From PSALTERS to SINGING SCHOOLS and Beyond. one lens for the history of western music education. James F. Daugherty, Ph.D. Historiographical Note :.
one lens for the history of western music education
James F. Daugherty, Ph.D.
The “Singing School” and its predecessors have to date served as the primary starting point for histories of American music education. Edward Bailey Birge (1928); Lloyd Sunderman (1971); James A. Keene (1982): Each begins pretty much with Pilgrims in Plymouth,MA.
Edward Bailey Birge, History of Public School Music in the United States (Bryn Mawr, PA: Oliver Ditson, 1928/1937; Lloyd F. Sunderman, Historical Foundations of Music Education in the United States (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1971; James A. Keene, A History of Music Education in the United States (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1982).
A. Theodore Tellstrom (1971) begins essentially with the Protestant Reformation. A. Theodore Tellstrom, Music in American Education: Past and Present (NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971).
Michael Mark & Charles Gary (1992) start with Hebrews and Greeks, but are in Colonial America by page 44. Michael L. Mark and Charles Gary, A History of American Music Education (NY: Schirmer Books, 1992).
We do not yet have a history of American music education that fairly and fully treats contributions of indigenous peoples. Nor do we yet have a history of American music education that tells the story primarily from the perspective of minorities, women, indentured people, etc.
As we prepare to attend the KMEA convention, itself arguably a descendent of the Singing Schools, it is appropriate to rehearse and celebrate the saga of music education as a product of psalm singing instruction and its heritors. It is also appropriate to keep in mind that such a perspective provides but one lens, albeit a dominant one currently, on the history of American music education.
Sometimes these psalms re-appear in new guises even within the Scriptures
And Mary proclaimed:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior,
For He has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaiden. From now on will all ages call me blessed.
"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth;
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
And Mary proclaimed:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior
He has…dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he as filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.Compare: Hannah’s Song (1Samuel 2) with Mary’s Song (Luke 1)
Psalms and hymns were my first taste of inspirational music. I liked the words but I wasn't sure about the tunes -- with the exception of Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd." I remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. Still, in an odd way, they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and Stevie Wonder. When I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of me I have no explanation for...my "soul," I guess.
Years ago, lost for words and forty minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, WAR. We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and the romance of it, like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms -- Psalm 40.
“I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art”
Certayne Psalmes, 1549, bound in embroidered silk
1698 Edition: Melody and Bass with mi-fa-sol-la letters printed beneath the staff. The diamond shaped notes were standard musical notation at that time.