The Sound of
Music in the Early American
Amanda Daddona L-SAW 2009
In the summer
of 1798, an aspiring singer, Gilbert Fox, asked his long-time friend Joseph
Hopkinson to create lyrics to the popular national musical piece, The
President's March, in order to increase the number of ticket sales for a
performance Fox held that season. Hopkinson took the opportunity to create
lyrics that would further his political aims: to bring unity to a nation
increasingly divided over the political situation in Europe. As Hopkinson
later recounted, he created the lyrics to "get up an American Spirit" that
would rise above the political divide and unite the people in a common
sentiment.Upon the opening night of the performance, the people, drawn in by the promise
of a new national song, crowded the theater. According to Hopkinson, the
people reacted to the song in a way that even he had not expected. The theater
was full every night and the audience often joined in the chorus of Hail
Columbia, and continued to sing the song in the streets after they left. As Hopkinson noted, "the patriotic feelings of every American heart responded
to" the song, and it was performed "in every part of the United States."This exemplified not only the intent that many lyricists and composers had to
create truly American patriotic pieces, but also their desire to create musical
works that would unite all American people in similar patriotic sentiments,
particularly in times of political crisis or division. It also exemplified the
great enthusiasm the American public had for patriotic songs, as well as their
emotional connection to and pleasure and enjoyment in singing them.
American Revolution, the colonists had a very small repertoire of musical
works, which consisted primarily of English tunes, mostly drinking songs and
hymns. The people in the colonies had little motivation, before the Revolution,
to create their own culture, as they had taken England's cultural traditions
with them, and saw little need for anything different.Over time, as the political tension between the colonies and Great Britain
increased, the people responded with musical creativity, through political
parodies and other songs in favor of the patriotic cause; and so, a new musical
tradition began. Once Americans won their independence, they gained a new
nation and a new identity. No longer British colonists, the people struggled
with the notion of what it meant to be American, and some sought the answer to
that question through music. The production of patriotic music played an
essential role in the formation of an American identity and the strengthening
of nationalism among the people; ultimately, this growth in nationalism
contributed significantly to the desire for and development of a distinctly American
purpose of this paper, I have looked at several works on American music
history, primarily Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life, John
Tasker Howard's Our American Music, and Kenneth Silverman's work, A
Cultural History of the American Revolution: Painting, Music, Literature, and
the Theater, 1763-1789. The first two provide brief glimpses into American
"patriotic" music, as both works cover a rather large amount of time, and focus
primarily on biographies of the American composers and musical analysis. Kenneth Silverman's work covers all of the cultural aspects of the Revolution
and does discuss music, but again, very briefly, and only that which was
created from 1763-1789. In my study of nationalism, I have relied primarily on
David Waldstreicher's book, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of
American Nationalism, 1776-1820. While all of these works make some
reference to music and nationalism, they are brief, and neither the historians
of American music nor those of nationalism, have truly tied the two subjects
together. This paper will contribute to the literature in both fields, as I
will argue the importance that patriotic music had in the formation of an
American identity and the development of original musical works, inspired by
nationalism, that followed.
This paper begins with a discussion of composers and the influential power they had
through their music to unite the people in particular sentiments or causes
during times of political crisis. In the interest of retaining clarity, I
have broken this section down by song, beginning with the earliest
composition. In my analysis of The Star-Spangled Banner, I will argue
that it was the first truly national song composed in the United States.
Following this analysis, I will discuss the strong emotional response the
American people had to those same pieces. I will then turn to a discussion of
the leaders of the nation and their concern over the stability of the country. I will argue that they felt the need to cultivate good character and patriotic
virtue among the people to ensure that the nation would survive. I will then
discuss patriotic festivals and other celebratory gatherings and the role that
patriotic music played in them, as well as the association of patriotic songs
with national symbols. In this section, I will argue that organizers of such
events, by associating patriotic music with toasts and other visual symbols of
the nation, established and increased the sentimental and symbolic value of the
songs themselves. Also, I will argue that, by associating music with visual
and auditory symbols of the nation, organizers ensured that the people, upon
future hearing of the songs, would recall the symbols they corresponded with. I
will then continue to a section on the performance of patriotic songs in public
venues, such as concert halls, theaters, and music festivals where I will
address the public's growing enthusiasm and increasing demand for patriotic
music. This thesis will then discuss the desire Americans had, from almost the
beginning of independence from Britain, to develop American music and separate
culturally from Europe. I will argue that the nationalist fervor that swept
through the nation influenced American composers to create original works, and
will discuss the American composers Anton Heinrich, George Bristow, and William
Fry and their desire to create works that reflected the nation, its people, and
Composers and lyricists considered
music a useful and effective medium for the proliferation of ideas among the
masses. While the melody had great importance, words were often beneficial,
and at times, integral in the artists' endeavor to create influential pieces,
particularly in the creation of national songs.Songwriters used a combination of lyrics and musical accompaniment to
communicate the meaning and purpose of their work. Emerson wrote, "human
passion…aims to…marry music to thought, believing…that for every thought its
proper melody or rhyme exists."The right combination of words and the repetition of key phrases, along with a
strong melody and rhythm made songs memorable and enjoyable to hear and
perform. For a song to take root and become a "national" piece, it had to
first be impressive enough to be "taken up by others, further diffused, and
thus traditionally preserved."In order for that to occur, songs had to be emotionally and intellectually
appealing to the majority of the people. Once people throughout the country
embraced certain musical pieces, those works became "national" songs, in the
sense that a great number of people in a wide geographic area accepted, sang,
and sought performances of them. As songs traveled throughout the country,
they connected the people through melody and lyrics as well as the expression
of similar sentiments and ideals contained within the pieces, such as love of
country, patriotic loyalty, and regard for liberty. The popularity of national
songs rendered the use of instruments and vocal harmonization unnecessary,
which facilitated spontaneous rendition of the songs, as the people could sing
whatever, wherever, whenever they wished, unimpeded by any lack of instruments,
musical education, or talent.The incredible and universal appeal of patriotic songs resulted from the
emotionally and intellectually evocative nature of the compositions. The
people felt a connection to the patriotic pieces and the sentiments they
embodied. Pleasing melodies and exciting rhythms made the songs pleasing to
listen to and sing. Pieces received with enthusiasm in one area often received
similar responses in other locations. In this manner, songs and their messages
spread throughout the country, uniting the people not only through patriotic
lyrics, but through the act of singing the songs as one people in celebration
of their shared history, country, and identity.
During times of political crisis,
composers and lyricists took advantage of the influential power of music to
rally the people to unite in a particular cause, or to a particular sentiment.
In the years leading up to the American Revolution, many men, often statesmen,
created political pieces to garner support for the revolutionary cause. Many
of these pieces were adaptations of pre-existing English tunes, such as Francis
Hopkinson's Battle of the Kegs, A Tory Medley, and American
Independent, or The Temple of Minerva and John Dickinson's Liberty Song.
Once the Revolution ended, the political tone found in American music faded
into more patriotic strains. Joseph Hopkinson's Hail Columbia; Benjamin
Carr's Federal Overture; and Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner
reflected this shift from the political to the patriotic, as well as the
shift in the definition of patriotism itself. Inspired by the political
climate, men such as William Billings and Francis Hopkinson wrote political
pieces and lyrics with the intention of uniting the people in the patriot
cause: the quest for independence from Great Britain. In 1768, John Dickinson
published the Liberty Song, a song that resonated with revolutionary
spirit.The lyrics, set to the well-known English tune "Hearts of Oak," encouraged the
colonists to fight for freedom and independence from the British tyrants, and
called for unity among the people.The refrain was a powerful segment of the song in which Dickinson expressed
those ideals: "Come, join Hand in Hand, brave Americans all, And rouse your
bold Hearts to fair Liberty's Call…in freedom we're born, and in freedom we'll
live…By uniting We stand, by dividing We fall…."In order for the people to gain their political freedom, they had to rally
together in support of the patriot cause. Dickinson attempted, through his
song, to spread this message to the people.
In 1798, Joseph Hopkinson received a
request from the performer Gilbert Fox to create lyrics for the popular song The
President's March, a work composed by Philip Phile in honor of George
Washington.Hopkinson, rather than simply complying with Fox's request, took the
opportunity to promote ideals he considered most important. He intended to
"get up an American Spirit, which should be independent of and above the
interests, passions, and policy" of the political parties, as the people, at
that time, were divided over the political situation in France. 
He knew that he needed to compose lyrics that would unite the people,
lyrics that went beyond the partisan divide. Hopkinson wrote that the song was
"…exclusively patriotic in its sentiment and spirit…truly American, and
nothing else, and the patriotic feelings of every American heart responded to
it."Hopkinson expressed what he thought it meant to be American through his
lyrics. For Hopkinson, veneration of those who fought for the nation, regard
for liberty and freedom, and a united effort to preserve peace encompassed
patriotic virtue. The song praised the national heroes "who fought and bled in
Freedom's cause" and called for the people to unite as a "band of brothers" in
defense of their liberty.From a study of Hopkinson's lyrics and explanation of the song's origins, it
can be assumed that, for Hopkinson, patriotism, or the "American Spirit," was
rooted in veneration of national heroes, the desire for unity among the people,
as well as a regard for liberty and those who fought in the name of freedom.
He also intended to promote George Washington's virtue and character as an
example for the American people to follow, as will later be discussed.
In 1794, Benjamin Carr composed a patriotic piece at the request of certain theater
managers who, having witnessed the potential for violence among audience
members when certain musical pieces were performed, wished to avoid conflict
among audience members. The theater managers hoped that, by enlisting Carr to create a musical work
that would appeal to the majority of people, they would lessen the chance of a
catastrophe.With this in mind, Carr chose to include a variety of songs in his Federal
Overture that would "evoke admiration which crossed party lines, to appeal
to Federalist and anti-Federalist alike."Not only would the selection appeal to the entire audience, but also, by
combining different songs into one musical piece, the Overture itself
symbolized the unity Carr hoped to bring to the people. His skillfully
arranged potpourri of carefully selected popular pieces included The
President's March, the Marseillaise, Ca Ira, and Yankee
Doodle, among others.All of the songs had bright melodies and invigorating rhythms, which Carr
designated should be played "with spirit" to induce feelings of excitement
within the members of the audience.Following a performance of the Overture, a critic reported that it had
been "eminently calculated to attract an universal admiration."Some audience members, then, recognized the intention behind and significance
of the Federal Overture, a recognition that meant Carr had done his job
well. He deliberately created a musical work that contained various themes and
familiar pieces that he knew would appeal to the majority of the people, as he
sought to fulfill the managers' desire, as well as his own, to bring the people
together despite their political differences.
Though not the first patriotic song, The
Star-Spangled Banner, based on its origin and lyrical content, was one
of—if not the first—truly national songs produced in the United States. According
to the musicologist and theorist Carl Engel, the people of a country created
truly "national" songs, or songs that reflected the character of a country and
its people, "in…moment(s) of extraordinary emotion" not "unfrequently connected
with remarkable national events, by which they were called forth." While many composers and lyricists wrote patriotic songs before the War of
1812, their works were often contrived, calculated pieces created with specific
intentions, as discussed earlier. The Star–Spangled Banner had no such
origin. In 1814, Francis Scott Key went aboard a British ship to rescue a
friend and was detained there, as the British feared Key would reveal their
plan to attack.While aboard the ship, Key could only watch in anxious anticipation of the
battle's conclusion. When the smoke cleared, he saw that the American flag
still flew, which meant the American forces had defeated the British, and had
proved themselves superior. Immediately seized by an overwhelming sense of
national pride, in a moment of true inspiration, Key wrote the words that
became the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner, a song infused with "the
warm spirit of patriotism."Key wrote the lyrics out of a spontaneous and deeply felt sense of national
pride, the product of a great national event—the defeat of the British at the
Battle of Fort McHenry. Key experienced such immediacy and such deeply felt
emotion in those moments that he had no time for deep contemplation as he
wrote. Consequently, as his brother in law, R. B. Taney wrote, Key's lyrics
"came warm from his heart."In addition to the inspired creation of the piece, the lyrical content also
distinguished The Star-Spangled Banner from other patriotic songs in
that Key referred to the people of the United States as a "nation." In the
fourth stanza, Key wrote: "Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a
nation" and in the refrain, he referred to the land as the "home" of the "free
and the brave."The Star-Spangled Banner referred to the people as members of a nation,
one people united in common ideals. Key also used the flag as a symbol of
American bravery and freedom, a freedom the people would always defend if
"their cause was just."There was also an air of assurance in the lyrics that the people would conquer
any foe and that the flag would "in triumph" wave.
The other patriotic songs differed greatly from The Star-Spangled Banner
in both origin and language. The Star-Spangled Banner's inspired
beginning, the strongly patriotic and emotional nature of the lyrics, and the
shift in patriotic language contributed to the unique quality of Key's work and
distinguished it as a "national" song, or a song about the nation, both the
land and its people.
Regardless of the motivations, or lack thereof, of songwriters and composers, the general public often reacted
with overwhelming enthusiasm for and displayed a strong emotional connection
with patriotic musical pieces, which attested both to the powerful content and
appeal of such works as well as the need and desire the people had for them.
Chauncey Holcomb, an American intellectual and proponent of music education,
wrote that, during the Revolution, many "national ballads were in the mouth of
every one, and might be heard in every town, barroom, cabin, and military
encampment in the country…."
The enthusiasm people felt for those songs was evident in their widespread
appeal and continued performance. At that time, the people had a need for such
songs, as it united "the patriots of those days to a resistance of tyranny."From the time of the Revolution on, songs such as John Dickinson's Liberty
Song, Joseph Hopkinson's Hail Columbia, Benjamin Carr's Federal
Overture, Francis Scott Key's Star-Spangled Banner, and Samuel
Francis Smith's America, often strongly affected the American people.
The first of these songs, John Dickinson's Liberty Song, published in
1768, resonated with revolutionary spirit.
It was an inspirational song that corresponded with and even fostered the
revolutionary spirit among the patriots while it unified them in a common
cause. The motivational lyrics, combined with the use of an already popular
melody, made the Liberty Song successful from the very start. The
people sang it "everywhere: at political demonstrations, protest meetings,
patriotic celebrations, dedication ceremonies for liberty trees, for pure
enjoyment, and for nuisance value to enrage the British and their American
The people needed such a song at that time, to rally them in the patriot cause,
and the song's revolutionary spirit made the song useful in their pursuits. It
would also seem that they found great pleasure in using the song to taunt the
British, especially since Dickinson set the lyrics to the beloved English
melody, Hearts of Oak.
The enthusiasm for Joseph Hopkinson's
Hail Columbia began even before the first performance. When theater
managers announced the addition of the song to the program in 1798, ticket
sales immediately increased and the "theater was crowded to excess."
Once the people heard that lyrics had been added to one of the more popular
musical pieces, The President's March, they filled the theater,
anxiously awaiting the patriotic piece. None of the other songs on the program
appealed to them in the way that Hopkinson's piece did. After the initial
performance, the people continued to crowd the theater "night after night, for
the rest of the season, the song being encored and repeated many times each night,
the audience joining in the chorus."
No other song received such a favorable response. The song had such a powerful
impact on the people that the entire audience, not just one social or political
group, demanded multiple performances of the work. The excitement did not end
with the performance, as the people, not content with hearing the song only in
the theaters, continued to sing it on their own. Hopkinson noted that Hail
Columbia was "sung at night in the streets by large assemblies of citizens,
including members of Congress…and was heard…in every part of the United
His statement painted a powerful image of the people united in song and
celebration of their country's past and ideals. The powerful lyrical content,
as well as the music, appealed to all members of society across the nation,
regardless of their party affiliations and personal politics. Members of
Congress and ordinary citizens, those who supported France and those who did
not, all joined in sharing the sentiments expressed in Hail Columbia.
Their love of country and veneration of those who fought for their freedom,
George Washington in particular, meant more to them in those moments than their
Such reverence for the past also
contributed to the success of Benjamin Carr's Federal Overture. As
Carr's composition included many of the most popular and historical songs,
audience members experienced the old favorites anew.
Though theater managers feared, based on previous experience, that the
political tension among the people would bring certain disaster during their
productions, the skillful arrangement of the carefully selected songs brought
positive feelings to the audience as they shared in the experience of hearing
such memorable and enjoyable songs.
The Federal Overture pleased members of both parties so much that Carr's
orchestra gave several subsequent performances, and even traveled to showcase
On December 15, 1794, Carr traveled to New York with the American Company
orchestra for the debut of the Federal Overture in the city, where it
also achieved great success. A writer for the New York Magazine
reported that the piece "excited in us as delightful sensations as ever we
remember to have experienced on a similar occasion."
The familiarity of the songs used in the composition and the excitement that
the new arrangement brought contributed to the audience's enjoyment of the
piece. The people accepted and enjoyed the song, regardless of political
affiliation. Though some of the pieces he included in the overture had
political overtones, Carr had worked toward achieving what Joseph Hopkinson had
with Hail Columbia. Critics reported on the "universal admiration" that
the overture inspired among the people, which attested to Carr's compositional
skill, his sensitivity to the emotional and sentimental content of the pieces,
as well as his intuition regarding the desires and needs of the American
people. He chose pieces that he knew would work to his advantage, and arranged
them in a manner that would arouse excitement and patriotic fervor among
The audience reacted as Carr and the theater managers had hoped: with pleasure
rather than anger, as one people rather than two divided groups intent on
destroying each other.
The Star-Spangled Banner, a song unique in its origins and
content, also captivated the minds and hearts of the American public. The
language Key used differed from that in previous patriotic songs in two ways:
in its description and in its reference to Americans as one united people of a
nation. While the song described a single battle, it also referred to the
nation as a whole, as well as freedom and the bravery, even superiority, of the
American people. Key wrote the song not out of spite, but out of a deeply felt
sense of national pride. Key's brother-in-law, R. B. Taney, wrote that Key's
lyrics "came warm from his heart, and for that reason, even more than from its
poetical merit, it never fails to find a response in the hearts of those who listen
The emotions Key experienced while on the British ship were deeply embedded in
the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner, and the transfer of those
emotions from composer to listener made the song powerful. Though the song's
musical structure left something to be desired, the lyrics and the patriotic
feeling within the song mattered to the American people. The Star-Spangled
Banner's reference to the people of the United States, their character,
devotion to liberty, and their bravery and superiority in battle reflected the
patriotic sentiment of the people following the War of 1812. The refrain was
the most popular and most patriotic segment of the lyrics, as it referred to
the American ideal of freedom and the character of the nation as a whole.
According to Colonel John L. Warner, "the choral lines of (the) song have
brought it into general favor," as the sentiments contained in the line "o'er
the land of the free and the home of the brave" resonated most within the
hearts of the people.
By using such words, Key referred to people as a unit, one American people, who
should join together in praise of their great land and their strength as a
nation. The people might have favored the refrain more than the verses, not
only because of the grand chord progression that accompanied it, but also
because it contained national language, a language that the people identified
and agreed with. Key's lyrics also reflected the pride he felt upon seeing the
flag, "the star-spangled banner" that "in triumph doth wave" at the end of
battle, a symbol of the courage and superiority of the American people. 
Key also put the lyrics in the first person, often using the words "we" and
"us," which also created a more personal connection to the song while it also
promoted a sense of unity, as the people would "experience" the events Key
witnessed together as they sang the song.
The melody chosen for the lyrics was not ideal, as Anacreon in Heaven
was an English drinking song that had awkward phrasing and a melodic line that
went beyond the average person's vocal range.
As Colonel John Warner noted after he first heard the Star-Spangled Banner,
the words themselves did not fit comfortably with the song's rhythm, which was
"too complicated and often harsh," which made it awkward to sing and hear.
Despite difficulty in performing the song, the people still embraced it. The
morning after Key wrote the lyrics, he took the song to a printer, and "in less
than an hour…it was all over town, and hailed with enthusiasm, and took its
place at once, as a national song."
It might be assumed, from the immediate response to the work, that the people
needed a song such as The Star-Spangled Banner during that time of
political crisis as the lyrics, particularly the refrain, contained sentiments
that could boost morale and induce a sense of accomplishment and pride in the
American people. Even more so, the people might have reacted so strongly and
enthusiastically to the piece because the American people had defeated the
British in battle, and so asserted themselves as worthy opponents, perhaps even
superior to the British forces. Through The Star-Spangled Banner, they
could express their pride and celebrate the American victory.
In the years immediately following
the Revolution, leaders of the nation, aware of the questionable stability of
the newly formed government, sought to strengthen the nation through the
development of virtuous character among the American people. The character of
a nation depended on the character of its people; thus, it was necessary for
the people to be virtuous, patriotic citizens.
One of the ways in which the people sought to cultivate national virtue was
through the use of patriotic songs. Intellectuals had identified the socially
beneficial and influential properties of music, and believed that music could
"call into exercise the higher virtues, and among them that of patriotism."
If music could control the passions and instill love of country, then music was
the key to the creation of a strong, prosperous nation. Organizers often made
music a part of festivals, federal processions, and other celebrations with
patriotic themes meant to develop national character and unity. 
As Americans across the country joined in such events, an "imagined community"
This "imagined community" was an intangible emotional and intellectual bond
that connected all Americans together as one community with common principles
and a shared history. Processions, festivals, and other national events provided
an opportunity for the masses to participate in celebrations of the nation.
The people were "not merely the spectators but also the actors, observing
themselves in the process of defining themselves."
Not merely a means to cultivate national virtue, festivals provided
opportunities for the people to honor their past and to express the ideals and
principles they considered important, thereby defining what it meant to be
American. The people participated in the veneration of historic figures and
events that had contributed to the formation of the nation; the celebration of
and reverence for what they considered most important—their history, freedom,
independence, and virtue—provided an opportunity for the people to invent and
reinforce an American identity. Through such celebrations, the American people
also set a precedent for future generations to follow. If American youths were
not directly involved in celebrations, they actively participated as
spectators, and so learned patriotism and national virtue by example.
Patriotic festivals and gatherings,
which the people often attended in large numbers, served two functions
concerning music and nationalism: they provided an opportunity for the people
to unite as a community in celebration of the nation through song, while they
also increased the significance of patriotic songs through the association of
national symbols with music. Organizers often used music in patriotic
celebrations such as the Grand Federal Procession of 1788. Following that particular
festival—a celebration of the Fourth of July as well as the establishment of
the Constitution—James Wilson wrote a letter of observances on the procession,
later included in Francis Hopkinson's extensive account, in which he commented
on the artistic aspects of the festival, including the music. He wrote: "the
senses partook of the entertainment, for the variety of colours displayed in
the various ornaments of the machines and flags, and in the dresses…together
with an excellent band of music, at once charmed the eyes and ears of the
spectators…The effects of the precession, upon the minds and bodies of our
citizens, deserve to be noticed.—It forced open every heart…"
For the spectators, the festival was a sensorial experience, full of sights and
sounds. The images and music drew the audience in emotionally and
intellectually, and created in them a sense of excitement regarding the
country. As music accompanied many of the visual symbols, the people could
associate the symbolic meaning of what they saw with the music they heard.
Upon future hearings of the songs performed at the festival, the people who
attended might recall the visual symbols, the feelings of excitement, as well
as the deeper patriotic feelings associated with those symbols, with greater
ease. During the 1813 celebration of the anniversary of American Independence,
a large group of people met to honor the occasion. After a reading of the
Declaration of Independence, the guests sat down to dinner, "and in the course
of the entertainment, a band of music performed a number of appropriate tunes,"
including Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, and Washington's March.
Each song had a corresponding toast, thirteen all together, all of a national
nature: the anniversary of American Independence, the country, the president
of the United States, the army, and the navy, among others.
The reporter who gave the account of the celebration considered the songs the
band performed "appropriate" for the occasion because of their nature as
patriotic songs. The people who created the toasts also considered the content
of such works relevant and complimentary to their references to the nation and
its history. Similarly, in 1818, "a numerous and respectable assemblage" of
Philadelphians met to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The hosts for the celebration gave toasts following a reading of the
Declaration of Independence, all accompanied by music. The songs performed
included Yankee Doodle, the President's March, and The Star-Spangled
The toasts were patriotic as well, in honor of liberty, the president,
those who died during the Revolution and the War of 1812, the military, the
memory of George Washington, and American citizenship.
Patriotic songs, then, were associated, on more than one occasion, with
national symbols: historically significant people, events, and objects. Such
use of patriotic songs proved their sentimental and intellectual value; if the
songs had no intrinsic patriotic meaning or significance, they would not have
been used in such a capacity. Though large numbers of people often attended
festivals and other such gatherings, the general public also received detailed
accounts of the events through newspapers, which further assisted in the spread
of patriotic messages, including the musical associations with national
symbols, and patriotic feeling.
As the people experienced or read about such events, they might associate the
already patriotic songs with other facets of American society and history.
Through the repetitive use of songs in that capacity, the people established a
precedent of using songs with patriotic themes during national celebrations.
This did not limit the use of patriotic songs to festivals or anniversaries of
independence, but did contribute to the value that those works had as tools for
the promotion of nationalism.
The nationalist fervor that took hold
of the country had a significant influence on several composers and the
content, form, and style of music they created as they worked toward producing
original compositions that would reflect the greatness of the nation and its
people. Three men in particular, Anton Philip Heinrich, Bohemian violinist and
composer; George Frederick Bristow, American composer and officer of the New
York Philharmonic Society; and William Henry Fry, American composer and music
critic, composed with the intent of creating pieces that would strengthen the
American musical repertoire and reflect the country's landscape, culture,
native peoples, and ideals. Though a native of Bohemia, Anton Heinrich moved
to the United States in 1810, and from that time on considered himself to be an
American musician and composer.
He originally settled in Philadelphia, and later moved westward to Kentucky,
where he lived for a time among the Native Americans.
Heinrich found inspiration for his compositions while on his journey through
the American landscape and his subsequent years in the Kentucky woodlands.
Though not formally trained in composition, Heinrich was so taken with the Native
Americans and the beauty of the land that he taught himself to compose, and
created for American music what the nationalist painters such as Thomas Cole
created for the visual arts. "(T)he first to attempt American nationalism in
the larger forms of musical composition," Heinrich was also the first to use
Native Americans "as a theme for orchestral works on a large scale."
Thus, by inspiration and thematic content, Heinrich's works were national
pieces. His works, though basically structured in accordance with most
accepted musical conventions, contained elements of non-conformity,
originality, experimentation, and emotional expression that embodied the
essence of Ludwig van Beethoven's compositional style.
In regard to his compositional style and technique, his works, then, had the
same significance in the eyes of his contemporaries to American music that
Beethoven's did in Europe, an indication that, at last, America had a strong,
capable, and talented composer contributing to the betterment of American
musical life. Heinrich's works were innovative, descriptive pieces that
resulted from his emotional response to and individual experience with America
and its peoples.
As a composer, he brought a new level of maturity and originality to American
musical culture. His motivation came, in part, from what he referred to as
"the many and severe animadversions, so long and repeatedly cast on the talent
for Music in this Country…."
Tired of such negative critique, Heinrich desired to create exceptional scores
that would disprove the claim that American musicians had no talent.
Though Heinrich did not refer to a specific group of people, the criticism
presumably came from European music critics. Heinrich wrote in the preface to
one of his compositions published in 1820, Dawning of Music in Kentucky,
that his desire was to create "one single Star in the West," or
one bright and shining musical composition that would prove to those in the
East (Heinrich's reference to the West might have been an implication that he
meant to challenge Europeans, or those who resided in the East) that American
artists could create exceptional musical works of the same, or perhaps even
greater, caliber of European music. Heinrich was most capable of accomplishing
such a task, if such a task existed, as his compositional style and ability
rivaled that of the European masters, while at the same time, he retained the
thematic and structural originality that distinguished his work from European
pieces. In 1855, George Bristow also composed a piece "essentially national
in its subject," as he chose to use Washington Irving's story Rip Van Winkle
for his lyric drama, composed under the same title.
Bristow's work, like Heinrich's, was national by its content and theme, as it
was based on a piece of literature about the Dutch-Americans in New York.
Critics gave the performance mixed reviews, though many considered the work, in
general, a success and a step forward in the establishment of "a national
school of music" in America.
The generally favorable reception of and enthusiasm for their national works
demonstrated the excitement and appreciation the people had for such
compositions. Proponents of a national tradition in American music would most
likely take great pleasure in the success that Bristow and Heinrich achieved as
American composers. As both men chose national themes as the subjects for
their compositions, they made a significant contribution to the American body
of musical works.
William Henry Fry also composed in the interest
of establishing a more complete and substantial repertoire of original American
compositions, as well as increasing appreciation for native rather than
European composers. Fry's ideals and body of work were vastly important in the
development of American music. In 1845, he produced the first opera seria,
or grand opera, performed in the United States.
As Francis Hopkinson had done years earlier, Fry made sure to document his
contribution to American music in the introduction to Leonora, "the
first American work of the kind," and expressed his hope that, in America,
"which has the accumulating wealth, taste, and knowledge conferred by freedom
and peace…there may be a rapid, and at the same time, a vigorous growth of this
branch of Art."
Fry was also a strong proponent of a complete cultural separation from Europe.
Indeed, in a lecture he delivered to the American public in 1853, he proclaimed
that the time had come for "a Declaration of Independence in Art."
He felt that American musicians should follow in the path of American painters
and writers in the pursuit of cultural independence. Fry questioned American
dependence on European culture and believed that a people capable of achieving
political independence should also strive for cultural separation and original
achievement in the arts, particularly in music. In the same lecture, he
continued: "until this Declaration of Independence in Art shall be made—until
American composers shall discard their foreign liveries and found an American
School—and until the American public shall learn to support American artists,
Art will not become indigenous to this country, but will only exist as a feeble
exotic, and we shall continue to be provincial in Art."
For Fry, cultural separation and the advancement and support of American
composers and musical pieces would lead to the development of a strong and
worthwhile musical culture. According to Fry, America would not have its own
musical culture until it stopped relying on European influences, and no
composer would ever achieve greatness or contribute unique and significant
pieces to further the development of American music. As long as American
composers turned to Europe, their work could not be considered American. There
were those who felt that Fry was sometimes too strong, and even contradictory
in his statements.
However, some did agree with him, and recognized the truth in his words,
though, unlike Fry, they also recognized the achievements that had already been
made in the establishment and development of original American music. 
Those who reacted favorably to Fry's strongly worded statements considered him
to be a bold man rooted in "'Americanism.'"
His ideas and beliefs regarding music were intensely patriotic in the sense
that he believed America could and one day would achieve musical greatness,
just as they had achieved success in the other arts. He advocated the
development of American work, by American authors, for the American public, in
the interest of developing an American musical culture. Fry used his music to
convey his patriotic themes and ideals as well as implement his vision for the
future of American music. His opera, Leonora, though structured in the
Italian style of the opera seria, did not follow all of the traditional
conventions. Fry believed that an American opera should be performed in
English, despite the widely held belief among European composers and musicians
that opera should be written in Italian and other languages conducive to
Fry defied convention, as he believed in the patriotic value of writing his
opera in English, the native language of his country.
From the time of the American Revolution on,
patriotic songs had a significant impact on the American people and their love
and enthusiasm for their country. Composers and lyricists took advantage of
the influential power of music to promote their own desires and to unify the
people. In a time when the people struggled to define themselves and what it
meant to be American, composers and lyricists attempted to provide, through
song, various examples of what they considered American behavior, and what they
considered to be the ideals most important to the American people. The
American people came to define themselves through the expression of the ideals
and sentiments they considered most important, and as most patriotic songs
contained such elements, they had a significant influence in the process. As
the enthusiasm for patriotic songs grew through public renditions, festivals, national
celebrations, and through print culture, the people experienced an increased
desire for American works, a desire which was reflected in their demand for
more music by American composers, or at least more music with patriotic themes
and content. The nationalist fervor that swept the nation, partly due to the
role patriotic music played, returned to music through composers who had
adopted the ideals of nationalism. Throughout time, the patriotic language
increased in its intensity. In the 1780s, Francis Hopkinson simply wished that
the American people would continue with the development of American music so
that the country could advance culturally. By the 1850s, William Henry Fry
used extreme language to express his ideals and hope that the American musical
tradition would one day rival that of the other European nations. He felt that
American music should be held in higher esteem than European works as American
works were, of course, better than European ones simply because they were
American. Nevertheless, he and his contemporaries, inspired by nationalism—in
varying degrees of intensity—laid the foundation for a prosperous and
worthwhile musical tradition in the United States. A musical repertoire that
had once been used to taunt the British people during Revolutionary times
turned into something much greater as the general enthusiasm for American
musical works increased. Lyricists and composers, from Francis Hopkinson to
William Henry Fry, contributed significantly to the history, culture, and
maturity of the nation; indeed, they contributed to the strength of the nation
itself by providing a means through which the American people could define
themselves. In this way, Americans developed their own musical culture, one
that proved to the world that the patriotic spirit of the American people lived
on through music, and would continue to do so for some time.
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