Political Discourse and American Published Sheet Music: A Commentary of Four Published Works
Crew, Danny Oliver
The purpose of this commentary is to discuss the context and theoretical\ud underpinnings that form the basis of my four publications, and how these works\ud have made a meaningful contribution to the study of American socio-political\ud discourse in general, and to the study of American historical music in particular.\ud The study of American political history has principally focused on traditional\ud primary and secondary sources for such inquiry: contemporary letters, journals and\ud diaries, books, official documents, newspapers and other periodicals. One major\ud primary source that has been largely overlooked is that of published music. Two\ud factors have precipitated this oversight: historically, traditional musicology ignored\ud popular music as having no scholarly legitimacy. Secondly, most repository\ud institutions have ignored, or are unaware of, the historical context and relevance of\ud socio-political sheet music, cataloging it as a one-dimensional artifact defined\ud almost exclusively in musical terms such as “vocal,” “instrumental,” or “ballads,”\ud and not for its historical context and non-musical relevance.\ud Published music encompasses far more than just notation, structure and form; it\ud illuminates a plethora of human activity far beyond the composer-listener\ud archetype: performance, publishing, commercial enterprise, and socio-political\ud context are only a few of these extra-musical facets of published music that can tell\ud us not only about the composer and music itself, but also about the society in which\ud it was created.\ud It was the purpose of my four published works submitted herewith to begin to\ud remedy these issues by illuminating a source of contemporary discourse that can\ud shed a different light on history; a discourse oriented towards the popular masses\ud rather than the educated elite. These four works broaden contemporary discourse\ud in American history by providing historians with the knowledge of, and access to,\ud this vast wealth of untapped resource material.
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