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Music in the American Revolution

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In the American Revolution, music played an important part of American culture no matter what sector of society. The music of the era served as a social commentary on the political concerns of the period aside from entertainment. The music was expressed through many forms, songs, hymns and varied instrumental musical traditions that reflected the social conditions which created it. Church music was an important source of spiritual inspiration and expression of the patriotic sentiment. The music in the Revolutionary period in the thirteen colonies varied according to region and the region’s prevalent religious views, it was used for revolutionary propaganda and expressed the tensions and sentiments of the revolutionary culture of the time.

Revolutions are not created in a vacuum, political activity comes out of a culture and that culture usually expresses those concerns through the arts. The American Revolution as well was formed within a culture that expressed social communal concerns through the arts, music included. In many cases especially right before the war and within the war period, those tunes reflected political views of both loyalists and patriots. The traditional narrative tells about revolutionary movements and actions, the liberty tree, the Boston Tea Party or The Destruction of the Tea, the Boston Massacre. We hear about key players in the revolution from the upper echelons of society and below. Personalities like Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Twelves Hewes; but there is more to the story. The revolution was inspired in addition to speeches and writings, by a colonial musical culture that matured into an American musical culture. The different regions of the thirteen colonies in ...

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...ed in the end a distinct American voice.

Works Cited

Billings, William, American Musicological Society, and Colonial Society of Massachusetts. The Complete Works of William Billings. Boston: American Musicological Society & The Colonial Society of Massachusetts : distributed by the University Press of Virginia, 1977.
Boots, Cheryl C. Singing for Equality: Hymns in the American Antislavery and Indian Rights Movements, 1640-1855, 2013
Crawford, Richard. America’s Musical Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005
Hamm, Charles, and Jay I. Kislak Reference Collection (Library of Congress). Music in the New World. New York: Norton, 1983.
Morin, Raymond. “William Billings: Pioneer in American Music.” The New England Quarterly 14, no. 1 (March 1941): 25. doi:10.2307/360095.
Ogasapian, John. Music of the Colonial and Revolutionary Era. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.
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