Skip to main content

tv   Founding Era Music and Politics  CSPAN  January 30, 2016 12:55pm-2:01pm EST

12:55 pm
houston where the florida international university except the political views of music during the founding era of united states. she claims it was used for many purposes, including political manipulation, taunting of at the series or enjoyment. performers from southern methodist university meadow school of the arts provide the company -- accompaniment to the talks. the one-hour event was sponsored by the smu center for presidential history. professor wood: this is my first visit to smu, my first visit to dallas. it's a beautiful campus and i hope i have a chance to come back sometime. tonight we will explore some of the uses of music in the politics of the early american republic. music mattered, even though the musical arts were not well developed here. music in america oh was in a
12:56 pm
state of deplorable barbarism. it was used to rally support, but what americans used music to rally support for very considerably. or it could also energize scorn. these songs were easily learned byear. -- by ear. songs also served as a kind of shorthand because the melodies were easily recognized, a couple measures could evoke a whole set of political debate. also, songs could be performed collectively, quite a different experience from listening to a speech. and through various modes, songs
12:57 pm
could evoke different kinds of emotion. for all of these reasons, the chief medical factions of today had their own songs. such uses of music were not unique to the early republic, but could be found across many times and places. there were ways that music played a special or distinctive role in early u.s. culture and can help us -- and the discipline of musicology can help us discover them. musicologists study music in many different ways, most fundamentally for our purposes tonight, historical musicology teaches us that sounds do not sound the same across historical eras and cultures. a key approach for us tonight is to remember songs are not text. they were embedded in cultures of sound and music making. the use of songs for celebration were widely known to well read americans.
12:58 pm
many members of the founding generation shared the then current belief that music had powerful effects on performers and listeners. scientific treatises maintained that making and listening to music had unusually acute effects on the body the , feelings, even the soul. natural philosophers speculated that hearing was most acute. they have pocket-size that nerve transmitted sound far more quickly -- they hypothesized that nerve transmitted sound far more quickly than sight and smell. we might disagree, but that was the belief at the time. not only was sounds the most potent stimulus, but it also had a physical effect, so much so that medical doctors believed they could use particular sounds as therapy for certain illness. as a scottish physician observed, music had exciting effects on the blood.
12:59 pm
it could serve as a tonic. much influenced by collins, philadelphia's dr. benjamin rush observed certain note stimulated brain functions such as long-term memory. both the acts of listening and singing then mattered because music was a stimulus to which the human ear could not help but respond. music stimulated the body and generated particular feelings. with those preliminary ideas in mind, i invite you to listen to one of the most most important political songs of the time, "hail columbia." it was written to accompany the present's march. please give your attention to the performers from the division of music and the meadows school of art. ♪
1:00 pm
>> ♪ hail columbia, happy land hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band, who fought and bled in freedom's cause, who fought and bled in freedom's cause, and when the storm of war was gone enjoy'd the peace your valor won let independence be our boast, ever mindful what it cost; ever grateful for the prize, let its altar reach the skies firm, united let us be, rallying round our liberty, as a band of brothers joined, peace and safety we shall find ♪
1:01 pm
[applause] professor wood: to avoid any discomfort, i'm going to let you guys clap after every one. a few things to note. first concerns the lyrics. in the world according to "hail columbia," there is no internal division. "firm, united let us become a rallying round our liberty, as a band of brothers joined, peace and safety we shall find."
1:02 pm
in a world where sons had consequences, we can infer that the author intended the singers of the song to feel peaceful, harmonious, and free, all of the good things that the lyrics spoke of. but this is not feel-good music for the 70 90's. it was pointedly political. it was written to praise john adams at a time when politically active citizens had divided into one of two factions, the federalists who supported adams, and the jeffersonian democrats, who not surprisingly supported jefferson. the issues dividing the camps were many. the federalists supported and actively controlled government and so much to imitate in the politics and economy of great britain. they were also tended to be elitists. the jeffersonian democrats preferred a relatively weak
1:03 pm
federal government except in territorial matters. they supported an alliance with france and saw only things to avoid in great britain. and they believed white men without liberal education should be able not only to vote, but to hold elective office. "hail columbia's" initial success was designed to celebrate a federalist administration at a key moment. the song was first performed shortly after news of a serious french diplomatic insult became public. an episode known as the x, y, z affair. this discredited the jeffersonian opposition. the federalists sang "hail columbia" with great relish, because with the the jeffersonians in trouble, they could see themselves as uncontested leaders. the second key concerns the performance itself -- a concert
1:04 pm
caliber performance with voices in multiple parts would not have been the norm in the 1790's. few musicians could perform at this level in the early republic, and most who could were european trained professionals. jefferson had a point. "hail columbia" was usually sung by untrained singers. even when it was sung at a formally organized celebration, it would have been sung with great enthusiasm and not much virtuosity. equally important, "hail columbia" was often performed in a different spirit, not as celebration, but a goad or a taunt. this song was readily adapted to the practice of jar of ari or shivery. rough music entailed vigilante justice. an outbreak of rough music typically indicated that someone
1:05 pm
had profoundly violated community norms in a way that would not be punished by the legal system. unlike lynching, it did not always entail violence. instead, rough music used music to warn, humiliate, and punish. many instances of rough music punished violations of sexual norms. in the 1790's, federalists and jeffersonians also directed rough music to each other. federalists often sang "he'll columbia" in this spirit. when the song was still new, new jersey federalists unleashed the music on the jeffersonian congressman. when the congressman arrived in trenton, new jersey, federalists surrounded his coach, threatening him with a series of sounds, pitches and hooting, a piece of music long used to do note traitors, and the sound of
1:06 pm
rattling drums, as reported in the newspaper. federalists surrounded the hotel of another visiting jeffersonian congressman, singing "hail columbia" under his window. it may have sounded something like this. >> go back to france! >> we don't need you! >> you are an embarrassment and a disgrace! >> we don't need you. >> everything you do is wrong! ♪ [drumbeat]
1:07 pm
>> ♪ behold the chief who now commands, once more to serve his country stands the rock on which the storm will break, the rock on which the storm will break, but armed in virtue, firm, and true, his hopes are fixed on heav'n and you ♪ [applause] professor wood: i was delighted by how readily the musicians took to that. [laughter] professor wood: i hope you recognize the melody of "hail columbia." the lyrics differed from the previous performance. i selected this verse for the rough music performance because i thought it complemented the taunting effect. adams is the rock on which the storm will break in this version.
1:08 pm
there may be a storm, but they will break apart on the rock that is adams. adams has his eyes fixed on you. i want to mention at this point that we do not always know which versus or versions of a song were sung at a particular occasion. whether the singers aimed to celebrate or to intimidate, early performances gave voice to federalist triumphalism. it is hard to imagine that staunch jeffersonians could have failed to be encouraged or uplifted, never mind what the medical men might have said. and we should not be surprised that when a jeffersonian first took over the presidency and the senate in 1801, they did not take over "hail columbia" as well. they sought to replace it with
1:09 pm
songs that gave voice to their own, equally partisan message. the first we will here tonight, jefferson and liberty" was written to celebrate jefferson's inauguration. the contrast was pointed. the jeffersonian tune is far jauntier. it is dancing music, and our march. and it is openly hostile to the defeated federalists. so, let's listen to "jefferson and liberty." >> ♪ the gloomy night before us lies, the reign of terror now is o'er; its gags, inquisitors and spies, its hordes of harpies are no more rejoice, columbia's sons, rejoice to tyrants never bend the knee but join with heart and soul and voice for jefferson and liberty ♪ [applause]
1:10 pm
but join with heart and soul and voice for jefferson and liberty ♪ [applause] professor wood: in the first verse, the jeffersonians describe the federalist as bigots who created an american reign of terror and in the second verse, the jeffersonians suggest that those fleeing tyranny abroad should be welcomed in the united states. anyone paying attention to politics at the time would have recognized this as a reference to the alien act, passed by the federalist congress in 1798. the alien act targeted potential enemies of the state. the jeffersonians loathed these measures, seeing it as an attack on their allies. "jefferson and liberty" made it
1:11 pm
clear that jeffersonians were not in any mood to forgive the federalist. singing that song in 1801, jeffersonians would have felt triumphant and vengeful. the practices of rough music combined with the self-satisfaction and rancor demonstrates the way that it reinforced political dislike and even hatred and the early republic. at their worst, these songs and the ways they were performed suggested a country so implacably divided any sane observer would surely forget the union was doomed. now that we can see how music
1:12 pm
can be used to make victors smog and losers furious, it's time to take a closer look at music at fourth of july celebrations, occasions intended to promote joy and not anger. i stressed the caustic lyrics of "jefferson and liberty," but i want to stress the chorus -- "rejoice, columbia's sons, rejoice to tyrants never bend the knee but join with heart and soul and voice for jefferson and liberty." remember that chorus, especially the uplifting melodic line that accompanies. before we get there, i want to sketch the place of music at july 4 celebrations and identify a musical possibility that falls between the extremes of anger and joy. when the early republic celebrated the fourth of july, music usually featured at two
1:13 pm
key points. first, people sang in church where they gathered for prayer, orration, or sermon, a ceremonial reading of the declaration of independence. much later in the day, people sang familiar secular and political songs in the course of their public dinner. this is an image from the richmond inquirer celebrating the july 4 celebration in washington, d.c. july 4 public dinner was literally a dinner held in some public place. a public dinner invariably included some sort of speech and the making of toasts. each of the toasts might be followed by cheers, gun salutes, and songs, and i will assure you we do not have a musket secreted somewhere. take the musket as read. imagine, if you will, a group of 20 or 30 or 200 or 300 citizens gathered somewhere, maybe a small group, a poorly ventilated dining room somewhere, after
1:14 pm
some steady application of knife and fork and glass, they welcome their guest of honor. listen to the speech, and finally settled down to the toasting. after each toast, you might hear cries of "no heel tax!" that men do not sit, drain your glass. [laughter] professor wood: the number of toasts was never fewer than the number of states at the time or no less than 13. it is no surprise that the celebrations often lasted for many hours. one in lexington, kentucky apparently lasted until 3:00 in the morning. the newspaper suggested the greatest sobriety was obtained throughout the night. i personally have my doubts. maybe the music was there simply to promote good fun and enjoyment. maybe it was there to provide lighthearted entertainment or hilarity.
1:15 pm
maybe it was good drunk fun. some versions of "yankee doodle" seem to suggest that americans celebrating july 4 celebrated pretty lightly. the song originated with british mockery, but patriots adopted it as their own. in the process, patriots turned the song's humor back on the british, but also back on themselves. thus many lyrics where yankee doodle disparaged the brits were entertainingly bawdy. let's hear an example that is supposed to allude to the sexual irregularities. >> ♪ father and i went down to camp along with captain gooden and then we saw the horses in the pudding
1:16 pm
yankee doodle keep it up, yankee doodle dandy mind the music, keep in step, and with the girls be handy ♪ [applause] professor wood: another version suggested that it was not about cheap laughs. this lyric retained some of the easy wit and humor that made "yankee doodle" popular but it adopted a perspective more obviously suitable to the nation. here is a more clearly patriotic version of "yankee doodle." >> ♪ yankee doodle is a tune americans delight in [indiscernible] america is a dandy place where people all our brothers and when we get a pumpkin high, we share it with the others ♪
1:17 pm
[applause] professor wood: of course even with patriotic lyrics, "yankee doodle" could be understood as basically unserious. a comic song appropriate to a fun occasion. as other historians have
1:18 pm
suggested, this would be an incorrect reading. in the early republic, the year-to-year survival of the nation was still a matter of some wonder. july 4 was a serious civic event. the festivities were described as occasions of good order and harmony. uninterrupted harmony and festivity. the utmost conviviality and mirth. organizers demonstrated the harmony and enthusiasm of public sentiment. here is another excerpt from the same july 4 celebration, which again suggests some of this language. throughout the operations of the day, there was a perfect concert, among all of the classes and groups of citizens, harmony that heightened the effect -- the language of harmony, repeatedly.
1:19 pm
so, it's time to ask some questions. given the steady drum of partisan wrath during the rest of the year, why the focus on harmony on the fourth of july? is it protesting too much? was it an accident that events designed to cultivate good political feelings also featured music and used language of harmony and, in this case, concert? and how did americans come to believe, as i argue they did, that singing songs of partisan origin was appropriate to a day that was supposed to produce a collective sense of patriotism? members of the founding generation turned to music not just because they understood it to have a powerful effect, but also because they thought the effects were generally positive. where scientists were focused chiefly on the mechanisms by which sound effected the human organism, others reached their own conclusions. some realized that a powerful tool like music would be great
1:20 pm
for political manipulation. john adams, suggested that it would be useful for "captivating the mob." his cynicism was more the exception that the rule at this point in american history. support of musical education largely chose to ignore smith's line of thinking. where doctors constructed musical remedies for ailments, music advocates argued for otherworldly benefits. music teacher andrew law asserted music's principal prerogative is to influence and direct the heart. another speaker told his listeners that music was to assist the transport of souls. a third asserted that music prepares the soul for worship.
1:21 pm
and the charmingly named ichabod skinner posited the harmonies of music were exactly characteristic of the effect on the state of mind. when concerns about emotional manipulation through music appeared, musical theorists rushed to put them out. thomas hastings address the problem. he insisted singers could mold the audience's feelings through song only when they, themselves had a vivid apprehension of the sentiment. a music critic of grade, asserting as fact the claim that if a singer wished to warm the heart of his auditors, it must acquire teeth of its own. this did not entirely silence fears about smith's manipulation, but it helped. thus there was widespread acceptance that music could bring genuine pleasure and benefit, not just to trained musicians, but the uninstructed
1:22 pm
singer. claims of music's benevolent power were not just the province of music teachers who had a vested interest in saying music was all that was wonderful. the most eminent political figures of the day agreed. john adams maintained music could evoke every tender, generous, noble passion and sentiment. his wife abigail compared the human mind to a musical instrument where if any notes are out of tune, it produces a discord that disrupts the harmony of the whole machine. other shared the view that you it held peculiar power. thomas jefferson is well-known for his claim that "music was the favorite passion of my soul." george washington could not sing or play, but he knew enough
1:23 pm
about music from power to play with it. he fashioned a compliment out of the commonplace that music had the power to rouse the soul to action. the founding generation also turned music into a vehicle for musical celebration because of the metaphorical association between music and harmony. harmony represented not just an association of instruments, but a complex of beliefs, that harmony in music was especially uplifting, that harmony was the ground state of the entire universe, that harmony was the work of a benevolent, divine creator, that it was based on consent. let's look at political ideas about harmony. during the late 1780's, astute
1:24 pm
political observers who were accustomed to insisting the federal union's best chance for success lay in making its components are harmonized. today, most of us are probably familiar with nonmusical ways of expressing the basic idea with the phrase e pluribus unum, one from the many. the same point was made in images such as these. we see a draft composed of separate images for each state and on the right we see an image that represents the nation as a temple. each of the pillars of which is an individual states. one out of many. other metaphors made the same general point. americans compared the union of states to a building or a ship. they compared the nation to a family with many members or a body with many limbs. much like musical harmony depended on the interaction of multiple voices, harmony depended on difference and not on erasure or homogenization.
1:25 pm
in the 1780's it was suggested a better constitution would provide mild and certain means of preserving the harmony of the union. harmony appeared in the federalist papers supporting the ratification of the constitution. these essays repeatedly insisted the proposed central government would harmonize the different interests of the states. in federalist letter number six, alexander hamilton argued that there could be no harmony between independent sovereignties in the same neighborhood. writers insisted that harmony would be restored when they resolve discord. in 1791, henry lee insisted that a proper fiscal plan would promote the harmony of the community and banish discord. the following year, george
1:26 pm
washington wrote to alexander hamilton about the need to adopt such healing measures as will the store harmony to the discordant members of the union. a few years later, abigail adams suggested the differing sentiments between president adams and vice president jefferson would never prevent them from acting in perfect harmony in public affairs. abigail's prediction proved wrong, but she was far from alone in assuming that political disagreement and harmony could coexist.
1:27 pm
after ousting adams from the presidency in 1801, jefferson wrote about the need to harmonize the various tempers he professed himself personally present in the republic. he professed himself personally eager to harmonize my fellow citizens in his first inaugural address. jefferson received a letter from a poet in which he suggested that it was the duty of every good citizen to support a wise and virtuous administration. he announced that he had done his by writing a new song. a very literal usage. a bookseller's advertisement promoting his song indicates how widely that sentiment spread through the republic. it suggested that the song would impress with the combined influence of music and poetry on human feelings, those sentiments on the minds of freeman, without which, the musings of liberty may become poisonous.
1:28 pm
they also offered a 30% discount to wholesalers throughout the united states. for james madison, harmony likewise represents a way to deal with the reality of political disagreements. for both men, harmony did not could not mean unanimity. instead it meant something more like the healthy resolution of dissent. writing to james munro, madison expressed the hope that harmonious resolution would resolve discord. in 1836, madison wrote once more about the founding principles which harmonized deferring interests. harmony, harmony, harmony. an madisonian solution to the diverse states and interest did not depend upon homogenization. madison suggested that within the principles of the constitution the differences among the states and citizens would produce political harmony. so he suggested in federalist number 10 long ago, and he continued to believe in 1836. but to understand more fully what these men understood by
1:29 pm
harmony, we need to look beyond constitutional politics. the appeal of harmony in this time stemmed as well from religious, metaphysical, and scientific thinking about the nature of a created universe. for example, americans of european descent basically agreed that harmony was the result of the divine will -- the one eminent american composer of the time, william billings, described god as the author of harmony itself. billings' music would fall out of favor quickly, but political figures and musical taste makers retained this association of harmony with divinity.
1:30 pm
even deists and skeptics reach for harmony to characterize universal properties of the natural world. ethan allen of vermont launched a blistering attack on organized religion and yet suggested man would not go amiss in calling god by the name of harmony. he continued, if we form in our imagination a compendious idea of the harmony of the universe, it is the state of calling god by the name of harmony. well educated americans also explored neoplatonic notions. the music of the spheres. in lay terms, this was understood as the natural universe had order and that was mathematically perfect and harmonious. as an astronomical concept related to planetary orbits in the solar system, the music of the spheres did not connote audible music. however, popular usage made much of the association. thus when the article was reprinted in many newspapers, it was suggested that christians may be made to hear the music of the spheres, for his ear is tuned to the harmony. americans also adopted the music
1:31 pm
of the spheres for their own political institutions using astronomical ideas to suggest the structure and perfection of the federal republic. in 1810, one of thomas jefferson's many correspondences suggested the true destination of cabinet secretaries used satellites to illuminate their primary planets. not everyone was conversant with celestial planets or music from power. but merely attending a celebration could be an education in itself. july 4 orders regularly drew from these wells. benjamin gleason instructed a boston area audience that the cannon fire and clamor of bells
1:32 pm
are all demonstrative of superior delight and joy. celebrating the fourth with parades and songs was meaningless unless the soul was penetrated. in 1823, the small town of stoner, massachusetts saluted the union with this. 24 united states revolving like the solar spheres constitutionally in their orbit. this did not guarantee that all listeners would do so. they do, however indicate the orders chosen to solemnize the day, where men of local eminence shared with founders the belief that music and sound were not
1:33 pm
just useful metaphors, but means of communication. when we take into account the belief about music and harmony in the early republic, we are in a position to understand the effect that the organizers of the july 4 celebrations hoped to excite. now we need to turn our attention back to the political context. in 1798, "hail columbia" encouraged federalists to go further. so, too, did another song "adams and liberty" set to a familiar english melody. let's take a listen to "adams and liberty." >> ♪ ye sons of columbia, who bravely have fought, for those rights, which unstained from your sires had descended, may you long taste the blessings
1:34 pm
your valour has brought, and your sons reap the soil which their fathers defended. 'mid the regin of mild peace, may your nation increase, with the glory of rome, and the wisdom of greece; and ne'er shall the sons of columbia be slaves, while the earth bears a plant, or the sea rolls its waves ♪ [applause] professor wood: in 1798, 1799, 1800, jeffersonians would no more have been reconciled by "adams and liberty," then an arch federalist could have been reconciled by "jefferson and liberty." a more generous way of
1:35 pm
celebrating july 4 developed quickly. americans on both sides of the partisan divide discovered that they could celebrate together on the nation's anniversary and sing each other songs without coming to blows. or at least some americans figured this out. in the course of my research, i was struck to realize how often the anti-federalist "jefferson and liberty" was alongside the arch federalist "hail columbia" and not for the purpose of satire. how is this possible? that is the very question that send me down this path of exploring poetry, philosophy, and music. i think a great deal was owing to jefferson himself and the
1:36 pm
message he crafted in his inaugural address. he asserted that we are all republicans, all federalists. he didn't mean the partisan furor of the elections had been a big misunderstanding, but he did mean that all people who accepted the premise of constitutional rule by popular consent could learn to work together. he spoke of harmonizing different interests. he urged his listeners and readers, let us restore to social intercourse that harmony without which liberty and life are dreary things. following jeffersons lead and drawing on decades of writing about harmonizing the divided nation, jeffersonians learned to proclaim their own version of national harmony using federalist songs. jeffersonian democrats began to use "hail columbia" to accompany a toast to all branches of the federal government as well as
1:37 pm
the armed forces, the constitution, literature, the nation, and july 4 itself. in 1808, at a celebration in boston, "hail columbia" followed a toast to independence day. a toast to future president james madison was followed by the president's march, easily recognized as the tune for "hail columbia." even at partisan gatherings, it became possible to sing "hail columbia" and not in a satirical way. in a celebration by the tammany society in 1807 in new york city, the tammany society was founded in the 1780's, and quickly became a bastion of jeffersonian democratic politics. later, it became associated with the democratic party machine in new york city. the tammany society had an annual dinner and their celebrations mimicked the
1:38 pm
structure of july 4 celebrations, speeches, dinner, toast, etc. the toast at this event indicated the tammany men had not abandoned their partisanship. several toasts warned against political enemies. >> gentlemen, may we be aware of the stratagems of our enemies and guarded against the treasuries of pretended friends. ♪ >> america is a dandy place the people all our brothers when one gets a pumpkin pie he shares it with the others yankee doodle ♪ [applause] professor wood: the time any society's toast also included a reference to governor mccain of pennsylvania, a former
1:39 pm
jeffersonian democrat who had allied with federalists to win reelection in 1805. he tossed jeffersonians out of office and won the iron of the tammany society in new york. >> gentlemen, the virtue of the tribe, may such always -- [indiscernible] ♪ [applause]
1:40 pm
professor wood: however, and this is important, the federalist song "hail columbia" did not get applied to one of those pretended friends. instead, even for the tammany society, the song now complemented the jeffersonian sense of being on the winning side. >> the faithful tribes of our country and strong arms to overcome the enemies. ♪ >> ♪ firm, united, men must be [indiscernible]
1:41 pm
[applause] professor wood: as this example suggests, instead of strictly avoiding federalist songs are attaching it to their enemies, the jeffersonian democrats of the tammany society expressed their own approval. appropriating a familiar song to a new purpose or crafting new lyrics to an old memory was nothing new for americans at the turn of the 19th century. in the previous century, americans cheerfully appropriated "god save the king." repurposing made something british into something american. the transformation both recognized and moved beyond the song's origins. the duality made sense. many patriots understood themselves as a special kind of englishmen, defending the historic promise of liberty after england dropped the torch. yet there was more at work.
1:42 pm
euro-american thinking about the cosmic harmony that undergirded the known universe made it seem natural to use songs to suggest the harmony of the nation. euro-american speculation about the operation of music on the nervous system made it plausible that hearing and singing songs about america's peace and freedom could generate analogous feelings. with that in mind, let's consider a second version of "jefferson and liberty." it was written to celebrate jefferson's presidency. unlike the first version with bigots and harpies, this version presented quite a different vision of the status quo. no more tyrannical bigots. instead, the new "jefferson and liberty" used a more peaceful language, quite like "hail columbia" and "adams and liberty." let's hear the new "jefferson
1:43 pm
and liberty." ♪ [indiscernible] ♪ [applause] professor wood: the second verse you just heard deserves some attention. the praise of washington represents the kind of reconciliation. in the mid-1790's, george ♪
1:44 pm
[applause] professor wood: the second
1:45 pm
verse you just heard deserves some attention. the praise of washington represents the kind of reconciliation. in the mid-1790's, george washington's reputation became very tarnished in the view of jeffersonian democrats. they loathed his foreign policy, which they believed brought the new republic back into great britain's orbit. they resented washington's
1:46 pm
forceful quelling of the whiskey rebellion and they despised the notion that there was no legitimate way for citizens like them to gather and articulate collectively their opposition to the washington administration. when washington died, ardent jeffersonians mourned the former revolutionary hero far more than the first president. yet the new jefferson and liberty found a means to reclaim washington. the lyrics drew a line between washington and jefferson, aligning adams altogether. the lyrics used a similar tone for both, suggesting not only that the future was secure, but so was the past. a nation that had imagined itself as quite possibly on the brink of internal revolution, of civil war in 1800, could imagine itself in quite another guise as it sang the new song. in addition, the washington lyric explicitly tapped into the idea of columbia, a
1:47 pm
personification of the nation, weeping with the news that washington died. but heaven resounds with the news that jefferson lived. in the musical logic of the day, sounds of joy produced feelings of joy. a version of "god save great washington" made a similar appeal to the power of sound and song. colombians all rejoiced, and with a cheerful voice, welcomedca this day. americans would experience patriotism and harmony as they sang. so would singers of "hail columbia" feel like a band of brothers. equally would columbia's sons rejoice as they rejoiced. or so the organizers of july 4 celebrations could imagine. thanks to their consumption of euro-american print culture,
1:48 pm
leaders were primed to understand harmony as a token of the goodness of the world. they were ready to imagine music as a uniquely forceful means of communication. they had reason to believe their supporters would feel the political harmony so boldly proclaimed in songs. listening to guns, joining in toasts, and singing a few songs a couple times a year did not cure the wounds of party. the power of music was ultimately available to those who sought to use it to foment division and rank or. however, an opportunity to come together, to hear and sang celebratory songs, provided an important counterpoint to discord and perhaps a foil to despair. we no longer occupy the founders world. we do not hear with the same years or sing with the same voices. most of us probably don't think of the solar system is producing
1:49 pm
the music of the spheres and we live in a highly visual culture. even our national anthem has lost the language of sound that was so powerful in the 19th century. "the star-spangled banner" describes the bombardment on fort mchenry, in terms of the rockets' red glare. it is the site of the flag, rather than sounds or singing, that inspires the siege of baltimore. when we hear the familiar melodies of the early republic, we should remember that america's culturally distant from our own day. we should take all the lyrics of these old songs seriously, not just the ones we can readily link to the political events of the day, but also the ones that make no immediate political reference. the lyrics that stress the importance of sound, of uplifting emotions, and singing with heart and soul and voice. as our performers prepare to give us one last song, let me
1:50 pm
make a final point to help tune your ears to the early republic. you may recall my saying that washington didn't consider himself much of a musician, but he knew how others felt and wrote about music. he knew that in poetry, music really could sooth the ferocity of wild beasts, or bring the dead to life. in poetry, music really could make trees and stones move. they could get up and form the walls. washington himself didn't take these claims literally, but given the contemporary understanding of music's effect on the nervous system and the soul, we must understand that claims about the effects of music, the power of music and singing over people, not stones, were not mere political and poetic devices either. such claims, especially in the
1:51 pm
context of patriotic celebration, speak to a conviction of the founding generation, that this vast and complicated republic would survive and thrive only to the extent that it managed to find harmony in its diversity. in that day, political citizens paid attention only to a very small portion of america's diversity. in our day, the task is far more complicated, but as urgent as ever. with that in mind, i now call on our musicians to give us one final song. >> ♪ god save great washington [indiscernible]
1:52 pm
♪ [applause]
1:53 pm
>> i would like us to take a few minutes and give you a chance to ask questions of dr. wood. i have a couple people who are going to bring mics to you. we will take a few minutes for your questions and then be dismissed. does anyone have a question for dr. wood? >> how do you feel about hamilton? professor wood: the musical? i'm asking for tickets to "hamilton" for christmas. in all seriousness, i haven't seen it myself, but every early republic scholar that i'm friends with thinks it's phenomenal. doesn't mean it is completely perfect, but early republic historians are just beside
1:54 pm
themselves with interest in this piece. when i have a chance to go see it, we will talk. >> i never thought about music doing this. did this continue? i don't know if we are doing this today. maybe i just don't see it. is it still around? professor wood: excellent question. the use of july 4 celebrations in the way i'm describing is something we would associate with the period up to the mid-1820's. after that period, july 4 is still celebrated, but some of the, shall we say, enthusiasm of the early period starts to fade away and people get more cynical. temperance advocates say july 4 is just about tricking your heads off. it becomes all over again a very
1:55 pm
partisan celebration. it loses the sense that it was ever intended to be an integrated event. in some ways yes, and in some ways no. the informal structure of july 4 with a parade, church service, and public dinner, that continues until after the civil war. after that, i stopped paying attention. you have to ask somebody else. [laughter] professor wood: it's the truth. in terms of the use of music, the alternating of toasts and songs, song, cheers, song, salute of the gun, cheers, song, that continues also. the argument that i'm making about this conviction that singing could actually have good consequences, i think that's relatively short-lived. i wouldn't want to push it much past the 1820's. >> i'm just curious if you know
1:56 pm
where the term "yankee doodle" derived from. professor wood: no. [laughter] professor wood: i can go look it up on wikipedia as fast as you can. i don't know that one, in fact. i do know the macaroni language is a reference to what we might call a kind of dandy culture in that. a man who was very fashionable, who wore his hair powdered and was very stylish, he might be called a macaroni. there is a way that language was adopted for political purposes. the "yankee doodle" itself, i have to look that up.
1:57 pm
>> wonderful talk. when you mentioned the co-opting of "god save the king" and other british tunes, can you talk more about objections to that? or criticism of that, that pushed back and said, we don't want to go in that direction? professor wood: do you mean the idea that using that song was not appropriate?
1:58 pm
interesting question. i haven't encountered that. i think the timing of the first version of "god save great washington" is instructive. it is 1786, the version i found. that period is tricky. on one hand, the economy is kind of in a tank. independence has not brought milk and honey and free beer to everybody. there's a certain amount of discomfort. but washington himself is the one unifying figure. he is the hero of the revolution. he would be the uncontested first choice for president because he's the one everyone could trust, because he walked away from politics after bringing the nation into being as the commander of the continental army. for those reasons, i think the song would have been relatively uncontested, but -- and there is a big but there -- to the extent that you have americans concerned that the new republic is going to be too british, ideas about how i'm obviously better than you because of my natural whatever, then the idea of calling the songs from the british empire might have been troublesome. i haven't seen it. i'm trying to speculate how that
1:59 pm
might have worked out. those concerns get attached very much to washington, the president, and adams, the president. but we are still singing about washington simply as the war hero. i think you would have less comment about it. again, this is a vast and complicated policy. i'm sure everything imaginable gets said at some point. i wouldn't doubt that somewhere there is that. but i haven't found it. that is a good thing to look for. >> lets thank again both dr. wood and our musicians for being with us tonight. [applause] >> thank you all. happy holidays and i hope we will see you in january. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
2:00 pm
>> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours every weekend. i'll us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. wisconsinity of professor jennifer rose megan focuses on moby dick and talks about how authors such as herman melville shape and were products of 19 century moral code. her class is a little over an hour. >> thank you and welcome to our lecture. nature as we know her is no saint. trial in tumult in melville's america. titles, that we like and to put some thought in the titles we give our paper. that is because a title announces what is at stake for a


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on