Music History

IN Harmony Instructional Guidelines: Music History for Majors
19th Century Song

Compare parlor songs from IN Harmony with art songs (Lieder) from standard music history repertoire. Choose several examples of each and have students identify style traits (harmonic language, form, role of the piano, vocal writing, poetic style & topics) and discuss the performance context (by whom, for whom) for each genre.

March and Ragtime

At the turn of the twentieth century, marching bands were common in towns throughout America, and marches became a popular genre rather than simply serving a military function. When published as sheet music, however, marches were generally transcribed for piano to allow consumers to play them at home.


Eugene E. Noel, "The Coming Woman" (1896)

E.T. Paull, "Ben Hur Chariot Race March" (1894)

Percy Wenrich, "Auto Race" (1908)

Ragtime music emerged in the 1890s and was popular through the 1910s. It retained the standard form of the march, as well as the steady marching bass line, while the melody line was strongly syncopated in dancelike rhythms from African American musical traditions. Ragtime was played by marching bands and small ensembles, but it especially blossomed as a genre for the piano. Rags were published in sheet music for solo piano, but also preserved on piano rolls for player pianos, which reproduced a live performance by the maker of the piano roll.

Instructors should play a recording of an old piano roll, or of a live performer, and have students follow the same piece in the sheet music.


William J. Braun, "Cotton Pickers Rag" (1899)

Jas. H. Davis, "Queen of Ragtime" (1899)

Bud Manchester, "Brain Storm Rag" (1907)

Representations of Race and Ethnicity

Popular music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals the values and cultural norms of American culture, including attitudes towards other races and ethnicities that may seem shocking or even offensive in today's society. These include "coon songs," which purport to depict African American characters and lifestyles, but which were typically performed by white performers wearing blackface in minstrel shows; songs representing stereotypical portrayals of the different national and ethnic groups immigrating to America; and "characteristic songs," providing exaggerated depictions of exotic, faraway cultures with which most Americans did not have direct contact. Studying sheet music in these genres - including musical cues of ethnicity, descriptions in song lyrics, and visual representations in cover art - can open up productive discussions of racism, xenophobia, and Orientalism as channeled through popular culture, how and why white artists could perform/portray other races for a popular audience, and invite students to consider which of these musical cues and references are still acceptable (or at least recognizeable) in today's culture.

Coon Songs and Minstrelsy

Roy L. Burtch, "I Wonder Who It Was Invented Work" (1903)

George Evans, "Little Maggie Brady" (1911)

Charles Hunter, "Possum and Taters" (1900)

Henry M. Stewart and Geo. B. Scanlon, "If a Coon Gets Sick Give Him Chicken and Gin" (1903)

Albert Von Tilzer, "Rap, Rap, Rap on Your Minstrel Bones" (1912)

Immigrants and Ethnicity

Ernest R. Ball, "McCarty (What Else Could You Expect, From a Man Named McCarty or Any Other Loyal Irishman!)" (n.d.)

Lloyd Kidwell, "I've a Longing for the Dear Old Emerald Isle" (1914)

Marie Hall-Brimacombe, "Little Sally San of Old Japan" (1918)

Charles P. Shisler, "My Irish Prairie Queen: An Irish-Indian Characteristic Song" (1909)

Harry Carroll, "At the Yiddisha Wedding Dance" (1911)

Edgar Leslie, "'That' Italian Rag!" (1910)

Harry Von Tilzer, "Cedro! My Italian Romeo" (1913)

Will Marion Cook, "Little Gypsy Maid" (1902)

Eugene Platzmann, "I Don't Have to Go See a Gypsy To Know That I'm In Love With You" (1915)


Leo E. Berliner, "Africana: A Ragtime Classic" (1903)

Alfred J. Doyle, "Zuleika: An Arabian Serenade & March" (1903)

Albert Von Tilzer, "In Old Morocco" (1902)

Alfred J. Doyle, "Yokohama Charmer" (1905)

Egbert Van Alstyne, "My Dreamy China Lady" (1916)

Albert Von Tilzer, "Big Chief Wally Ho Woo (He'd Wiggle His Way to Her Wigwam" (1921)

Tin Pan Alley and 20th Century Popular Song Form

The early twentieth century to about 1930 marked the peak of popular song dissemination through sheet music, before radio became the primary force for marketing songs. While song publishers existed in major cities throughout America, the most important place for popular song publication was New York City, in the center known as Tin Pan Alley. This was not a specific street, though publication houses did tend to cluster around the same areas; the name "Tin Pan Alley" reputedly came from the cacophony produced by the sounds of "song pluggers" (hired pianists) simultaneously playing the newest songs in each publisher's shop along the same few blocks. In addition to stand-alone songs from hit songwriters, these songs also included the latest dance crazes, as well as selections from popular musicals, revues, and operettas. Many of the famous names in American popular song and musical theater got their starts as song pluggers or were later published by Tin Pan Alley publishers; these include George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and others. Tin Pan Alley now refers to the songs from this era and these publishers.


The popular songs of Tin Pan Alley codified a specific song form: verses with a 32-bar AABA refrain.

Many of the songs already listed fit into the Tin Pan Alley context, and instructors and students may benefit from browsing the collection limiting the genre to "song" and the dates to between 1900 and 1929 (notice that the highest concentration of songs in the collection appear in these years.) Following are a few examples from those three decades.

Morris Manley, "Automobiling with Molly" (1905)

Albert Von Tilzer, "Take Me Up With You Dearie" (1909)

Irving Berlin, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911)

Albert Gumble, "Alexander's Band is Back in Dixieland" (1919)

Harry Von Tilzer, "Good-Bye Boys" (1913)

King Zany & Mac Emery, "All She'd Say Was Umh-Hum" (1920)