Abbreviations and Short Titles Used in Commentary
Appendix Appendix Containing a Number of Hymns taken Chiefly from Dr. Watts’s Scriptural Collections. Boston: M. Dennis, 1762.
Bible, Authorized Version The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1814.
Book of Common Prayer Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Evert Duyckinck, 1809.
Brady and Tate, New Version Brady, Nicholas, and Nahum Tate. A Version of the Psalms of David. London: J. Roberts, 1749 (first edition published in London, 1696).
DLC copy Billings, William. The New-England Psalm-Singer. Boston: Edes and Gill, 1770. Copy owned by the Library of Congress.
Julian Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892; reprinted, New York: Dover, 1957.
MM Billings, William. Music in Miniature. Boston: the author, 1779.
SMA ———. The Singing Master’s Assistant. Boston: Draper and Folsom, 1778.
Supplement A Supplement to the New Version of Psalmes. 8th ed. Savoy: E. and R. Nutt, 1724 (first edition published in London, 1700).
WB ii The Complete Works of William Billings. Vol. ii. Edited by Hans Nathan. Published by The American Musicological Society and The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and distributed by the University Press of Virginia, 1977.
Watts, Horae Lyricae Watts, Isaac. Horae Lyricae. 11th ed. London: T. Longman and J. Buckland, 1764 (first edition published in London, 1707–09).
Watts, Hymns ———. Hymns and Spiritual Songs in Three Books. London: J. F. and C. Rivington, 1788 (first edition published in London, 1707–09). (Hymns I, Hymns II, and Hymns III refer, respectively, to Books I, II, and III.)
Watts, Psalm . . . ———. The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. London: J. F. and C. Rivington, 1787 (first edition published in London, 1719).
1 Public theater was prohibited by an ordinance in 1750, but occasional plays were presented as readings or “moral lectures.” See Julian Mates, The American Musical Stage before 1800 (New Brunswick, 1962), p. 42; see also Anne Rowe Cunningham, Letters and Diary of John Rowe, Boston Merchant (Boston, 1903), p. 200.
2 Oscar Sonneck, Early Concert Life in America (Leipzig, 1907), p. 254f.
3 Cunningham, John Rowe, passim.
4 Cunningham, John Rowe, p. 180. In 1768 Rowe mentions the bands of the 59th and 64th Regiments. See also Raoul Camus, Military Music of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1976), p. 48–50.
5 Cunningham, John Rowe, p. 130.
6 Sonneck, Early Concert Life, p. 254; also Leonard Ellinwood, The History of American Church Music (New York, 1970), p. 55–57.
7 Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge, 1979), p. 161–162.
8 George Hood, History of Music in New England (Boston, 1846), p. 65–150 (particularly p. 139–150). Hood quotes extensively from documents of the time. See also Robert Stevenson, Protestant Church Music in America (New York, 1966), p. 21–30, and Ellinwood, p. 18–21, for summary accounts of the controversy.
9 There were some itinerant singing masters, whose profession it was to move from town to town teaching singing and musical notation, but this seems to have been a somewhat later phenomenon. For the activities of one such musician, see Richard Crawford, Andrew Law, American Psalmodist (Evanston, 1968), particularly P. 36–85.
10 The acceptance of choirs into the Congregational Church and the consequences are discussed in Alan Buechner, “Yankee Singing Schools and the Golden Age of Choral Music in New England” (Ed.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1960), p. 262–294.
11 A singing group referred to as the “Tansur Singers” by Boston schoolmaster John Tileston was active in the years 1762–1764 and may have been such an informal society. See David P. McKay and Richard Crawford, William Billings of Boston (Princeton, 1975), p. 47–48.
12 One imagines Billings listening outside the Concert Hall to the performances inside if, indeed, he could not afford the price of admission. His musical curiosity would certainly have drawn him to listen on occasion. However, if, as is possible, the article “On Vocal Music” in the Massachusetts Gazette of July 12, 1764, is by Billings, he early maintained the superiority of vocal over instrumental music. See Hans Nathan, William Billings: Data and Documents (Detroit, 1976), p. 17.
13 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 48.
14 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 157–209 (particularly p. 157–160, 185–186, and 202–203).
15 McKay and Crawford contains Billings’s biography, a discussion of his music, and an assessment of his place in American musical history. Hans Nathan’s William Billings: Data and Documents includes many facsimilies and transcriptions of documents relating to Billings. Several periodical articles about Billings have appeared in recent years, one of the most valuable of which is Gillian B. Anderson, “Eighteenth-Century Evaluations of William Billings: A Reappraisal,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, v. 35 (January 1978), p. 48–58.
16 G. B. Warden, Boston, 1689–1776 (Boston, 1970) is a valuable study of the political, religious, and social conditions in Boston for the period before, during, and immediately following the publication of The New-England Psalm-Singer.
17 Flagg (1737 – c. 1795) is listed on the title page as a sales agent for the tunebook. He also advertised a five-line pen for drawing staves on p. 21 of the prefatory section. The engraving tools used to punch the musical symbols in The New-England Psalm-Singer were also used by Flagg to engrave the musical plates for his Sixteen Anthems (Boston, 1766). In spite of these obvious connections, no one appears to have suggested a student-teacher relationship between Flagg and Billings. Carl E. Lindstrom in “William Billings and His Times,” The Musical Quarterly, v. 25 (October 1939), p. 481, writes that Billings studied with John Barry, a singer and choir leader at Boston’s New South Church. It does not deny the possibility of Lindstrom’s claim, although he gives no evidence to support it, to suggest that Flagg, with two publications of psalmody to his credit, a library of tunebooks, and wider experience, was probably in as good a position to instruct Billings in the composition of psalmody. Perhaps Billings studied with both men, and other, unknown, teachers as well. This statement is not meant to imply that Billings entered into a formal, structured course of compositional instruction with Flagg, Barry, or any other teacher. More likely is that after receiving a basic understanding of the rudiments of music in the singing school, Billings tried his hand at writing simple psalm-tunes and brought them to his singing master for advice and criticism. The singing master may also have loaned Billings some theoretical works, such as Tans’ur’s A New Musical Grammar, Playford’s An Introduction to the Skill of Musick, and the tunebooks of Arnold, Ashworth, and Davenport, all of which contain rules for composition.
18 On October 2, 1769, Billings and John Barry advertised the opening of a singing school in the Boston Gazette. See Nathan, William Billings, p. 18.
19 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 31–32.
20 The New-England Psalm-Singer (hereafter cited as NEPS), p. 2.
21 In The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (Boston, 1781), p. 2 (hereafter cited as PSA), Billings states that “This Work is a Part of the Book of Anthems, which I have so LONG promised.” Some of the fuging-tunes, choruses, and anthems were most likely also published in Billings’s The Singing Master’s Assistant (Boston, 1778; hereafter cited as SMA).
22 The American branch of this musical tradition, which represents an important segment of eighteenth-century American music, has been studied by such scholars as Frank E. Metcalf, Irving Lowens, Allen Britton, Richard Crawford, and many others. The British branch, upon whose musical practices the American part rests, represents only one facet of the rich eighteenth-century British musical life, and has only recently received serious scholarly attention in Nicholas Temperley’s The Music of the English Parish Church. Professor Temperley graciously made portions of the work available to the editor in typescript.
23 William Tans’ur, in his A Compleat Melody, 3d ed. (London, 1736), p. 55, writes: “most modern Authors Compose the Tenor, or Leading-Part First.” In succeeding paragraphs he goes on to describe the methods of setting the bass, treble, and counter voices to the tenor melody.
24 Hans Gram, Oliver Holden, and Samuel Holyoke define “Air” as “what the ear realizes from a melody, or harmony. In a special sense it is the leading part.” Massachusetts Compiler of Theoretical and Practical Elements of Sacred Vocal Music (Boston, 1795), p. [xxxiv]. It seems apparent that, when Billings, Tans’ur, and other psalmodists speak of “taking the air” of a tune, they are referring to the general melodic, rhythmic, and tonal characteristics of the melody and not simply to the principal melody itself. Speaking of composition in his Continental Harmony (Boston, 1794), p. xxxi, Billings writes: “the first part is nothing more than a flight of fancy, the other parts are forced to comply and conform to that, by partaking of the same air, or, at least, as much of it as they can get.” Many melodic and rhythmic similarities between the principal melody and the accompanying voices are to be found in Billings’s tunes; but except in fuges there is rarely direct imitation. Thus it would appear that these similarities are what Billings means by the “air” of the tune which the secondary voices are to assume. The concept is not clearly defined in any eighteenth-century dictionary of musical terms that I have seen; however, its frequent use in discussions of parish-style counterpoint all seem to carry this meaning.
25 Jean Tinctoris, The Art of Counterpoint, translated by Albert Seay, (Rome, 1961), Book III, p. 132f. Most of Tinctoris’s eight rules, particularly those dealing with melodic motion, are substantially the same as those given by Tans’ur.
26 Tunes are frequently found in manuscript collections, and occasionally in printed collections, in only two parts: tenor and bass.
27 Maurice Frost, English & Scottish Psalm & Hymn Tunes, c. 1543–1677 (London, 1953), passim. See also Temperley, p. 65–73.
28 Nicholas Temperley, “John Playford and the Metrical Psalms,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, v. 25 (Fall 1972), p. 334–335.
29 The principal polyphonic psalters of the English Renaissance were: The Whole Psalmes in Foure Parts (London, 1563)—the so-called Parsons’s psalter; William Daman, The Psalmes of David in English Meter (London, 1579); William Daman, The Former Booke ([London], 1591); The Whole Booke of Psalmes: With their Wonted Tunes (London, 1592)—East’s psalter; Richard Allison, The Psalmes of David in Meter (London, 1599); The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London, c. 1599)—Barley’s psalter; and Thomas Ravens-croft, The Whole Booke of Psalmes: With the Hymns (London, 1621). Of these seven psalters, Parsons’s (1563) and the two by Daman (1579 and 1591) have motet-like settings. The others employ essentially homorhythmic settings.
The principal difference between the psalm-tune settings of the English Renaissance psalters and those found in eighteenth-century Anglo-American tunebooks appears to lie less in the compositional technique than in the use of the modal system of tonal organization in the former and a simplified major-minor tonal system in the latter. Unquestionably, the English Renaissance composers were better-trained musicians than the eighteenth-century country psalmodists, but they followed similar compositional procedures.
30 Playford claimed in his preface to have printed the tunes in his Whole Book of Psalms, “exactly according to present use and practice.” Raising several objections to Ravenscroft’s settings, he writes, “to remedy all this, I thought it less pain to set forth a new one, than to take away these inconveniences in the old.” However, of the fifty-one tunes in common between the Ravenscroft and Playford psalters, thirty-nine show enough similarities in their settings to indicate that Playford based these settings on Ravenscroft, changing the older settings where necessary to bring them into line with his intentions. See Temperley, “John Playford,” for a discussion of Playford’s pivotal role in English psalmody.
31 A significant difference between Bayley’s tunebooks and the earlier American items is that Bayley placed the principal melody in the tenor voice rather than in the cantus as it appears in Playford and other three-part settings taken from Playford. In some of Bayley’s settings the medius has been significantly altered; in others it remains essentially the same as Playford’s.
32 The trills which appear in the treble, counter, and tenor voices are characteristic of Arnold’s settings of the tunes in his collection. They do not appear in any edition of Playford’s psalter and are related to the embellished psalm-tune of the eighteenth century, to be discussed presently.
33 Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, p. 88–89.
34 This was called “the old way of singing” by many writers of the time. See, for example, Thomas Walter, The Grounds and Rules of Musick Explained (Boston, 1721), p. 2–3. See also Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, p. 91–98.
35 The purpose of Broome’s collection seems to have been to record the performance practice of psalm-tunes in London parish churches for possible use in the churches of Birmingham (cf. title page). Each of the sixteen tunes in the collection is highly ornamented, but Broome apparently provided no rules or instructions for performing the ornaments. For further examples of ornamented psalm-tunes see Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, v. 2, p. 51–53.
36 Henry Playford, The Divine Companion, 3d ed. (London, 1715), p. [v.]. Temperley writes: “Playford claimed to be following the footsteps of his father. . . . The music was entirely new, and it catered intelligently to the needs of the new choirs, providing hymns and canons (probably for use at meetings out of church), psalm tunes (six of them by John Blow), and nineteen anthems. . . . The book was a success. A second and augmented edition appeared in 1707 . . . [and] three more editions appeared with little change in contents.” See Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, p. 163.
37 Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1908–1909), v. 19, p. 363.
38 Tans’ur probably compiled his theoretical introductions from earlier tunebooks. Particularly relevant is John Playford’s An Introduction to the Skill of Mustek, published in nineteen editions between 1654 and 1730. Tans’ur, in fact, could have compiled the theoretical introduction to his A Compleat Melody (London, 1734) from Playford’s twelfth edition (1694), “Corrected and Amended by Mr. Henry Purcell,” for it contains all the information on note-reading and composing that Tans’ur covered. These sections were reprinted in later editions of Playford’s book, the last edition of which came out only four years before Tans’ur’s first tunebook. A comparison of Tans’ur’s text with Playford’s reveals many similar phrases and manners of expression. That Tans’ur was not an original theorist does not, of course, detract from his influence among Anglo-American psalmodists.
39 J. Murray Barbour, in his The Church Music of William Billings (East Lansing, 1960), and McKay and Crawford in their biographical study use the term “responsorial” or “responsive” tunes. The editor prefers to call these antiphonal tunes because by definition responsorial singing involves the alternation of soloists with a choir, while antiphonal singing calls for musical interchange between two choirs. Since there is no evidence that the sectional solos and duets were performed by solo voices, the term “antiphonal” seems a more accurate description of the technique. See Willi Apel, Harvard Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, 1969), p. 727, “Responsorial Singing.”
40 See Karl Kroeger, “The Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony and Sacred Music in America, 1786–1803,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1976), p. 332–334, for a discussion of the origins and history of the fuging-tune, which amends some of the findings in Irving Lowens’s well-known article, “The Origins of the American Fuging-Tune,” in his Music and Musicians in Early America (New York, 1964), p. 237–248. See also Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, p. 173–176
41 A distinction is often made between the anthem as a through-composed setting of a prose, usually scriptural, text and the set-piece as a through-composed setting of a metrical poetic text. There appears not to have been always a clear-cut distinction in the minds of many American composers of psalmody. Billings wrote, “I think any piece of divine music, that is not divided into metre [i.e., set strophically] (excepting canons and chanting pieces) may with propriety be called an Anthem.” See William Billings, The Continental Harmony, p. xxxii (hereafter cited as CH). A number of eighteenth-century works called anthems by their composers do set poetical texts. In eighteenth-century usage, the term “set-piece” implied that all the words of a text were set to music and that the setting was through-composed, not strophic. By this definition the anthem was a species of set-piece, one which usually employed a scriptural prose text, but was by no means limited to it. See Kroeger, “The Worcester Collection,” p. 399–403. See also W. Thomas Marrocco, “The Set Piece,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, v. 15 (Fall 1962), p. 348–352.
42 See Elwyn A. Wienandt and Robert H. Young, The Anthem in England and America (New York, 1970), p. 3–23.
43 Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church, p. 167.
44 Flagg included Morning Hymn from Urania in his A Collection of the Best Psalm Tunes (Boston, 1764). The attribution, “L–––n,” in the caption title of the Flagg copy leaves no doubt of his source for the tune. Richard Crawford has documented the influence of Lyon’s tunebook on New England psalmody for over three decades after its initial publication. See his preface to the facsimile edition of Urania (New York, 1974), p. xiii–xv. In a communication to the editor Crawford suggested that Billings’s setting of the text, “The Lord descended from above,” might have been influenced by Lyon’s setting of the same text in Urania. Points of similarity between the two settings give some support to this suggestion.
45 See the “Advertisement” on p. 21 of the theoretical introduction, where Billings says: “The Author having to his great Loss deferred the Publication of these sheets for Eighteen Months, to have them put on American Paper, hopes the Delay will be pardoned.” The reason for the delay was the non-importation agreement on items taxed under the Townshend Acts, which included paper.
46 SMA; see The Complete Works of William Billings, v. 2, edited by Hans Nathan (hereafter cited as WB ii), p. 5.
47 It is possible that some of Billings’s tunes, such as Brookfield, Amherst, and Chester, had limited circulation in manuscript copies prior to publication. Such a circulation may have been an inducement to subscribers. However, none of the tunes by Billings copied into American tunebooks of the 1760s that I have seen bears any date; so it is impossible to tell if they predate the publication of NEPS. Many later American composers of psalmody, such as Daniel Read, Oliver Holden, and Timothy Swan, had a few tunes printed elsewhere that achieved some popularity before they embarked upon the publication of a collection of their own pieces.
48 In his preface to NEPS Billings thanks “those Gentlemen who have put so much Confidence in this Performance as to promote and encourage it by Subscription, before they could have an Opportunity of examining it.” Subscription publishing was a common means of testing a book’s sales potential in the eighteenth century. It obligated neither the purchaser nor the publisher, and if the book did not attract enough subscriptions it was not printed. Many eighteenth-century American tunebooks were published by subscription. The cost of NEPS, at eight shillings, was comparable to the price of other Anglo-American tunebooks of the day, and represented a rather substantial outlay of money. See Kroeger, p. 74.
49 Clarence S. Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings (Worcester, 1954), p. 89; McKay and Crawford, p. 44–45 and 45n.
50 This is particularly evident in the plates of musical examples for the theoretical introduction, which look as if they had been produced in a great hurry, perhaps under the pressure of a publication deadline.
51 Brigham, p. 89.
52 McKay and Crawford, p. 45n.
53 There are small but significant calligraphic differences which, when added to the generally poorer engraving style, strongly suggest that Flagg did not engrave the work. Small discrepancies include the shape of the alto clef, the size and shape of sharps, and the fact that in NEPS notes below the center line of the staff are frequently punched with the stem pointing down, which rarely occurs in Flagg’s Sixteen Anthems. Such calligraphic differences are suggestive, for music engravers and copyists frequently adopt characteristic mannerisms which remain constant throughout their work.
If not Revere or Flagg, then who can one suggest as the engraver? Why not Billings himself? This is exactly the kind of challenge he would have undertaken with enthusiasm. Flagg’s tools would have largely eliminated the need for special manual dexterity. (Billings was described by Gould as having “one arm somewhat withered,” but while this may have complicated the task, it certainly does not rule out his performing it, and may account for the appearance of the engraving.) In addition, there is an informality about the tunebook which surely betrays Billings’s own involvement with the production of the plates. This includes the frequent adding of omitted letters above a word, the note about the omission of texts because of inconvenience at the foot of page I of the music, misspelled words, and strikeovers to correct wrong notes. All of these are almost non-existent in Flagg. The evidence is circumstantial but suggestive.
54 Byles became Billings’s pastor later when Billings joined the Hollis Street Church. See McKay and Crawford, p. 57.
55 McKay and Crawford, p. 45.
56 Aaron Williams, The Universal Psalmodist, 3d ed. (London, 1765), p. 134. Although not designated as such, the second phrase of Williams’s canon could be sung as a ground bass and was probably the model for Billings’s canon.
57 McKay and Crawford, p. 48–56.
58 This is the second stanza of the hymn set to Billings’s fuging-tune, Europe. Not credited to another author in NEPS, it also does not appear in any collection of hymns available at the time. Four of the nine unattributed hymns in NEPS were later claimed by Billings as his own poetry. It seems reasonable to assume that the other five, including the one in question, are also his.
59 McKay and Crawford, p. 49.
60 McKay and Crawford, p. 50.
61 This seems unlikely because Stockbridge, according to the biographical sketch in Clifford K. Shipton’s Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, v. 13 (Boston, 1965), p. 492–493, had strong Tory sympathies which would probably have prevented any intimacy between him and Billings that might have led to a patron-protégé relationship.
62 Billings edited one issue of the Boston Magazine in October 1783. His efforts aroused the indignation of some Boston gentlemen, who succeeded in having him replaced in the November issue. See Anderson, p. 56; also McKay and Crawford, p. 127–128.
63 Billings was noted for his impulsive, non-conforming behavior. It is possible that he somehow came across a copy of the essay, was attracted by it, and applied to the author for permission to publish it in his tunebook, not as a talisman or expression of homage but simply because the subject interested him. That the author gave his permission on the condition that it be published anonymously suggests that he was not altogether comfortable with either the essay or its place of publication.
64 For a comprehensive discussion of the theoretical introduction to the tunebook, its history, and its function in music instruction see Allen P. Britton, “Theoretical Introductions to American Tune-Books to 1800” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1949).
65 NEPS, p. 109. In this edition this section is placed immediately following Chapter X, the dictionary of musical terms (see p. 35 of this volume).
66 Billings, Bayley, and other American compilers, as well as Englishmen such as Arnold and Davenport, borrowed considerable material from William Tans’ur. Tans’ur, in turn, took much of his information from earlier writers, particularly Henry Purcell’s revision of Playford’s Introduction to the Skill of Musick (see fn. 38). Playford, in his turn, relied on the theoretical works of Thomas Campion and Thomas Morley, who themselves were endebted to Aron, Gafurius, Glareanus, Zarlino, and other theorists of the sixteenth century. Most compilers were selective in their borrowings, seldom excerpting whole sections or quoting directly; however, compilers in the parish-church-music tradition were less careful in this matter than their earlier colleagues, and frequently lifted whole passages from other authors with little or no change, and without acknowledgment.
67 The discussions would strike the present-day musician as adequate, except for one. That exception is the trill sign, which Billings says “is to direct the Performer to Shake or Grace any note it is plac’d over.” He does not explain it further, leaving the student completely in the dark regarding its use, execution, or manner of performance. A rather detailed discussion of the trill and other graces is found in Williams’s The Universal Psalmodist, p. 19–20, a tunebook from which Billings drew substantial parts of his theoretical introduction. Billings made no attempt to be comprehensive in his choice or explanation of musical symbols, covering only the ones he used in his work.
68 This relic of the Renaissance proportional system of musical notation, in which the time signature carried an implied tactus, remained a part of psalmody until well into the nineteenth century, in spite of efforts by some tunebook compilers to introduce the standard contemporary European practice of a variable tempo for any time signature depending upon the musical context.
69 NEPS, p. 14.
70 The metronomic equivalent is based on the basic tempo of the quarter-note in the first mood being “exactly one Second,” or 𝅘𝅥 = M.M.60. A table of metronomic equivalents is included on p. lxvi of this volume.
71 Billings later settled on a five-to-four relationship (𝅘𝅥 = M.M.75), although most American tunebook compilers called for a four-to-three proportion (𝅘𝅥 = m.m.80). See WB II, p. 10, and CH, p. vii.
72 NEPS, p. 15.
73 This was a standard formula found in the theoretical introductions of most tunebooks. Concern for matching the mood of the text with the appropriate musical mood extends at least as far back in the history of psalmody as Ravenscroft’s psalter of 1621. However, the formula was never followed slavishly, and many exceptions can be found, particularly with Psalms of praise being set to minor-mode melodies. See Temperley, “John Playford,” p. 351–352.
74 In later compositions Billings infrequently used key signatures as far removed as six sharps and four flats.
75 This recommendation came from Tans’ur’s New Musical Grammar, p. 57. However, in CH, p. xxv–xxvi, Billings wrote: “For anyone who is acquainted with music will allow that a sharp [major] key tune ending on a D, is much more sprightly and expresses a shout better than one which stands on C; so likewise, a flat [minor] key tune ending on G is more pensive and melancholy, than one which ends on A, and every letter has its own peculiar air, which air is very much hurt if the tune is not rightly pitched.” The passage in NEPS, though quoted from Tans’ur, implies that from early in his career Billings had a strong sense of key color. The variety of keys which Billings used in the music of NEPS is greater than one normally finds in English tunebooks of the day. Tans’ur’s Royal Melody Compleat uses nine keys for sixty-six tunes, forty of which are either G major or A minor. Williams’s Universal Psalmodist employs nine keys for 137 tunes, 110 of which are either G major, A minor, or C major.
76 For a contrasting view, see Irving Lowens’s statement in his article “The American Tradition of Church Song,” Music and Musicians in Early America, p. 283, that “When it was composed this music [i.e., psalmody] was experienced rather than heard because it was not written for an audience’s appreciation or to tickle the ear—it was written to be experienced in performance by performers. How it ‘sounded’ to the non-participant was of very little importance.” Lowens’s remarks seem not to apply to Billings.
77 See, for example, Gilbert Chase, America’s Music (New York, 1955), p. 140; Ellinwood, p. 50; and H. Wiley Hitchcock, “William Billings and the Yankee Tunesmiths,” Hi Fi/Stereo Review, v. 16 (February 1966), p. 57.
78 For a summary of the effects of the Townshend Acts, see Richard B. Morris, Encyclopedia of America History (New York, 1961), p. 76–79.
79 The tunebook was most often used in the singing school, where tunes were sung with a text only after they were learned with fasola syllables. In church the congregation sang mostly in unison, knew most of the melodies by heart, and needed only the words, which were provided in psalters and hymnals without music. When choirs became an accepted part of the Congregational Church, both the tunebook and hymnal were necessary, and were used simultaneously, often with amusing results. See Nathaniel D. Gould, History of Church Music in America (Boston, 1853), p. 113–114.
80 This term refers to diads in the bass that form chord inversions other than root position. Billings frequently employed a ground bass sung an octave below the range of the normal bass voice. Occasionally, in order to provide an easier voice leading for the lower part, Billings altered the interval to a sixth or a fourth, usually forming a second inversion triad with the other voices. These altered ground-bass notes are called “false bass” here, and are seen in many of Billings’s pieces thought to date from early in his career (New-Town, Barre, and Nutfield, for example), as well as in some which seem to come from a later period (e.g., Taunton, Middlesex, and Old North). They tend to occur less frequently in the more complex tunes, thought to be later, and disappear almost completely in SMA.
81 These chords, made up of what Billings called “chusing notes,” allowed the performer to choose which of several notes to sing, and were probably added by Billings to increase the choral sonority. As upper parts become more melodically independent, the use of choosing notes diminishes, until in SMA they are rarely encountered, except at cadences. The lower note of the treble diad or triad in NEPS often duplicates the pitch of the counter voice, and may have been Billings’s device for strengthening a weak counter section. The younger, less experienced singers were probably assigned to the counter part because of its limited range and simpler rhythmic demands.
82 The development of the treble and counter lines into semi-independent melodies is the single most significant trait in determining early and late works in NEPS. The presence of contrary or oblique motion between the upper part and the tenor melody, the independence of rhythmic activity, and the range of the treble and counter melodies are considered important in determining melodic independence. Although he never expressed the goal in his writings, it seems clear that Billings attempted to develop a contrapuntal style in which the tenor and treble vie for prominence, while the counter—always less important—usually plays a supporting role in strengthening and stabilizing the harmony.
83 While it seems evident that some of Billings’s pieces were composed later than others, there is no way of knowing over just how long a span of time they were written. It appears certain from Billings’s own testimony that most, if not all, of the works in The New-England Psalm-Singer were composed by mid-1769. The size of the tunebook, the range of styles and competence encountered, and the fact that a second collection was also ready to be engraved and published suggest that Billings had been composing for years. It seems probable that he began writing tunes, as pointed out earlier (see fn. 17), during his singing-school studies. However, we have so little data about Billings’s early life and training that an effort to establish a chronology further enters the realm of pure speculation.
84 The parish style is characterized by a fast-paced melody, with frequent, short melismas in all parts and considerable melodic and rhythmic independence in the treble and counter parts. See Kroeger, p. 260. Particularly significant in Billings’s stylistic development appears to be a tune entitled No. 45—not Psalm 45 as cited in McKay and Crawford, p. 43. No verification of any version of Psalm 45 is in Hallelujah Meter, nor is Hymn 45 in the Appendix, to which all of Billings’s other hymn citations refer. This leaves two possibilities to consider: either Billings was referring to a hymn collection that he failed to identify, or this composition was numbered “45” in his basic manuscript collection, which was carried over into NEPS as the title of the tune. The many early traits make the latter possibility seem likely; and if true, this tune stands as an important demarcation point on Billings’s path of stylistic development.
85 The five tunes followed by asterisks were included in SMA. In addition, Brookline was reprinted in Music in Miniature (hereafter cited as MM).
86 McKay and Crawford, p. 47–48, note the existence in Boston in 1762 of a singing group called the “Tansur Singers” who met occasionally at the home of John Tileston. Although it is not known if the 16-year-old Billings was a member, it is gratifying to think that he might have been and thus that he was familiar with Tans’ur’s music for nearly a decade before his own first opus appeared.
87 Included are the tunes called Broomsgrove and St. Martin’s, the latter of which seems to have served as Billings’s model for his parish-style tunes in triple meter.
88 Frédéric Louis Ritter, Music in America (New York, 1890), p. 63.
89 Thomas Hastings, Alexander Thayer, and Nathaniel D. Gould are examples. In general, as writers grew more remote in time from the Billings era, they showed less understanding of and sympathy for his style. Even Oscar Sonneck, who understood Billings’s cultural context, could not bring himself to recognize Billings’s mastery of the style in which he chose to write (see Sonneck, p. 115, and 310–311). It remained for J. Murray Barbour, in his Church Music of William Billings, to recognize the distinctive features of Billings’s style and to analyze his music without imposing upon it a preconceived theoretical standard.
90 As pointed out in footnote 38, Tans’ur probably compiled his theoretical introduction largely from Playford’s Introduction to the Skill of Musick. American psalmodists probably used Tans’ur rather than Playford because of its easier availability.
91 Suspensions are rarely found in Anglo-American parish psalmody. A more complex dissonance than the simple passing tone, suspensions require a coordination of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements which prepare and resolve the dissonant tone in a way that seems to have been beyond the control of most composers of psalmody.
92 5th ed. (London, 1753).
93 (London, c. 1760).
94 5th ed. (London, 1761).
95 NEPS, p. 19.
96 NEPS, p. 20. Billings wrote: “But as I have often heard of Poetical Licence, I don’t see why with the same Propriety there may not be a Musical Licence.”
97 Tans’ur, A Compleat Melody, p. 61.
98 For example, two-thirds of the tunes in Tans’ur’s Royal Melody Compleat and almost half in Williams’s Universal Psalmodist are in common meter. Strangely, Tans’ur includes no tunes at all in short meter.
99 This corresponds with the prevailing trend in English psalmody. Tans’ur and Williams strongly favor the triple moods of time; for example, Tans’ur used triple meter in over seventy-five percent of the tunes in his Royal Melody Compleat. The iambic foot found in most English psalms and hymns fits the triple-time moods quite naturally by assigning two beats to the stressed syllable and one to the unstressed.
100 See Williams, Universal Psalmodist, 3d ed., p. 25. Billings later wrote: “The transposing of B-mi oftentimes serves to keep the tune more in the compass of the five lines, than it could be, if B-mi stood in its native place” (CH, p. xxv).
101 See Ashworth, A Collection of Tunes, p. 9; see also Arnold, The Compleat Psalmodist, 5th ed., p. xvi.
102 For a more extended discussion of the forms of Anglo-American psalmody, see Crawford, Andrew Law, p. 14–17, and Kroeger, Chapters VI–VIII.
103 Europe, from NEPS, and several later fuging-tunes were reprinted in MM without the fuging chorus, emphasizing the detachability of this section. Tans’ur wrote in the preface of his Royal Melody Compleat, p. 13, “I have adapted Good and agreeable MUSICK, to the best Portions of the PSALMS of David, of either Versions; which is neither too dull, nor yet too gay, but such as well becomes the Subject of the Words; with many Fuging Chorus’s which may be omitted, where Voices can’t be had to perform them according to Art.” See also Lowens, “The Original of the American Fuging-Tune,” p. 245n.
104 NEPS, foot of p. 1 of the music.
105 See McKay and Crawford, p. 58. Perez Morton may also have been the pseudonymous Philo-Musico who contributed the footnote on the use of the pendulum to determine tempo, and the poem in praise of sacred music to the theoretical introduction of NEPS (p. 15 and 21 respectively). Both contributions were sent from Cambridge where Morton was a student at Harvard College, and the P.M.—Philo-Musico-Perez Morton connection is too suggestive to ignore.
106 The first printing of the collection appears to be 1760; see Clifford K. Shipton and James E. Mooney, National Index of American Imprints (Barre, Mass., 1969), p. 965. Later reprints were issued by many printers including M. Dennis (1762), John Boyles (1771), and Mills and Hicks (1773). According to Henry Wilder Foote, Three Centuries of American Hymnody (Cambridge, 1940), p. 159, Mather Byles introduced the collection into his Hollis Street Church. Foote also implies that Byles compiled the Appendix.
107 McKay and Crawford, p. 59, say “four anthems and one set-piece.” They consider “The Lord Descended from Above” to be a set-piece because of its poetical text (Sternhold and Hopkins, Psalm 18, v. 9–10). Billings’s own caption title reads: “An Anthem Psalm 18.” See also fn. 41.
108 In SMA Billings makes a strong statement about correct pronunciation, saying that “Musicial [sic] pronouncers must never sacrifice the sense, for the sake of softening the sound; but were [where] the sense and sound run counter to each other, the sound must give way.” See WB ii, p. 17. This dictum might be equally applied to accents: where the musical and textual accents conflict, the text accents prevail. Billings’s own interest in accurate declamation and correct accentuation of the text, demonstrated by such statements as that quoted above and the examples of his later anthems and psalm-tunes, was a major factor in the decision to rebar pieces in this edition having metrical and accentual problems.
109 CH, p. xxix, emphasis original.
110 Ashford, Chelsea, Dorchester, Fairfield, Haverill, and Middlesex.
111 Europe, No. 45, and Sapphick Ode.
112 Boston and Lebanon.
113 SMA; see WB II, p. 6.
114 George Hood, A History of Music in New England, p. 166–167.
115 P. 3. Richard Crawford has identified an incomplete copy of an untitled collection at the American Antiquarian Society as New-England Harmony. It had previously been known only by a separate title page. Although the identification is somewhat speculative, it is based on persuasive evidence. See Crawford’s forthcoming bibliography of early American tunebooks for details.
116 P. 177, 81, and 47, respectively.
117 Africa, Amherst, Boston, Brookfield, Chester, Hebron, Lebanon, and Suffolk.
118 Richard Crawford, “The Core Repertory of American Psalmody (1698–1810) and First American Printings.” Mimeographed sheet. This list includes the 100 tunes most often reprinted in American tunebooks between 1698 and 1810, among them Amherst, Brookfield, Chester, and Lebanon by Billings, first published in NEPS.
119 P. 12 and 8 respectively. French was a member of Billings’s singing school held in Stoughton in 1774. It is possible that French acquired Barry and Uxbridge at that time, perhaps in revised versions by Billings which he never published in his own tunebooks. It was rather unusual for an American tunebook compiler to alter significantly another composer’s setting which the compiler reprinted, and French was no exception to this practice. See Marvin C. Genuchi, “The Life and Music of Jacob French” (Ph.D. dissertation, State University of Iowa, 1964), p. 40.
120 Brookfield, Amherst, and Chester are found with some frequency in these manuscript additions. The tunebooks are usually those published by Daniel Bayley, such as A New and Compleat Introduction and American Harmony, both of which contain only English tunes.
121 See WB II, p. 6.
122 The manuscript, now in the possession of Mrs. Dorothy Waterhouse of Boston, was compiled by Susanna (Sukey) Heath in Brookline, Mass., between 1780 and 1782. See Richard Crawford and David P. McKay, “Music in Manuscript: A Massachusetts Tune-book of 1782,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, v. 84 (April 1974), p. 43–64.
123 Germantown, Hackers Hall, Hatfield, Plymouth, and Raynham.
124 Morpheus, Victory, Weymouth. Bradford and Spencer were published in SMA as Consolation and Bolton, respectively, but the manuscript versions have significant changes which cause one to suspect that they are the original versions of these pieces which Billings revised for publication in SMA.
125 The manuscript tradition in American psalmody is a subject which has been examined only in its most general aspects by scholars. It appears to be a fruitful subject for further investigation.
126 P. 37 of Read’s manuscript tunebook.
127 P. 2 of Read’s manuscript tunebook.
128 See McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 221–231, for details. If Billings’s copyright petition had been successful, it would have made it more difficult to judge the influence of NEPS in the way that has just been done, since copyright would have inhibited the circulation of music, reserving it to the author’s benefit. The federal copyright law of 1790 probably did have that effect to some extent. Few of Billings’s tunes published after 1790 appear in the collections of other compilers, while his earlier, unrestricted tunes are included with undiminished popularity.
129 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 71–74.
130 Supply Belcher (1751–1836) and Jacob French (1754–1817) were both born in Stoughton. The music of both composers shows a marked similarity to Billings’s style.
131 Crawford, Andrew Law, p. 7.
132 It may well be that William Selby, organist at King’s Chapel who immigrated to Boston in c. 1771, assisted Billings’s technical advances. A trained musician and composer, Selby seems to have admired Billings’s music enough to include some of it on his concert programs in later years. See McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 152; see also David McKay, “William Selby, Musical Émigré in Colonial Boston,” The Musical Quarterly, v. 57 (October 1971), p. 609–627.
133 See the facsimiles of the Waterhouse Manuscript following Crawford and McKay, “Music in Manuscript,” p. 64, and fn. 124.
134 A reason for this may have been the conscious attempts by English parish composers to emulate the music of the cathedral choirs. Held up to them as models by clerics and musicians, they were encouraged to follow their lead. No such models existed in America. Another influence on English parish-church music which may explain its separation from American is the intermittent involvement of professional musicians in parish psalmody with pressures for technical reform. In eighteenth-century America, with few exceptions, the worlds of the professional musician and the psalmodist did not touch, and pressure for reform came mostly from the ranks of the clergy, whose case for reform in American church music was based on aesthetic rather than technical matters. See Temperley, Music of the English Parish Church, p. 105–225, passim.
135 One can follow the development of cracks in the plates through the surviving copies. At least fourteen copies of NEPS are found in the following libraries (locations given in National Union Catalog symbols): CSmH, CtY (lacks title page), DLC (2 copies, 1 incomplete), GEU, MB, MHi (2 copies, both incomplete), MWA, MiU-C (2 copies, 1 incomplete), NN (incomplete), NjP (incomplete), RPJCB. The editor is grateful to Richard Crawford for supplying the locations from his forthcoming bibliography of early American tunebooks. Of the surviving copies, RPJCB appears in the best condition, with the clearest printing, and was probably the earliest to be printed. This copy was used for the photographs of the tunebook found in this volume. Several of the incomplete copies (DLC, MiU-C, and NN) have only 96 pages, lacking the final anthem and the Sapphick Ode. Since these copies show no traces of torn-out pages, it may be that NEPS was issued in two states: the complete version of 110 pages, and an abbreviated version of 96 pages.
136 NEPS, p. 14.
137 Of the six texted pieces captioned to a psalm, five cite the Brady and Tate New Version. The one that does not—Milton, to Psalm 145—includes a composite text which appears to have lines from both the Sternhold and Hopkins and Brady and Tate versions, as well as by Billings himself. (See Commentary for Milton.)
138 Barre, reprinted as Barry in French’s The Psalmodist’s Companion, is the only instance of this in Volume I.
139 The following tunes from NEPS were rebarred by Billings in SMA and MM: Amherst, Boston, Dorchester, Europe, Lebanon, Pumpily, and Sapphick ODE (see WB ii, p. 54, 40, 60, 284, 78, 114, and 105, respectively). In addition to rebarring, Billings altered the temporal value of some notes.
140 M. 55–59 in the anthem “Blessed is He That Considereth the Poor” is a somewhat extreme case in point; however, the musical rhythm fitted the 5/8 meter so closely that to force the music into another, more commonly used meter would have seemed as awkward as Billings’s own choice.
1 See The New-England Psalm-Singer, p. 15; The Continental Harmony, p. xx–xxi.
2 For more on tempo see David P. McKay and Richard Crawford, William Billings of Boston (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 241–245.
3 See The Singing Master’s Assistant, Lesson X, p. 16.
4 The introductory matter in Billings’s publications, however, appears with original spelling and punctuation.
1 The Nerves are cylindrical, whitish Fibres originating in the Brain, and running from thence to every Part of the Body capable of Sensation. They are the immediate Instruments of Sensation, Motion, and Nutrition of the several Parts of the whole human Fabric.—It is by means of the Nerves that we see, hear, taste, smell and feel, and if they are suspended in their Origin, all the animal Functions immediately cease, and Death ensues. They may, therefore, properly be called the immediate Organs of Perception.
2 Four Pendulums, properly managed, will be sufficient to regulate the Time of the seven Moods commonly used in Psalmody. A Crotchet in the Adagio Mood, which seems to be the Theme or Root from whence all the other six are derived, is to be sounded the length of one second of Time or the Sixtieth part of a Minute; consequently a Pendulum, whose length from the point of suspension to the Center of Oscillation, (which in Pendulums made of very small lines, is about the Center of the Bob,) is thirty-nine Inches and two tenths of an Inch, will vibrate it’s [sic] true time. The Largo Mood is to be sung quicker than the Adagio, in a proportion of 4 to 3; therefore a Crotchet in this Mood is to be sounded in the time of an Oscillation of a Pendulum, which is twenty-two Inches and one twentieth in length. As the Allegro Mood is as quick again as the Adagio, the Pendulum answering to Crotchets in that Mood will serve for Minims in this. In the fourth Mood of Common Time, marked thus (24) a Crotchet is sung in the Time of a Crotchet in the Allegro, which is as quick again as the Adagio; therefore the length of a Pendulum to vibrate Crotchets in this Mood, must be nine inches and eight tenths. The first two of the abovementioned Pendulums, may be applied to the two first Moods of Tripla Time. The Pendulum which Oscillates the Time of Crotchets in the Adagio Mood, will Oscillate Minims in the first Mood of Tripla Time; marked thus (32). And the Pendulum which serves for Crotchets in the Largo Mood will serve for Crotchets likewise in the second Mood of Tripla Time; marked thus (34). But as the Third sort of Tripla Time, marked thus (38) contains but three Quavers in a Bar of equal length of three Quavers in the second sort of Tripla Time, the Movement will be so quick that it will be best to have a Pendulum which will vibrate whole Bars: For which purpose the Pendulum must be in length about fifty inches and two tenths.
cambridge, sept. 26th, 1770.
Notwithstanding the exactness of these Rules for keeping Time, yet Authors are sometimes arbitrary in quickening or slackening the Time, by inserting Musical Phrases over particular Strains, such as Adagio, Slow, Grave, &c. Either of these signify that Strain to be performed somewhat slower than the Mood it is set to: So likewise when you see Allegro, Vivace, Presto, &c. over any particular Strain, it implies that it must be performed something quicker than the Mood that is fixed to it; but when nothing of this Nature occurs; then observe strictly the Rules beforementioned. Before I leave this Subject it may not be amiss to say something with respect to Motion in beating Time, and you may take this as infallable [sic] that your Hand or Foot must always be falling in the first Part or Note in a Bar, and rising in the last Part, both in Common Time and Treble Time. In Treble Time there is a Threefold Motion required to beat a Bar, viz. After this Manner, 1st, in letting your Hand fall, observe that you strike first the Ends of your Fingers, 2d, then the Heel of your Hand, and 3dly, raise your Hand up which finishes the Bar; be sure, that you divide these Motions into three equal Lengths of Time, not allowing more time to one than another. In that Mood of Time called three to two, this Motion beats Minims, and in three from four it beats Crotchets, and in three from eight it beats Quavers, N.B. One Motion serves for all these three Treble Time Moods only one quicker than the other, in proportion to the Rule laid down by Pendulums.
3 Perhaps there may appear (in the Eyes of some) a direct contradiction between this Clause and the 9th Page in the Essay on Sound, where a material Difference is Philosophically prov’d between a Unison and an Octave; but although the Vibrations are as different as that of 2 to 1, yet there is so great a similarity that vulgarly (not strictly) speaking, they are called the same. But however, this is a very nice Point, and must be left for more Mature Heads to comment upon; and I would not advise any who have not had ten or twelve Years Experience in the Science, to perplex themselves about the Definition of it, for I am positive that before they can have a thorough Understanding of this Matter, they must be very well vers’d in the Theory as well as the Practice.
4 All Notes that descend below G Gamut in the Bass, occasion an agreeable Tremor. But in my Opinion double D, viz. (an Octave below the Middle Line of the Bass) is the most commanding and Majestick of any Sound in Nature. N.B. Blowing a Note carries it an Octave below itself, so as to make D blow’d as low as double D not blow’d &c.
5 Such is thy Force, O Harmony Divine!
Such the Effect thou hast upon the Ear!
That all are fore’d to listen to thy Charms,
In pleasing Extacy and fond Amaze.
6 A simple Fellow bro’t a Piece of Prose to Sir Thomas Moore for his Inspection; Sir Thomas told him to put it into Rhime, accordingly he did; upon which Sir Thomas said to him, now it is Rhime; but before it was neither Rhime nor Reason.
7 If the Repeat happens to be omitted the Figures are as Significant and Expressive as if it was inserted. [The material on this and the following page was printed on pages inserted at the end of the tunebook. It should also be noted that the verses attributed to George Whitefield by Billings cannot be sung to the tunes suggested without causing serious accentual distortions. There are no tunes in NEPS which fit this verse pattern.]