In our ongoing effort to make music readily available to young children and families, we have added a Spotify account to our public offerings! Seasonal Playlists will be curated and posted here for what we feel meet the needs of children during the season.
I started out right away with Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Copland being known for his ability to paint the American landscape and pioneering spirit got me on the path of featuring American composers. This sort of feeling- the feeling of nature, spirit for the outdoors is what I feel when I think of spring. I might be stuck inside on a five-day spring rain streak, but I know that when that rain breaks it will smell great, look great, and best yet, we haven’t reached those summer temps yet… we can conquer anything in spring!
*It’s important to know that musical history is rooted in either sacred or secular meaning. Whether you are religious or not, putting reflections into a historical context is what I find the most important. We have plenty of folk songs in our curriculum today that my personal self would not prefer, however, they also teach history- and if you think from that perspective there are plenty of discussions to be had with your little ones about how far we have come.*
Now, back to America…
William Billings wrote some of the most common four-part vocal hymns and anthems of the colonial era. You will note the distinct style of the singing is unlike most you hear, these traditions are now carried out through the Sacred Harp singing tradition. You might remember similar sounds from the movie “Cold Mountain”. The group singing features arm raising and toe tapping in keeping the beat. If this peaks your interest- here’s an informational video (and yes there are groups nearby that meet if you like this sort of thing, like me 🙂 )
Stephen Foster was known as America’s first professional songwriter, and being born on the Fourth of July it’s quite ironic how memorable and nostalgic his songs have become to Americans. He is known for “Old Kentucky Home”, “Oh, Susanna!”, “Camptown Races”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and more! I highly suggest rolling back through some of his pieces with your grandparents and children in the same room. For some fun historical context, the song “Oh, Susanna” was first performed in an ice cream parlor!
As we reach the 19th century we find ourselves enjoying parlor songs, many of which are taking place in the home, surrounded by this idea of tradition and family involvement. However, although women are sitting at the piano playing we are not seeing female composers come forward. We know now that many were composing, but were not in position to use their own names even up through the 20th century. As stated on parlorsongs.com states “The image we have provided…. is a most fitting depiction of women in music prior to 1900 (and even well beyond.) The “piano lady” was the predominant image of women in music. The direction was that women would perform music, not make music.”
Composition was considered a man’s work, and women were often forbidden from the process by their fathers or husbands. As we know, women in fact dominated the area of music education and much of the musical field, therefore it was only natural for them to create original melodies and compositions. It is important to acknowledge this omission of history, to signify how important it would have been to be a female composer in that era. Amy Beach was the first successful American composer and pianist traveling for performances in both America and Germany. She has a vast repertoire of songs, and quite frankly choosing one is difficult.
Scott Joplin, moved to Sedalia, Missouri in 1894 to start teaching piano and later in 1895 started publishing his Ragtime music which quickly brought him to fame when he published “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899. It is important to note Joplin’s place in history, not only an African-American composer, but also considered the model for ragtime composers.
John Phillip Sousa is known for his military and patriotic marches- most notably “The Stars and Stripes Forever” which is the National March of the United States of America. It was written on December 25, 1896- he wrote the piece in his head as he was traveling home from Europe and then put the piece to paper when he arrived back to the United States.
Now we arrive in 1942 and Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” premiers. This is considered one of the earliest examples of truly American ballet, and includes one of the most recognizable movements in popular culture. “Hoe-Down” has found it’s place in our culture through cinema, product placement, and the classic ability of Copland to paint a landscape through instrumentation (you can picture exactly where you would be in the country for this piece, right?) For me, I feel like I grew up with this piece somehow… it was used in the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” commercials (which apparently went on for at least 10 years!) , in “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West”, and it also inspired the “Magnificent Seven” theme later written by Elmer Bernstein in 1960.
Check out our Winter playlist when you’re done- along with our post about how we choose our songs!