Study Guide for "MUSIC OF COLONIAL MARYLAND" Program
The best way to prepare students for this program is to refresh their sense of history. When did da Vinci live? Henry VIII? Columbus? George Washington? Lincoln? How different was the average person’s daily life 25 years ago? 75 years? 175 years? Music history is most believable when it reflects more general historical truths. For this program we examine colonial British America (original 13 colonies); we don't address native American, colonial Spanish, or the French music.
General Points concerning colonial times:
-how long ago? started 411 years ago in Jamestown, ended 237 years ago with British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 (or on July 4, 1776, or with final treaty of 1783….).
-the obvious stuff: no TVs, radios, shopping malls, cars, good medicine, etc. What does this really mean about the way people had to amuse themselves?
-fancy things, like big houses, nice clothes, and special food were restricted to the few wealthy people; these folks made up perhaps 5% of the population, yet most of recorded history concerns them. What about the other people?
-life expectancy was short, sickness widespread
-AGRICULTURE dominated people's lives; most were farmers:
-crops varied by region, as did settlement patterns; Marylanders grew mostly tobacco, which meant they were largely spread out through the countryside, not living in towns
-cultivation cycles determined living cycles for many people, which in turn determined festivities and times for socializing and court/legislative meetings
-SOCIAL CLASS and EDUCATION were related:
-there was much variation in life-style, people lived very differently whether rich or poor, living in a city or in the country (they brought customs from England, Scotland, Africa,…)
-only the richest young people received a decent education; not having to go to school may sound like fun, but....most children worked, in the fields or at home; there was little awareness/sensitivity to their needs and education besides the very basic, practical stuff
-though some could read & write, society functioned mostly on a spoken basis; neighbors knew neighbors, and reputation was paramount; upward mobility not so relevant yet
-the pace of normal life was much slower and quieter, so people generally looked forward to seeing new faces, new things -- visiting actors and musicians were welcomed
-dancing was the chief social activity, among whites of all classes as well as African-Americans (slave and free). The minuet was the favored dance of the wealthy, while
middle class and poor people enjoyed more vigorous and lively dance forms.
-common instruments included violin (fiddle), two types of guitars, recorders and transverse flutes, drums, banjos; harpsichords and hammered dulcimers less common.
Few pianos before 1800. Nearly all imported, certain instruments were appropriate for men or for women, for the wealthy or less wealthy, for whites or African-Americans.
-much of the music was “folk,” in the sense that many people of different classes and backgrounds learned many of the same tunes by ear, though lyrics appeared on single songsheets or in newspapers. There were few professional musicians.
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see also the liner notes to our sound recordings: Over the Hills and Far Away…, Music of the Charles Carroll Family, 1785-1832, George Washington: Music for the First President, and Music in the Life of Benjamin Franklin -- newest CD > Music in the War of 1812 (later, but connected!)
David & Ginger Hildebrand (410) 544-6149
276 Oak Court, Severna Park, MD 21146