Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Arthur Collins

    Arthur Collins (1864–1933) was a widely recorded baritone whose comic songs, especially "Preacher and the Bear," endeared him to many. Much of his material was termed "coon songs," a description he detested, but he performed it with great skill. He was also well known as half of the singing duo Collins and Harlan.

  • " Two Northern Songs, Op. 43: No. 1, The Brook; No. 2, Slumber Song" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. Setting his own text, MacDowell describes a winter scene: "Frozen is the ground, / The stream's ice bound, / Softly the north wind croons, softly croons." In the final stanza, a "flaxen head," perhaps a child's, rests on the poet's shoulder while it snows outside. The text and melody are carried by the soprano while the lower three voices hum. Harmony is chromatic ...

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  • Aaron Copland, 1900-1990

    Biography. Further information, including holograph manuscripts, sketches, letters, and other primary resources are available through the Library of Congress's on-line presentation of the Aaron Copland Collection: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/copland.

  • "The Jumblies, Op. 68, No. 4" by Arthur Foote

    Article. Foote sets this humorous limerick by Edward Lear (1812-88) "Allegro giocoso." He chooses only the first and fourth stanzas of Lear's five-stanza poem. The music is scored in C minor, with a parenthesized note under the first measure, "preferably in C-sharp." Foote provides a dynamic scheme and articulations to capture the text's humor. "And when the sieve turned round and round, and ev'ry ...

  • " My Lady Nicotine" by Will Marion Cook

    Article. A lyrical ode to the joys of smoking, My Lady, Nicotine notably features the use of syncopated, ragtime rhythm (mm. 9 and 17) and high tessitura. The melody reaches a high A at the verse climax, "She's the mad little, bad little queen of smoke." The duple meter of the verse changes to triple in m. 23, introducing an enthusiastic waltz refrain for ...

  • Haydn Quartet

    Haydn Quartet (pronounced hay-den) was a much-recorded male quartet that most often consisted of tenors John Bieling and Harry Macdonough, baritone S. H. Dudley, and William F. Hooley as bass. Later Reinald Werranrath replaced Dudley. Whereas the American Quartet generally recorded bright, often ragtime-infused popular numbers, the Haydn (later spelled Hayden) Quartet usually sang slower-tempo, statelier, sometimes religious material. They also recorded vernacular selections ...

  • Francis James Child and The English and Scottish Popular Ballads

    During his years of editing the ballads, Child gained several more distinctions. By taking up a new professorship of English established at Harvard in 1876, Child became America's first English professor. In 1888, at the founding of the American Folklore Society, Child became its first president. The greatest distinction of all, however, was the impact he had on his friends, colleagues and students. He ...

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  • Paul Whiteman

    Paul Whiteman (1890–1967), billed as "The King of Jazz" by a clever press agent, was perhaps the most visible and easily recognized celebrity of the 1920s. The cherubic, mustachioed maestro was certainly the decade's most famous dance orchestra leader, and his Victor records were always big sellers. His first issued record, "Whispering" and "Japanese Sandman," ushered in a new style of dance music, slimmed ...

  • Regional Song Sampler: The Southeast

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  • Arthur B. Whiting (1861-1936)

    Biography. Whiting did not create a large body of work. When asked about his limited productivity, he replied, tongue-in-cheek, that he had been associating with the masters much too long to tolerate his own music any longer. One of his students, however, noted, "As he grew older he came, I think, to regret more rather than less this inhibition of the creative by the ...

  • Len Spencer

    Len Spencer (1867–1914) was an extremely versatile performer whose somewhat cantankerous-sounding baritone can be heard on many early records, singing ragtime songs, rendering sentimental ballads, reciting speeches of presidents, or doing New York City Bowery dialect comedy sketches with Ada Jones. Spencer's performing career was chiefly based in New York City recording studios. He also operated a booking agency.

  • " Cradle Song" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. The text is by MacDowell after a German poem by Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). A lullaby, this brief work is representative of a quintessential American male glee club song: a cappella, homophonic, closely voiced, regular phrases, heartfelt, and tender. Chromatic motion often occurs against pedal tones. Interest is found more in the overall harmonic effect than in the melody. MacDowell dedicated the work to ...

  • Robert Winslow Gordon (1888-1961)

    Biography. Kodish, Debora G. "Good Friends and Bad Enemies": Robert Winslow Gordon and the Study of American Folksong. University of Illinois Press, 1986.

    • Contributor: Gordon, Robert Winslow

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  • Look Down, Fair Moon

    Song Collection. "Look Down, Fair Moon," is contained in a collection of Rorem's songs, the Five Poems of Walt Whitman, which was published by Boosey and Hawkes in 1970. The song was dedicated to Donald Gramm, who has recorded the song for the Phoenix label. The stark lament has also been championed by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, recorded for the Erato label in 2000, and ...

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  • Regional Song Sampler: The Midwest

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  • " Spelling Bee" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Though not originally considered one of Winner's more popular songs, Spelling Bee achieved immense popularity as Swinging the Alphabet, a novelty song sung by the Three Stooges in their 1938 film, Violent Is the Word for Curly. It was the only full-length song performed by the Three Stooges in their short films, and it marked the only time they mimed to their own ...

  • Willis Laurence James (1900-1966)

    Biography. Library of Congress/Fisk University Mississippi Delta Collection (AFC 1941/002) (finding aid to the collection).

    • Contributor: James, Willis
  • " Come, O Thou Traveler" by Harvey Bartlett Gaul

    Article. At the second stanza, "Yield to me now, for I am weak," Gaul changes the key to C major and the texture to solo quartet. The full chorus reenters at "'Tis Love! Thou die'st for me." The work climaxes on a C-major chord in second inversion with the sopranos on a high G, "Pure universal Love, Thou art to me, Thou art to ...

  • In the Wilderness and Solitary Hotel

    Song Collection. Barber set three poems by Robert Graves in Despite and Still, including the third song, "In the Wilderness." Graves's poem, written in 1915, deals with the suffering of Jesus. While the opening of "In the Wilderness" is reminiscent of a lullaby, the middle section is harsh, featuring an aggressive accompaniment containing open fifths pitted against a melodic line containing tritones. The lullaby ...

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  • The Golden Willow Tree

    Song Collection. The text of "The Golden Willow Tree" is the most extensive of the collection, featuring a fairly lengthy narrative tale of maritime exploits. Although Copland completely modified the contour of the melodic line, he retained the modal ambiguities found in the original folksong. Copland's reworking of the melody for "The Golden Willow Tree" can be found in the holograph sketches of the ...

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  • Jewish Song in America

    Composers who wrote for the Yiddish stage explored themes of Jewish history and experience. But, in the early twentieth century, those who composed songs for mainstream audiences usually felt that they needed to keep their Jewish identity private. In the later twentieth century and beyond there has been a return to themes from Jewish culture and history, presented for all audiences. For example, Leonard ...

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  • Finnish American Song

    Today, choral music continues to be sung in parts of the United States among the Finnish American community. The Naselle Finn-Am Choir, a community chorus that sings everything from Finnish folk songs to gospel songs in both Finnish and English, anchors the lineup of the biennial Finnish American Folk Festival held in Naselle, Washington. A modern day and creative expression of this continuing tradition ...

  • Patty Stair (1869-1926)

    Biography. Stair's compositions include two light operas, an intermezzo for orchestra, some fifty songs, anthems, and instrumental works for violin, piano, and organ. Some of her better-known pieces are Minuet and Little Dutch Lullaby (for women's voices), and These Are They, an anthem for mixed voices. Her many unpublished songs were donated to the Library of Congress in 1917. Never married, Stair died of ...

  • Nellie Melba

    Dame Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Armstrong, née Mitchell) (1861–1931) was born in Australia and as a child studied piano, violin, and harp. Her 1887 operatic debut in Brussels was an enormous success and she continued to perform in Europe to great acclaim. She debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1893 and remained there until 1910. Her pure voice was described as ...

  • To What You Said

    Song Collection. Bernstein's setting of Walt Whitman's unpublished poem, "To What You Said," is the fourth song in the cycle. Nearly mistaken as an abandoned scribble, the poem was discovered on the verso of page thirty of the holograph manuscript of Whitman's Democratic Vistas (1871), which is housed in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection at the Library of Congress. Bernstein was reportedly attracted to ...

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