Fanfare for the Common Man
Article. "Fanfare for the Common Man" was certainly Copland's best known concert opener. He wrote it in response to a solicitation from Eugene Goosens for a musical tribute honoring those engaged in World War II. Goosens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, originally had in mind a fanfare "... for Soldiers, or for Airmen or Sailors" and planned to open his 1942 concert season...
Victory at Sea
Article. In the fall of 1951 the NBC-Television executive Sylvester "Pat" Weaver asked the well-known Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, "If you were approached to do some work for the United States Navy, we'd like your assurance that you wouldn't refuse to consider it." "Well, of course I wouldn't refuse to consider an offer from the United States Navy," Rodgers replied. It was six years...
Library of Congress March
Article. "The Library of Congress March" was performed for the first time at the Library of Congress on May 6, 2003, at a special tribute to John W. Kluge, and in the presence of Sousa's grandson, John Philip Sousa IV. Based on manuscript sketches and orchestrations from the Library's John Philip Sousa Collection, this new work was reconstructed by Stephen Bulla, a leading American...
Library of Congress
Christensen's Ragtime Review
The term "ragtime" took on new shades of meaning in the first decades of the 20th century. Originally defined as the "classic rag" style of African-American piano players in the 1880s and 1890s, it described a unique style in which the pianist "ragged" or syncopated the rhythms. Later, however, "ragtime" came to signify a world of popular entertainment that had been sterilized for general...
History of Ragtime
Ragtime, a uniquely American, syncopated musical phenomenon, has been a strong presence in musical composition, entertainment, and scholarship for over a century. It emerged in its published form during the mid-1890s and quickly spread across the continent via published compositions. By the early 1900s ragtime flooded the music publishing industry. The popularity and demand for ragtime also boosted sale of pianos and greatly swelled...
Scott Joplin composed three works for the stage. The first, The Ragtime Dance, depicted a typical African-American dance gathering; it was performed in 1899 at the Black 400 Club in Sedalia, Missouri. The second work, A Guest of Honor, about Booker T. Washington's dinner with Teddy Roosevelt at the White House, premiered in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1903. Joplin took the production on...
Ragtime music adapted to the unique style and invention of each composer and musician. Certain rags, however, particularly those by Scott Joplin and the composers who published with John Stark & Son, can be categorized as "classic." These instrumental rags fit a certain musical structure.
Sit Down, Shut Up, and Listen to Ragtime: Bob Milne and the O...
Every group, from the smallest family to the largest ethnicity, has a repertoire of informally learned stories, sayings, customs, techniques, and expressive traditions. This material is called folklore. Folklore allows group members to recognize one another as members of a specialized community, to express group solidarity, and to interact in ways that they find especially useful, satisfying, or meaningful. Occupational groups are no exception,...
Scott Joplin, 1868-1917
Biography. Biography. Scott Joplin's is the name perhaps most associated with ragtime. Born sometime between the summer of 1867 and mid-January 1868, Joplin's career took him from a modest homestead on the Texas-Arkansas border to New York's Tin Pan Alley New York City, where he would eventually try his luck with composers like a young Irving Berlin. Although he continued composing until just before...
Ben Harney, 1872-1938
Biography. Biography. Ben R. Harney has been credited as the musician who did the most to introduce ragtime to audiences throughout the world. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1871, Harney's racial origins have long been debated. Some people, among them Eubie Blake, claimed that he was a black man passing as white. Others maintained that Harney was a white man so thoroughly inspired by...
John Stark, 1841-1927
Biography. Biography. John Stillwell Stark was born in Kentucky in 1841. His family moved to Indiana, where he grew up on a farm.
Joseph Lamb, 1887-1960
Biography. Biography. Joseph Lamb was born in Montclair, New Jersey, in December 1877. A family man who was an anomaly in the contemporary music world, Lamb shunned the ups and downs of show business for a steady job in business. Nevertheless, Lamb is remembered alongside Scott Joplin and James Scott as one of the three great ragtime proponents.
James Scott, 1885-1938
Biography. Biography. Born in Neosho, Missouri, in February 1885, James Scott was the son of former slaves. After taking music lessons as a boy, he was given his first piano at the age of 16. Scott spent the next several years playing in bands and saloons and working as a song-plugger for the Dumars Music Company in Carthage, Missouri. This relationship led to Dumars'...
May Aufderheide, 1888-1972
Biography. Biography. The participation of women in the world of ragtime should not come as a great surprise. May Aufderheide was perhaps the most famous woman to pen rags. A finishing school graduate, she was born in Indianapolis in May 1890. She learned to play the classics on the piano from her aunt May Kolmer, a noted musician, and was treated to the best...
Will Accooe (d. 1904)
Biography. Biography. Will Accooe (18??-1904) was an important songwriter during the birth of the black musical. By 1896, Accooe was working as musical director for John Isham's Octoroons, a successful and popular quasi-minstrel troupe. At the Nashville Exposition of 1897 his "Tennessee Centennial March" was one of the biggest hits of the approximately 450 compositions by black composers played by E. C. Brown in...
Alton A. Adams
Biography. Biography. Alton Augustus Adams, born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, remains an iconic figure there. When the United States took over the islands in 1917, the new governor appointed Adams chief musician. The band that Adams assembled entered the U.S. Navy as a unit, making Adams the first black bandmaster to serve in the U.S. Navy. He composed a great deal of...
Maurice Arnold, 1865-1937
Biography. Biography. Maurice Arnold was one of many African-American students of Antonin Dvorak during Dvorak's 1894 stay in the United States. Arnold participated in Dvorak's famous January 23, 1894, concert at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Arnold's four "American Plantation Dances" were performed at the conservatory and garnered him a small measure of fame. He was also the author of...
Eubie Blake, 1883-1983
Biography. Biography. Eubie Blake was one of the most important figures in early-20th-century African-American music, and one whose longevity made him a storehouse of the history of ragtime and early jazz music and culture. Born in Baltimore in 1883, Blake began playing piano professionally when he was 16; he wrote his first composition, "Sounds of Africa," (later retitled "Charleston Rag") around the same time....
J. Tim Brymn, 1881-1946
Biography. Biography. James Tim Brymn (1881-1946) was another talented musician and songwriter who took advantage of the rise of the black musical to expand the range of black music. Born in Kingston, North Carolina, Brymn was educated at Shaw University and the National Conservatory of Music in New York
Bob Cole, 1868-1911
Biography. Biography. Robert Allen Cole was born on July 1, 1868, in Athens, Georgia, the son of former slaves. Like Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe, he became one of the most important composers of his generation, creating a model for other African-American musicians and composers. By 1891 Cole was a member of Jack's Creoles, a black minstrel company based in Chicago. Within...
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1875-1912
Biography. Biography. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in Croydon, England, on August 15, 1875. His father, a doctor from Sierra Leone, was forced to return to his home country around the time of Samuel's birth because he was not permitted to practice medicine in England. Samuel remained in England with his mother.
Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)
Biography. Biography. Biography. One of the most important figures in pre-jazz African-American music, Will Marion Cook is also one of its better known personalities. As a composer, conductor, performer, teacher, and producer, he had his hand in nearly every aspect of the black music of his time and worked with nearly every other important musician in his fields. Uncompromising and difficult to work with,...
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Biography. Robert Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondsville, Ontario, Canada, on October 11, 1882. His ancestors were among the slaves who escaped to the North and settled in that slave-founded town. In 1901, Dett began studying piano with Oliver Willis Halstead in nearby Lockport. Three years later he was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory, where he majored in piano and composition. In 1908, Dett...
Shepard N. Edmonds, 1876-1957
Biography. Biography. Little is known of Shepard N. Edmonds, except that he published some music. He was part of a vaudeville team with J. Leubrie Hill which performed on the East Coast around 1898.
James Reese Europe, 1881-1919
Biography. Biography. Eubie Blake said of James Reese Europe, "He was our benefactor and inspiration. Even more, he was the Martin Luther King of music." Europe earned this praise by being an unflagging innovator not only in his compositions and orchestrations, but in his organizational ability and leadership. One of America's greatest musicians, he progressed from strength to strength but was pointlessly cut down...
J. Leubrie Hill (John Leubrie), d. 1916
Biography. Biography. John Leubrie Hill was born about 1869. Little is known of his early life, but by 1896, he was writing songs with Alex Rogers. He also acted and wrote songs for the Williams and Walker musicals in the first decade of the 20th century.
Billy Johnson, 1858-1916
Biography. Biography. Billy Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in1858 and was educated in Augusta, Georgia. By 1881 he was performing in minstrel shows. In 1886 he joined Lew Johnson's minstrels and the following year moved to Hicks and Sawyer's minstrels, where he stayed for six seasons. During stints with several other minstrel troops, he began writing songs and eventually landed a job...
J. Rosamond Johnson (John Rosamond), 1873-1954
Biography. Biography. John Rosamund Johnson was one of the more important figures in black music in the first part of the 20th century, usually in partnership with Bob Cole or with his brother James Weldon Johnson. While he is chiefly remembered today as the composer of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," he had a varied career as a pianist, songwriter,...
Biography. Biography. Joe Jordan (1882-1971) was born in Cincinnati, raised in St. Louis, and moved to Chicago in his youth. From 1900-05, Jordan concentrated on writing piano rags, but also contributed a song to Sons of Ham (1900).
Biography. Biography. John Larkins was a minor figure in black music in the early part of the 20th century. He ran "Jolly" John Larkin's Company and employed James Reese Europe as its musical director from 1906-07. In 1910 he produced and starred in A Trip to Africa. His other credits include Royal Sam (1911) and Deep Central (1932).
Biography. Biography. Sidney Perrin was a composer, actor, and producer for a few lesser-known shows both in the first heyday of black musicals (1898-1910) and its revival in the 1920s. He composed most of the music for The Colored Aristocrats (1909), including the songs "Why Moses Never Saw the Promised Land," and "Chocolate Mandy." This show starred the famous team of Flourney E. Miller...
Maceo Pinkard, 1897-1962
Biography. Biography. Composer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his "Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band" was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as...
Biography. Biography. Montague Ring was the musical pseudonym of Amanda Christina Elizabeth Aldridge (1866-1956). Her father, the great actor Ira Frederick Aldridge, was known as the "Black Roscius" and was famous for his portrayal of Shakespeare's Othello.
Luckey Roberts, 1887-1968
Biography. Biography. Charles "Luckeyth" Roberts (1893-1968) was an accomplished pianist and composer. Along with James P. Johnson, he is considered one of the founders of the Harlem stride piano "school." Roberts has been called "one of the hardest pounding colored players of any weight." One of his early compositions, "Ripples of the Nile" (1912), was restyled "Moonlight Cocktail" and became the theme of the...
Biography. Biography. A musician who was well-versed in almost all musical idioms except the blues, Benjamin Shook was a bandleader in Detroit from the end of the 19th century into the 1930s. According to Blesh and Janis, authors of They All Played Ragtime, the bands of Theodore Finney, Fred S. Stone, and Benjamin Shook "...monopolized the city's entertainment and social world to the almost...
Noble Sissle, 1889-1975
Biography. Biography. Noble Sissle was born in Indianapolis on July 10, 1889. After attending Butler University, he toured with the Thomas Jubilee Singers and became a protege of James Reese Europe, the great band leader. In 1915 Sissle met James Hubert "Eubie" Blake; they formed a songwriting partnership with Blake focusing on music and Sissle on lyrics. Their first song "It's All Your Fault"...
Chris Smith, 1879-1949
Biography. Biography. Chris Smith "wrote songs that pointed to black folk styles," according to music historian Eileen Southern. One of his biggest hits, "Good Morning, Carrie," was recorded as early as 1901. Both black and white musicals of the first decade of the 20th century used many of his songs as "interpolations,"or extra songs not especially connected to the plot. Some interpolations were "He's...
William H. Tyers, 1876-1924
Biography. Biography. Born in 1876, William H. Tyers was a prominent musician among the new generation of black musicians and performers who burst upon the New York City scene after 1898. He arranged the songs for The Policy Players, Bert Williams and George Walker's second New York City musical.
Biography. Biography. Very little is known of Herman Wade. He may be the same person as Herman Avery Wade (and may also have been known as Edwin E. Wilson) who worked for the Aeolian Corporation from 1904-23 as a piano roll arranger. Songs attributed him include "I Want to be Loved Like a Leading Lady" (1908), "Hindoo Honey" (1907), and "I've Got a Pain...
George Walker, 1873-1911
Biography. Biography. George Walker was born in 1873 in Lawrence, Kansas. His first acting job took him to San Francisco where he met Bert Williams in 1893. As a team, their big break came in 1896 in Victor Herbert's musical Gold Bug. The musical flopped, but the songs performed by Williams and Walker were audience hits. They began playing Koster and Bial's in New...
Clarence Cameron White, 1880-1960
Biography. Biography. Clarence Cameron White was born on August 22, 1880, in Clarksville, Tennessee. He spent his childhood in Oberlin, Ohio; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Washington, D.C. White began studying violin at age eight; within four years he was studying with the accomplished violinist Will Marion Cook. He attended Oberlin Conservatory from 1896-1901 (accounts differ as to whether he graduated or left just before graduation...
Horace Weston, 1825-1890
Biography. Biography. Horace Weston (1825-90), was one of the biggest stars of the minstrel stage during its heyday in the late 19th century, along with James Bland, Billy Kersands, and Sam Lucas. A freeborn black from Connecticut and a virtuoso banjo player, he started with Buckley's Serenaders in 1863, but spent most of his career with the Georgia Minstrels. In 1873 he became the...
Bert Williams, 1874-1922
Biography. Biography. Egbert "Bert" Austin Williams was one of the greatest entertainers in America's history. Born in the Bahamas on November 12, 1874, he came to the United States permanently in 1885.
African-American Band Stocks
Article. Article. There are digitized versions of published music by African-American composers from the opening decades of the 20th century on several Web sites. These compositions are found most often on general Web sites on American music. The American music industry began publishing music by African-American composers immediately following the Civil War. Whether these works are on a general music Web site or on...
Article. Article. The term "stock" or "stock arrangement" may not be well known to the general public. Indeed, the term also may not be familiar to the ordinary performing musician. Stock arrangements generally are published orchestrations for instrumental ensembles--bands or small orchestras--that enable them to perform popular songs or piano works that previously either had been unpublished in any form, or published only as...
The Creation of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. Arguably the best-known Christian hymn is "Amazing Grace." Its text, a poem penned in 1772 by John Newton, describes the joy and peace of a soul uplifted from despair to salvation through the gift of grace. Newton's words are also a vivid autobiographical commentary on how he was spared from both physical and spiritual ruin. It relates the happy ending of the...
The Dissemination of "Amazing Grace"
Article. Article. John Newton wrote the words to "Amazing Grace" in 1772. It was not for another 60 years that the text was wed to the tune to which it is sung today.
"Amazing Grace" and Shape-Note Singing
Article. Article. One way that "Amazing Grace" was disseminated in 19th-century America was shape-note hymnals. The principle behind writing music in this unique, non-traditional notation was pedagogical, as was the English fasola technique. Fasola taught students to identify pitches by names: fa-sol-la. Shape notation, however, is different: each pitch, as the name implies, has a specific shape. For instance, fa is triangular, sol is...
Early Sound Recordings of "Amazing Grace" in the LC Collections
Article. Article. Although the birth of sound recording can be dated to 1877 when Thomas Edison made a tinfoil recording of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on his prototype machine, "Amazing Grace" was not recorded until 1922. This fact is hardly surprising given the typical penchant of record companies to record marches, standard popular tunes, classical music, and comedic songs and sketches in the...
" Spelling Bee" by Septimus Winner
Article. Though he wrote and published many choral arrangements, Winner was not primarily a choral composer. Like Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864), his choral writing was limited to close harmony settings of song choruses, usually no longer than a few pages.
" Pretty to Me" by Septimus Winner
Article. Winner published Pretty to Me under the pseudonym Alice Hawthorne, his mother's maiden name. It has been argued that American society's refusal to accept women in certain roles was the primary reason that there were not more known female composers in America. Though there was likely some truth to such assertions, Winner's songs published under a female pseudonym, suggest that the statement was...
"The Friends We Love" by Septimus Winner
Article. The Friends We Love was published in 1868 under Winner's pseudonym Alice Hawthorne. Winner's music store, established with one of his brothers shortly after they completed high school in Philadelphia, published this simple strophic choral ballad. The music store provided Winner, who was proficient on the violin and guitar, a place to teach music lessons and to market his own songs and methods...
Henry Clay Work
Biography. Henry Clay Work (1832-1884) was born in Middleton, CT to abolitionist parents. A printer by trade and self-taught song composer, Work was employed by the Root & Cady music publishing house in Chicago and published his first song in 1853. Known for his emotionally charged Civil War songs such as Marching Through Georgia (1865), he was one of the most popular songwriters of...
Historic Events in the Civil War: Fort Sumter
Article. At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the Confederate Army began shelling the garrison of Union soldiers who had steadfastly refused to abandon Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Just over an hour later, Union guns responded. Little did the residents of nearby Charleston know that the gunfire that had awakened them was but a harbinger of the conflagration that would ravage the nation...