US Music in Wartime

Music played a great role at all times. It calms down and pacifies, or vice-versa, enlightens people and provokes them to action. There is no doubt that different types of music were common for every major historical event and influenced its outcome. The main objective of this paper is to discuss the music common for the period of development of America.
George Washington is undoubtedly one of the most famous and productive Americans that lived during the period of its liberation. He was a popular personality in the social and political spheres that numerous musicians of that time could not pass him by. During Washington’s reign, many songwriters and composers dedicated their works to him and the events that took place in his life. The range of works varies from songs published in magazines to marches and odes composed by famous artists of that time.
There were three marches dedicated to George Washington and no one knows their author. There exists a thought that Francis Hopkinson wrote these marches. On his birthday, Washington was presented with a song written for that particular occasion, “Ode on the Birthday of his Excellency George Washington.” In 1786, William Shelby, a musician from Boston, composed “Ode in Honour of General Washington”, which was presented on April 27.
From May 25th till September 17th, 1787, Philadelphia held the Constitutional Convention. Alexander Reinagle composed the “Federal March” to celebrate the acceptance of the Constitution and federal government by the first ten states. On July 4, 1788, it was performed during the gala day held in Philadelphia. More than one hundred years later, the President’s March was revived and played during the military parade before President McKinley in Philadelphia on October 27, 1898.
In 1788, Francis Hopkins wrote a series of eight songs and dedicated them to Washington. George Washington wrote many letters during his lifetime, but the most gracious and charming letters were addressed to Hopkinson. The volume contained eight songs, but was called “Seven Songs”. After the volume had been printed, Hopkinson added the remark and the eighth song. There is a grand speculation about the creator of “President’s March”. However, it does not matter who wrote or composed it because it was played on all occasions by different bands and orchestras. Playing it in theaters was unavoidable, because people were screaming and demanding it.
The 4th of July, 1789, was a day when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and it was the first day people celebrated as a nation. It was indicated by the creation of “Ode for American Independence” written by Daniel George and Horatio Garnet (words and music respectively). It was printed in the Massachusetts Magazine, in July, 1789. The final lines of it hailed President George Washington and peace.
“Ode to Columbia’s Favourite Son”, “Washington”, “A song On General Washington” and many other works were dedicated to George Washington during his famous New England tour. In these songs, he was praised as a hero, peacemaker, and savior of an independent America.
However, none of the songs, marches or tunes shows a great love of the countrymen to Washington as their grief and sorrow was caused by his death on December 14, 1799. On this occasion, Benjamin Carr had his “Dead March and Monody” ready for performance twelve days after Washington’s death. Most of the music of that time was created by the New England composers who were influenced by the European music of the period (specifically the works of later Haydn). Van Hagen composed “Funeral Dirge”, and Abraham Wood presented his “Funeral Elegy”. Both of them were dedicated to the memory of the First President of America and General George Washington.
During the years of development, many things changed in America. Political policy and attitude of the colonists to their native country have significantly changed as well. During the years before and after the American Revolution, there were no American songwriters and composers. Many songwriters borrowed their songs from English composers and used topics connected to England and its King. For example, the printed version of the “Federal March'', composed by Alexander Reinagle, which was issued in 1788, had instructions for the trumpets. However, the march was played for the first time almost ten years after the American Revolution. Many of the music pieces were composed to be performed rather by British orchestras and bands, than American ones. Nevertheless, during the following Mexican-American War and Civil War, such old British songs as «The Girl I Left behind Me,» «The British Grenadiers'', „Yankee Doodle'', and marches of the day inspired soldiers for action and reminded them of their hometowns and things they left for war.
While the first settlers were travelling to the new land, the most popular type of songwriting was a broadside ballad. These ballads were imprinted on the sheets of paper, often containing the tune and rhymes. Such ballads contained all recent information about the latest murders, executions, fires, robberies, etc. During the development of the colonies and America, some authors memorized these events in their songs and compositions. For example, John Hill Hewitt applied this style in his “The Minstrel’s Return’d from the War”, which signified the revival of the popular songs in America after the Civil War. The song was very similar to Hewitt father’s song and contained nostalgia for the battles and heroic deaths during the American Revolution and afteryears.
American music travelled a very long and difficult road. Through the first years, most of the settlers did not understand the music that was quite different from the psalms that worshiped God. Francis Hopkinson is the first American songwriter, a friend of George Washington. His contribution to the music of the 18th century is doubtless.
Stephen Foster was one of the best-known songwriters born in America. Though his last years of life were not very fruitful and he was preoccupied with his debts, Foster was the first American songwriter who supported his life with music.
It is clear that songs have a great influence on the psychological state of soldiers during the battles. Throughout the major wars that took place in America, many songwriters made their contribution to the martial activities by writing songs about heroes of the war, major battles, and soldiers missing their homes. John Hewitt, mentioned above, wrote a song “All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight”, which is considered to be his best work ever. It is dedicated to the soldering life during the Civil War. “Dixie Land” is also one of the popular songs of that time. Daniel Emmet is the author of this song; however, it soon became popular enough to take place in American folklore.
During the Mexican-American War, many army bands were playing popular songs like “Yankee Doodle” to improve the state of soldiers at the camps and battlefields. Irregular troops and militia, which also participated in action, sang such folk songs as “The Girl I Left behind Me”. Those songs showed homesickness of the troops and purity of camp life. The soldiers were given eight dollars a day during that war, so that was the reason for Jesse Hutchinson to write his famous “Eight Dollars a Day”. The song showed the Mexican-American War as a conquering one.
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  • 18 октября 2021, 14:35

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