The written tradition

The Written Tradition

Salon, Minstrel & Show Music

Salon music was the dance music of the early 19th century used for social events of the genteel upper social classes. The minstrel tradition that emerged in the middle of the 19th century as the first indigenous American popular music was based on debasing caricature of African-American life and culture.

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At the end of the 19th century, composers and librettists dropped the black face makeup and shuffling antics of the minstrel show caricatures and begin to create musical comedies that had a discernible plot and featured beautiful women and more sympathetic male characters.

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“African and African-American music traditions have provided themes for composers of symphonic music since the late 19th century.”

 

Choral

By arranging traditional spirituals for solo voice and piano, composers like Harry T. Burleigh created the “art song spiritual” tradition. Following the 1870s, other composers created new spirituals for choral groups.

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Symphonic: Caribbean & Latin American

The African-influenced cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America helped transform the written music traditions of the 18th and 19th century French, Spanish, English, Portuguese and Dutch colonies in the Western Hemisphere. These transformations occurred in both the written forms of vernacular music and in symphonic music that reflects the indigenous culture of its composers.

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Symphonic: African-American

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African and African-American music traditions have provided themes for composers of symphonic music since the late 19th century.

Among the earliest of these composers are several from the free black and Creole communities of New Orleans such as Edmund Dede and those associated with the Harlem Renaissance such as John Rosamond Johnson, Clarence Cameron White, and Florence Price. More recent African-American composers include Ulysses Kay, Thomas J. Anderson and Olly Wilson.

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“The extraordinary creative invention, beauty and power of African and African-American music has greatly influenced the international symphonic tradition.”



Symphonic: European & European-American

The extraordinary creative invention, beauty and power of African and African-American music has greatly influenced the international symphonic tradition from the late 19th century symphonies of Dvorak through the 20th century music of Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein and many others.

These influences include patterns of rhythmic complexity and syncopation, call-and-response, antiphonal and contrapuntal singing and instrument playing, ritualistic music and dance, indeterminate pitch of single notes, harmonic dissonance, improvisational freedom, and the creative use of percussion and melodic instruments.

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