137665576/se-2.

Later on, the publication features a positive review of a concert performed by the “Musical Congress,” under the direction of Louis-Antoine Jullien. The review details the pieces performed, such as Handel’s Messiah, and, in an interesting bit of foreshadowing, an original composition by M. Jullien entitled, The Fireman’s Quadrille. According to the review, Jullien’s piece tells a story of a fire and the firefighters’ heroism, “expressing in music the silence of the night, the alarm, the rush of engines, the crackling of the fire, crash and falling of buildings, the final victory of the firemen.” The author seems entranced by M. Jullien, even calling his baton a “wand,” implying a sense of magic to his conducting. Read the sheet music for The Fireman’s Quadrille here.3

A colored lithograph of Monsieur Louis-Antoine Jullien by Edward Morton, after Alfred Edward Chalon. Edward Morton, “Louis Antoine Jullien,” digital image, National Portrait Gallery, 1840s, accessed October 3, 2022, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/use-this-image/?mkey=mw195155.

But perhaps the most interesting part is the author’s thoughts on Christian Communism as it relates to the performance. They speak of the performance as a “splendid exhibition of unity, and of difference in unity.” Their remarks center around one specific idea, that each musician is bound to a sense of togetherness, in that each part of the music is essential to creating the whole sound. The author remarks on hearing the orchestra producing one whole sound, as if it was coming only from one instrument, which they relate to Christian Communisim by saying, “In all this was represented the harmonizing of different gifts in the church.” The author remarks that thousands of people attended this concert, each presumably leaving the venue with different thoughts on the concert they just heard. Who knows how many of them would have left making connections to Christian Communism, and how many would have heard the same unity and, well, communism in the harmonies of the music that this author did?

1“Music in the Crystal Palace.” Circular (1851-1870), Jun 17, 1854. https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/music-crystal-palace/docview/137665576/se-2.

2 Henry Raine, “What was the New York Crystal Palace, and where was it located?,” New York Historical Society Museum and Library, January 12, 2012, video, 1:00, https://www.nyhistory.org/community/new-yorks-crystal-palace

3 Music Division, The New York Public Library. “The fireman’s quadrille” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 4, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-cf65-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Seeing Sound: What Photography Reveals About Musicking

Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, more commonly known by the moniker Machito, spent his childhood in 1910’s Havana, Cuba.1 He grew up singing and played the maracas from adolescence, and after moving to New York in the 1930’s, Machito became a revolutionary figure on the American music scene. He recorded more than 75 albums over the course of his 50 year career, with his band The Afro-Cubans (founded 1940). Together, the group made major contributions to the development of salsa and mambo and essentially originated what we think of today as Latin Jazz, also known as bebop. “Tanga,” one of the band’s most famous Latin-jazz works (and works, period) exemplifies their style; it’s characterized by “strong multi-tempo percussion [. . .] with jazz wind instruments.”

Machito and the Afro-Cubans became beloved by the American public during their career, as is well documented by historical newspapers that note their popularity when describing their performances.2 But articles don’t capture a sound, the uniqueness of each performance of a particular piece, the mood of a club when an artist is performing; for these things, we turn to recordings, videos, and, I argue, photographs. For example, look below at this photograph of Machito and his sister Graciela Perèz Gutièrrez, who also performed with The Afro-Cubans and performed as lead singer for a time in the forties when her brother was called to military service.

Machito

Machito and Graciela, Glen Island Casino, New York, NY, c.a. July 19473

The photo was taken at the Glen Island Casino, and one could probably venture a guess about what type of atmosphere the performance had based off of the venue alone. But what does a simple venue name tell us about the act of musicking itself? Not much. This photograph, by contrast, can communicate something about the actual art being created, despite the temporal difference; we can see the body mechanics involved in playing, the facial expression, the contrast between the lit stage and the dark room. Even the intimacy of the shot itself, positioned so close to Graciela, suggests a specific sort of small-venue atmosphere, a closeness between performer and audience that must have had an effect upon how the music was experienced. The position of the camera also suggests something about how Machito and the Afro-Cubans were perceived by their audience: as I said, it’s intimate, and that suggests a comfort, even an affection, on the part of the photographer. We can read in newspapers that Machito was beloved by the public, but a photograph like this lets us experience that through the eyes of someone who was there.

What I’m getting at is that a photograph can put a viewer in a temporal moment with a performer, intimately involved in their act of musicking, just as listening to a recording transports a person, so to speak. A photograph gives a musicologist a better sense of the place in which music existed, a personal in, that could be valuable when studying music as a spatial, temporal thing. And in a world where musical performances are often thoroughly documented as pictures, it’s worth asking ourselves what unique value photographs may have to us and future musicologists for deepening our immersion in the music we study.

1 Méndez-Méndez , Serafín. “Machito.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1326403.

Easily located in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Amsterdam News database. For example, this edition specifically notes his popularity, and this one’s praise of his musical ability is outright flattery

3 “Machito.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Image. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2234214. The photograph is also documented by the Library of Congress, and their webpage has somewhat more information about its origins.

When Worlds Collide: The Importance of Understanding Roots

There can be multiple definitions of what “American Music” actually is. There are so many cultures that exist in this country and in its history that it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact genre that is strictly “American.”

Let’s rewind a little bit in history. When the colonizers from Europe first came to this land mass initially, they were bringing a multitude of cultures with them – Spanish, French, German, etc. In addition to the cultures that already existed before they got here, the newer artistic cultures melded (both by force and by accident) to create new kinds of art and music that was a beautifully twisted combination of the two.

In the Andes in the 16th century, there was a son of a Spanish conquistador and an Incan princess – Garcilaso de la Vega-  who found himself talking about and collecting the history of both of the musical traditions from which he is descended. He brought to light how many different instruments they used in both types of music (commonly flute and organ), how each kind was distinct and how there were certain songs for each occasion, and where most of the songs were performed.

This little piece of history is important in our work in this class for the purpose of following how cultural traditions move. There is influence of music like this in New Spain and later on when the territories dissolve and become the country we know and exist in today. Understanding history is vital to understanding where we come from and knowing where our short comings are so that the mistakes and disappointments of the past are not repeated.

Work Cited:

“Garcilaso De La Vega: Description of Inca Music (1609).” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1541276. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

The Role of Music in 19th-Century Mexican Churches

Church in Chihuahua, Mexico https://airlines-airports.com/aeromexico-in-chihuahua-mexico/

In 1892, James D. Faton wrote an article for “The Independent” newspaper titled “Mexico: A New Church Dedicated” that celebrates the recent erection of an Evangelist church in Chihuahua, Mexico. In the article, Faton praises the role of religion in Mexican sociopolitical life for serving as “a powerful aid to [Mexico’s] progress” and for having “deepened the sentiments of patriotism in the hearts of our people”. Mexican churches used sacred music such as alabados in order to lure citizens to church and then to further instill a sense of Mexican nationalism in worshippers and performers in order to create an original identity and sound for the recently independent country (Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821).

According to the U.S. Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom, approximately eighty-nine percent of Mexico’s population identifies as Christian (“2020 Report…”). One of the largest aspects of the Christian faith is the role of liturgical hymns and worship songs, and it is no surprise that there is a rich history behind Mexican liturgical music. The most traditional style of sacred song from Mexican origin are alabados. Alabados are “ancient religious hymns based on the New Testament that lament the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” (García). Similar to Aaron Copland and Charles Ives’ attempts to create a distinctly American sound by borrowing music from other cultural influences, alabados often “…reveal traces of Middle Eastern musical influence (most likely Moorish and Sephardic), mixed with Iberian medieval plain chant and traces of Pueblo (Tanoan and Keresan) Indian. Alabados were introduced to the New World by the Franciscan monks, who used them in converting the native peoples to Christianity. Eventually mixed with New World cultural elements, today’s alabados are genuine hybrid expressions of the Americas,” (García). Mexico was very clearly following in the United States’ footsteps in combining multiple cultural influences present in the area to create a new and distinct sound. In fact, Faton noted “citing the United States as a shining example” of religious freedom, which encompasses multiple different musical traditions. Alabados and other forms of nineteenth-century sacred Mexican music not only brought Mexican citizens together in worship but sought to create a unique Mexican musical tradition based on a conglomeration of cultural influences around the country. Mexico defining its musical canon at an early stage after the country’s independence from Spain signifies a desire to be more present and powerful in the international musical scene in the early twentieth century.

 

Sources:

FATON, J. D. (1892, Dec 08). MEXICO.: A NEW CHURCH DEDICATED. The Independent …Devoted to the Consideration of Politics, Social and Economic Tendencies, History, Literature, and the Arts (1848-1921), 44, 21. Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/magazines/mexico/docview/90478917/se-2

“2020 Report on International Religious Freedom – United States …” U.S. Department of State, 12 May 2021, https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/.

García, Peter J. “Alabados.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329447. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

Las Posadas: A Reason to be Hopeful

When examining American music, it is clear to see that no musical tradition has come about without the fusion of many cultural properties. This ceaseless blending and creation is what we ought to thank for the multiplicity of beautiful and unique music that has come out of the Americas. However, such musical synthesis frequently leads to questions about the injustices and power struggles that led to the development of new musical traditions. In addition, we often also consider how these musical styles give voice to historically oppressed people today and whether this art can be a medium through which justice might be sought. The cultural, religious, and musical tradition known as ‘Las Posadas’ is an example of such cultural blending that has its earliest roots in the first attempts to Christianize the Aztecs in the early sixteenth century. As an ever-morphing ritual with centuries worth of history, Las Posadas serves as an example of how cultural amalgamation forces us to ask questions about historical and present inter-ethnic transgression.  

The tradition of Las Posadas occurs annually in the American Southwest and is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Las Posadas (“the inns”) refers more directly to Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging prior to the incarnation. During each night of this nine-day Catholic devotion, two individuals play the roles of Mary and Jospeh and ask various members of their community for lodging. They are denied a place to rest each night, and are sent on their way. This nightly ritual is accompanied by posada songs, music specific to this ritual. One of the primary songs for this event is simply titled “Las Posadas” in which Joseph asks the innkeepers for a place to stay for the night. 

While this tradition is a beautiful example of cultural blending in the United States, it has its roots in the colonization that occurred early on in the development of the New World. The history of this music and tradition begins in the early sixteenth century when Augustine priests attempted to christianize the Aztecs. By coincidence, the Aztec people celebrated the birth of their god Huitzilopochtli at approximately the same time as Christmas. The overlapping religious events made it easier for the Augustinians to convert the population, and out of this conversion came the traditions and music that is now referred to as Las Posadas. Today, many connections have been drawn between Mary and Joseph’s search for a home and ultimate rejection to the on going issue of immigration in the United States. In 2002 at the Posada sin Fronteras event in San Diego, California, alternate lyrics to the Las Posadas song were composed to demonstrate the similarity in relationships between the Holy parents and the innkeepers along with immigrants and border officals. By recognizing and connecting the power struggles of the past to those which are still ongoing, this art which once was used as a means to overpower or dehumanize becomes a medium for protest and vehicle for change. 

There is much to be learned about the tradition of Las Posadas and the multiplicity of meanings imbedded in this ritual. While there is a significant amount of cultural dissonance within this music and its history, there is just as much hope to had for its in its performance and reinvention. 

Cantos de Las Posadas and Other Christmas Songs (recorded by Elena Paz and Carlos Garcia Travesi). Performed by Suni Paz, and C. G. Travesi., Folkways Records. Alexander Street, https://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/bibliographic_entity%7Crecorded_cd%7C72362.

Las Posadas Student Procession.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1922421. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

“Traditional Las Posadas Song.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1839445. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

De La Torre, Miguel A. “A Colonized Christmas Story.” Interpretation (Richmond), vol. 71, no. 4, 2017, pp. 408–17, https://doi.org/10.1177/0020964317716131.

Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022, latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329879. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

Hondagneu-Sotelo, P., et al. “‘There’s a Spirit That Transcends the Border’: Faith, Ritual, and Postnational Protest at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Sociological Perspectives, vol. 47, no. 2, 2004, pp. 133–59, https://doi.org/10.1525/sop.2004.47.2.133.

Embedded in Culture and a Product of Colonizers

The traditional Las Posadas song is performed throughout Latin America and Spain as part of the Las Posadas tradition, also known as the Christian pageant tradition. The song’s first performance dates back to 1583 in old Mexico by Fray Pedro de Gant (1). The lyrics (which can be found here) tell the story of the denial of Mary and Joseph from the inn before they go to the manger (2). While the subject matter of the piece is not of much intrigue and doesn’t connect to the course content, its role in the colonization of Latin America does.

The Las Posadas tradition dates back to the 16th century with the Augustinian missionaries’ conversion of the Aztecs. The pageant tradition coincided with the celebration of the birth of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, which occurred at roughly the same time and shared the same amount of cultural weight as Christmas did to the missionaries (3). This served as a bridge between the two cultures and made Christianity easier to teach to the Aztecs.

This puts our cultural understanding of the traditional Las Posadas song in a predicament. We understand that the song was part of a larger tradition aimed at converting the Aztecs, along with other indigenous cultures. This thus westernized them and made them easier to conquer and assimilate. However, one cannot deny the fact that the Las Posadas tradition has been a part of Latin American culture for roughly 500 years, and has different cultural connotations and intentions now compared to then. Seth Nolan notes that Las Posadas has “…become a community affair with friends, relatives, and neighbors gathering together to share in a tradition that has come down through the years” (4). While the reckoning of these two identities associated with this song doesn’t present a clear answer, the ethical and moral debate it sparks around historical context and cultural significance is important.

(1) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329879.

(2) “Traditional Las Posadas Song.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1839445

(3) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1329879.

(4) Nolan, Seth. “Las Posadas.” In The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience,

 

 

Native American Exoticism in 19th- and 20th-Century Sheet Music Cover Pages

First Ever Album Cover by Alex Steinweiss (1938) https://illustrationchronicles.com/alex-steinweiss-and-the-world-s-first-record-cover

If you’ve ever seen an album cover, you might have an idea of what can commonly be found on the front page of musical scores. These score covers use visual elements to package and advertise music, often with elaborate illustrations that drew in prospective performers to the part. Score cover art for Native-American-influenced popular music (which unfortunately is more often than not inaccurately appropriated by white composers and/or artists with no indigenous backgrounds) provides an interesting insight into how Native Americans were perceived in 19th- and 20th-century America. Two common themes that I noticed in examining these score covers is the narrative of the Native American as primitive soldiers and on the contrary, as love interests.

Sioux March & Waltz—Louis Wallis https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/sheetmusic/id/23812

The cover art for Louis Wallis’ “Sioux Waltz & March” (1856) shows “A man on horseback in uniform is about to cut down with his saber a Native American he is chasing. Behind him, another of his comrades, at whom the Native American is aiming a bow and drawn arrow, is about to shoot the Native American with his pistol. A battle rages in the background, with Native Americans and soldiers visible,” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The simultaneous use of the Native American’s bow and arrow and the white man with a pistol reflects the 19th-century attitude that Native Americans were less developed in technology and other aspects of life than that in Western civilization.

“Lackawanna: An Indian Love Song Story in Florida” by Eugene Francis Mickell (1912) https://dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/ShtMus/id/13

 

“A Wigwam Courtship; Intermezzo” by Sadie Koninsky (1903) https://repository.duke.edu/dc/hasm/b0229

Another interesting theme in score cover art for Native American-inspired music is the fetishization of both relationships between two Native Americans as well as relationships between one Native American and a Westerner. “A Wigwam Courtship; Intermezzo” by Sadie Koninsky (1903) and “Lackawanna: An Indian Love Song Story from Florida” by Eugene Francis Mickell (1912) show two Native Americans lusting after each other.

“My Indian Maiden” by Edward Coleman (1904) https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/inharmony/detail.do?action=detail&fullItemID=/lilly/devincent/LL-SDV-083015

Meanwhile, the cover to Edward Coleman’s “My Indian Maiden” (1904) depicts a Native American woman dressed in full regalia with a pleasant expression on her face, while a European man in colonial period clothing stands in the mirror behind her.

It is inconclusive whether depicting these Native American relationships on score covers is for representative purposes or as a form of exoticism. According to Oxford Bibliographies, “exoticism is considered a form of representation in which peoples, places, and cultural practices are depicted as foreign from the perspective of the composer and/or intended audience. In earlier usage of the term, “exoticism” and “exotic” referred to an inherent quality or status of the non-Western other”. It is clear that the illustrators for the score covers thought of Native Americans as the “other” and sought to depict them as stereotypically as possible. Every album cover that I researched with Native American subjects had them depicted in full regalia, surrounded by nature, and often using weapons.

These score covers provide an interesting historical insight into how Westerners viewed Native Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not only were Native Americans thought of as underdeveloped and uncivilized warriors, but Native American relationships served as an exotic spectacle to Westerners. Native Americans were treated by score illustrators as commodities to help increase score profits, instead of actual people. The cover art to “My Indian Maiden” shows that Native American women may have been fetishized by white men especially, which is a dangerous rhetoric to spread. “The Justice Department reports that one in three Native women is raped over her lifetime, while other sources report that many Native women are too demoralized to report rape.  Perhaps this is because federal prosecutors decline to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse cases, according to the Government Accountability Office. More than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indian men, who are immune from prosecution by tribal courts” (Erdrich, 2013). In fact, a 1915 letter by the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners addressed to Edward E. Ayer states that attempted rape of Native Americans is “impossible” to prosecute: “Outside of certain specific offenses provided for by the Statute, it is impossible to punish anyone who may have attempted rape, an assault, seduction under the promise of marriage, and theft,” (American Indian Histories and Cultures). There were no punishments for the maltreatment and fetishization of Native Americans during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The anti-Native American attitudes that can still be seen today are evident in the 18th- and 19th-century score covers for pieces inspired by Native American music. Cover art of scores and albums can serve as an extremely credible lens into what life looked like in the past, which can help scholars today determine when and where certain racist attitudes may have begun and how they were perpetuated.

Sources:

“A Wigwam Courtship; Intermezzo / Historic American Sheet Music / Duke Digital Repository.” Duke Digital Collections, https://repository.duke.edu/dc/hasm/b0229. 

Erdrich. L. (2013). Also the author of “The Round House.” New York Times Op Ed, February 27, 2013, on page A25: Rape on the Reservation.

“Exoticism.” Obo, https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199757824/obo-9780199757824-0123.xml.

“In Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana.” IN Harmony: Sheet Music from Indiana – Item Details, https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/inharmony/detail.do?action=detail&fullItemID=%2Flilly%2Fdevincent%2FLL-SDV-083015. 

Kennedy, Philip. “Alex Steinweiss and the World’s First Record Cover.” Illustration Chronicles, 20 July 2021, https://illustrationchronicles.com/Alex-Steinweiss-and-the-World-s-First-Record-Cover. 

“Lackawanna : an Indian Love Song, Story from Florida.” CONTENTDM, Ball State University Digital Media Repository, https://dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/ShtMus/id/13. 

“To Mrs. Graham Atkinson. Sioux March & Waltz by Louis Wallis.” Playmakers Repertory Company Playbills, https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/sheetmusic/id/23812. 

“U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners Files [Manuscript]: 1912-1922 [ Box 3, Folders 15 to 18].” AMD, American Indian Histories and Cultures, https://www.aihc.amdigital.co.uk/Documents/SearchDetails/Ayer_MS_911_BX03_1#Snippits.

Insider Knowledge from an Outsider’s Perspective

As the illegitimate son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess, Garcilaso de la Vega had a unique perspective on both cultures within Peruvian society. His writings betray a respect for the Inca flautists and the music they played on their panpipes, while his observations shed light on the role of music in 16th-century Inca social customs.1

As a member of the cultural elite, de la Vega evidently had at least some musical training, allowing him to describe in detail the structure and voicing of the Inca panpipes and the characteristics of the music they played. He admires the skill of the flautists, noting that they were “always in tune” when they played together and that their skills were not limited to their own repertory, but translated to European music as well, which they could sightread. However, he does display hints of elitism when describing the general lack of singing in Inca culture, stating his belief that this was because the Inca “were not sufficiently good [singers]” and “did not understand singing”.

The panpipes are closely tied with Inca culture even today, and in the 16th century they carried great ritual importance. De la Vega discusses the significance of the panpipes in Inca courting, noting that young men played the flute to woo young ladies, with each tune conveying a unique message to the object of one’s affection, so that “it may be said that [a man] talked with his flute”. Thus, both the instrument and the tune had a specific purpose, and other types of songs were “not fit” to be played on the panpipes, revealing the importance of the instrument and of music in general to everyday social practices.

With his intimate experience of Peruvian society, de la Vega’s honest and open admiration of the skill of the flautists and the comparisons he makes between Inca and European music is rare to see among early accounts of the music Europeans encountered through colonization. This makes his work very valuable for ethnomusicology, which is impressive considering he was writing over two hundred years before the field existed at all. This kind of insider status and the insights it brings is exactly what makes Tara Browner’s work in studying pow-wows so valuable, as she departs from a traditional theory-based approach in favor of “[writing] about music and dance as [she has] experienced them”.2 Despite the fact that ethnomusicological research is traditionally undertaken by outsiders who attempt to remain as neutral as possible, these examples demonstrate that the intimate cultural knowledge and understanding of an insider is a valuable tool in investigating musical traditions which may be a result of a different value system.

1 The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from https://latinoamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1541276

2 Browner, Tara. “All about Theory, Method, and Pow-Wows.” Essay. In Heartbeat of the People: Music and Dance of the Northern Pow-Wow, 1–17. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2004.