Patterns in the Sacred Musical Culture of the American South and West, 1760-1860


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In one layer of understanding, this narrative chronicles the dissemination of sacred music from the eastern seaboard to the West and South spanning a time frame from the late Colonial period to the Civil War (ca. 1760-1860). However, documentation of musical culture in its migration away from the eastern seaboard also parallels the greater Western and Southern expansion of the United States from its initial configuration of localized regional subgroups to a larger national identity shaped by Reconstruction-era politics. From this broader conceptual base, sacred music performance practice and composition become a vehicle for understanding not only religious and musical changes over time, but also the broader maturity of a nation. Focusing on this hundred-year period allows for detailed inquiries both into the development of Middle Atlantic hymnody in the East during the eighteenth century, and the subsequent separate sacred musical developments of the West and South during the antebellum period. Establishing chronological delimitations allows for a discussion of musical practice beginning with formative sacred music developments and continuing to the incorporation of techniques shaped by reform-minded musicians from the eastern seaboard.