Thursday, July 17, 2008

Colonial Music

Colonial Music

Music was a key part of colonial culture. Of course, that can be said about any period in history. Music inspires emotion, shapes moods, reflects values, and influences socio-political views. Consider the impact of jazz, Elvis Presley, "The Beatles."

In church life, you can often tell what kind of congregation you're dealing with, just by observing their choice in music for Sunday morning worship. If it's all hymns, you can bet you're dealing with a dyed-in-the-wool, traditional, conservative (often rural) congregation that's dominated by baby boomers and senior citizens. If the music is more contemporary and upbeat, then so is the congregation.

Not surprisingly then, music deeply influenced colonial American culture. The Colonial Music Institute explains:

Understanding the music that early Americans chose to sing and play gives us a better understanding of the colonists themselves. Their music included ballads, dance tunes, folk songs and parodies, comic opera arias, drum signals, psalms, minuets and sonatas. Such music came mostly from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France, and Africa, and it was played on whatever instruments were handy.

The most popular instruments in colonial America were the violin (the most popular) and the flute. The piano was rapidly coming on the scene. According to the Colonial Music Institute, there were actually quite a few other instruments available at the time, including "drums and trumpets, trombones and french horns, 'cellos, violas da gamba, clarinets, oboes and bassoons, glass 'armonicas, hammered dulcimers, [and] organs."

Dance was of course wildly popular. George Washington was an exceptional dancer, leaving more than a few ladies swooning. The YouTube video below features a dance set to a colonial theme...

For more on the music of early America, click here and check out the following resources on early American culture...

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