Music of the United States

Davidson College, Fall 2015

Archives: Encyclopedia (Page 1 of 3)

Art Music

Often used synonymously with serious music and classical music, art music is a broad term which encompasses a wide range of styles and sounds almost exclusively from Western culture. Prominent composers are Beethoven and Mozart, and common instruments include violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones and tubas.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, who rose to mass popularity in the late 1960s, revolutionized American folk music through his unabridged and unfiltered criticism of society. Dylan dispelled the notion that conventional singers must possess a musically-pleasing voice, as much of his appeal emerged not from the sound of his songs but from the brilliance of his lyrics. Artistic qualities, such as the cleverness of is lyrics, drove his popularity, making Dylan one of the first modern artists successful at producing accredited music that also held widespread appeal.


Boston Symphony Orchestra

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the earliest and most famous symphony halls in the United States. It gave its first concert in 1881 under George Henschel. The founder of the orchestra was Henry Lee Higginson and his vision is carried out through this day in one of America’s most influential orchestral halls.


Carl Stalling

Wrote scores for Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons. Known for his improvisation when recording background music for cartoon characters.

Here is a sample of his work  entitled Marching Pink Elephants.

Clara Kellogg

Clara Kellogg was a soprano opera singer in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Her rise to popularity began in New York, and before he career was over, she managed her own touring company and translated tons of German and Italian operas into English. Her company’s goal was to make opera accessible and enjoyable for all people.

Classical Music

Serious or conventional music following long-established principles rather than a folk, jazz, or popular tradition. Classical music has traditionally been written in the European tradition during a period lasting from roughly 1750 to 1830, even though classical composers have also written at later dates. (

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was a composer, pianist, and band leader in the early to late 20th century. He specialized in jazz, more particularly blues, and was considered one of the earliest musicians to bring jazz to the mainstream. He is known to have called the music he composed and played “American Music”.

Ellington on piano

Frances Denmore

Frances Densmore was an American folklorist and musical anthropologist in the early to mid 20th century. Densmore’s focus was on documenting the traditional music of at least 76 different North American Indian tribes from the years 1907-1957. She wrote multiple commentaries and the influential, The American Indians and Their Music, written for the general public in 1926. Densmore also produced around 3,500 sound recordings of American Indians performing their music, some of which are available at the Smithsonian Institution.



Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin started her music career in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, during the emergence of hippie culture in the 1960’s. Joplin made her career singing psychedelic rock and surprisingly, the blues, a type of music typically associated with African American artists. However, Joplin’s performances were seen as authentic and powerful, rather than an appropriation of African-American culture and music. She pushed her voice and her body to their limits, to the point of expressing pain, so that the audience felt her passion. Joplin was known for her spirit and electricity on stage and her ability to give it her all in every single performance. Some of her most famous songs include: “Piece of My Heart,” “Ball n’ Chain,” “Down on Me,” “Summertime,” and more.



Watch Joplin’s performance of Ball n’ Chain at Monterey Pop, 1967:

Jazz Fusion

Jazz Fusion can be described as the addition of rock and jazz. Many electronic instruments such as synthesizer, electric bass, and electric guitar are used alongside typical jazz instruments such as saxophone and trumpet. Rock influences how rhythms are conceived, typically played straight and not swung. Jazz fusion became popular in the early 70’s and grew as late as the 90’s. Jazz fusion is heavily criticized by many older generation jazz musicians as not being real jazz. Some examples of jazz fusion are The Rippingtons, Weather Report, and most notably, Herbie Hancock.

(I do not own the rights to any of the music presented)

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