Welcome to Awakenings

Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Music Through the Centuries

Music. FaLaLa...TraLaLa Boom De Ay...Boom Boom ShaBoom...NaNa-Nana-NaNa... everything before and after, as well as everything in between. Where would we be without music? Can you imagine a world without melody? Even the sounds of nature carry musical tones. Where there is sound there is rhythm from the clanging cogs of wheels definitely not 'in pitch' to Brahms's Lullaby so relaxing one could sleep in a ditch. It keeps the sane man sane and lifts up the insane. 

At this point, one might ask, "What is the origin of music...Archaen, prehistoric, ancient? Unfortunately, the answer to this question may never be known for the earliest written history starts around the 4th millennium BC with the invention of writing. That, of course, is not to say music isn't represented somewhere in time within hieroglyphics. Perhaps it is an ancient as life itself! 

Since Awakenings spans five centuries, let's take a peek at some of the music from the 1600s through the 1800s. At the turn of the 20th century, each decade presents its own musical story so we will leave the 20th and 21st centuries as our next venture.

Music in the 1600s...

We would be amiss here without mentioning the native American Indians. Classical music was far from indigenous to the native Indians nor was it anywhere near being secular. Their music was spiritual with sound being a direct link to the divine and all life being interconnected relative to nature. 

From the New England Colonists came an early form of traditional hymns centered around the church. Theirs were more on the order of spiritual psalms (Singing the Psalms) being completely void of any secular tone much like the Indians. The use of musical instruments met strong objection with the practice of lining out and singing 'a capella' being commonly accepted.

Hymn Trivia

Behold the Glories of the Lamb (Isaac Watts, circa 1688).

Shepherd of Tender Youth (Clement of Alexandria, circa 200).

Based on NetHymnal traffic, Amazing Grace is the runaway winner. Blessed Assurance is the runner up.
As early as 1619, work songs, religious music and dance, as well as a wide variety of instruments were introduced when slaves arrived in America. Songs of the slaves could be heard day in and day out as they toiled away under the thumb of hardened, often cruel, masters. One slave would start the vocal rendition and others would follow suit trading lines back-and-forth.

Music in the 1700s... 

Music has abounded throughout the centuries. From one century to the next, with each change in culture, its music has brought about change. Music familiar to ordinary colonists of the 1700s was performed at local taverns. Within our historical records are accounts of dancing and singing integral to tavern life as trained musicians played at inns and patrons joined in with song to keep themselves entertained. Not much is recorded as to the exact type of music leaving a class of tunes specifically unknown as tavern music.

Americans of the 1700s loved song and dance thus taverns were well known and plentiful. Such taverns were recognizable partially as museums, gentlemen's clubs, circuses, schools, and business offices. What a diverse variety! It is interesting to note the tavern was the grandfather of the 19th century saloon and the great-grandfather of the modern American nightclub!
"Taverns in early America ran the gamut from the elegant to the mean and nasty, from those that catered to every need of society's elites to those that the locals and travelers who used them could only hope to survive," wrote Sharon V. Salinger, a University of California history professor, in her book Taverns and Drinking in Early America
Music of war was also popular during this period. One of the most well known is Yankee Doodle Dandy. The earliest know version of the lyrics comes from 1755 or 1758, as its date of origin has often been disputed.

 When the American Revolution began, the Americans 
adopted the song Yankee Doodle Dandy as a rallying tune, and 
it was played by fifers and drummers in every camp and battle.

Music in the 1800s...

Twain at the piano
with daughter Clara and friend
So much evolved during the 1800s. Think about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804). Theirs was a momentous journey during which the only way to bring back an accurate account of their discoveries was through writing. Um-m-m? Do you suppose they had any kind of music as a backdrop for such penmanship, especially while learning of the language and traditions of the Indian tribes? Their expedition came shortly after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. What genre of music do you suppose was acquired along with the Great Louisiana Purchase? Cajun music claimed the fiddle as the predominant instrument while the music of the day sounded like early country music. Then, there was the authorship of Mark Twain, who as an eloquent writer played the piano but preferred the banjo. 

That was only a sampling of the beginning. What a century filled with ballads honoring American tradition and patriotism! Let's rally around the flag, boys!

  'The Star Spangled Banner' was written by Sir Francis Scott Key in 1814.

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' in 1831.

 'Oh! Susanna' is a minstrel song by Stephen Foster (1826–1864), first published in 1848.

'Gwine to Run All Night, or De Camptown Races'
(popularly known as "Camptown Races") 
is a minstrel song by Stephen Foster (1826–1864)

Song about Davy Crockett (1786-1836). 
Used in the Walt Disney movie Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.

And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times. . .