19th Century Popular Music:

19th Century Popular Music:
Minstrelsy, Marches, & Tin Pan Alley
Thomas Dartmouth
Rice, and his popular
character from the
1830s, “Jim Crow”
The Minstrel Show
The Virginia Minstrels developed
the standard minstrel show popular
from the 1840s-1880s
Northern, urban pop culture craze
Young, white male performers who
had multiple reasons for “blacking
3 characters: Mr. Interlocutor,
Tambo and Bones sang, joked,
played a 3-part show involving a
number of unrelated acts and scenes
Listening Example: “The Fine Old Color’d Gentleman”
Dan Emmett in blackface
(above) and out (above right).
He published the song in 1843,
and it was performed by his
Virginia Minstrels
A parody of a popular parlour song, “The
Fine Old English Gentleman”
Ballad form: each verse with new words
that further the story, broken up by a short
Uses stylized accent to describe and
celebrate a standard minstrel character,
– Athletic, large appetite, happy-go-lucky
– Dangerous, violent temper
– Well loved, simple-minded
Steven Foster’s Music
• Foster composed parlor songs
marked by gentility and sentimental
• His lyrics celebrated rural American
life, love, and nostalgia
• His musical style drew from Irish,
German and Italian song, ballads,
and minstrel music
• His songs were popular with
minstrel shows, brass bands, and
Stephen Foster wrote 200
popular songs in the 1840s,
1850s and 1860s, but died
in poverty in 1864
Listening Example: “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair”
Music and lyrics by Stephen
Foster, 1854
4-section melodic structure:
I dream of Jeanie…
I see her tripping…
hook repeats
new words
Many were the wild…
new chords
new words
I dream of Jeanie…
back to hook
new ending
AABA form repeats itself, with new words
• Brass bands spread after
the Civil War
• Amateur community
bands, colleges, high
• Pro touring bands played
marches and pop tunes
John Philip Sousa: bandleader,
conductor, composer
• Led U.S. Marine Band
• Composed popular patriotic
marches that he performed with a
pro touring band
• Arranged brass band versions of
popular tunes
Listening Example: “Stars and Stripes Forever March”
• Arranged for brass
band: brass, wind and
percussion instruments
• Steady pulse, “march”
beat emphasizes
“strong” beats, 1 & 3
• Features a sequence of
distinct themes or
melodies: sequential
Charles K. Harris was a
self-made songwriter and
His rules for writing a hit:
Look at newspapers for
your storyline.
Acquaint yourself with the
style in vogue.
Avoid slang.
Know the copyright laws.
Wrote sentimental “storyballads” for women to play
on their parlor pianos
Promoted his songs by
having them “inserted” into
vaudeville shows
Listening Example: “After the Ball”
Ballad song in “verse-chorus” form and waltz time
A A little maiden climbed on an old man’s knee,
Begged for the story, “Do, uncle, please.
A1 Why are you single; why live alone?
Have you no babies; have you no home?
B “I had a sweetheart, years, years ago;
Where she is now, pet, you will soon know.
A1 List to the story, I’ll tell it all,
I believed her faithless, after the ball.”
Words and lyrics by Charles K. Chorus:
C After the ball is over, after the break of morn Harris, published 1892
After the dancers’ leaving; after the stars are gone
Many a heart is aching, if you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished after the ball.
Ragtime and syncopation
“Ragging” referred to adding syncopation to
popular tunes and marches
Ragtime emerged from card rooms and brothels
in the 1880s
Classic ragtime featured difficult, syncopated
compositions for piano written by formally
trained black composers like Scott Joplin (right)
Syncopation is a rhythmic technique that
stresses ordinarily “weak” beats
– Adds rhythmic momentum and surprise
– Obscures the main pulse
Scott Joplin, the bestknown ragtime
composer and pianist,
was born in Texas in
Listening Example: “Maple Leaf Rag”
• Form and style are typical of
“classic” ragtime: carefully
composed and played as written
• The form is a succession of 4
distinct themes (each 16 bars
Written by Scott Joplin,
published 1898
Recording of a piano roll
made by Joplin in 1917
• Rhythmic drive comes from the
interplay between two hands:
– Left hand plays regular, onbeat
bass patterns
– Right hand plays staggered,
syncopated melodies “against” the