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The Rise and Fall of Popular Music

[A polemical history]

Chapter 1

Once upon a time there were only two kinds of music in Europe: religious music and secular music.

The earliest polyphonic music, from around 900 AD, was probably inspired by the music of Byzantium and the Middle East. Polyphonic folk-singing survives today in eastern Europe, but the music of the church was of great importance, for it encouraged technical development: in the early sixteenth century two organs were installed in the two apses of St Mark's Cathedral in Venice, which led to the use of separate choruses of singers, and increasing harmonic experimentation by the composers. As well as music for the Mass, written by some of the greatest composers in history, we have less formal music such as carols, mostly written for religious festivals. The word comes from the medieval French carole, a round dance; many early Christmas carols are still familiar to us today.

In the Middle Ages much secular music was dance music, which was played at court and in the halls of the aristocracy. The best tunes were also popular in the street; a good tune would soon have words fitted to it, and a clever rhyme or broadside would find a tune. A common store of tunes and ideas crossed back and forth across class barriers, and there was little distinction between 'popular' and 'serious' music.

In all times and places there was also folksong, invented and performed by the less privileged classes: lullabies, love songs, work songs, story songs and so on. By the fourteenth century the ballad (from the Latin ballare, 'to dance') had become a narrative solo song, often of unknown origin. The minstrel was originally an itinerant singer of such songs. They were usually story songs, but some were written in praise of powerful patrons, a practice still carried on today in African music.

For hundreds of years, until the introduction in the mid-nineteenth century of penny newspapers and affordable books, the English-speaking masses received much of their education and entertainment from street literature. One of the earliest surviving broadsides, from 1423, was about St Christopher and was illustrated by a woodcut. The broadside was so called because it consisted of a broad piece of paper printed on one side only, often with a combination of verse, prose and an illustration. (The broadsheet was a large piece of paper printed on both sides, which could be folded several times to make a pamphlet; hence today's 'broadsheet' newspaper.)

An uncut and unstitched pamphlet was known as a chapbook, or cheap book (perhaps from the Anglo-Saxon ceap, meaning 'trade'), and was sold by pedlars of needles, buttons and other household goods. The pamphlets preserved the romantic and traditional stories which were ignored by publishing in the days when books were only for the rich. A properly finished pamphlet, far too expensive for the common people, became one of the main forums for political discussion, especially in the eighteenth century.

News of royal proclamations, grisly crimes and gossip were circulated by the broadside; those who could not read could hear others read them, and the pedlars who sold them would cry them aloud in the streets. The battle of Flodden in 1513, when a Scottish king was killed, was described by John Skelton in a broadside, which included a woodcut; a fragment of this was discovered in the late nineteenth century in the binding of a book which had been sent to London generations before for repair. It is the earliest-known example of English journalism. Street literature was of enormous importance because of the influence it had on the masses, but it is usually ignored by historians in favour of the legitimate press. What concerns us here, however, is the broadside ballad.

Broadside verses were not printed with music; the pedlars would sing the songs as they hawked them, and it was assumed that the customer in the street would know a tune that would fit, or make one up. If notation was included, it would be a decoration intended to impress the customer, who could not read music anyway. All broadsides were supposed to be registered with the authorities; about three thousand ballads were so recorded between 1557 and 1709, but several times that number were probably printed illegally. The broadside ballads recycled folksongs which were already well known, and carried on the minstrel tradition. But the genre was also a kind of musical journalism, for it contained social and political satire, well disguised in the days when one could lose one's head for offending the powerful.

Familiar nursery rhymes began in this way. Zealots wrote and rewrote verses for political and religious reasons, so that none of the historical sources can be pinned down conclusively. Jack Sprat and his wife may have been Charles I and his French queen Henrietta: she was fond of the spoils of war (the fat), while Charles dissolved Parliament because it would not grant supplies for his Spanish war, thus 'licking the platter clean'. In a rhyme from the seventeenth century 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary' has 'silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row' in her garden. This is said to be either about Ann, Lady Roos, an heiress who taunted her husband with 'cuckolds all in a row', or about Mary, Queen of Scots, a brave and headstrong woman whose four ladies-in-waiting, all also called Mary, were the pretty maids. Both Protestants and Catholics claim it as a lament for their respective religions at the time of yet another Mary, 'Bloody Mary', eldest daughter of Henry VIII, who caused much blood to be shed in the name of God.

'Hey Diddle Diddle' is said to have been a jolly description of the court of Elizabeth I, Henry's other daughter: the cat who loved to dance to the fiddle was the Virgin Queen herself; the plate was the young man who brought Elizabeth her dinner, and the spoon the girl who tasted it, in case it was poisoned; the cow jumping over the moon referred to the entertainments that were organized at court; and the lap-dog who found it all so funny was one of the Queen's would-be suitors. But the rhyme is also said to be about Catherine of Aragon ('Catherine la Fidele'), Henry's long-suffering first wife and Bloody Mary's mother.

Best of all is the story of Little Jack Horner. The name Jack was commonly used of a knave or a rogue, and there were already stories about finding things in pies. In 1539 Richard Whiting was abbot of Glastonbury Cathedral, a wealthy establishment, and to keep the peace he allegedly sent Henry VIII a pie containing the deeds to several manor houses. On the way to London, Whiting's steward, called Horner, pulled out a plum -- the deed to the manor of Mells. Whatever the details, Horner testified against Whiting at a trial, helping Henry to grab all the property, and the Horner family still lived at Mells four hundred years later.

The printers and pedlars of broadsides had a thriving industry, but a modern English-language music business waited until the language itself was established. English had been made up of Angle, Saxon, German and other elements; its development was both sidetracked and influenced by the Norman victory of William the Conqueror in 1066, after which the affairs of the government were conducted in French, while Latin remained the language of international business. Then an English composer became one of the greatest of his time, a profound influence on Renaissance music: Italians wrote of the 'new art which originated with the English under the leadership of Dunstable'. Among other things, John Dunstable introduced the declamatory motet, in which the rhythm of the music is determined by the rhythm of the words. Unfortunately, much of his music was lost in the wars of the period.

The earliest English song extant is the round 'Summer is icumen in' (c.1280). Not until 1363 was Parliament opened with a speech in the vernacular, and not until 1530 was a book of songs in English published, called Twenty Songs. It included compositions by William Cornyshe, who had been master of the boys in the Chapel Royal of Henry VIII, and John Taverner. Henry's dissolution of the Catholic Church in England encouraged religious music in English; it was very different from the broadside ballads of the people, but the strands of English music were slowly beginning to come together.

Nearly all of Shakespeare's plays used music and dancing; Elizabethan England was a place where musical instruments were available in shops, in case a passing customer wanted to strike up a tune; and the Elizabeth I herself enjoyed secular music. From 1592 to 1594, when the theatres were closed because of the plague, the players took the plays to the Continent, songs and all. The music of William Byrd and John Dowland was popular in the most complete sense of the word. Dowland, in particular, also a great lutenist in an age that loved the lute, was famous in many countries. His tunes were played by people who had never heard of him and assumed they were folksongs. In 1602 a German visitor to Blackfriars wrote about the excellent music that was played for an hour before a play began, and impresario John Banister produced public concerts in London a hundred years before they became common in Vienna.

As the sophistication of the musical craft developed through the Renaissance, the secular dance rhythms were used in instrumental suites, and opera came into being, eventually becoming opulent entertainment for the upper classes. The early operas were modelled after what Greek theatrical music was thought to have been, and included dances. Monteverdi's Orfeo, first performed in 1607 at Mantua, is considered to be the first fully developed opera, astonishing with its fulsome and varied sound (a full choir of trombones, for example), but it was still tied to the conventions of court entertainment; his L'incoronazione di Poppea (Venice, 1642) was on a much larger scale, and may have been designed for people who bought tickets.

Instrumental suites and opera overtures evolved until in the eighteenth century symphonies and string quartets were written, while the technique of the virtuoso soloist was celebrated in the concerto. When these forms emerged during the glorious flowering of Viennese music, they were based on sonata form, the rules governing their composition corresponding to what was regarded as the logical orderliness of philosophy and the arts in classical Greece: hence 'classical' music. The masterpieces created for the concert hall and the opera house were great in number and are still loved around the world, but popular music in the sense of the term as we use it today then had to be invented, at least for English-speaking people. Other nations stayed closer in many ways to their musical traditions: in Italy the best tunes from the operas were whistled by barrow boys in the street, while German composers never hesitated to use folk tunes in their compositions, or wrote tunes which sounded as though they had always existed. The great nineteenth-century Lieder of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Wolf and others carried a broader cultural value than art song in English-speaking countries; they were much more accessible and more widely popular.

It was no doubt England's already highly developed class-consciousness that led to a greater gulf between serious and popular music. England was called 'the land without music', which seems absurd, yet it is true that the greatest 'English' composers of the eighteenth century were German immigrants, George Frideric Handel and Johann Christian Bach, and the audience for their music became more and more upper class. The English had beheaded Charles I in 1649, which shocked the world; they told themselves that they did it in order to restore the historical purity of their politics, but they were slowly finding political freedom. As they were unwilling to allow Italian popes and French kings to tell them what to do, so their composers did not seem to care much for strict Continental rules governing composition. When the rules began to be broken in the twentieth century, English composers of formal music again attracted worldwide attention; but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries English-speaking upper-class audiences listened to foreign music, while increasing economic freedom allowed the lower orders to do as they wished. The emerging middle classes conquered India, for example, more or less accidentally, beginning with a few trading posts; and in the same way, they invented popular music.

The popular song may be defined as a song written for a single voice or a small vocal group, accompanied by a single chord-playing instrument or a small ensemble, usually first performed in some sort of public entertainment and afterwards published in the form of sheet music (or mechanically reproduced in the twentieth century); it is written for profit, for amateur listeners and performers. What we call popular music (or commercial music) began in the eighteenth century in the pleasure gardens in what are now the suburbs of London. But the seeds of it can certainly be found earlier, and one nominee for the first popular songwriter is Henry Purcell.

Any country that could produce a Purcell was most emphatically not a 'land without music', but in his short life he wrote only one full-blown operatic masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas (1689). Its songs were sold in sheet music in the theatre between the acts. Most of his theatrical work was incidental music, ideally suited to commercial exploitation in the form of excerpts. For example, 'What Shall I Do to Show' was written (with words by Thomas Betterton) for the 'semi-opera' The History of Dioclesian (1690):

What shall I do to show how much I love her?
How many millions of sighs will suffice?
That which wins others' hearts never can move her,
Those common methods of love she'll despise.

It has a memorable and wistful tune, it is singable and its subject is still the songwriters' favourite: love, preferably unrequited. It would be surprising if this song had not been sung in many a drawing room to simple accompaniment, and perhaps by frustrated swains in their baths. It is as good a candidate as any to be called the first popular song.

Not that songwriters made any money from the sale of their music. Publishing of all kinds had been state monopolies, granted to favourite individuals, since the earliest printing in England, partly for reasons of censorship. Early publishers began as printers, and copyright law evolved as courts had to adjudicate between them. They squabbled among themselves for the right to exploit the authors, who usually received nothing at all, except perhaps a flat fee for the first sale of their work. Composers of hit songs depended upon this success to generate more work; producers of musical entertainments had occasional benefit nights, so that the composers could feed their families, and most of them died poor, no matter how successful their music. The most popular composers were the most frequently robbed. The publishers John May and John Hedgebutt blithely explained to Henry Purcell, when they published the complete music and libretto of The Indian Queen (1695):

Indeed we well know your innate modesty to be such, as not to be easily prevail'd upon to set anything in print, much less to Patronise your own works ... But in regard that any one might print an imperfect copy of these admirable songs, or publish them in the nature of a Common Ballad, we were so much the more emboldened to make this attempt, even without acquainting you of our Design.

In other words, we will steal from you more elegantly than the others. This was not against the law, and there was nothing composers could do about it.

Music publishing had begun in Venice in 1501. One of the first modern English music publishers was John Playford, born in Norwich in 1623, son of a bookseller. Norwich had always been an important centre of English music; it was home of one of the oldest guilds of professional musicians, and Playford was probably also influenced by the music at Norwich Cathedral. He was apprenticed to a bookseller in London, and got into trouble with the Puritans for publishing a pamphlet on the death of Charles I. But he soon concentrated on music, and his collections of old tunes were bestsellers. The English Dancing Master, or Plain and Easy Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with the Tune to Each Dance was initially aimed at the social pretensions of Playford's customers, but went through eighteen editions between 1649 and 1728. Having expanded to a collection of nine hundred tunes in three volumes, it was known as The Dancing Master and was used in the American colonies, where the dancing would have been influenced by the fiddle and banjo playing of black slaves: thus Playford had a more or less direct effect on American music.

Playford's son sold the business in the early years of the eighteenth century, at the very time when there was a rising demand for sheet music of the latest theatre songs to be printed overnight. Music publishing was ready for the pleasure gardens, where the commercial possibilities of popular music were first fully exploited. In the seventeenth century Londoners such as Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn wrote in their diaries that they enjoyed admission to privately owned gardens; these gardens increased in number and in size, many of them beginning as spas. London had numerous springs, where the water was said to be good for this or that ailment or condition, and entertainment sprang up to keep the customers happy. Sadler's Wells, which became one of the most famous small opera houses in the world, began as a spa; a pub called the London Spa only a few hundred yards away marks the site of another.

It is curious that England thinks of itself as a law-abiding country: it has been so only for relatively short periods. Getting to and from the pleasure gardens could be dangerous, for foot-pads and thugs were common, and only the rich had carriages. On one occasion in 1757 the management of Sadler's Wells advertised that a horse patrol would be provided by Mr Fielding (a blind magistrate and relative of the novelist Henry Fielding) to protect the gentry; the next year armed patrols were stationed between Grosvenor Square and the Wells. Link-boys were employed to light the way home for revellers on foot, and the theatre management often announced at the foot of their playbills whether or not there would be moonlight on the night, allowing visitors to get home safely.

Nevertheless, the spas and gardens were enormously popular. There were spas at Islington, Clerkenwell, Tunbridge Wells and many other places, and music was offered as early as 1697 in Lambeth and 1701 in Hampstead. John Evelyn had written about the 'pretty contrived plantation' of the New Spring Gardens at Vauxhall, near Lambeth Palace, in 1661. Vauxhall's spring was not of much account; it became the most important of the pleasure gardens because it was one of the biggest, and also the boskiest.

In most of the gardens, promenades and pathways were arranged on a simple grid pattern. The grid at Ranelagh in Chelsea was merely a setting for a rotunda or 'Amphitheatrical Building' by the architect William Jones, where the fashionable walked endlessly around in a circle: 'Nobody goes anywhere else,' wrote Horace Walpole in 1742, and Mozart performed there as a child in 1764. But Vauxhall also had thickly wooded areas with larks and nightingales ('feathered minstrels'), where the illusion of Arcadia could be complete, and where no doubt many pairs of lovers sported over the decades. There was then only one bridge over the Thames, and a rehearsal of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks at Vauxhall in 1749 caused a massive traffic jam.

Jonathan Tyers had leased Vauxhall in 1728. He was only 21 years old; not much is known of his background, but he had money to invest. When he reopened the garden in 1732, it had a concert hall, an organ and a famous statue of Handel by Louis François Roubiliac (which is remarkably informal for the period and is now in London's Victoria and Albert Museum). William Hogarth is thought to have persuaded Tyers to decorate the supper-boxes around the Grove with large paintings by members of his academy; this was priceless publicity, and provided a captive audience for Hogarth and his followers.

In 1758 Tyers purchased the gardens outright, and built an 'orchestra' (hall) in the Gothic style. The orchestra was the last substantial addition to the gardens, though Robert Adam wrote that Tyers had talked about commissioning a Temple of Venus. Tyers had already enlarged his orchestra (that is, the band), and hired Thomas Augustine Arne to write music for it.

While the Purcell song quoted above is not especially florid, in general the ornate Italian model strongly influenced songwriting, until Arne. A talented musical journeyman, he wrote 'Rule, Britannia' to words by James Thomson for the finale of a masque called Alfred (1740); his London-style instrumental pieces are still found in compilations of baroque music, and are full of good tunes. His songs were particularly innovative. Anyone who could pay the price of admission could get in at Vauxhall, and Arne had to write songs for a classless audience; they had to make their impression on the musically sophisticated and the ignorant alike at the first hearing. Often drawing on rural imagery of stylized shepherds importuning resistant maidens, the songs were tonal and diatonic, and relied mostly on common chords; they were strophic in structure, so that listeners heard recurring melodic fragments. (In other words, they were repetitious.) The excellent seventh edition of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (edited by Nicolas Slonimsky) does not mention Arne's tenure at Vauxhall. Modern critics of classical music may not think much of Arne's songs, but in the function he was performing, he was a predecessor of Irving Berlin.

Arne's wife Cecilia was one of many popular London singers of the day to perform at Vauxhall. According to Charles Dibdin, in his five-volume A Complete History of the London Stage (1800), 'Mrs Arne was deliciously captivating. She knew nothing in singing or in nature but sweetness and simplicity.' Another popular vocalist was Joe Vernon, who 'had no voice .. . It is impossible to imagine that he could have arrived to any degree of reputation had he not been favoured by nature with strong conception, quick sensibility, and a correct taste.' That is still a good description of a pop singer.

Dibdin would have known what he was talking about: in his long career as actor, vocalist, playwright and impresario he worked on the Continent and even in the Orient as well as in England, and wrote about nine hundred songs, of which as many as two hundred were known all over the English-speaking world. (The most successful were about the hard lot of the sailor, such as 'Poor Jack'.) Since there were no composer's royalties, if it had not been for a benefit dinner in 1810 and later a government pension, Dibdin might have starved to death. Yet thousands of popular songs were published in the second half of the eighteenth century, and sheet music sales supported several publishers. (Bookseller George Walker opened a music shop in London in the 1790s, advertising 'half-price' sheet music: he used tinted paper, claimed higher production costs and printed a price on the music which was twice the half-price.)

Also important were songs from ballad and comic operas, which bore little resemblance to opera of the Italian kind. The earliest and best example is The Beggar's Opera, with libretto by John Gay and music by Johann Christoph Pepusch (born in Berlin), first performed in 1728. This dispensed with recitative and used spoken dialogue, for which the beggar apologizes at the outset: 'I hope I may be forgiven, that I have not made my Opera throughout unnatural, like those in vogue.' Pepusch's music borrowed some of the tunes from already familiar street ballads, and also included Purcell's 'What Shall I Do', quoted above. The characters were not the usual operatic noblemen and pretty peasant girls, but pickpockets, prostitutes and lawyers, no doubt resembling some members of the audiences in the pleasure gardens. The Beggar's Opera spawned many imitations and was a spectacular success in all the principal towns in England. Dibdin quotes Jonathan Swift's praise: it had 'not wit, nor humour, but something better than either.'

At Vauxhall, along with the promenading and the enjoyment of the fresh air, there were daily concerts which started in the afternoon and continued until nine o'clock. Another important venue was Marylebone Gardens, which offered music from 1732; the garden began with the bowling green of the Rose Tavern, then a popular gambling spot. (Macheath, the thug in The Beggar's Opera, said of the Rose: 'There will be deep play to-night and consequently money may be picked up on the road. Meet me there and I'll give you the hint who's worth setting.') James Hook, a young organist, began playing at Marylebone in 1769.

Like Playford, Hook was born in Norwich; a child prodigy, he earned his living as a musician from the age of eleven. He was lured away from Marylebone to become music director at Vauxhall in 1774. Hook's songs were similar to Arne's, but assimilated even more successfully all the elements that made up the London style: influences from the Italian through Purcell and Handel to the various ballad styles of the day resulted in graceful and technically admirable melodies; furthermore, the characters in the songs often resembled real people, as opposed to the stock shepherds. 'The Tear', one of Hook's biggest hits, was about a woman whose loved one had gone away to war.

Hook played an organ concerto every evening, and a strolling wind band perambulated after the main concert. At a celebration of the birthday of the Prince of Wales in 1799, 20,000 lanterns were lit and 1,200 chickens and 1,680 bottles of port were consumed. But soon times were changing: the entertainment at Vauxhall in 1816 included a tightrope act, and Hook retired in 1820, having written perhaps 2,000 songs, as well as much other music. Complete comic operas were presented at Vauxhall from 1830 to 1832, but the management lowered the admission price in 1833, and attracted 27,000 people on the first night.

Vauxhall remained the most important of the pleasure gardens as long as they lasted, but it finally closed in 1859. It has long since disappeared into the sprawl of Greater London, and is now only a name on a railway station. (When the first station was built there, it became one of the most famous in the world, so that a word for railway station in Russian is a cognate of 'vauxhall'.) Lesser gardens survived into the 1880s, by which time the music was moving indoors, to the music halls. The pleasure gardens presented music for nearly 200 years altogether, and without a single amplifier.

In the American colonies the trial of John Peter Zenger in New York in 1735 was concerned with ballads. Zenger, who printed one of the city's two newspapers, published ballads about the election of opposition candidates, which were enjoyed in the local taverns, and the city government had him thrown into jail for libel. The court contended that it should decide on the libel, restricting the jury to the fact of publication, but Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, successfully argued that the jury should determine whether or not the ballads were libellous. It decided they were not, and the principle of freedom of the press was established in America.

Of the forty most popular songs printed in the USA in the 1790s (the list, compiled by Charles Hamm, appears in his Yesterdays: Popular Song in America), no fewer than ten were written by Hook.

The infant United States of America was a frontier in more senses than one. America's taste in music, drama and literature initially reflected the divisive War of Independence the new nation had gone through, the hardships endured and the homesickness of a people who were nearly all immigrants. Of that early top forty, only five songs were written by composers living in the USA. A difference was apparent between the most successful imports and the rest of an English composer's output: English songs covered the gamut of styles -- humorous, sentimental, salacious and so on -- but those most popular in America were the tear-jerkers. At the top was 'The Galley Slave' by William Reeve; the one anonymous song on the list was 'Since Then I'm Doomed'; Hook's 'The Tear' made the list (as did 'A Prey to Tender Anguish' by Franz Joseph Haydn, whose chamber music was popular in colonial America).

A popular subject of early American musical entertainment on the stage was the Swiss patriot William Tell. The Patriot, or Liberty Asserted (1794) and its successor, The Archers (1796), were written by William Dunlap, who was born in New Jersey. The music for The Archers was by Benjamin Carr, an English immigrant; his 'The Little Sailor Boy' (another song about loss) was a success in the 1790s. Carr also played 'Yankee Doodle' in a concert in New York in 1794, the year it was first printed in America. This was a traditional tune with different verses in several languages; among the contributors to the American words was a British Army surgeon stationed near Albany, New York, in 1751.

American music was inevitably dominated for some time by composers and musicians who had emigrated from England. They were all necessarily versatile, playing several instruments and being able to turn a hand to any type of entertainment; they were also mostly second-rate, otherwise they would not have left the musical capital of the English-speaking world to try their luck on a frontier. But Francis Hopkinson was born in Philadelphia. A lawyer and a judge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first Secretary of the Navy, he was the first American to write secular songs for voice and harpsichord. His 'My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free', often cited as the first American secular song, was one of his earliest but was discovered only after his death; he had not included it in his first printed book of songs, published in 1788. He also wrote what is described as the first American grand opera, America Independent, or The Temple of Minerva (1781), a pastiche of tunes from the London stage, with his own words.

The importance of the colonial music master cannot be overestimated. One famous full-time professional, William Billings, had only one eye, a short leg and was deformed by a broken shoulder, but he had a fine voice and thought everyone should sing for the joy of it. His The New England Psalm-singer (1770) was the first book of songs by a native-born American. Billings wrote in a joyous style, believing his work to be 'twenty times more powerful than the old slow tunes'. One of his best known was 'Chester (Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod)' (1788), a marching song. He never made much money, however, for his songs were pirated, and he spent much of his time convincing people that he was the author of his own work. Oliver Shaw, who went blind after a series of accidents, was born in Massachusetts. He wrote 'Mary's Tears' (1812) and 'There's Nothing True But Heaven' (1829), both of which were enormously popular. Shaw was more typical than Billings of early American composers, being convinced that good music could be written only in emulation of the great European composers of the period.

John Hill Hewitt, the son of James Hewitt, wrote one of the first songs to be generally regarded as truly American, 'The Minstrel's Return'd from the War' (1825). It resembled his father's 'The Wounded Hussar' (on the top forty in 1800), and was the biggest American hit until the songs of Stephen Foster. The song is about a soldier who returns from battle, pledging to his sweetheart that the bugle will not part them again; but it does, and he dies on the battlefield. The piano accompaniment suggests a march and trumpet fanfares in its introduction; there were still five editions in print in 1870.

Many of Hewitt's other songs were successful; he was among the earliest professional American songwriters in the modern sense, in that he wrote skilfully simple songs which followed trends, specifically for the American market. In the early 1830s his songs reflected the contemporary popularity of Italian opera (Rossini's Barber of Seville was first performed in New York in 1825). Later in the decade, singing families from Austria and Switzerland toured the USA, and Hewitt wrote mountain songs; 'The Alpine Horn' (1843) included a yodel. 'Mary, Now the Sea Divides Us' (1840), written to words by J. T. S. Sullivan, was described as a 'Southern refrain'; according to Hamm, 'its pentatonic character' suggests 'that it may have been adapted from a tune in the Scotch-Irish-English oral tradition', already well established in the USA and the most important strain in what would become country music in the next century. Hewitt wrote 'answer' songs: 'The Fallen Oak' (1841) was inspired by Henry Russell's 'Woodman, Spare That Tree', and 'I Would Not Die at All' parodied Foster's 'I Would Not Die in Spring Time'.

Henry Russell was born and died in England, but had much of his success as a songwriter and performer in America. He had a pleasant voice, and Hewitt admired the way he made the most of a limited range; most of his songs used only five notes or so. They were a great influence on parlour singing, often appealing to nostalgia and using the word 'old', as in 'The Old Arm Chair' (1840). Like Dibdin at the height of his fame, Russell was a solo recital artist; 'Woodman, Spare That Tree' (1837) was his first and biggest hit. A setting of a poem by George Pope Morris, it was inspired by a true story: Morris and Russell were visiting in upstate New York and saw a giant oak being saved by a present to the woodcutter of a $10 gold piece. In later years Russell's favourite anecdote told of a 'snowy-bearded gentleman' who, after a performance of the song, leapt up from his seat to demand, 'Mr Russell, in the name of Heaven, tell me, was the tree spared?' Receiving an answer in the affirmative, the old fellow sat down in relief, saying, 'Thank God! Thank God! I breathe again!'

Irish emigration to the USA had an important impact long before the potato famine. Of around thirty thousand settlers in 1817, two-thirds were from the British Isles, and most of these were Irish. Their songs were already popular, and had been sung in America before 1790. Ten volumes of Irish Melodies published in Dublin between 1808 and 1834 included some of the most popular songs of the entire century, adapted with new texts by Thomas Moore (1779-1852); they owed much to an earlier collection of wordless tunes from the same publisher. Some of Moore's poems and his adaptations, which he sang himself in public, are still sung today: two of the best known are '('Tis) the Last Rose of Summer' (using a tune called 'The Groves of Blarney', also heard in Friedrich von Flotow's opera Martha, and set for piano by Beethoven and Mendelssohn), and 'Believe Me, If All These Endearing Young Charms' (sung to the tune of 'My Lodging is on the Cold Ground'). They appeared in a more modern hit parade: they were hits on Victor records, by Elizabeth Wheeler in 1909 and John McCormack in 1911.

'Yankee Doodle' had been meant by the British at the time of the War of Independence and earlier to satirize the supposedly rough and credulous colonials, who cheerfully turned the tables and adopted it as their own first patriotic song. During the War of 1812 theatre managers and song publishers were quick to capitalize on a new surge of nationalism. 'To Anacreon in Heaven' was an old drinking song, the tune of which had been used dozens of times, for example for 'Adams and Liberty' in 1798, one of the earliest native American hits. A Baltimore lawyer and poet, Francis Scott Key, adopted the tune in 1805 for verses about the struggle against the Barbary pirates, in which he first used the phrase 'star-spangled banner'. He made use of the tune and the phrase again in 1814, during the British bombardment of Baltimore's defences, creating what became the American national anthem.

The Anacreontic Society of London was a drinking club, and the original lyrics of the song urged the members to 'entwine the myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine'. Perhaps the tune had long been a popular drinking song because of the comic effect created by drunks trying to sing the unsingable. Key's setting is a poor piece of lyric writing, for the stresses of the music fall on the wrong syllables, making it even harder to sing; all the same, it was chosen as America's national anthem in 1931 over 'America the Beautiful'. This is a poem by Katherine Lee Bates written at Pike's Peak in Colorado in 1893, set to a hymn tune by Samuel Augustus Ward: it is singable, it celebrates beauty and it proposes love of country without hatred of somebody else's. When the Americans chose a British drinking song with words that don't fit, the British got the last laugh after all.

The War of 1812, as Americans called it, was only a sideshow of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, and its last battle was fought in New Orleans on 8 January 1815: the news of the Treaty of Ghent of 24 December 1814 could not reach the USA in only two weeks. Two thousand Kentucky riflemen, in response to a call from Andrew Jackson, arrived in New Orleans a few days before the battle and soundly defeated some fifteen thousand of the best-trained troops in the world. A fiddle tune, 'Eighth of January', celebrated the victory; with words collected by folklorist Jimmie Driftwood, this became 'The Battle of New Orleans', a huge pop hit in 1959. 'My Country, 'tis of Thee' was written by Samuel Francis Smith, a Harvard-trained clergyman, in 1831; he used the tune of the British anthem 'God Save the Queen', though he is said to have been unaware of that.

A rude patriotism continued to play a large part in the nature of American entertainment and in the treatment of visiting performers: theatre audiences would often demand to hear 'Yankee Doodle', especially if the visitors were British. This combination of chauvinism and anti-élitism led to the Astor Place Riot in 1849 in New York, in which as many as thirty-one people were killed. Edwin Forrest, with a stentorian voice and sometimes accused of ranting, was one of the first American actors to become nationally famous, and was jealous of rivals; he allegedly hired thugs to disrupt the performances of William Charles Macready, a visiting British Shakespearian actor; and the riot was a turning point in more ways than one. Public entertainment began to separate into several genres, each with its own audience, moving away from the pastiches of songs and melodrama which had been common until then; and art in America began to develop into highbrow and lowbrow, absurd terms from nineteenth-century anthropology. This anti-élitism has had a more ominous cultural effect in more recent times.

Yet there still was not the gulf between classical and popular music that there is today. The French-born conductor Louis Jullien was promoted by P. T. Barnum in America; a showman, he used a baton six feet long, wore white gloves and kept a plush chair on the podium, into which he sank, exhausted, at the end of his labours. But he was a thoughtful musician, who wrote an opera as well as dance music, and conducted both music by contemporary American composers and movements from Beethoven's symphonies.

Americans have often held contradictory attitudes. While foreigners were resented for patronizing America, foreign music was seen as somehow superior, a result of the attitude towards class inherited from Britain. Americans learned their music from their own singing masters, and American hymnals began to take on a native flavour in the late seventeenth century. But neither churches nor publishers would have admitted it, and publishers continued to look down on popular songs as the 'trash' of the 'common people'. This high regard for foreign material, however, did not extend to paying royalties on it. During the nineteenth century performing rights societies were formed in Europe, but American publishers refused to entertain such notions. They helped themselves to European music, which was therefore cheaper, and for much of the nineteenth century got away with charging twice as much for it because it was perceived to be better. This did nothing to inspire American composers of formal music. More to the point, it was an early indication of the myopia of which the musical establishment has always been capable: today's record companies and broadcasters, stumbling over themselves to milk last year's fashions, are merely an echo of their ancestors.

The operas of Rossini, Bellini and other Italian composers were immensely popular all over the world. Lorenzo Da Ponte, who had written the librettos for several of Mozart's operas, was a celebrated resident of New York City in his old age. It was thanks partly to his influence that Rossini's Barber of Seville was mounted there in 1825, only seven years after its Italian premiere, at a time when most of Beethoven's music had not been heard in America. The orchestra of twenty-four musicians was said to be the largest yet to have appeared in an American theatre. But English-speaking people still resisted opera in a foreign language, turning to English-language versions and substituting dialogue for recitative. The tunes were pirated for completely new songs, such as 'I'll Pray for Thee' (from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor) and 'Over the Summer Sea' ('La donna è mobile' from Verdi's Rigoletto). Not all the Italian operas were written by Italians: The Bohemian Girl, by the Irishman Michael William Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn, was premiered in 1843 in London, and in New York the next year, and became the most successful production on the English-speaking musical stage until the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. It included 'I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls' and 'Then You'll Remember Me', two huge hits. Opera became an upper-class preserve, but not before it had had its influence: the Italian trick of holding back the accompaniment on a climactic vocal note is still heard in pop today.

The biggest success of the century was 'Home, Sweet Home', written by the Englishman Henry Bishop, with words by the American John Howard Payne, which was first performed in the opera Clari, or The Maid of Milan in London in 1823. It was the favourite song of both sides during the American Civil War, and there were six hit records of it between 1891 and 1915. Critics never liked it, but of its type it was a perfect marriage of words and music, so that many people have thought it was written by Stephen Foster, the first great American songwriter, and an important contributor to the first fully American genre: minstrelsy.

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