American and Asian Music as Term Paper

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This, along with the older Psalter by Strenhold and Hopkins, was the main influence of the Bay Psalm Book printed during 1640 in Massachusetts. This can be compared with the first musical influences on and compositions by Li Jinhui. The traditional forms were explored thoroughly before new ideas in music were explored.

Culturally, the new Americans at the time were deeply religious, following the Puritan tradition on which they based their way of life. Their music therefore reflected this tradition, and the earliest genres were mainly religious in nature. As such, the musical format was unaccompanied by musical instruments, as these were viewed as secular and therefore sinful. The same type of division can be seen in the later genres of Asian music, where Cantopop began to lose its popularity in the face of new and more trendy developments. In contrast, however, the Chinese does not have as clear a distinction between the religious and the secular as did the Americans at the time.

William Billings (1746-1800), as the first American composer, can be compared with Li in the traditional influences on his music. Another unique influence on his music was his deformities. Billings had legs of unequal length, a withered hand and only one eye. While he was therefore influenced by the traditional psalmody, he also had a large amount of anger and bitterness that manifested themselves in his parodies. An example of this is the Lamentation over Boston, a parody of Psalm 137. In this way, he used tradition like Li, in order to form a new form of music, even though this was based upon a more rebellious nature than that of Li.

International Influence

American music can also be compared with that of Asia in terms of international influence. In contrast to Li, Billings was not sufficiently influential to change the entire musical scene in the United States, although his work signified an important departure from tradition. Immigrants brought with them some much-needed imagination to the music of the country.

German, Swedish and Moravian immigrants brought with them a rich variety of musical traditions form their home countries. During 1744, a Collegium Musicum was founded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Almost a century later, a Philharmonic Society was brought into being, in which the foundations for American art music were laid. Wright mentions immigrants such as J.F. Peter, Giovannic Gualdo and Joseph Gehot, who brought to the United States music that was modeled on traditional European music in the symphonic genre. One of the prominent names in American art music is Alexander Reinagle. He was born in Portsmouth to Austrian parents and studied in Edinburgh. During his stay in London, Reinagle found himself influenced by Johann Christian Bach. He emigrated to American in 1786, and held a position as manager at the Wignell Theater in 1792. Here he gave concerts in which he introduced the United States to a large amount of European music.

Art music was therefore mostly influenced by the European tradition. Not being particularly revolutionary in either style or format, this music can be said to lay the traditional foundations for later forms of American music, like the traditional Chinese music mentioned above.

New Culture

According to Tom Faigin, the early 1800s in American music was mostly influenced by British and European styles of music, without much innovation towards a truly American genre of music. This is indicative of the fact that the culture of the United States at this time was mostly made up of European and British immigrants whose roots still lay in their native countries. A collective cultural consciousness had not yet developed in the United States. Such a consciousness developed after the 1812 War. Americans were beginning to develop a sense of freedom and yearned for independence from their countries of origin. A new cultural collective developed, which was based on the uniquely American experience. On this basis, new forms of music could be developed.

A remnant of the Puritan tradition is the religious restriction against dancing. Rather than submit to this, the new culture of freedom dictated that music be used to circumvent this restriction. The play party song was a genre that required dancing and singing in combination, and was therefore not considered sinful. New songs such as "Skip to My Lou" and "Buffalo Gals" were indicative of the new American tradition. These songs were used as a basis for later compositions such as Stephen Foster and Henry Clay Work, who were responsible for the Minstrel Shows. At this time, the slave trade also gave rise to a unique genre of American music.

Slaves used music as an escape from their often dire circumstances, but also as an expression of their longing for freedom and their homeland, from which they had been kidnapped without their will. The genre of music emerging from the slave colonies was then also influenced by native African traditions. These traditions were combined with that of traveling Irish musicians to create a genre unique to what would become the African-American community. The slaves created jigs and reels and used homemade musical instruments such as fiddles and banjos to create their unique brand of music.

The slave tradition was also the basis for the Jim Crow minstrel shows. These were humorous shows based upon the negro musical and plantation music. This new art form was pioneered by Thomas Daddy Rice, who blackened his face with burnt cork and sang songs in the Southern Negro dialect. He was followed by the Virginia Minstrels in 1843 and many others who saw the potential for profit in the new genre. After some years, a particular form began to develop according to which all minstrel shows were formed. It consisted of four sections, using a combination of solos and ensemble performances. The shows followed the basis of Rice's performance, in that the black plantation slave was used as the object of humor. Specifically, the image of the negro was portrayed as either a trickster or the butt of peoples' jokes, and he was generally poorly dressed.

The Civil War was also an event that brought about a considerable upheaval in the musical traditions of the country. Gradually, the minstrel tradition that used the negro as a humorous figure changed its paradigm towards the negro that needed to be treated as a human being. The Fighting Hutchinson Family for example sang against slavery and for women's right to vote during the 1840s and 1850s. Songs of this period include "Temperance and Liberty" and "Father's a Drunkard and Mother's Dead." In this way, the folk tradition of the United States began to expand its boundaries to include a number of diverse and often conflicting songs; frequently using the same song for different and diverse reasons.

As they gained an increasing amount of freedom, the black community began to expand its musical innovations towards the new musical form, jazz. This musical form was a radical departure from all American music to date. It demonstrated freedom from restriction via its innovative and improvising form, while indicating unity by ultimately forming a harmonizing whole between instruments and vocals. It is this tradition that eventually had such a great influence on Chinese Pop music.

In conclusion, Chinese and American music share a variety of factors: contemporary forms emerge from existing traditional forms rather than rebelling against them; both of heavily influenced by cultural and political factors. Chinese music is influenced by the country's civil war and the cultural perception of what is acceptable in musical taste, while the American is influenced by the many changes and challenges faced by the new country. In contrast, America has many different musical forms based upon its many different cultures, while Asian music is not as influenced by immigration as it is by internal cultural factors. Whichever music one finds more appealing, expanding one's horizons can be a surprising and interesting adventure.

Sources

Faigin, Tom. "The Minstrel Show's Contribution to Folk Music." 2007. http://www.jsfmusic.com/Uncle_Tom/Tom_Article6.html

Wikipedia. "C-Pop." Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-pop

Wikipedia. "K-Pop." Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-pop

Wikipedia. "Li Jinhui." Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Jinhui

Write, David C.F. "Early American Music (1620-1800)." History of Music. 2007. http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Nov04/history4.htm[continue]

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