Music plays a crucial role in society. Art and music fall in the category of basic human functions. People find music essential in their lives. The interaction encompasses various aspects of music, including creating, performing, the emotional response, or simply listening. There exist no differences between contemporary and classical music. They all serve the same purpose. However, little knowledge in the field has led to appreciating the impact of music on society. Society believes that classical music is for the elite and older population. Declining music education may be the reason for varied music perception development (Rief, 2001).

As an art, music has been sidelined as an extracurricular activity in most learning institutions. The research, thus, focuses on the development of music in society from 1870s. It gives a view of the way music has enriched society and culture. The research will help to appreciate the impacts and importance of music in society. Furthermore, mainstream culture is slowly accepting arts through shows like “American Idol”, “So you think you can dance”, and so on.  

Music in 1870-1890

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, song had slight significance outside homes. For instance, the American composers focused on songs that could be sung by amateur musicians at home. The songs were referred to as parlor songs. However, the emergence of Stephen Foster (1828-1864) brought significant changes in music in the middle of the century. The simplicity of his melodies made his songs popular and preferable for Minstrel shows.

The period from 1870 to 1890 was marked by significant developments in the music industry. The earliest playable recording was done in this period. It presented a transitional period in American popular song, as society also transformed both socially and economically. Various emerging artists composed songs that touched on events or activities of the society. For instance, George Fredrick Root and John Hill Hewitt composed songs about the Civil War. George’s songs appeared to be the best compositions, and were widely used.

Songs, composed by Stephen Foster continued to be republished, though he died in 1864. Several songs were focused on celebrations and festivities in society. “I Love You Truly” was a popular song, sung during weddings. It was Carrie Jacobs Bond’s composition (1861-1946). There were also sacred compositions for religious purposes, done by Dudley Buck (1839-1909), among other artists.

Tin Pan Alley was very popular in the 1880s, and had support of gifted songwriters like Gussie L. Davis. There appeared the model presented by Tin Pan Alley, which was slowly replacing Stephen Fosters’ musical work (model). The two models had many similarities. However, the verse and chorus served different functions. In Stephen Fosters’ songs, one could easily remember the verses instead of the chorus. The model placed emphasis on the verses, which were set for solo voice and organ. The voices joined in to harmonize the chorus. On the other hand, the Tin Pan Alley song viewed the chorus as more important instrument, compared to the verse. Often, there was a musical shift between the two.

The ending of the nineteenth century found the significant improvements in American music. Composers showed great commitment to their work and travelled to various European countries to learn from other composers. They visited Germany, France, and also got a comprehensive understanding of the Romantic style. They even went further to learn the Lieder tradition. Although the songs composed during this period possessed high compositional craft, they were often dismissed for lacking originality.

Music in 1890-1910

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American composers began to deviate from the European traditions in their musical compositions (Campbell, 2005). They began composing songs, using a variety of styles. This included blending experimental and traditional sounds, for example, Charles Ives’ (1874–1954) ‘114 Songs’ self-published collection.

The period saw the rise of artists in the music sector. This brought about immense competition and development of various musical genres. Ragtime music stole the show, having become very popular. It was a blend of an old dance called the quadrille, characteristic marches, made by John Philip Sousa, and blues. The style was brought into limelight by a pianist, known as Jelly Roll Morton (Nicholls, 1998).

Ragtime music spread quickly throughout the country, and was popular with the African Americans (Berlin, 1980). Artists such as Scott Joplin and Morton were in the front line in spreading the new style. They were assisted by such sheet music publishers as W.C. Handy, who coupled as a bandleader and a composer. However, there were developments that halted the spread of musical culture, using sheet music. This included the development of the phonograph record and piano rolls

Such instruments as saxophone were accepted for use in music. Initially, they had been developed for the military’s use, in their marching band. Handy incorporated the instrument in his dance band arrangements.

Early Jazz developed during this period. This occurred after trumpeter Buddy Bolden had started arranging ragtime music and blues for brass instruments. Buddy was among the pioneers of jazz music that were using improvised instruments. However, recordings of his playing are nonexistent. His music career suffered a major setback in1907 after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This made him spend the rest of his life off the stage.

Several years later, jazz was in fashion in music industry, capturing the large audiences. It allowed improvisation of various instruments. A large following led to the development of dance halls, which were filled to capacity.

Rag and jig was interchangeably used in the 1890s (Berlin, 1980). Cakewalk, which preceded ragtime, had similar characteristics. The earliest sheet music rags were accepted by the market, selling millions of copies. For instance, Ernest Hogan’s “All Coons Look Alike to Me” was very successful. His music was widely regarded as involving the non-reading musicians. The success of song ignited the spread of ragtime rhythms throughout the country. The songs had stereotypic racist images of African-Americans. This made them gain the title “coon songs”.

The songs were sung during the period, when racism was eminent, and slave trade was a fashionable thing. The black Americans found solace in the songs. In later years, Hogan acknowledged that the use of racial slurs was a shame. However, he also appreciated the way he had contributed to the spread of ragtime.

Mature ragtime emerged in the late 1890s with the publishing of several important rags. Scott Joplin published “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899, which became a great hit by demonstrating depth and sophistication, compared to earlier ragtime (Berlin, 1980). Jazz styles developed at the beginning of 1900. The two genres overlapped, surpassing ragtime in later years.

The glory days of ragtime was witnessed by easy access and availability of sound recording. Unlike jazz, ragtime was a written tradition, distributed in sheet music. It was also distributed, using piano rolls for piano players. On the other hand, jazz enjoyed the privilege of recording and live performances. Folk ragtime was in existence before classical ragtime. Folk ragtime adherents used such instruments as mandolin clubs, banjo, and string bands. Novelty ragtime appeared, when traditional rag faded. It took advantage of the piano roll developments, neglecting the mature pianists and sheet music sales.

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