Community musical societies in Massachusetts to 1840
Nitz, Donald Arthur
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STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM. The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the early development of community musical societies in Massachusetts from the time of the Revolutionary War through approximately the first forty years of the Nineteenth Century. A second purpose was to determine the importance of these societies in the history of American musical culture, by evaluating their influences upon the immediate local musical life, and by assessing their roles in subsequent musical developments. METHODS OF RESEARCH AND SOURCES OF DATA. The historical method of research was employed. The existence of many musical societies was discovered through secondary sources, such as published histories of American music, articles in periodicals and historical collections, and town and regional histories. The research was then pursued into primary sources, which included newspapers and other contemporary periodicals, unpublished records and manuscripts, and publications of the musical societies themselves. SUMMARY. Nearly one hundred community musical societies were found to have existed in Massachusetts before 1840. Those founded before 1800 were apparently not an important element in the musical life of the Commonwealth, since only widely scattered evidence of their activities was found. The most important development came after 1800, when a significant number of societies were organized for the purpose of reforming the music of the Puritan churches. A native idiom of church music, typified by the compositions of William Billings and his contemporaries, had become immensely popular in Massachusetts between 1770 and 1800. About 1800, however, clergymen and intellectual leaders began to preach sermons, organize musical societies, and publish collections of music aimed at re-orienting American musical tastes according to European standards. The most important and successful musical societies from 1800 to 1820 were county-wide in scope, and united the energies of clergymen, musicians, and interested laymen who were usually successful in their efforts to reform the church music. The psalm-tunes themselves, as found in the popular tune books of the day, became progressively more homophonic, more "correct" in terms of European harmonic practices, and more regular in phrase structure. Performance practices also underwent reform, which included (1) entrusting the melody solely to the soprano voices, (2) encouraging more women to take part in singing, (3) eliminating octave doublings of parts, (4) eliminating eighteenth-century ornamentation, (5) refining concepts of tonality, voice production, and musicianship, and (6) eliminating the male counter-tenor voice in favor of the female alto. All these reforms were effected by about 1830.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University
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