Skip to main content

Music Library Browse/Research Guides: American Music History

American Music

Due to the amount of immigration from Europe since the beginning of our country's history, most of the music stems from their compositional techniques and performance practices. For example, folk music in the southern Appalachians started out as English folk tunes and then evolved into their own songs. Orchestral music played in America up to 1900 was dominated by European composers who wrote European sounds. It was not until Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and American composers like George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein who began incorporating American sounds into their orchestral compositions, capturing what makes up the sound of the country.

This LibGuide will focus on two umbrella sections of American music: American folk music and American symphonic music.

Ethnicities in America

R.D. Abrahams and G. Foss. Anglo-American folksong style. (Prentice-Hall, [1968]) ML3553 A27

P.V. Bohlman and O. Hozapfel, eds. Land without nightingales : music in the making of German-America (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002) ML3555 .L36 2002

H. Courlander. Negro folk music, U.S.A. (Columbia University Press, 1963) ML3556 C7

V. Greene. Passion for polka : old-time ethnic music in America. (University of California Press, 1992) ML3551 G696 1992

M. Herrara-Sobek. Northward bound : the Mexican immigrant experience in ballad and song. (Indiana University Press, 1993) ML3558 H47 1993

B. Katz. Social implications of early Negro music in the United States : with over 150 of the songs, many of them with their music (Arno Press, 1969) ML3556 .K28

J. Lovell. Black song: the forge and the flame; the story of how the Afro-American spiritual was hammered out. (Macmillan, [1972]) ML3556 L69

H.W. Odum and G.B. Johnson. Negro workaday songs. (Negro Universities Press, 1969) ML3556 .O32 1969

N.E. Tawa. Sound of strangers: musical culture, acculturation, and the post-Civil War ethnic American. (Scarecrow Press, 1982) ML3551 T29 1982

N.I. White. American Negro folk-songs. (Folklore Associates, 1928 and 1965) ML3556 W4 1928a

Notable People in American Folk Music

Seeger Family: Charles Seeger was a founder of the American Musicological Society and the Society of American Ethnomusicologists. Seeger, his wife Ruth Crawford Seeger, and son Peter, wrote books about American folk music that are standards in ethnomusicology classes.

Robert Cantwell: Cantwell is a professor of American Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He specializes in the Folk Music Revival and has written the following books: Bluegrass Breakdown: The Making of the Old Southern Sound (University of Illinois Press, 1984); Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 1993); When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Harvard University Press, 1996); and If Beale Street Could Talk: Music, Community, Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2009).

Carter Family: The A.P. Carter Family was a traditional American folk music group that recorded a bulk of their music between 1927 and 1956. They were folk music recording artists, singers, musicians, and songwriters. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock musicians as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960. sConsidered the “first family” of country music, the Carters remain the most recognized family group in the genre, unmatched in terms of longevity, influence and popularity.

Peter, Paul, and Mary: The trio of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers spent approximately 50 years performing folk music. They were deeply involved with the Folk Music Revival.

Folk Music

B.H. Bronson. Ballad as song. (University of California Press, 1969) ML3553 B76

R. Cantwell. When we were good: the folk revival. (Harvard University Press, 1996) ML3551 .C36 1996

N. Cohen. Folk music: a regional exploration. (Greenwood Press, 2005) ML3551 .C56 2005

N. Cohen. Long steel rail: the railroad in American folk song (University of Illinois Press, 2000) ML3551 .C57 2000

R. Cohen. Folk music: the basics. (Routledge, 2006) ML3551 .C578 2006

R. Cohen. Rainbow quest: the folk music revival and American society, 1940-1970 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002) ML3551 .C58 2002 

A. Cossu. It ain't me, babe: Bob Dylan and the performance of authenticity. (Paradigm, 2012) ML420.D98 C69 2012

D.A. De Turk and A. Poulin, Jr. American folk scene : dimensions of the folksong revival. (Dell Pub. Co., 1967) ML3551 .D4 1967 

D.K. Dunaway. Singing out: an oral history of America's folk music revivals. (Oxford University Press, 2010) ML3551 .D83 2010

B. Filene. Romancing the folk: public memory & and American roots music. (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) ML3551 .F55 2000

S.L. Forcucci. Folk song history of America : America through its songs (Prentice Hall, 1984) ML3551 F7 1984

P.D. Goldsmith. Making people's music : Moe Asch and Folkways records. (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998) ML429.A83 G65 1998

T.C. Grame. America's ethnic music (Cultural Maintenance Associates, 1976) ML3551 G69

A. Green. Only a miner: studies in recorded coal-mining songs. (University of Illinois Press, [1972]) ML3780 G74

A. Grimes. Stories from the Anne Grimes collection of American folk music. (Ohio University Press, 2010) ML3551 .G77 2010

T.R. Gruning. Millennium folk : American folk music since the sixties. (University of Georgia Press, 2006) ML3551.5 .G7 2006

C. Heylin. Revolution in the air: the songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973. (Chicago Review Press, 2009) ML420.D98 H495 2009

D.D. Horn. Sing to me of heaven : a study of folk and early American materials in three old harp books. (University of Florida Press, 1970) ML3111 H67

R.M. Lawless. Folksingers and folksongs in America: a handbook of biography, bibliography, and discography. (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1965) ML3550 .L4 1965

S.P. Ledgin. Discovering folk music. (Praeger, 2010) ML3551 .L36 2010

B. Lord. Hit the Glory Road! (Broadman Press, [1969]) ML400 L734 H6

K. Lornell. Introducing American folk music. (Brown and Benchmark, 1993) ML3551 L67 1993

C.T. Martin. Deac Martin's book of musical Americana. (Prentice-Hall, [1970]) ML3551 M34

T.E. Miller. Folk music in America: a reference guide. (Garland Publications, 1986) RMU ML128 F74 M5 1986

D. Myrus. Ballads, blues, and the big beat. (Macmillan, [1966]) ML3551 M97

B. Nettl. Folk music in the United States : an introduction. (Wayne State University Press, 1976) ML3551 .N47 1976

B. Nettl. Introduction to Folk Music in the United States. (Wayne State University Press, 1960) ML3551 N47

A. Petrusich. It still moves: lost songs, lost highways, and the search for the next American music. (Faber and Faber, 2008) ML3551 .P47 2008

R. Santelli, H. George-Warren, J. Brown, eds. American roots music. (Harry N. Abrams, 2001) RMU ML3551 .A54 2001

J.A. Scott. Ballad of America: the history of the United States in song and story. (Southern Illinois University Press, 1983) ML3551 S35 1983

R.C. Seeger. "Music of American folk song" and selected other writings on American folk music. (University of Rochester Press, 2001) ML3551.1 .S44 2001

P. Seeger. The Incompleat Folksinger. (Simon and Schuster, 1972) ML60 S444 I5

S. Wade. Beautiful music all around us: field recordings and the American experience. (University of Illinois Press, 2012) ML 3550 .W34 2012

Symphonic Music

Subject Guide

Music Library's picture
Music Library
NOTE: You may chat with a librarian at any time. If someone is available online in the Music Library, you will be transferred to us. If not, you can phone us or we will e-mail you a response later.
GML Building, 2nd Floor East Wing

Phone: 414/229-5529
Circulation Desk Hours:
M-Th 8-10
Fri 8-5
Sat 12-5
Sun 1-9
(Summers & Interim are different, check our website for details)
Website / Blog Page