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American Musical History Books

When I first began this project, I had to get a very basic level of understanding about American Musical History.  There were few books that focused on Colonial Music specifically, and those that did were almost always restricted to New England sacred music.  If I wished to get a proper view of the diversity of Colonial American music, I needed to read general overviews. Most books divided music by period and/or culture (secular versus sacred music was almost always used to categorize information). My best content came from comparing and contrasting the information in different books regarding songs and music in the colonies. More than once, authors would make conflicting points about songs and history, so it was important that I compare several sources before adding information to this database.

Halttunen, Karen, ed. A Companion to American Cultural History. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).

Crawford, Richard. America’s Musical Life : A History.  (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001).

Hitchcock, H. Wily and Kyle Gann. Music in the United States: A Historical Introduction (4th edition). (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2000).

Kingman, Daniel. American Music: A Panorama (2nd edition). (New York: Schirmer Books, 1990).

Robert Olwell, Cultures and Identities in Colonial British America, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)

MacDougall, Hamilton C. Early New England Psalmody: An Historical Appreciation 1620-1820. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1969).


I found journals to be helpful when looking for information about a specific song or people. Journals also often critique sources, which was important because often I shared sources with those journals myself. On more than one occasion I edited information out once I found a recent journal which had refuted it.

John, Robert. “Music and Musicians in Early America.’ Journal of Research in Music Education (January 1965), 13 (1). Pages 60-61.

Lowens, Irving. “Origin of the American Fuguing Tune.” Journal of the American Musicological Society,Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring, 1953). Pages 43-52.

Dwyer-Ryan, Meaghan. “”Yankee Doodle Paddy”: Themes of Ethnic Acculturation in Yankee Doodle Dandy” Journal of American Ethnic History (March 2011), 30 (4). Pages 57-62.

News Reports
In order to make links to present-day America, I scoured the news for indications that musical culture was influenced by some of the items in my research. The main story I followed (using CBS and Huffington Post) was the potential selling of the Bay Psalm Book.
Smithsonian Folkways liner notes
Once I found a song, through mention in a book or journal, I would immediately look it up on the Smithsonian Folkways database. Folkways has a tremendous collection of historical music, so and had several albums whose liner notes related specifically to the colonial period. This insight on the history of genres and song was very helpful.
Liner notes from the following albums, produced by Smithsonian Folkways records, were used:
Anthology of American Folk Music (Various artists, 1997)
Colonial and Revolutionary War Sea Songs and Shanties (Cliff Haslam and John Millar,1975)
American Colonial Instrumental Music (Various artists, 1965)

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