A selection of historic American music from the period -1751 to 1820. Carefully researched, arranged and directed by Nikos Pappas, these 25 music selections were recorded for use in "Opening the Door West."
Much of this historic music was virtually lost over time and now has been reconstructed and performed for the first time in many, many years.
This 62 minute Music CD includes Orchestral, Choral, Fiddle, Native American Indian and African American tradition music.
by Nikos Pappas, Music Director
Music and music making occupied a central place in the lives of all 18th-century Americans, regardless of race and ethnicity. As one of the few universally accepted cultural and social pastimes, music could be heard in the home, the theater, the tavern, and also in areas outside of America’s eastern seaboard. This recording captures both the musical ebullience of a new nation, and the artistic expression of a race in bondage as well as a culture forced into continual exile. While previous recordings of earlier American music have focused more on mainstream culture, Music of an Emerging Nation serves as a soundscape for all people in 18th and early 19th-century America.
Originally compiled for use in the documentary film, Opening the Door West, the pieces featured on this recording have been selected both for their musical quality and their ability to capture every aspect of American music during the Federalist period. The music heard on this recording originates from the Iroquois and Shawnee nations, professional musicians in New York and Philadelphia, collections for amateur and domestic use from New England, and African Americans. In putting together this CD, every effort has been put forth to ensure its authenticity and accurateness in documenting the musical culture of the formative part of our nation’s history.
For instance, one of the flutes played by Shawnee musician Butch Shepherd of Parkersburg, West Virginia originally belonged to his grandfather and is made of river cane from the Ohio River. Similarly, the drum heard in the African American pieces is a 19th-century African porter’s drum originating from Tanzania. Finally, the distribution and number of instrumentalists in the orchestra heard on this recording correspond exactly to a period account of the orchestra at the Park Street Theater in New York City for the year 1797, led by James Hewitt, composer of the “Medley Overture” heard on this CD. In short, not only have the instruments been selected for their authenticity, but also the size and combinations of instruments correspond to known ensembles in Federalist America.
As Shelburne Films documented the opening of the door west through the exploits of the Ohio Company, the music, whenever possible parallels this exploration of Western culture. The march composed by Harman Blennerhassett was most likely written in ca. 1797-1805 while living on his island estate on the Ohio River. Similarly, the pieces played by the smaller orchestra of string and woodwind instruments, either originated from or were found in an early orchestral manuscript from Tallmadge, Ohio (outside of Akron) ca. 1820. Thus, the CD comprises not only a collection of music embracing various American cultures, but also documents both the early music of the Eastern seacoast and the earliest surviving Western musical documents.
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