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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Music That Americans Loved 100 Years Ago

"American "popular music" a century ago was the entertainment that sprang from a rapidly growing music industry. It was commercial music, published in some format, usually sheet music. It was the music on the best selling wax cylinders and one-sided discs, which were the two formats for records. It was in Broadway productions, minstrel shows, band concerts, and vaudeville. It was the music that Americans typically heard during a day's outing to Coney Island or a trip in 1904 to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, better known as the St. Louis World's Fair.
It was the music that delighted Americans. Not everyone, of course. Some in the upper and middle classes patronized only "serious" music, usually works by European composers. Many in the middle-class objected to anything too "lowbrow." Strict churchgoers allowed only hymns into their homes, some objecting if citizens in their town organized stage shows. Many living in rural areas had little opportunity to hear hits of the day.
But enough Americans enjoyed what we now characterize as "popular music" to keep the music industry humming. It is a misleading term since it implies that other musical forms were not popular. For example, folk music once thrived in American rural areas, with one generation passing along favorite tunes to another, the music not written down--that is not included in the term "popular music." Nor does it include ethnic music, which was enjoyed in most cities by many who had emigrated from the Old World. It is not "Ring Around the Rosie" and other songs cherished by children. It is not opera or concert pieces requiring the skills of highly trained performers. It is not hymns or spirituals. But most other forms are covered by the term "popular music.""

Music That Americans Loved 100 Years Ago--Tin Pan Alley, Broadway Show Tunes, Ragtime (and Related "Coon Songs"), and Sousa Marches (via grow-a-brain)