THE present volume is the first of four that will comprise the complete works of William Billings. Issued under the dual auspices of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and the American Musicological Society, it is a salute of sorts to our national bicentennial. The Singing Master’s Assistant and Music in Miniature, the two works here reproduced, originated in 1778 and 1779, respectively. More important than the ceremonial or celebratory aspects of the publication, however, is the expression of a new appreciation for Billings’s role in the early history of American music. Composer, poet, theorist, historian, and pedagogue—in his own words, “a musical enthusiast”—Billings enriched the sacred repertory and enlarged the musical understanding of his contemporaries. The American Musicological Society is gratified to have some part in bringing to a modern public the work of this distinguished musician—the first American composer whose complete works will appear in a modern critical edition.
Many people have contributed energy and talent to this undertaking. Hans Nathan, who has adopted the United States as his home and the music of Billings as one of his chief concerns, has first claim to our thanks. Richard Crawford, serving as editorial consultant, has given generously both of his time and of the fruits of his wide experience in the field of early American music. Two former presidents of the Society have had a hand in the project: Claude Palisca, who in 1970 appointed a committee charged with the responsibility for planning appropriate bicentennial activities, and Charles Hamm, who participated from the start in many of that committee’s deliberations, later to become one of its regular members. The original committee consisted of H. Wiley Hitchcock, chairman, Richard Crawford, Cynthia Adams Hoover, and Eileen Southern. In 1973 the chairmanship passed to Cynthia Hoover. Since that time she has continued as our principal liaison with the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. She has set schedules, coordinated the activities of the several individuals and institutions involved and, with infinite patience and tact, steered the matter to its conclusion.
The publication of all four volumes is made possible by financial contributions from the American Musicological Society, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and the Sonneck Memorial Fund administered by the Music Division in the Library of Congress.
janet knapp, President
American Musicological Society