Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Sioux Song and Dance

    Some of the Sioux songs that are used in display dancing at powwows and other events reflect contacts with other Plains tribes – song genres that are shared. For example, the Sioux Omaha Dance songs were sung in honor of war heroes. In this presentation Dallas Chief Eagle of the Rosebud Lakota tribe and Jasmine Pickner of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe explain and ...

  • " Christ Jesus Comes from Heavenly Height" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. For much of his life, Lutkin composed original carols as Christmas card greetings. Child Jesus Comes from Heavenly Height was one of two such greetings later published by H. W. Gray. It is a simple, strophic a cappella setting—in two verses with refrains—of a translated poem by Hans Christian Anderson. The verse begins with a unison descending line that separates into four parts ...

  • " Song for a May Morning" by Patty Stair

    Article. Patty Stair wrote Song for a May Morning in 1914 to address the needs of the burgeoning women's musical clubs that gained popularity during the first part of the twentieth century. The piece begins with a lively duet between the upper two voices. The alto parts join the texture in close imitation of the top voices. A homophonic section follows featuring more adventurous ...

  • " John Henry"

    Whether or not the legend has an historical basis, the story of a man whose worth and identity are measured only by his strength, which is then challenged by the advent of steam power, is one that has endured for over a century. John Henry's complaint to the work "captain," "A man ain't nothing but a man," found in most versions of the ballad, ...

  • Basque American Song

    Starting in the 1960s, folk bands like Ordago and Gaupasa formed to play a combination of traditional Basque music and popular songs. Since then, groups like Amuma Says No have brought a more contemporary edge to Basque music by mixing Basque and American instrumentation and rhythms. A webcast of the performance of Amuma Says No performing both traditional and contemporary songs at the Library ...

  • Malian American Song

    There are many well-known Malian singers who tour extensively in the United States, or that have taken up more-or-less full-time residency in the country, such as Adjaratou "Tapani" Demba and Makane Kouyaté. In recent years Malian performers fled their homeland in droves as newly influential followers of an ultraconservative brand of Islamic law, in this moderate Muslim country, have violently banned most artists. This ...

  • "The Carol of the Beasts" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. According to Pauline Graybill Kennel, Lutkin's biographer, he seemed to be at his best when composing shorter works. Carol of the Beasts, only four pages long, is an unaccompanied arrangement of a simple Christmas song by George Coleman Gow, professor of music at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, from 1895 to 1932. The four verses are set for a solo voice or small ...

  • Regional Song Sampler: The Southeast

    Return to Mapping the Songs of America

  • "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 ...

  • " He Met Her in a Meadow" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's He Met Her in a Meadow was first published for solo male voice in 1921. G. Ricordi & Co., New York, published versions for mixed chorus, men's chorus, and women's chorus in 1922. Burleigh wrote the song's lyrics about a young farmer's late-evening flirtation. The musical setting is melodramatic and sentimental, foreshadowed in the tempo direction, Andante con molto sentimento. The ostensible ...

  • Laotian American Song and Dance

    So among both the ethnic Lao and the Hmong, community events frequently include developing styles of Americanized music and also presentations that introduce traditional songs to younger generations with the idea that the new and the old styles can exist together.

  • Blues as Protest

    Another example of the use of blues to address social issues are found in African American songs about World War II. Bus Ezell's composition, "Obey the Ration Laws," urges people to comply with war-time rationing, but it also alludes to a difference in compliance and attitudes between poor and wealthy Americans. Buster Brown's "War Song," also performed during World War II, complains of a ...

  • " They that wait upon the Lord" by Arthur B. Whiting

    Article. Whiting sets this text from Isaiah (40:28-31) as an accompanied verse anthem, a form that alternates between solo and chorus to provide textural variety. In this case the musical contrast is suited to the dichotomy represented in the text. For example, he sets the narrative, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" as a lyric baritone solo. On the other ...

  • "The Morning Wind" by Gena Branscombe

    Article. Also published as a solo song, Branscombe's choral setting (SSA) was issued by Arthur P. Schmidt Co., Boston, in 1914. The text is by Kendall Banning (1879-1944). The short piano introduction depicts the morning wind with an arpeggiated triplet figure in compound meter. The wind, the dawn, and "the land so fair" are wooing the narrator to explore "wherever roads may lead." The ...

  • Portuguese American Song

    Traditional Portuguese vocal music forms find a contemporary expression in the music of Portuguese American rock bands. The ensembles play standard rock instruments like electric guitar, drums and electric bass, and perform at parties, showers, weddings and other social events. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Portuguese songs to rock and disco music. Acclaimed Portuguese American vocal artists include Anthony Joseph "Joe Perry" Pereira, a ...

  • Italian American Song

    In the later twentieth century Italian American vocal artists continued to exert a major influence on popular culture in the United States. While famous Italian Ameircan singers such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin were influenced by their Italian heritage in their English-Language recordings, recordings of Italian-language songs sometimes became hits for various American popular singers, such as the traditional song, "Santa ...

  • " Dance of Gnomes" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. In dramatic contrast to Cradle Song, the song Dance of Gnomes sets a text by MacDowell that is jarring, spooky, and humorous. The Gnomes, also called "Flower Fairies," conjure up shadows, moonlight, dark forests, and magic spells. Later in the work they call themselves "ugly, hairy imps," "ugly noddles" (noddle is the nape of the neck, back of the head), and "willful hussies." ...

  • "The Wind and the Day (A Sunset on Yarrow)" by Arthur Foote

    Article. This part-song, one of fifty-two composed by Foote, was dedicated to Horatio Parker (1863–1919), a fellow member of the Second New England School of composers. It sets a pastoral poem by Scottish writer Andrew Lang, who edited the poems and songs of Robert Burns in 1896. The text and music paint a picture of a sunset over the heather. Foote injects chromatic harmonies ...

  • " Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The text and melody of Dig My Grave were taken from Bahama Songs and Stories by Charles L. Edwards. The opening is appropriately somber, marked Grave, and set for four-part men's voices: "Dig my grave long and narrow! Make my coffin long and strong!" At the tempo change to Andante cantabile, the women sing in parallel sixths while the men sustain an open-fifth ...

  • Folk Singers, Social Reform, and the Red Scare

    At the Library of Congress in 2007, Pete Seeger performed examples of sing alongs with audience members, folk songs and activist songs. He presented a new peace song, "Don't Say it Can't be Done," inspired by the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentegon, and harking back to the Mongomery, Alabama Civil Rights bus boycott of 1955.

  • " 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 ...

  • Spanish American Song

    The music of Spanish, or Sephardic, Jews of the Iberian Peninsula has also found a place in the United States. They were expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century, and subsequently migrated to many other countries including the Dutch colony that would become New York. The historic language of Sephardic Jews is a dialect of Spanish called Ladino, but they adopted the language of ...

  • Icelandic American Song

    Article. Part of a multi-format online collection entitled "California Gold: Northern California Music from the Thirties," the songs were collected as part of The WPA California Folk Music Project, a joint effort of the Work Projects Administration, the Library of Congress, and the Music Division of the University of California, Berkeley, to document folk music being actively performed in Northern California. The project, which ...

  • Peace Songs of the Civil War

    Peace songs during and in aid of recovery from a civil war were one thing, peace songs and other expressions of pacifism during a foreign war might be seen as sedition. Mark Twain wrote his pacificist narrative poem "The War Prayer" in about 1904, in response to the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902. [2] Although the poem was written after the war, it tells of ...

  • American Indian and Native Alaskan Song

    Over the course of time, some song genres have declined as the occasions for their use have passed, while new ones have arisen and others have been adapted in response to changing contexts. The tradition of war dance songs, for example, once used to commemorate intertribal conflict, now honors the experiences of Indian members and veterans of the armed forces.