WILLIAM BILLINGS was one of the best-known American musicians of the eighteenth century. He was born in Boston, October 7, 1746, and he died there September 26, 1800. Billings wrote more than three hundred compositions, virtually all of them settings of sacred texts, and he was active for three decades as a teacher of singing-schools. He also wrote vigorous prose and verse. The introductions to several of his tunebooks contain detailed pedagogical material as well as more fanciful, literary sections. He developed his music from British sources and, guided by the needs of the singing-school, attained an idiom of considerable individuality. His works were extremely popular in eighteenth-century America but were gradually overshadowed by European concepts of composition.
Almost all of Billings’s music was originally printed in six collections and seven brief, occasional publications that he brought out himself. A few pieces first appeared in tune-books compiled by others; a few more survive only in manuscript and presumably were not printed in the composer’s lifetime. The critical edition of Billings’s works takes Billings’s own publications as its main source. Its four volumes reflect the order in which the collections first appeared: Vol. I, The New-England Psalm-Singer (1770) [NEPS]; Vol. II, The Singing Master’s Assistant (1778) [SMA] and Music in Miniature (1779) [MM]; Vol. III, The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (1781) [PSA], The Suffolk Harmony (1786) [SH], and the occasional publications; Vol. IV, The Continental Harmony (1794) [CH]. Collections with an introduction by Billings begin in this edition with the same introduction; the compositions in each collection follow in their original order. The sole exception is Music in Miniature. Music in Miniature is the only one of Billings’s publications to include music other than his own; moreover, it reprints pieces in both The New-England Psalm-Singer and The Singing Master’s Assistant. The pieces in Music in Miniature not by Billings are omitted from this edition, which is restricted to pieces by Billings that he published nowhere else and pieces printed in Music in Miniature in versions significantly different from versions in other Billings publications.
Each of Billings’s three major tunebook introductions describes precisely how performers are to derive the correct tempos from the time signatures. Billings’s time signatures are retained, except for 𝇎, which is replaced by 2/2. Table I reduces Billings’s instructions to their metronomic equivalents, which remain fairly consistent over the twenty-four years separating his earliest explanation (1770) from his last (1794).
Table I. Metronomic Equivalents of Billings’s Time Signatures277
|Time signature||Beat note||NEPSa||SMAb||CHc|
. . .
. . .
a. New-England Psalm-Singer, Introduction, Lesson VI.
b. Singing Master’s Assistant, Introduction, Lesson VI.
c. Continental Harmony, Introduction, Lesson VI.
d. In psalm tunes.
e. In anthems and “other brisk Pieces of Music.”
f. In the fourth edition [1786–89] only.
. . . denotes no information.
In this edition metronomic markings based on Billings’s instructions are given for each piece and for each tempo change. The metronomic markings are a reminder of the tempos that Billings wanted his time signatures to represent, but they are to be taken merely as suggestions, as they are in most other musical styles. Occasionally Billings adds a verbal tempo marking. These are to be taken as modifications of the basic pace,278 and the metronome markings supplied in the edition at such places derive from the composer’s directions.279
Slurs mark all melismas in the original printings of Billings’s music. Slurs are here removed, with melismas indicated by a combination of beaming and extended lines within the text.
Billings’s use of accidentals varies from work to work. The New-England Psalm-Singer lacks them almost entirely. The Singing Master’s Assistant and Music in Miniature introduce them, but most are valid only for the note with which they appear. In the present edition Billings’s accidentals are reproduced; consistent with modern practice, they are valid for the entire measure unless otherwise indicated. It is likely that some accidentals were freely applied by the singers in Billings’s time. For example, in The Singing Master’s Assistant the composer twice puts a natural sign in front of a potential leading-tone, perhaps a warning that performers not follow their inclination to raise it.
In Billings’s original publications anthems have the full text underlaid, and, except in The New-England Psalm-Singer and Music in Miniature, psalm and hymn tunes have a single stanza of text, usually printed between the counter (alto) and tenor parts. In The New-England Psalm-Singer the only psalm or hymn tunes with text are those set to words by local poets. The textless tunes were to be sung to the standard devotional poetry of Brady and Tate, Isaac Watts, and other British divines, printed in metrical psalters and hymnbooks and widely circulated in New England. Music in Miniature, a tune supplement designed to be bound at the end of such a psalter or hymn book, consists entirely of textless tunes. Like the psalm and hymn tunes in the rest of Billings’s collections, each is assigned a metrical indication; the performer is free to sing any appropriate tune to any devotional text in the same meter. Billings’s metrical indications and their meanings are as follows:
|Metrical designation||Number of syllables in each line|
C.M. (Common Meter)
S.M. (Short Meter)
L.M. (Long Meter)
H.M. (Hallelujah Meter)
P.M. (Particular Meter)
Any pattern of syllables and lines different from the above schemes
In the present edition texts have been supplied for tunes left textless in The New-England Psalm-Singer and Music in Miniature. The following priorities have governed the editor’s choice of texts:
- 1. Where Billings printed the tune in one of his other publications, the text to which he set it is retained.
- 2. Where another compiler of Billings’s time printed the tune, the text to which he set it is retained.
- 3. Where no contemporaneous printings of the tune with text are known, the editor has chosen one according to his personal preference and Billings’s injunction that singers choose “chearful” words for music in major and “melancholy” words for music in minor.280
Billings himself wrote the texts for some of his compositions, and he took texts from local poets as well. He also wrote the text for at least one of his anthems; for others he borrowed passages from the Bible, often varied them and inserted into them prose and verse additions of his own. For all such texts the version in Billings’s publication is considered authoritative—they were not printed elsewhere—and in all the capitalization has been left intact, with punctuation restored, where necessary, according to eighteenth-century practice.
By far the majority of the texts come from standard British devotional poetry. As copied into Billings’s publications the texts are inconsistent in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, and there would have been no virtue in preserving the inconsistencies here.281 Instead, contemporaneous New England printings of Billings’s text sources have been chosen whenever possible, and texts in this edition conform with them. The Commentary (pages 303–315, below) gives the text source for each piece; all text sources used in this edition are listed on pages 319–323. Details of capitalization and punctuation in the text sources are followed here, except in rare cases where obvious mistakes have been tacitly corrected in conformity with other editions.
Like his contemporaries, Billings customarily printed only one stanza of text with a psalm tune or hymn tune. Yet more than once he supplied original texts in many stanzas for pieces in his collections. And the Singing Master’s Assistant carries text attributions with many pieces to show the singer where to find additional stanzas. Almost all of Billings’s psalm and hymn tunes are strophic pieces, with each of several stanzas sung to the same music. Hence, all stanzas of each text, with a few unavoidable exceptions explained in the Commentary, are reproduced here. The intent is not necessarily that the present-day performer sing every available stanza of each piece, but that he be supplied with all the text his eighteenth-century counterpart had at hand.
Billings makes frequent use of abbreviations (𝄈𝄁𝄈, &c) indicating text repetition. All such repetitions are here written out in full, and repeated words or groups of words are separated by commas. Certain archaic spellings that might confuse the modern performer are also modernized without mention in the Commentary. For example, “ye” when used as an article is replaced by “the.” Such spellings as “sav’our” or “glor’ous”—examples of the eighteenth-century practice of apostrophizing vowels—are here written out as they are pronounced, i.e., “saviour” and “glorious.” Beginnings of lines in poetic texts are here marked by a capital letter, even if they do not appear that way in the originals. Finally, all printing in italics is here eliminated. The significance of Billings’s printing of a few texts in italics is not known; their occurrence is noted in the Commentary.
1 For sigla and abbreviations used in the footnotes, see “Abbreviations and Short Titles Cited in Introduction and Commentary,” this volume, pp. 297–302.
2 WBIII, p. xliv.
3 Billings’s pieces seem to have circulated rather freely in manuscript during the 1770s and early 1780s. Some surviving manuscripts contain tunes by Billings that he never published, or that vary significantly in musical details from versions he did print, suggesting that they are earlier versions which Billings worked over before he published them. None of these pieces, however, appear to be in Billings’s own hand. For a discussion of manuscript sources for Billings’s music, see WBIII, pp. xxxiii–xxxvi.
4 WBIII, p. xliv.
5 Irving Lowens, “The American Tradition of Church Song” in his Music and Musicians in Early America (New York: W. W. Norton, 1964), p. 280.
6 What is suggested here is that the additive compositional technique employed in eighteenth-century psalmody compared to the harmony-based art music of the day stands in a similar relationship to the “prima prattica” and “seconda prattica” of the early seventeenth century: a contrapuntal style versus a harmony-based monodic style. See Don M. Randel, ed., The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, sv. “Prima prattica.”
7 See, however, Nicholas Temperley’s comments in The Journal of the American Musicological Society, XLI, no. 1 (Spring 1988), p. 180.
8 Biographical data have been taken from David P. McKay and Richard Crawford, William Billings of Boston, Eighteenth-Century Composer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), Chap. IV, pp. 157–189, and Hans Nathan, William Billings: Data and Documents (Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1976), pp. 40–46.
9 The Billings family Bible lists eight children born to William and Lucy Billings between 1775 and 1788, of whom five were still living in 1790. In 1790 the eldest surviving child, Abigail Adams Billings, was thirteen. A ninth child, Lucy, was born in 1792. A photograph of the page containing the Billings family record was printed in Frank J. Metcalf, American Composers and Compilers of Sacred Music (New York: Abingdon Press, 1925; repr. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967), facing p. 54.
10 Karl Kroeger, The Worcester Collection of Sacred Harmony and Sacred Music in America, 1786–1803 (Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1976), p. 69, fn. 15.
11 Sacred music activities in Boston during the 1780s are not well documented. However, Oliver Holden, a native of Shirley, Massachusetts, moved to nearby Charlestown in 1786, and by 1788 was involved in area musical activities (see David W. McCormick, Oliver Holden, Composer and Anthologist, D.S.M. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, 1963, pp. 41–43). William Selby and Hans Gram, both immigrants and organists at Boston churches, must have been involved with choral music in their churches. Samuel Holyoke was a student at Harvard College during 1787–1789, and there he was active in sacred music. During the 1790s, the musical scene must have become more competitive with the arrival of more well-trained professionals, such as John Berkenhead, Peter Dolliver (who may have been Hans Gram’s student), Gottlieb Graupner, and the Van Hagen family (see Oscar G. Sonneck, Early Concert-Life in America, 1731–1800, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907, pp. 288–309). Holden’s activities increased significantly during this decade, and Samuel Holyoke, Jacob Kimball, William Cooper, and Isaac Lane, all of whom lived in the general area at the time, may have taught in the Boston area.
12 Nathan (William Billings, p. 41n.) expresses doubt that Billings was actually appointed one of the hogreeves, whose job was to keep stray swine from roaming the streets, since Billings’s name is not listed among these appointments in the Boston newspapers.
13 Quoted in Nathan, William Billings, p. 41.
14 Since Selby was organist at Stone Chapel, his participation in the concert can almost be taken for granted. He had considerable experience in producing sacred music concerts during the 1780s and, in 1787, may have collaborated with Billings in a benefit concert to help rebuild the Hollis Street Meeting House, which had been destroyed by fire (see David P. McKay, “William Selby, a Musical Émigré in Colonial Boston,” The Musical Quarterly, LVII (October 1971), p. 617).
15 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 164.
16 Ebenezer T. Andrews, letter to Isaiah Thomas of June 23, 1791, in Isaiah Thomas Papers at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. The contents of this and others of Andrews’s letters dealing with Billings will be discussed presently.
17 Ebenezer T. Andrews, letter to Isaiah Thomas of June 23, 1791, in Isaiah Thomas Papers at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. The contents of this and others of Andrews’s letters dealing with Billings will be discussed presently.
18 He attended the University of Copenhagen in arts and philosophy, obtaining a PhB degree in 1772. See The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, sv. “Gram, Hans.”
19 McCormick speculates that Gram may have received his musical training from the organist of the Frelsers Kirke in Copenhagen, with which the Gram family had connections. The organ at this church was at that time one of the outstanding instruments in Europe (see McCormick, Oliver Holden, p. 75). “A Card” placed by Gram in the Columbian Centinal of February 18, 1795, states that he “gives Private Tuition on Thorough-Bass, and the proper mode of Accompanying Sacred Music on the Organ” (quoted ibid., p. 73).
20 Worcester 1791, p. 142.
21 Gram 1795, p. 66.
22 Published in Gram 1793; reprinted in Holyoke 1803, p. 312.
23 Published in Boston 1799, p. 25.
24 Published independently by Thomas and Andrews in 1794; reprinted in Worcester 1794, p. 109.
25 Andrews, letter to Thomas of June 23, 1791.
26 Given the lack of evidence or likelihood that Billings played a keyboard instrument, any advice that Gram gave Billings about harmony and thoroughbass would have been without direct application. For a discussion of Billings’s compositional technique see the Introduction to WBIII. pp. xxxix–xli; see also Billings’s own description published in CH (this volume, pp. 32–33).
27 Clifford K. Shipton, Isaiah Thomas (Rochester, New York: Leo Hart, 1948), p. 49.
28 Quotations from Andrews’s letters and data from stock inventories were taken from items in the Isaiah Thomas Papers at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.
29 For a study of this important collection see Kroeger, Worcester Collection. See also Richard Crawford and D. W. Krummel, “Early American Music Printing and Publishing” in Printing and Society in Early America, ed. by William L. Joyce, et al. (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1983), pp. 186–227.
30 Worcester 1786, p. [ii]. A slightly different statement by Thomas about Billings’s preeminence in American psalmody is found in some issues of the first edition of The Worcester Collection as follows: “Mr. WILLIAM BILLINGS, of Boston was the first person we know of that attempted to compose church musick, in the New-England States; his musick met with approbation.” For details see Kroeger, Worcester Collection, p. 78.
31 Union is found on p. 118 of Worcester 1788, and on p. 88 of Worcester 1791.
32 Mann, Stone, and Wood, all composers of psalmody living in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area, had music published in The Worcester Collection. Additionally, Elias Mann served as Isaiah Thomas’s musical adviser for Worcester 1791 and Worcester 1792. Abraham Wood is known to have had connections with Billings. Billings published Wood’s tune Royalston in MIM (1779) and served as sales agent for Wood’s Hymn on Peace published in 1784 (see McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 105).
33 Nathan (William Billings, p. 43) states that the committee consisted of twenty-one members, although no precise information on the size or constitution of the committee has come to light. Nathan’s source is undocumented.
34 The subscription notice was reprinted in Henry M. Brooks, Olden-Time Music (Boston: Ticknor, 1888), pp. 263–265. McKay and Crawford could locate the notice in none of the copies of The Massachusetts Magazine they examined, leading them to suggest that it was printed on one of the magazine’s covers, which was disposed of when the issues were bound (see McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 167).
35 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 168. For Billings’s quote from NEPS, see WBI, p. 32.
36 McKay and Crawford have commented that “Billings’s harmonic style in the Continental Harmony is relatively conventional” (see McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 167n.). In fact, the differences between pieces in that tunebook and music published earlier by Billings are not at all striking.
37 See WBIII, pp. xlii–xliii.
38 This volume, pp. 55–57 and 206–213, respectively.
39 While Billings’s music remained popular with some groups of singers, other potential subscribers—particularly those who considered themselves to possess “correct taste” in church music—undoubtedly looked upon it with some misgiving. William Bentley, for example, wrote of Billings having “more genius than Taste” (see Bentley, The Diary of William Bentley, D.D., 4 vols. [Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1962], II, p. 246, entry for November 21, 1797). In the “Incidents in the Life of Oliver Holden,” MS in the Boston Public Library (quoted in McCormick, Oliver Holden, p. 99), Holden, who was a popular psalmodist and rival of Billings in Boston during the 1790s, wrote: “Billings was less popular in life than since his death.”
40 Nathan, William Billings, p. 42. Billings’s mortgage loan of £40 from Boston baker Edward Tuckerman was not due until January 1, 1794. Thomas may have hesitated to become involved in a financial transaction that did not present a clear title.
41 The printing of the second volume of Holden 1793 stood in the way of beginning work on Billings’s music, and references in Andrews’s letters of June and July 1793 show that this was a major concern. Since most singing schools were held during the late fall and winter months in eastern Massachusetts, tunebook production was scheduled to coincide with them. It was important for potential sales that a tunebook be issued in time to circulate before the singing school season, as Andrews points out in his letter of July 1, 1793: “I suppose we shall get through the first part of Holden’s Musick [The Union Harmony] in about three weeks—intended to have kept on with the second volume in order to have them out seasonably to get known before the schools open.”
42 Nathan, William Billings, p. 59.
43 Andrews’s letters outline the production schedule of Worcester 1791 rather closely. It is clear from his letter of March 23, 1791, that work had just begun on the new edition. By May 26, the typesetters had almost completed the main body of the work (pp. 1–90) and were about to begin the Appendix (pp. 91–143). On July 3 Andrews wrote: “We have got thro’ the music except the 2½ sheets, and quarter of a sheet at the beginning. Shall nearly finish this week, for which I am truly glad.” By July 24, the new edition was finished and Andrews could suggest: “You can also advertise the Worcester Collection.”
44 Full advertisements appeared in the Boston Independent Chronicle for February 10, 1794, and November 3, 1794, and in the Columbian Centinel for February 22, 1794. The tunebook is mentioned in advertisements including other tunebooks in the Independent Chronicle on December 18, 1794, and in the Columbian Centinel for November 12, November 19, December 3, and December 13, 1794. Billings himself advertised the collection for sale in conjunction with his notice of the expanded version of his An Anthem For Easter (Independent Chronicle, November 26, 1795).
45 CH was also advertised on the back page of Worcester 1797 and Worcester 1803, along with other tunebooks that Thomas and Andrews had published.
46 Newspaper advertisements for the collection appeared in the Greenfield Gazette (February 27, December 18 and 21, 1794), The Eagle, or Dartmouth Centinel, Hanover, New Hampshire (May 16, 1796), and the Eastern Herald, Portland, Maine (April 20, 1795). No advertisements were found in newspapers published in Massachusetts south and west of Greenfield, nor in the few Vermont newspapers of the time.
47 A comprehensive search of newspapers for 1794 through 1796 in Connecticut and Rhode Island, although they carried notices of other tunebooks, including some published by Thomas and Andrews, failed to turn up a single mention of Billings’s work.
48 McKay and Crawford (William Billings, p. 168) suggest that Billings might have been ill at the time.
49 For all their rough-and-ready appearance, Billings’s tunebooks published from engraved plates (except for NEPS ) are remarkably free of errors, reflecting Billings’s concern for the accurate transmittal of his music. Typographical errors, however, appear frequently in typeset music of the period. The typesetters were ordinary printers without any special musical training. Sheets from the press were proofread in house by a “corrector,” who probably had no more knowledge of music than the typesetters. In some cases (for example, Holyoke 1791), the composer or compiler may have been able to look over the book before it was released to the public, supplying an errata sheet listing the errors. The fact that no errata sheet accompanies CH is further evidence that Billings was not directly involved with its production (see Karl Kroeger, “Isaiah Thomas as a Music Publisher,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, LXXXVI, part 2 [October 1976], p. 329).
In a brief “Bibliographical Note” published in Journal of Research in Music Education, XVIII, no. 4 (Winter 1970), pp. 418–419, Theodore M. Finney posited the existence of at least four printed states for CH, based upon the inclusion of the frontispiece, and the presence or not of two errors: the printing of page number 168 as 198, and the first three notes of measure 5, treble part, second score of p. 183 as d-d-e or c-d-e. Thomas and Andrews stock inventories show that books were stored in sheets in a warehouse and bound as needed, so that the presence or absence of the frontispiece, which was included as an extra incentive to attract subscribers, would not necessarily signal the existence of more than one edition. The correction of the two errors is noteworthy, but the page number might well have been noticed and corrected by the pressman during the press run. The change of the note on p. 183 is less easy to explain, but it still could have been done during the press run and does not seem strong enough evidence of an entire second printing.
50 Although we have no precise figure for a press run of The Worcester Collection, the combined stock accounts of Thomas and Andrews for 1801 and Isaiah Thomas’s Worcester bookstore for 1802 for the seventh edition (1800) come to slightly more than 2700 copies. This appears to be the remainder after sales, exchanges with other booksellers, and 1000 copies given to Oliver Holden for editing the edition (see Kroeger, Worcester Collection, pp. 139–140. See also Crawford and Krummel, “Early American Music Printing,” pp. 208–209).
51 Isaiah Thomas’s Account of Stock of October 1794 lists Billings’s book at six shillings; a year and a half later his Account of Stock of April 1796 lists the same item at one dollar. Subscribers received a small discount on the purchase price, paying five shillings rather than six, or 83⅓ cents per book. If the number of 600 subscribers were correct, that would have brought in approximately $500.
The production costs for CH may be estimated with the help of a contract in the Isaiah Thomas Papers between Thomas’s Walpole, New Hampshire, branch, Thomas and Thomas, and Thomas H. Atwill for the printing of Atwill 1802. Atwill had to pay the firm $600 over the period of a year for 4000 copies of the work as well as furnish the paper. Since the music in Atwill’s tunebook was printed from engraved plates, not music type, the $600 figure apparently represented only labor and binding costs. If CH had a press run of 2000 copies, with music typesetting and the printer supplying the paper, the production costs must have exceeded $600. The typesetting, which took considerable time, would presumably have constituted a substantial added expense.
52 Alexander Wheelock Thayer reported more than half a century later that one of Billings’s daughters “had the impression that her father had suffered from some unfairness on the part of Thomas and Andrews.” It may well be that Billings thought Thomas and Andrews owed him money from the sale of CH after the subscription had been completed. The arrangements under which books were left with Thomas and Andrews to sell are unknown, and Billings probably had no part in making them (see Thayer, “Mr. Thayer’s Catalogue Continued,” The World of Music, IV, no. 10 [May 1, 1847], p. 38).
53 In 1805, Thomas’s Walpole, New Hampshire, branch had six copies on hand. By 1808, only one had been sold; and by 1809, three were still left, suggesting the sale of just three copies in four years. About 1803, the Boston bookseller John West returned fourteen copies of CH to Thomas and Andrews for credit (see Exchange Book 1801–1806 in the Isaiah Thomas papers).
54 In their stock inventories, Thomas and Andrews devalued some books as they aged and lost sales potential. Books were discounted in five classes, representing five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five per cent “deductions” [Thomas and Andrews’s term].
55 John Wyeth, Catalogue of Books (Harrisburgh: Wyeth, 1811), p. 9. Besides Billings’s collection, Wyeth also carried tunebooks by Belcher, Brown, Holyoke, Holden, Gram (his “Sacred Lines for Thanksgiving Day”?), and Wyeth’s own Repository of Sacred Music.
56 Thayer, “Mr. Thayer’s Catalogue Continued,” p. 38.
57 See WBIII, pp. 318 and 320 respectively. The Waterhouse Ms is a collection of tunes, largely by Billings, some unpublished, belonging to Mrs. Dorothy Waterhouse of Boston. A facsimile was published in Richard Crawford and David P. McKay, “Music in Manuscript: a Massachusetts Tune-book of 1782,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, LXXXIV (April 1974), pp. 43–64.
58 See Nathan, William Billings, p. 58.
59 See WBIII for Bennington (p. 312), Bradford (p. 314), Dunstable (p. 317), New Haven (p. 332), and Spencer (p. 334).
60 Mansfield, for example, published in Boston 1799, p. 31, may well pre-date 1794. (See WBIII, p. 290.)
61 Nathan, William Billings, p. 44. Billings composed a “Piece On The Death of George Washington” in 1799, which remained unpublished at his death. Nathan’s speculation that it is part of “A Hymn” in Holden’s Sacred Dirges, Hymns, and Anthems (Boston, 1800) cannot be sustained on stylistic grounds (see ibid., p. 60, and Karl Kroeger, “Communication,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, XXXI [Spring 1978], pp. 176–177).
62 See WBIII, p. 245. For a study of the Easter Anthem, see Karl Kroeger, “William Billings’s ‘Anthem for Easter’: The Persistence of an Early American ‘Hit,’” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, XCVII, part 1 (October 1987), pp. 105–128.
63 Worcester 1786, including Part III, also totals 200 pages. Without the third part, devoted largely to anthems, the tunebook contains only 104 pages, which grew to 156 pages by the fifth edition (1794). Stickney 1774 checks in at 220 pages, and Shumway 1793 at 212 pages. Even in the nineteenth century, tunebooks approaching or exceeding 200 pages are uncommon until after 1810.
64 The adjective “Aretinian” refers to the Italian town of Arezzo, and in particular to the eleventh-century musician, Guido d’Arezzo. A search of books on heraldry has failed to turn up a design for the Aretinian arms, but the promise seems to indicate that one once existed. It may be that the arms referred to were those of the Aretinian Society, a Boston musical group that flourished around 1782, of which Billings may have been leader (see Nathan, William Billings, p. 32).
65 Unlike the rest of CH, which was printed from music types, the frontispiece was engraved. Although no engraver’s name is given, the style—particularly the placement of the descending stems to the right of the note head on half-notes above the center line and the angled beaming of four-note groups—suggests John Norman’s work. Norman engraved almost all of Billings’s music published between 1781 and 1790 (see, for example, the anthem “Lift Up Your Eyes” [p. 30] and the tune Baptism [p. 37] in SH for examples of John Norman’s engraving with similar characteristics). His contributing to a charitable enterprise to aid the Billings family does not seem surprising. While John Norman seems to be the prime candidate, his son William Norman, whose engraving style is similar, must also be considered. The major difference between the two is that William Norman usually beamed note groups with a straight line, not an angled one (see McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 141n).
66 See WBII, p. 50.
67 See McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 170.
68 In that edition, Billings made alterations in the original theoretical preface. He reprinted only Lessons I through VII and Lesson X, renumbering the last as Lesson VIII. He omitted discussions of graces, concords, slurs, pronunciation, distribution of parts, and singing, as well as the various humorous pieces included in that tunebook’s preface, adding the newly written “A Musical Creed.” Everything but the “Musical Creed” is included in CH.
69 In Belcher 1794, which followed CH from the Thomas and Andrews presses by some eight months, the musical examples were interpolated into the theoretical introduction. In Billings’s work, however, they were printed on the page preceding the musical rudiments. It may be that the examples in Billings’s tunebook were printed together to save space and money. More likely, however, the typographers took them from a copy of SMA. In SMA the musical examples are engraved and printed together on pp. 103–104, separate from the introduction, which is typeset and appears at the start of the book, making it inconvenient to include the examples in the text.
70 The Anglo-American system of solmization used only the syllables fa, sol, la, and mi to cover the scale, repeating the first three to sound the first six notes. “B-mi” was called the “master note” because its location determined the sequence of whole- and half-steps in the scale, the mode (major or minor), and the intervals in that key. For beginners, finding the location of the leading-tone was one of the most confusing aspects of learning to sing, and psalmody teachers and tunebook compilers spent much time and space explaining it.
71 London: Jacob Robinson, 1746. Billings almost certainly knew Tans’ur’s Grammar. Nahum Mitchell, a psalmodist and Billings’s younger contemporary, cites it in an article published in Moore’s World of Music (I, no. 1 , p. 10): “He had little knowledge of counterpoint, having seen probably no work on the science or rules of harmony, except, perhaps, Tansur’s grammar, a very meagre and imperfect treatise.” Meager and imperfect, perhaps, but Tans’ur’s Grammar was immensely popular throughout the second half of the eighteenth century and was reprinted as late as ca. 1820. Another dialogue that Billings knew and cited is Williams 1763 and later editions.
72 Benjamin Martin, The Philosophical Grammar (London, 1735, 6th ed., 1762).
73 Arnold 1756, a well-known British tunebook of the day.
74 Williams 1763 and Williams 1770. Both tunebooks were well known in Boston during Billings’s time.
75 Walter 1721. Billings cites “Mr. Walker,” but clearly means Thomas Walter, who wrote “a Fourth is by some accounted a Chord [i.e., a concord], and by others a Discord; but I am inclined to think the former” (Walter 1764, p. 24). See Nathan, “Introduction,” p. xv.
76 In CH, Billings defined an anthem quite broadly: “I think any piece of divine music, that is not divided into meter [i.e. set strophically to metered verse, such as psalm- and fuging-tunes] (excepting canons and chanting pieces) may with propriety be called an Anthem” (CH, p. xxxii; this volume, p. 34). That definition is followed here. Of the seventeen extended works in CH, eleven are set largely to Biblical prose, one to non-Biblical prose, and five are a mixture of prose and verse. In the index of CH, Billings refers to them all as “Anthems.”
77 McKay and Crawford (William Billings, p. 252) claim fifty-one compositions by counting Connection in the frontispiece. Because Connection seems to have been intended more as a decoration than a score for performance, it is not discussed here among the musical pieces. (Its new text, however, qualifies it for admission in an appendix.) McKay and Crawford also classify Lewis-Town as a set-piece, although Billings lists it among the strophic pieces in the index. Lewis-Town is here considered a psalm-tune, because, while the change of mode from major to minor and back might preclude some texts being set, many other hymns of six, nine, or twelve stanzas could have been sung strophically to it. The change of mode does not appear to reflect the meaning of the words, as the text set to Lewis-Town clearly demonstrates. (See note 102 for a further discussion of the set-piece.)
78 Nathan (William Billings, p. 31), calls attention to the connection between PSA and CH.
79 Billings’s “Advertisement” in PSA, p. 2 (see WBIII, pp. 2–3). Of the fifty pieces in the book, only about a dozen of the psalm- and fuging-tunes appear suited for singing-school use. Pieces like St. John’s, South Boston, East Sudbury, Rocky Nook, and Adams are no more difficult than many pieces in SMA, Billings’s singing-school book. On the other hand, pieces like Creation, St. Thomas, Lewis-Town, West-Sudbury, and Cross Street, with extended fuges, subtle antiphonal effects, and difficult vocal parts, would seem technically too demanding for inexperienced learners. It seems certain that CH was not intended to replace SMA as Billings’s basic singing-school book.
80 See, for example, the fuges in the anthem “Mourn. Mourn” (this volume, pp. 217–225, mm. 63–80 and mm. 110–138) as representative of this conciseness.
81 WBIII, p. 84.
82 This piece, perhaps more than any others, suggests the influence of Hans Gram on Billings’s music. Billings had attempted actual modulation—where a new key is established and employed before returning to the original tonic—only a few times previously (see, for example, the anthem “Lift Up Your Eyes” in SH, WBIII, p. 177), but Billings’s technique is awkward and the modulation unconvincing. More often, he merely tonicized a pitch (usually the dominant in a major key) and then left it immediately. In Variety, Without Method (the title reflects Billings’s purpose, for there seems to be no plan behind the modulation scheme), he modulates to a dozen keys in the composition, using each as a stable tonic before moving on. He also ends the piece in a different key from which it began.
83 See, for example, “And I Saw a Mighty Angel” (PSA, WBIII, pp. 54–57), “Blessed is He” (PSA, WBIII, pp. 43–45), “Who is This That Cometh” (PSA, WBIII, pp. 94–95), “As the Hart Panteth” (NEPS, WBI, pp. 149–151), and Peace (independently published, WBIII, pp. 274–275).
84 See, for example, “Mourn, Mourn” (this volume, p. 225), and “O God My Heart is Fixed” (this volume, pp. 272–273).
85 See, for example, “Hear, Hear, O Heavens” (this volume, pp. 53–54), “I Will Love Thee” (this volume, pp. 204–205), “O Praise the Lord of Heaven” (this volume, pp. 45–46), and “The Heavens Declare” (this volume, pp. 262–263).
86 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 114.
87 Billings’s “Advertisement” in PSA, p. 2 (see WBIII, pp. 2–3).
88 The awkward prosody at the outset of “Hark, Hark, Hear You Not” (this volume, p. 173) is one such indication. A similar problem occurs in the fuging-tune Hadley, which Billings recast as the opening section of the anthem (see WBIII, pp. 322–323). Another may be the presence of choosing notes other than octaves (e.g., thirds, fifths, and sixths) in the bass voice. In NEPS, choosing notes in thirds and sixths are frequently found in the bass, as well as occasionally fourths and fifths. As Billings’s technique matured, choosing notes generally became rarer, and intervals in the bass of thirds and sixths disappear entirely in SH. Their presence in “Hark, Hark, Hear You Not” (mm. 16–17) may be another indication that this anthem is an early work.
89 The tune is found in two manuscript sources: CtHT-W Ms and MiU-C Ms3, the former thought to date from the late 1770s and the latter from the early 1780s. See WBIII, p. 322.
90 See WBII, pp. 241–242, mm. 164–181. Despite some changes in scoring and barring, the sections are clearly the same.
91 WBIII, pp. 274–275, mm. 311–335. This correspondence was pointed out by Nathan, and before him by Ralph Daniel (see Nathan, “Introduction” to CH Facsim, p. ix), but both seem to have missed the borrowing from Retrospect. Less certain is the section between mm. 178–187 of “I Will Love Thee,” which resembles a section (mm. 25–30) in Billings’s unpublished anthem, “Praise The Lord, O My Soul” (see WBIII, p. 337).
92 WBII, p. 216. “I Am Come Into My Garden” in CH is also a setting of words from Solomon’s Songs which shows some similarity to the other two settings and could perhaps be assigned an early date.
93 See “The Beauty of Israel” (PSA) and “Samuel The Priest” (SH) in WBIII, pp. 24 and 214, respectively.
94 An integrated fuging-tune is one in which the fuge is an inseparable part of the structure, without which the tune would be incomplete. In the fuging chorus, the first part is complete and performable as a separate piece without the fuge, which is an independent contrapuntal development of the last line or two of the text. For a discussion of fuging-tune types, see Kroeger, Worcester Collection, pp. 321–381; for a history of the fuging-tune in Great Britain and America during the eighteenth century, see Nicholas Temperley and Charles G. Manns, Fuging Tunes in the Eighteenth Century (Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1983), pp. 3–54.
95 Irving Lowens, “The Origins of the American Fuging-Tune” in his Music and Musicians in Early America (New York: Norton, 1964), p. 240. While Lowens does not specifically say that the propulsive rhythm of the repeated quarter-notes is typical of the American fuging-tune, he strongly implies this by citing Lewis Edson’s Lenox as an example. In Lenox, the march-like pulse of the quarter-note rhythm is the tune’s most prominent musical feature. Crawford (Core Repertory, pp. xv–xvi) also discusses this point.
96 Weymouth is found in the Waterhouse Ms, MiU-C Ms2, and MHi Ms. The Waterhouse Ms is known to date from 1782 and earlier. The MiU-C Ms2, which includes much the same repertory as the Waterhouse Ms, must also date from the early 1780s. Both present the tune in tenor and bass parts only. The MHi Ms, although containing different pieces, also appears to come from about 1780. The tune is found there in a four-part setting closely resembling the one Billings published. Weymouth may also be a variant of the psalm-tune Lexington, which was published in NEPS. (See WBIII, pp. xxxi–xxxiii, for a discussion of variant versions of Billings’s pieces in print and manuscript.)
97 Beginning in m. 13, Billings breaks the declamatory pattern of whole- and half-notes he established at the outset, causing the accents of the words and music to go awry and requiring an extra beat in m. 15 (original barring) to compensate. After having squared his prosody at the onset of the fuge, Billings again creates metrical confusion in the tenor and treble parts by beginning these fugal entries a beat or two late. The accentual conflict is resolved only four measures before the end.
98 While the awkward declamation in the chordal section can be overcome by rebarring, nothing short of barring each voice individually will clear up the fuge. Perhaps Billings was experimenting here with cross accents, for in spite of its unorthodox appearance, the piece is not difficult to perform by simply beating half-notes.
99 See WBIII, pp. 183–213. Hopkinton includes some elements of Hartford (WBIII, p. 168) and Conquest (WBIII, p. 198) in a fuging style.
100 This kind of voice exchange, a standard compositional technique in 12th-century polyphony, is rare in Anglo-American psalmody. It suggests that Billings was moving toward a greater integration of his musical material. In earlier pieces he probably would have written new counterpoint for the repetition of the melody, as he did, for example, in Jordan (SH, WBIII, pp. 180–181). See Randel, New Harvard Dictionary, sv. “Voice Exchange.”
101 Tunes with extension usually set either two or more verses of text, or a single verse so that words or phrases are repeated, or include a decorative melisma, extending the length of the tune beyond its normal single-verse limit. The form of the text, declaimed syllabically, does not entirely determine the form of the piece, as it does in the plain tune. (See Richard Crawford, Andrew Law, American Psalmodist, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968, p. 16.)
102 A set-piece is usually defined as a through-composed setting of a poetical text (see The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, sv. “Set-piece”). Often, the set-piece precludes the substitution of different words to the music, either through word repetition or word-painting that would not fit other texts. Neither Lewis-Town nor St. Thomas contains any elements, other than length, that would not allow text substitution. Thus, any hymn of six or eight stanzas, respectively, with appropriate sentiments, could be sung strophically to these tunes.
103 Since the tune in the NN Ms lacks the first ten measures, containing the tune name, the name it carried there is unknown. It was later published in Mann 1802 and Mann 1807 as Deerfield. It is possible Billings named his tune after Thomaston, Maine. On the other hand, the change of tune name also suggests that it was a veiled reference to Worcester, Massachusetts, Isaiah Thomas’s “town.” In that light, it may also be worth noting that CH includes a St. Thomas and a St. Andrews, perhaps references to the publishers.
104 Ultimately, Cobham can be traced to an even earlier source: its first half is a variant version of Asia, published in NEPS, p. 60 (see WBI, p. 214).
105 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 166.
106 Already mentioned are Mann 1802 and Mann 1807 (see note 103). Others include Howe 1799, Howe 1804, PSA post, ed., and Lewis 1814. (See McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 170.)
107 Going further into the nineteenth century, one finds a few pieces from CH appearing in later collections. St. John’s is found in Wyeth 1820, p. 100 in tenor and bass parts only. Sudbury is found as Randolph in Moore 1838, p. 142; and as West Sudbury in Ancient Harmony Revived 1847, p. 149. The Dying Christian’s Last Farewell is found in Marshall 1849. By far the greatest number of pieces from CH were printed in Stoughton 1878, which includes Adams (p. 113), Creation (p. 206), Hopkinton (p. 278), and four anthems: “I Am Come Into My Garden” (p. 166), “O Praise the Lord of Heaven” (p. 180), Deliverance (p. 198), and “O God My Heart Is Fix’d” (p. 210).
108 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 180.
109 The New Grove Dictionary, XIV, p. 388, sv. “Performing Practice.”
110 The operas and oratorios of Handel are a case in point. The former, because of vocal, instrumental, and dramatic requirements unique to their time, were no longer performed after their composer’s death; while the latter, more flexible in these aspects, not only survived but nourished in later generations.
111 The introductions found in Billings’s three tunebooks—NEPS, SMA, and CH—contain some of the most original thoughts on music by an American singing master. But even Billings borrowed heavily from British psalmodists, like William Tans’ur and Aaron Williams. Later compilers often borrowed from Billings and from the following tunebooks: Jocelin 1782, Jocelin 1788, Read 1785, Benham 1790, and Holden 1793 and later editions. While not as influential as those listed above, other works that contain important observations on performance practice are: Stickney 1774, Read 1790, Read 1793 and later editions, Holyoke 1791, Holyoke 1803, Kimball 1793, Mann 1797, French 1802, Janes 1807, Harmon 1809, and Hartwell 1815. Ultimately, most performance recommendations found in American tunebooks of the 1770–1820 period can be traced to English tunebooks of the mid-18th century, particularly those of Tans’ur and Williams.
112 Following Fisher’s lead, other editors over the years have issued New England psalm-tunes and anthems in performing editions, including Clarence Dickinson, Hans T. David, Oliver Daniel, Irving Lowens, Charles Lindsley, Herbert Colvin, Mason Martens, Leonard Van Camp, and Gillian Anderson. Most have included brief introductions providing both historical and technical information on the performance of the music.
113 Fisher, p. xiv. Most of the music is printed on two staves in close scoring, with the melody in the top voice rather than the tenor. Small changes were also made in voice parts to smooth over harmonic problems, and one anthem (Billings’s Lamentation Over Boston) was “slightly abbreviated.”
114 Fisher, pp. xiv–xv. A later, undated reissue of Fisher’s collection by the Theodore Presser Co., perhaps made in the 1970s, lacks the historical discussion and performance hints. Fisher consulted (and listed) over a dozen Billings-era tunebooks to select the music for his anthology. These presumably provided information for the performance recommendations given in the “Hints.”
115 Allen P. Britton, Theoretical Introductions in American Tune-Books to 1800 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1949).
116 Hans Engelke, A Study of Ornaments in American Tunebooks, 1760–1800 (Ph.D. dissertation. University of Southern California, 1960).
117 Richard Crawford and David P. McKay, “The Performance of William Billings’ Music,” Journal of Research in Music Education, XXI (1973), pp. 318–330.
118 Sterling E. Murray, “Performance Practice in Early American Psalmody,” American Choral Review, XVIII, no. 4 (October 1976), pp. 9–26.
119 Britton was concerned primarily with the didactic aspects of tunebook introductions and addressed performance practice principally in the context of what was taught and how. Engelke dealt only with ornamentation in psalmody, the interpretation of the signs, and their execution in performance. Crawford and McKay surveyed Billings’s many statements on how his music was to be performed, and, while their observations have wide relevance, they were restricted chiefly to interpreting what Billings wrote. Murray intended his broad survey to be a practical guide for choir directors.
Two other works dealing with the performance of psalmody should be mentioned: Allen M. Garrett’s “Performance Practices in the Music of William Billings,” a paper presented at a meeting of the Southeastern chapter of the American Musicological Society and published only in abstract in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, V, no. 2 (Summer 1952), p. 147; and Hans Nathan’s “Introduction” to the facsimile edition of Billings’s The Continental Harmony (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. [vii]–xix. Both are brief summaries of issues dealt with at greater length in the four major studies cited above.
120 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, pp. 231–255.
121 This issue of American Choral Review (XVIII, no. 4 [October 1976]) contains five articles: Murray’s “Performance Practice” (pp. 9–26), Hans Nathan’s “William Billings’s The Continental Harmony (1794)” (pp. 27–36), J. Murray Barbour’s “Billings and the Barline” (pp. 37–49), Helen Stewart Kaufmann’s “John Cole’s Rudiments of Music: Performance Practice in Early American Church Music” (pp. 50–65), and Charles Seeger’s “Contrapuntal Style in the Three-Voice Shape-Note Hymns” (pp. 66–80). Of these, only Murray’s had not been published earlier. It should also be noted that Kaufmann’s article deals with a period slightly later than Billings and with a musician (John Cole) who adopted European art-music practices. Cole’s observations on sacred music performance cannot be taken generally as representing the prevailing conditions in psalmody during Billings’s time.
122 Because they deal with fundamentals of style and performance, the instructions in most tunebook prefaces published between 1770 and 1820 have a kind of ritual quality to them, with topics introduced in the same order and discussed in much the same way. Tunebook compilers regularly copied whole sections from earlier tunebooks, sometimes paraphrasing the text, but often presenting it verbatim. Introductions vary greatly in length and detail, some being no more than brief summaries of the musical rudiments, designed to be supplemented by a singing master’s instructions. Others go to considerable lengths in describing performing practices.
123 To give one example, the description of the effect of the hold—“shows that the sound of the note over which it is placed, should be continued beyond its customary length”—first found in Holyoke 1791 was copied verbatim in Belknap 1802, Belknap 1806, Sanger 1808, and Maxim 1808. A sightly altered description—“Shews the note over which it is placed to be held beyond its proper time”—is found in Shumway 1793, Bull 1795, Cumberland Melodist 1804, and Jenks 1805.
124 The contents of over 100 tunebook introductions were surveyed for the writing of this essay on performance practice. Most of the excerpts quoted to support a point were chosen because they state clearly and well a consensus of opinion on that subject. As well as the tune collections themselves, books such as Nathaniel D. Gould’s Church Music in America (Boston: A. N. Johnson, 1853; repr. New York: AMS Press, 1972) and Samuel Gilman’s Memoirs of a New England Village Choir (Boston: S. G. Goodrich, 1829; repr. New York: Da Capo, 1984) have been searched for references to performance. Although his book was written some fifty years after Billings’s time. Gould, whose career as a singing master began in 1799 and extended to 1844, describes from personal experience practices that were current in Billings’s day. Gilman’s sketch, although written as gently humorous fiction, nonetheless portrays incidents that could have and probably did occur in many places in New England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
It is noteworthy that efforts to reform American psalmody, which began in the early 1790s and reached a climax about 1805, had little impact on performance-practice advice in the tunebook introductions. The vast majority of the elements in these introductions of tunebooks remains essentially unchanged throughout the period, so that, for example, the introduction to a late tunebook, like Hartwell 1815, does not differ significantly from that found three decades earlier in Jocelin 1782.
125 Holyoke 1803, p. xxii.
126 During the 1790s and early 1800s, New-England singing masters travelled to the southern states. Aided by such tunebooks as Read 1785, Shumway 1793, Pilsbury 1799, Little 1801, Wyeth 1810, Lewis 1814, and Davisson 1816, they established singing schools and spread the New-England repertory and performance practices. (See Irving Lowens, “Daniel Read’s World” in his Music and Musicians in Early America, pp. 167–168.) By mid-century, southern singing masters and tunebook compilers, such as William Walker, William Hauser, B. F. White, and J. G. McCurry, had taken over this repertory, while in New England it had been supplanted by the more theoretically orthodox, “scientific” music of Lowell Mason, Thomas Hastings, and their colleagues. Southern psalmodists added their own tunes to the older New England repertory in a similar style, maintaining links with the tradition that extend into the 20th century.
One of the most successful and influential southern tunebooks was B. F. White and E. J. King’s The Sacred Harp (Philadelphia, 1844, and later editions). The book was used not only in singing schools and churches, but also in singing conventions of several days length, held regularly in several southern states, where experienced singers got together to sing for spiritual recreation. (See George Pullen Jackson, “The Story of the Sacred Harp, 1844–1944” in B. F. White and E. J. King, The Sacred Harp [Nashville: Broadman Press, 1968], pp. v–xxv, [repr. of the Nashville, 1944 edition].) Some of these conventions have been recorded; recordings of Sacred Harp singing are available from The Sacred Harp Publishing Co., Cullman, Ala., and from the Library of Congress.
Just how far the performances of southern shape-note singers may serve as a guide to the performance of the music of Billings and his contemporaries is questionable. In such areas as tempo, dynamics, vocal articulation, and the effect of the text upon the musical setting, they seem to depart significantly from written descriptions of how this music should be performed. On the other hand, their large, enthusiastic voices, with a straight, slightly nasal quality, and an easy informality and flexibility of execution are characteristics that may well reflect the earlier singing style.
127 Harry Partch (Genesis of a Music, 2d ed. [New York: Da Capo Press, 1974], p. 52) cites traits of American vernacular singing that seem relevant: “The devitalized tricks of ‘serious’ singing, if they belong anywhere, certainly do not belong here [in vernacular music], and they are nationally resented, consciously or otherwise. Examples are (1) the ubiquitous rolled r’s, an articulation common in European tongues but alien to America; (2) precise attack and precise release (like the tones of an organ), as opposed to the gliding tones so characteristic of American speech, the portamento of ‘faulty attack’ and ‘faulty release’; (3) the affected stylization of ‘refined’ English. Many of our folk and popular singers unconsciously tend to preserve word forms and drama. Frequently their manner is simple. Frequently they ‘explode’ consonants, and sustain such consonants as l, m, n, and z rather than the vowels preceding them. Frequently they break a word off short of its notated time and let it fall or rise in a gliding inflection regardless of the notation.”
128 The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, sv. “Notation.”
129 Occasionally there are only two parts, melody and bass, but this arrangement is rare in New-England tunebooks between 1770 and 1800. Daniel Read wrote: “some Psalm Tunes, and some Anthems, have but three parts, and some but two; but it is considered as imperfect, with less than three, and is generally thought best with four” (Read 1790, p. 4). Billings, on the other hand, wrote: “it is a maxim with me, that two parts well sung, are better than four parts indifferently sung” (SMA, Lesson XIII, see WBII, p. 18). Billings published only four-part settings.
130 For example, William Bentley (Diary, II, p. 184) noted that at Andrew Law’s “Musical Exhibition” in Salem, Massachusetts, on May 23. 1796, “the Treble is the leading part.” In the preface of the “Brattle Street Church Collection” the compiler remarked that “it is earnestly desired, and confidently expected, that where this Collection is used, the female voices sing the AIR, or PRINCIPAL MELODY, which in this book is uniformly placed next to the Base” (Brattle Street 1810, p. ).
131 When the principal melody is found in the top line of a four-voice score, the part is likely to be marked “Air,” signaling a departure from custom.
132 Daniel Read noted that “Every singer should sing that part which is most suitable to his voice, in which case the learners should submit to the judgment of the masters” (Read 1785, p. 24).
133 Samuel Holyoke assigned the “Counter staff to boys’ and the lowest women’s voices” (Holyoke 1803, p. ). Gould says: “This part was originally designed for boys, being written an octave higher on the staff than it is at the present day [some tunebooks employed the treble G clef rather than the alto C clef, notating the part an octave higher than it was sung]. . . . Boys could seldom be found who had skill enough to lead the part, and but few gentlemen could reach the high notes; so the consequence was that this part was seldom sung, although an important one in the harmony” (Gould, Church Music, p. 94). Gould also noted that the counter “was rarely sung by female voices; and, when attempted, was usually sung at the top of their voices, just as written. It was therefore too shrill to be pleasant, and was soon abandoned” (Ibid.). Occasionally, the part below the treble was assigned to a second treble, which often matched the range and difficulty of the first treble, and was to be sung by females. Usually, if a second treble was used, the part was so marked. Bull 1795 calls for second trebles rather than counters throughout.
134 CH, p. xv. (See this volume, p. 18.) On the evidence of tunebook introductions, this practice may not have been as widespread as is sometimes suggested. Isaac Lane is the only other psalmodist to advocate in print the octave exchange of parts between treble and tenor (see the prefatory remarks in Lane 1797). Such doublings are customary in southern shape-note singing. That fact, together with Billings’s well-known advocacy, has encouraged modern singers of New-England psalmody to employ them.
135 NEPS, p. 18 (WBI, p. 30). McKay and Crawford express doubt that Billings was ever able to assemble a choir with a three-to-one numerical superiority for the bass (William Billings, p. 234). However, the only evidence they offer is the record of a singing school Billings led in Stoughton, Massachusetts, in 1774, where the class consisted of eighteen males and thirty-one females. Other compilers recommended similar proportions so often that it may have been more a reality than an “ideal,” as McKay and Crawford call it. Undoubtedly, singing masters worked with what they had available, but there is no proof that church choirs and musical societies did not attempt to proportion their parts in a two-to-one or three-to-one ratio of basses to the other voices. William Bentley occasionally recorded the choir members of his East Church in Salem, Massachusetts, during the 1780s and 1790s in his diary and day book. Although he did not identify the parts they sang, male singers consistently outnumbered females, though never approaching a two-to-one ratio (see Bentley, Diary, I, pp. 2–6, 119–121).
136 For example, Holden 1793, p. x; Janes 1803, p. xxvi; Harmon 1809, p. xvi; Maxim 1808, p. 10; Leslie 1811, p. xiv; and Hartwell 1815, p. 12, all make similar statements.
137 Jocelin 1782, p. 17; also included in Shumway 1793, p. .
138 Harmon 1809, p. xvi.
139 Holden 1793, p. xiii.
140 Maxim 1805, p. 10.
141 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 237. They are describing the singing of southern shape-note singers of the mid-20th century, who are thought to retain some elements (as well as repertory) of the 18th-century choral style.
142 Jocelin 1782, p. .
143 Benham 1790, p. .
144 Hartwell 1815, p. 12.
145 Cumberland Melodist 1804, p. 14.
146 Jocelin 1782, p. .
147 The choral balance that comes across in recordings of southern shape-note singers seems relevant. The voice of the male leader, singing the melody, is always prominent and supported by other tenor singers. Perhaps the leader’s anticipation of the first note of the phrase heard in some recordings is a local custom or an abuse that the New Englanders would have disapproved. The documents of Billings’s day make no mention of such a practice. The bass is full voiced, but not ponderous. The treble part often vies with the tenor for melodic prominence, while the counter remains distinctly in the background. Some treble voices also double the tenor melody an octave higher and some tenors the treble line an octave lower, which, of course, affects balance profoundly.
148 Atwill 1804, p. 13. Andrew Law, one of the chief proponents of soft singing of the day, presented an exhibition in Salem, Massachusetts, on May 23, 1796. William Bentley found fault with Law’s performance: “Mr. Law had a Musical Exhibition this evening, & persons were introduced only as they had tickets to be delivered at the door. He aims to have his music very soft, & the Treble is the leading part, not one note of tenour was heard through the Evening. The greatest good order prevailed, & the visiting Company was respectable. In their attempts to sing soft, many of the voices do not accent the notes so as to enable the ear to distinguish the strains from soft murmurs [emphasis added]. He must have had above one hundred Scholars” (Bentley, Diary, II, pp. 184–185).
149 Holden 1793, p. xii.
150 Benham 1798, p. 14. The assertion that the text was important in psalmody holds true, even though the substitution of one text for another in psalm- and hymn-tunes was a common occurrence in Billings’s day. Billings and other composers of psalmody tried to match their music to the rhythms, imagery, and character of the texts they set. A composer seldom set the same text twice, and the text’s expressive content usually determined the type of setting he composed. Choristers were constantly admonished in tunebook introductions to take care in choosing tunes that fit both the meter and the mood of the text. Benham’s remarks seem to bear out this warning.
151 Ibid., p. 13.
152 Since only one stanza is normally set in a psalm- or hymn-tune, there is no way to tell how the tempo of later stanzas might have been handled, yet there is reason to believe that Benham’s suggestion might have been the practice in some places. Composers who set entire psalms or hymns as set-pieces frequently change tempo as the affections of the text change. See, for example, Ontario in Holyoke 1803, pp. 203–204, where eight verses are set, the first three marked Andante, the fourth, Moderate, the fifth, Adagio, the sixth, Adagio, and the final two Allegro Moderato. See also Elias Mann’s No. 6 in Mann 1797 which has the texts of two six-stanza hymns, with stanza 4 and 5 marked “Slow and majestic,” the first half of stanza 6 marked “Affectionate,” and the second half marked “With Life and Spirit.” In today’s congregational singing, it is not unusual for the singing to slow down for stanzas which are particularly solemn or exalted. For example. Moravian congregations, singing John Swertner’s hymn “Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord,” traditionally slow the tempo on the last two lines of the final stanza, “For us, for us, the lamb was slain. Praise ye the Lord, Amen,” with a long hold on the word “slain.” There is no reason to think 18th-century congregations might not have performed in a similar manner when the text allowed it.
153 Pronunciation is an element of performing psalmody that could well be explored. The following works are recommended for their investigation of how 18th-century New Englanders pronounced the English language: Karl-Erik Lindblad, Noah Webster’s Pronunciation and Modern New England Speech, a Comparison, Essays and Studies in American Language and Literature 11 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954); Anders Orbeck, Early New England Pronunciation (Ann Arbor: George Wahr, 1927); and Raoul N. Smith, The Language of Jonathan Fisher (1768–1847), Publication of the American Dialect Society No. 72 (University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1985).
154 Lee 1790, p. .
155 Holden 1793, p. x; also Pilsbury 1799, p. 13; and Janes 1803, p. xxvi. Similar statements are found in Robbins 1805, p. 16; and Jenks 1818, p. vi.
156 Holyoke 1791, p. 15.
157 Jocelin 1782, pp. 15–16.
158 Jenks 1805, p. x.
159 French 1802, p. viii.
160 Read 1785, p. 14. Noah Webster, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, Part I (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1783), the first edition of his The American Spelling Book which by 1889 had sold 62 million copies (Lindblad, Noah Webster’s Pronunciation, p. ).
161 Many writers recommend a “genteel pronunciation” (e.g., Shumway 1793, p. ; Jenks 1805, p. ix; Fobes 1814, p. 13). Jonathan Benjamin suggested, more colorfully, that singers “imitate the Orator rather than the Clown” (Benjamin 1799, p. 8).
162 Gilman, Memoirs, p. 113.
163 Gould, Church Music, p. 150.
164 Robert Donington, in describing the singing of “the last generation of Italian singers” [i.e., those of the first half of the 20th century], notes that “the vowels are exploited for their varied colourings, the consonants for their variety of articulation and their full declamatory value. Caressed in this way fiercely and gently by turns, the words add another dimension to the music” [emphasis added] (Interpretation of Early Music [London: Faber and Faber, 1963], pp. 450–451). In a similar way, early-music vocal groups, like the Hilliard Ensemble, use vowels and consonants to achieve both color and articulation in their performances quite different from the trained singing voice of the modern era. Similarly, the peculiarities of New-England speech sounds and rhythms must have affected the sound of psalmody. For a useful summary of the mechanics of vocal production, see The Oxford Companion to Music, 9th ed., ed. by Percy Scholes (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), sv. “Voice.”
165 Isaac Watts’s The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (London, 1719) and Hymns and Spiritual Songs (London, 1707) enjoyed tremendous popularity in America. They were usually bound together in one volume, and often reprinted well into the 19th century. Brady and Tate’s New Version, first published in 1696, was the authorized Anglican versification of the Psalms, widely used in America. Other collections, such as John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors (London, 1787; first American ed., New York, 1792), George Whitefield’s Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (London, 1753), and compilations by Americans Joel Barlow (Doctor Watts’ Imitation of the Psalms of David . . . to Which is Added a Collection of Hymns [Hartford, 1785]), Jeremy Belknap (Sacred Poetry, Consisting of Psalms and Hymns . . . Selected from the Best Authors [Boston, 1795]), and Timothy Dwight (Hymns Selected from Dr. Watts, Dr. Doddridge, and Various Other Writers [Hartford, 1801]) were available from American booksellers. See Henry Wilder Foote, Three Centuries of American Hymnody (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940), pp. 143–186.
166 In some cases, only the name of the writer was given and that sometimes abbreviated. For example, Billings consistently used “Dr. W” to indicate Isaac Watts’s psalms and hymns and “T&B” to refer to Brady and Tate’s New Version. Since both works carried indexes, locating the full text from its first line was a simple matter. Some other composers, such as Daniel Read in Read 1785, indicate the precise hymn and verse that was set.
167 In some singing schools, students learned the tunes by using solfa syllables, and only after having learned the notes by their “names” would they be allowed to sing the words. Charles Robbins wrote that “performing by words should not be introduced until the learner has attained a just idea of time and sound, and can read the tune by note without embarrassment” (Robbins 1805, p. 16).
168 McKay and Crawford (William Billings, pp. 247–248) note that Billings and most other compilers included extra verses in their tunebooks only when those hymns were otherwise not commonly available. Many collections published between 1770 and 1820 contain tunes for which extra verses are printed. Some collections, such as Wood 1789, Howe 1799, Ingalls 1805, and Cole 1805, all of which set generally unfamiliar texts, have multiple verses for nearly every tune. Holyoke 1803, apparently intended as a singers’ resource compendium rather than as a practical tunebook for singing schools or church choirs, supplies musical settings for all of Isaac Watts’s psalms and hymns, including all verses.
Gilman offers evidence that not only were multiple verses sung in public worship, but selected ones were occasionally omitted: “Jonathan Oxgoad sang indeed much too loud, but that could have been forgiven him, had he not perpetually forgotten what verses were directed by the minister to be omitted; a neglect, which, before he discovered his error, often led him half through an interdicted verse, much to the annoyance of the worthy pastor, the confusion of his fellow singers, the vexation of the congregation, and the amusement and gratification of Jonathan’s too goodnatured friends” (Gilman, Memoirs, p. 33).
Gould records a method of performance that must have been common in Billings’s time, when tunebooks were scarce. “A book of notes being placed before two singers, one stood directly in front of it; the other, of course, had to look sideways. They commenced a tune that was not very slow in utterance; soon the attention was attracted by a head, flying from right to left, like a shuttle, at every note. First, the eye glanced at the words, then at the notes, during the hymn; and we then thought that, amid this rapid vibration of the head, there could not have been much time to think or feel . . . . It would seem that individual singers might, with some propriety, be expected to commit [to memory] the few notes of a tune, or make it so familiar as not to be obliged to hold a note-book and a hymn-book in their hand” (Gould, Church Music, pp. 113–114).
169 SMA, WBII, p. 186.
170 Gould notes that “Lines of poetry with an even number of feet have, or ought to have, an unaccented word or syllable at the commencement of the line. . . . But poets are lawless, and often vary from the rule. . . . To apply such lines to music written for regular verse requires care and judgment; and it has not been uncommon to hear choirs sing them regardless of the change of accent, thereby making nonsense. To remedy this evil, some authors introduced small choice notes at the commencement of particular lines; but this experiment did not have its desired effect, otherwise than to direct attention to the subject; for it was found that if singers did not know enough to vary the accent so as to accommodate the words, these additional notes tended only to create embarrassment” (Gould, Church Music, pp. 147–148).
171 Benham 1798, p. 12.
172 J. Murray Barbour discussed Billings’s and other American psalmodists’ problems with meter and accent in his article, “Billings and the Barline,” American Choral Review, V, no. 2 (January 1963), pp. 1–5; repr. Idem., XVIII, no. 4 (October 1976), pp. 37–49. Barbour’s purpose was “to show just what they are, and how easily they may be corrected” (p. 37)—even to the point of altering note values, as he sometimes advocates. In the present edition, conflicts between the musical accent and the notation have been dealt with chiefly by shifting barlines.
173 Although Cole wrote “The authour has never had what is called a musical education,” his training must have been more substantial and orthodox than most other psalmodists. He held the post of organist at Baltimore’s Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, which implies keyboard skills and a knowledge of thoroughbass harmony, and published secular songs and piano pieces later in his career. See The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, sv. “Cole, John,” and Richard J. Wolfe, Secular Music in America, 1801–1825: a Bibliography (New York: New York Public Library, 1964), pp. 202–203.
174 Cole 1805, p. 35.
175 See Anglesey in Holyoke 1803 (p. 407), where Holyoke provides a variant version for three measures of text repetition where the words do not fit the original setting. On the other hand, Alexander Gillet’s Plainfield in Law 1800 (pp. 150–151) sets the text “So let thy pard-, so let thy pardoning love.”
176 See Isaac Watts’s Hymn 63 from Book II of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs. The first verse begins “Hark, from the tombs a doleful sound,” but the final verse ends with a mood of Christian optimism: “Grant us the pow’r of quick’ning grace to fit our souls to fly.” The text was usually sung to Isaac Smith’s melancholy tune Funeral Thought. (Billings set the text to Golgotha in PSA, see WBIII, pp. 80–81.) In Holyoke 1803 (pp. 355–356), it is set as a set-piece, with the first three verses in D minor and the final verse in F major.
177 This admonition appears in the theoretical introduction of nearly every tunebook published in America between 1770 and 1820. (See the introduction to CH, Lesson VIII, this volume, p. 15.) Minor-mode tunes are usually referred to as being in “flat keys” and major-mode tunes as being in “sharp keys.”
178 For example, Mann’s No. 2 in Mann 1797 (pp. 104–106) sets the first two verses of Watts’s Psalm 97 in a major mode, the next one and a half, which speak of Christ’s judgment, in the tonic minor, and the final half verse again in the major. (Unlike most other psalmodists, Mann named his tunes with numbers rather than providing them with the more usual geographical or subject-based titles.) Isaiah Thomas claimed credit for the idea of setting each stanza of a hymn to a separate melody in the preface of Worcester 1791, commissioning Mann’s Worcester New (p. 124) as a demonstration (see Kroeger, Isaiah Thomas, p. 326).
179 Printed in SH, see WBIII, pp. 194–195. Billings sets two verses of Relly’s hymn, so that in WBIII verses 3 and 4 are numbered as stanza 2, 5 and 6 as stanza 3, and 7 and 8 as stanza 4. That Billings’s setting was actually used as a hymn-tune is confirmed by Evangelical Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Boston: Thomas and Andrews, 1792), a collection published for the Universalist Church in Boston, which lists it in its preface as a recommended setting for this very hymn. Fourteen other Billings tunes are also recommended in the preface, including nine from SH, strengthening the suggestion made in the editor’s introduction to WBIII (p. xxi) that Billings had some relationship with John Murray and the Universalist Church in Boston.
180 In “the first mood of Common Time,” represented by the time signature C, the quarter-note equalled one second of time; in “the third mood of Common Time,” indicated by a reversed C (2/2 in the present edition), the half-note was one second in length. The tempo of other moods of Common, Triple, and Compound Time was usually related to one or the other of these moods.
181 Pendulum lengths have been translated into modern metronomic equivalents by a number of writers. (See Hans Nathan’s “Introduction” to WBII, reprinted in this volume, p. lxx.) The standard lengths were: for the first and third moods of Common Time, 3/2, and 6/4, 39⅕ inches; for the second mood of Common Time, 3/4, and 6/8, 221/20 inches; for 2/4 time, 12⅖ inches; for 3/8 time, 5½ inches. Each swing of the pendulum marked one beat. In the case of the first and second moods of Common Time, 2/4, and 3/4, the beat is the quarter-note; for the third mood of Common Time and 3/2, the half-note; for 6/4, the dotted half-note; for 6/8, the dotted quarter-note; and for 3/8, the entire measure.
182 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 244. Billings, however, may have been moving away from tempo regulation by time signature. In the anthem, “Except the Lord Build the House” (WBIII, p. 236), he marked a section set in 2/4, “This strain no faster than Largo” (i.e., second mood of Common Time). In the anthem, “I Charge You, O Ye Daughters” (this volume, p. 233), he frequently shifts time signatures between 3/4 and 2/4, which, according to the pendulum measurements, require different speeds. Here, however, the flow of the music seems to call for a steady quarter-note beat.
183 Harmon 1809, p. xi.
184 Holyoke 1803, p. xi.
185 CH, p. xxi; this volume, p. 23.
186 Read 1785, p. 17.
187 Atwill 1804, p. 14. Robbins 1805 (p. 12) also recommends a one-third deviation from the normal tempo for the words “quick” and “slow,” but he also claims that when the terms “very slow” and “very quick” occur the tempo is altered an additional one third.
188 Holden 1792, p. .
189 Holden 1793, p. xii.
190 Salem 1805, p. xii.
191 Gould described the responsibilities of the leader as “to sound the key-note, and then give the pitch successively to other parts. . . . He was expected to beat time conspicuously, in some way . . . and when a fugue commenced, his motions and activity, in turning from one part to another, to give them the catch-note, were then, and would be now, astonishing to an ignorant spectator, but only amusing to those acquainted with the music” (Gould, Church Music, pp. 109–110). Hans Gram noted that “in difficult passages, or where time changes, the leader may give a short direction with the hand” (Gram 1795, p. xxxi).
192 See CH, Lesson VI, this volume, pp. 9–13.
193 The author of the introduction to New Haven 1818 noted: “These motions should be made quick, and the hand then remain at rest until the next beat. With a waving kind of motion it is impossible to keep good time. Be careful that your beating and singing move together; at the same instant the hand starts in any part of the bar, strike the corresponding note. By observing these directions large choirs, and even whole congregations will be able to perform in regular time.” (The editors of The New Haven Collection were Daniel Read and probably Simeon Jocelin. See Daniel Read’s letter of May 2, 1829 in Read’s letter book at the New Haven Colony Historical Society. Read’s letter identifies the second editor by the initials “S.J.”)
Samuel Gilman noted that “It was somewhat unnecessary . . . that each individual performer should beat time on his own account. But this was a habit of inveterate standing in the church, which nothing short of the omnipotent voice of fashion could be hoped to frighten away. . . . Some of the singers were ostentatious in wielding an arm to its full extent, others were equally ostentatious in using only a finger, or a thumb and middle finger joined” (Gilman, Memoirs, pp. 29–31).
194 Stickney 1774, p. 5.
195 Benjamin Leslie wrote that the hold “gives the performers liberty to discontinue beating time, and to dwell sweetly on the sound of the note over which it is placed, until the leader of the choir resumes the time in its proper order” (Leslie 1811, p. vii).
196 Janes 1803, p. viii.
197 CH, pp. xvi–xvii (this volume, p. 20). Jacob French also rejected the hold in his music, but included an explanation of it in French 1802 because “by taking music from other books, [it] crept in[to his collection] unnoticed” (p. ix).
198 Holyoke 1803, p. xxi. Holyoke goes on to give an example of an extended melisma such as might be sung on the held note. Oliver Shaw makes a similar recommendation, without the musical example, in Shaw 1808, p. 10.
199 Salem 1805, p. v.
200 This topic is discussed at greater length in the editor’s article “Dynamics in Early American Psalmody,” College Music Symposium XXVI (1986), pp. 97–105. A summary of the findings is offered here. See also Leonard Van Camp, “Dynamics in the Performance of Early American Choral Music,” Choral Journal, XXVI, no. 4 (November 1985), pp. 13–25.
201 Holyoke 1803, p. xxii.
202 Perhaps because it was such a common concept, psalmodists did not define “strain” in their tunebook glossaries. They seem to use the term to mean a small but complete section of a piece, unified in mood and material, exhibiting both a distinct beginning and a cadential ending.
203 In NEPS (WBI, p. 23), Billings noted that “a Double Bar serves to divide many Strains in Music.” Identical statements are found in most other American tunebook introductions between 1770 and 1820. In NEPS. Billings set double bars at the ends of lines of text to mark off the poetic meter, but in later tunebooks he rarely employed double bars. See, for example, Manchester in PSA [WBIII, p. 12], and the anthem “Hark! Hark! Hear you not” in CH (this volume, pp. 173–186). However, in Billings’s music, the strains are easily identified by such things as repeat signs, changes in scoring, silences between sections, and clear cadential figures.
204 Changes in scoring at half a strain are occasionally found, but these are rare in psalm-tunes. See, for example, Cross-Street (CH, p. 56, this volume, p. 74), where the third line of text begins with a duet between the counter and bass, but after half the line, the full chorus enters; see also Hopkinton (CH, p. 144, this volume, p. 214). They are found more often in anthems, where the strain tends to be longer, but even there they are uncommon.
205 Because of the general crowding of the tunebook page, particularly in typeset music, marks of expression were not always placed exactly where they were to take effect. It is common to find directive words a measure or more after the beginning of the strain they apply to; they are rarely found earlier.
206 Holden 1793, p. xiii. By “common strain” Holden appears to mean one which is ordinary or unexceptional.
207 The terms “mezzaforte” and “mezzapiano” were known and occasionally used by psalmodists, but rarely. “Mezzavoce,” meaning apparently mezzoforte, is also occasionally found. Far more common were “forte” and “piano” only.
208 Holyoke 1804, p. 5. Similarly, Holden noted that “in performing fortes and fortissimos, the voice should not be extended beyond its natural elevation; in performing pianos the voice should be reduced to as small a degree of sound, as will just admit of intelligible pronunciation” (Holden 1793, p. xiii).
209 Jocelin 1788, p. 17. Jocelin credits these directions to Ralph Harrison’s Sacred Harmony (London, 1783). How widely this convention was followed is unknown, for only the anonymous author of the introduction to Sacred Harmony (Boston, 1786–1788) also recommends it.
210 Read 1785, p. 24.
211 Gould noted that “in former times, all voices attached to each part kept on, wherever they found notes. If there was a tenor or bass solo or duo, all the tenor or bass voices sung, while those on the other parts kept silence” (Gould, Church Music, p. 145).
212 NEPS, see WBI, p. 31.
213 Janes 1807, p. .
214 Brownson 1783, p. 4; Brownson 1797, p. 7.
215 Benham 1798, p. 13.
216 Janes 1807, p. .
217 When used, the abbreviations “cres.” or “dimin.” were printed over the music. The crescendo and diminuendo signs commonly employed today were not usually used, although some psalmodists apparently knew of them (see Holyoke 1803, p. xxi). The term “Crescendo” was apparently first introduced into pieces in American tunebooks by Holyoke in Holyoke 1791 (see his Champlain, p. 72). “Diminuendo” is found as early as 1793 (in Rogerson’s set-piece Massachusetts, printed in Holden 1793, Vol. II). Holyoke (in Holyoke 1803 and Holyoke 1804) sometimes uses “Increase” and “Diminish” as synonyms for crescendo and diminuendo. Crescendo and diminuendo are found mostly in anthems and set-pieces of some length, particularly toward the ends of compositions. They are seldom found in psalm- and fuging-tunes. Even in larger pieces their occurrence is infrequent, particularly diminuendo (e.g., in the 734 pieces in Holyoke 1803, crescendo appears in only about two dozen, and diminuendo in only two).
218 Jacob Kimball noted that “in a company of singers it would have a good effect for some of the performers on each part to be silent when passages marked piano, occur; the additional strength of their voices in the forte, which generally precedes or succeeds the piano, would mark the contrast more distinctly, and give peculiar force and energy to the performance” (Kimball 1793, p. xv).
219 Ibid., p. ix.
220 Oliver Brownson (Brownson 1783, p. 2) wrote that “notes should be struck and ended soft, gently swelling the middle of each sound, unless contradicted by a mark of distinction.” The mark of distinction will be discussed presently. Examples of the swell may be heard on recordings of early-music vocal groups such as the Hilliard Ensemble and the Taverner Singers. While their swell does not always correspond exactly with descriptions in the tunebooks, their wider vocabulary of vocal articulation and sound envelope shows an approach to singing different from the traditional “bel canto” of the 19th and 20th centuries. It may well be these qualities of voice production and articulation that the psalmodists had in mind when they wrote their descriptions and made their recommendations.
221 Read 1790, pp. 28–29.
222 The anonymous author of the introduction to Salem 1805 (p. xiii) wrote that “in long sounds, the Swell and Diminish, though seldom marked, should be often introduced: that is you should begin very soft, increase to the middle, and then diminish to the end. This, if done with delicacy, has a fine effect, especially with a Shake or Trill.”
223 Benham 1790, p. 11. British note names were, of course, used by American psalmodists along with other concepts borrowed from British tunebooks. Their equivalents in present-day American terminology are: semibreve (whole-note), minim (half-note), crotchet (quarter-note), and quaver (eighth-note). Not included in Benham’s recommendation are the semiquaver (sixteenth-note) and demisemiquaver (thirty-second-note). Larger or smaller values were not normally employed in psalmody (see Lesson IV, this volume, pp. 5–6).
224 Shaw 1808, p. 10.
225 Holden 1793, p. xi.
226 Little 1801, p. 11.
227 Engelke, Ornaments in American Tunebooks, p. 1.
228 Atwill 1804 (p. 14) noted that embellishment “must be done with judgment.”
229 Kimball 1793, p. xvi. Kimball also adds that “few graces, however, if any are admissible in full chorusses, unless they are expressed in the composition.”
230 Shumway 1793, p. .
231 First discussed in James Lyon’s Urania (Philadelphia, 1761), p. x, these ornaments are described in the introductions to a few later tunebooks, such as Jocelin 1782. However, because I have failed to find their symbols in any piece in an American tunebook of the time, they are not discussed in this introduction. It seems likely that Jocelin read about these graces in Lyon’s introduction. Lyon, in turn, might have taken them from one of the editions of John Playford’s An Introduction to the Skill of Musick, whose 12th edition (London, 1694) includes on p.  most of the graces described in Lyon’s Urania. The “forefall,” “backfall,” “beat,” and “turn” are discussed in Robert Donington, The Interpretation of Early Music, pp. 137 and 209.
232 Appoggiaturas were introduced into American tunebooks as early as the 1782 printing of Andrew Law’s Select Harmony ([Cheshire, Connecticut, 1782]), which included a group of tunes taken from Martin Madan’s “Lock Hospital Collection” (London, 1769). Occasionally found in later American tunebooks, such as Holyoke 1791, the appoggiatura seems not to have gained general acceptance by American composers until after 1800.
233 CH, p. xxi (this volume, p. 23).
234 Billings (Ibid.) warns against transitions performed as triplets (“like notes tied together in threes”). While few writers remarked on the length of the notes that may be graced by transitions, Billings noted that “where the notes are but a half beat in length, you must not strike the intermediate note, because the two outside notes are so short.” Thus, where the beat is the half-note, quarter-notes would not be graced; however, where the beat is a quarter-note, they might be embellished.
235 Jocelin 1782, p. 16. Southern shape-note singers are particularly adept at performing the transition, which is very likely a carry-over from the earlier New-England practice. Their transitions appear to be quick portamentos connecting a note with the following one. They are not limited in their range to leaps of a third, nor in their rhythm to the dotted rhythms specified in tunebook introductions. Their execution is light and effortless. Hear, for example, the performance of Mear on Sacred Harp Singing, ed. by George Pullen Jackson (Library of Congress recording AFS L11). The singers’ transitions actually anticipate the pitch of the following note.
236 While transitions were usually improvised, occasionally they are notated in small notes. (See, for example, Trenton in Pilsbury 1799, p. 181.) Writers say that “the time given to them is always taken from the note to which they are attached” (Mann 1797, p. 5). They are sometimes mistakenly called “appoggiaturas,” but the difference between transitions and appoggiaturas is found in their location. Transitions follow the primary note in a rhythmically weak position and are slurred from it; appoggiaturas displace the primary note from its place on the beat, occupying a rhythmically strong position, and are also usually attached by a slur.
237 Shumway 1793, p. 13.
238 Billings (SMA, WBII, p. 10) wrote: “A mark of distinction is set over a note, when it is to be struck distinct and emphatic; without using the grace of Transition.” See, for example, m. 98 of the anthem Deliverance (CH, p. 134, this volume, p. 200) where the leaps in all voices are given marks of distinction. Billings obviously did not want the gliding sound of a transition on as forceful a word as “thunder.”)
239 See, for example, Jocelin 1782, p. 15; Holyoke 1791, p. 8; and Hartwell 1815, p. 7.
240 See, for example, Brownson 1783, p. 2; Read 1793, p. 8; Janes 1803, p. ix; and Bushnell 1807, p. v.
241 Holden 1793, p. vii; Leslie 1811, p. vii.
242 Engelke Ornaments, p. 160. Robbins 1805 (p. 9), almost alone among the psalmodists, advocates singing notes with a mark of distinction shorter, and provides an example where quarter-notes with the mark are sung as eighth-notes followed by an eighth-rest.
243 Engelke, Ornaments, p. 161.
244 Brownson 1783, p. 2 (see note 112).
245 See, for example, Billings’s Wareham (WBIII, pp. 68–69) where the notes set to the words “All in All” receive a mark of distinction throughout the fuge. Billings undoubtedly wanted them strongly accented, not only to emphasize their meaning, but also to contrast musically with the melisma that accompanies them in other voices.
246 Engelke, Ornaments, p. 87.
247 Read 1793, p. 8.
248 SMA, WBII, pp. 9–10.
249 Extemporaneous ornamentation by individual singers, of course, had a long tradition in American psalmody dating back to Puritan times. As Gilbert Chase has noted: “the people clung tenaciously to their own way [of singing], handed down through generations by oral tradition. They obviously cherished what the reformers condemned; hence, they were ‘very loath to part with it’” (Chase, America’s Music, from the Pilgrims to the Present, 3d ed. [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987], p. 19).
250 Bayley 1785, pp. [6–7].
251 Kimball 1793, p. viii.
253 Engelke, Ornaments, p. 90.
254 Holyoke 1803, p. xxi.
255 Mann 1797, p. 5.
256 Engelke, Ornaments, p. 146. He notes that “the appearance of the appoggiatura in American tune books is a direct result of the Italian influence on early eighteenth century English music” (p. 144) and credits Gram and Holyoke with clarifying the interpretation of its rhythmic value.
257 Holyoke 1803, p. xxi.
258 No guidelines, like those for the trill, were printed in American tunebooks to suggest that appoggiaturas were improvised. Whether appoggiaturas might have been supplied extemporaneously by the performer, writers do not say, but they were rather specialized graces, and their improvised use was probably limited to the most skilled performers of psalmody. The appoggiatura in Anglo-American psalmody is closely tied to what Temperley has called “‘Methodist’ tunes” (Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979], p. 212). These tunes, cast in what Crawford has termed “Decorated Duple” rhythm, feature a fast tempo, the primary movement in quarter-notes, a trochaic meter in the text, and melodic repetition in the melody (Crawford, Core Repertory, p. xiv). Temperley notes that their “strongly marked features . . . were directly derived from the secular music of the times.” A prominent feature was the use of expressive appoggiaturas, taken from Italian secular song.
259 Engelke, Ornaments, pp. 147–149.
260 Ibid., pp. 181–182.
261 Rev. William Bentley wrote in his diary for February 12, 1809: “Organs are now used in our principal towns & in several towns in the County, perhaps as many as 12 in this state in Congregational Churches. 3 in Boston, 2 in Salem, 1 in Newbury Port” (Bentley, Diary, III, p. 415). More Anglican churches would have had organs than Congregational churches, but they were fewer in number and located primarily in the larger towns. It seems safe to assume that an organ was a rare possession in New-England churches at the time of Billings’s death in 1800.
262 McKay and Crawford, William Billings, p. 254.
263 Bentley, Diary, II, p. 163, entry for October 28, 1795.
264 On November 30, 1797. Bentley noted in his diary that “the scandalous indifference to vocal music has obliged us to have recourse to such expedients [i.e., the use of instruments to accompany the choir], or our Church music must have been lost” (Bentley, Diary, II, p. 247).
265 Gould dates it from “about the commencement of Billings’s career” (ca. 1770), but he also says that at first “generally, it was considered unfit to have a place within the walls of the church” (Church Music, pp. 168–169). The bass viol used in psalmody is not necessarily synonymous with the violoncello, the former having a somewhat larger body and a somewhat shorter neck (see New Grove Dictionary of American Music, sv. “Bass viol”).
266 Bentley, Diary, II, p. 163.
267 Ibid., II, p. 248.
268 Gould, Church Music, pp. 170–173.
269 Bentley, Diary, II, p. 163. Mr. Gardner was presumably a member of the congregation who played the transverse flute.
270 Ibid., II, p. 248, entry for November 30, 1795.
272 Historically-informed performers employing instrumental accompaniment in psalmody will want to consider carefully the types of instruments used and their performance techniques. If performers on early instruments, such as the one-keyed flute and the violin and violoncello using gut upper strings and the pre-Tourte bow, are available it would be well to use them. If not, modern performance techniques should be modified to bring the instrumental sound more in line with 18th-century characteristics. For example, whether the amateur violinists, cellists, and flutists in the gallery orchestra employed vibrato is a matter of conjecture; however, if employed, vibrato should be executed in the 18th-century manner rather than the 20th-century (see Donington, Interpretation, pp. 167–169 and 470).
273 Oliver Holden made this recommendation: “Where this is not practicable [i.e., one half the voices on the bass], a bass viol would be of great service, if the person who uses it is thorough in the knowledge of the instrument. It serves another valuable purpose also, by keeping the voices on their original pitch, as well as by giving them the proper key, and preserving a perfect and uniform tone” (Holden 1793, p. x). Hear, for example, Chesterfield by William Billings, sung by the Oregon State University choir, directed by Ron Jeffers, on Make a Joyful Noise (New World Records NWR 255), which doubles the bass line with a ’cello. The singers also add ornaments to the vocal lines. Also for the use of instruments with the voices, hear some of the pieces on The New England Harmony (Folkways Records FA2377) sung by the Old Sturbridge Singers, directed by Floyd Corson, under Alan Buechner’s supervision.
274 New Grove, XIV. p. 371, sv. “Performing Practice.”
275 Billings confirms the variety of performance customs in CH (p. xxvii; this volume, p. 29) by having the Scholar remark: “Sir, I have observed that strangers who are well skilled in the rules of music, do not harmonize so well at first trial, as those who are better acquainted with each other[’]s voices.” This leads Billings (the Master) into a discussion of various methods of inserting notes of transition, but it generally supports the idea that performances varied from place to place.
276 Certainly the printing process itself explains some of the inaccuracies in CH. In contrast to the earlier method, where an engraver etches musical characters onto a copper plate, presumably with some feeling for their place in longer musical lines, a typographical setting is made up of dozens of separate pieces of type, each of which must be placed correctly to convey its intended meaning. Moreover, letterpress printers of Billings’s time printed their works in segments, which for tunebooks were usually eight-page “signatures.” Once copies of a particular signature were run off, the setting of type was broken down and reset for another signature. Although this process led to lower printing costs and cheaper books, it also required expert proofreading at the press. In copperplate printing, plates were often kept and used for years, and errors could be corrected as they were noticed. But in the letterpress process, if errors were not corrected before the signature was printed, the entire print-run of those pages perpetuated them.
The many inaccuracies in CH indicate that the printers of music in Thomas and Andrews’s shop were neither experts in music nor meticulous at their trade. Moreover, they provide good reason to think that Billings himself played no role in the production of his work. If he had, the evidence suggests, the result would surely have been better, for Billings, although he was not an engraver, had been closely involved in the production of his three previous tunebooks: as printer of MIM (1779) and PSA (1781), and as publisher of SH (1786). The care with which the music in all those works was printed—a care also found in NEPS (1770) and SMA (1778), printed by others—seems a reflection of Billings’s own insistence on accuracy.
277 There was no general agreement among psalmodists regarding the tempo of the second mood of Common Time (marked 𝇍). While many assigned a metronomic equivalent of 80 for the quarter-note, some (e.g., Read 1790) recommended 90. Billings in CH (p. vii; this volume, p. 9) suggested a proportion relative to the first mood of Common Time of 5 to 4, which works out to a metronomic equivalent of 75 for the quarter-note.
278 See The New-England Psalm-Singer, p. 15; The Continental Harmony, p. xx–xxi.
279 For more on tempo see David P. McKay and Richard Crawford, William Billings of Boston (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 241–45.
280 See The Singing Master’s Assistant, Lesson X, p. 16.
281 The introductory matter in Billings’s publications, however, appears with original spelling and punctuation.
282 Billings’s Introduction is supplemented with twenty-six footnotes, some of them quite long. They are headed here by his initials—“[WB:]”—to distinguish them from footnotes added by the editor, chiefly for reference or clarification. As a rule, Billings’s original wording, spelling, and punctuation are maintained in the following text, except where obvious errors obscure or confuse his meaning. Such errors are corrected, with the changes enclosed in square brackets. Scriptural references appearing in brackets are also editorial. All “directs”—single words at the end of the page showing the first word of the next page—have been tacitly omitted from the text, as has one unnecessary “a-” on p. xxiv of Billings’s original (last character, line 21).
283 In Billings’s original, the caption “LESSON I” appears on the same line as and immediately before the caption “For TENOR or TREBLE” in the following diagram.
284 In Billings’s original, the musical examples are printed on a single page headed “Musical Characters” (p. iii), rather than being interspersed throughout the text as they are here. Billings instructs his readers: “For the Notes, Rests and other Characters, see page 3” (Lesson IV, caption, p. v).
The spelling of “cliff” for “clef” is standard throughout the theoretical introductions of Anglo-American tunebooks of the 18th century.
285 [WB:] And here it may not be amiss to inform you, how the length of pendulums are calculated; take this instance, suppose a pendulum of thirty-nine inches and two tenths, will vibrate in the time of a second, then divide 392/10 by four, and it will give you the length of a pendulum that will vibrate twice as quick; and multiply thirty-nine [and] 2/10 by 4, and it will give the length of a pendulum that will vibrate twice as slow. Make a pendulum of common thread well waxed, and instead of a bullet take a piece of heavy wood turned perfectly round, about the bigness of a pullet’s egg, and rub them over, either with chalk, paint or white-wash, so that they may be seen plainly by candle-light.
286 In the music of this edition, the Allegro mood is indicated by a 2/2 time signature. (See “Introduction” to WBII, this volume p. lxix.)
287 In SMA, eds. 1–3, Billings assigned 392/10 inches as the pendulum length for this mood. (See WBII, p. 11, note 3.)
288 Billings or, more likely, Thomas and Andrews’s typographers omitted the caption for Lesson VII. In the introduction to SMA (see WBII, pp. 7–24), of which that in CH is an abbreviated reprint, Lesson VII stands at the head of the discussion of “Syncope, syncopation, or driving notes.” The caption “Lesson VII” has been supplied editorially at this point.
289 Beginning with example 3, except for example 4, the musical examples should all be in G major, but the typesetters at Thomas and Andrews omitted the one-sharp key signature, as if Billings had intended it as an accidental sharp on the first note of example 3. The examples in this edition have been compared with SMA, their original source, and adjusted accordingly. (See WBII, pp. 13–14.)
290 Billings’s source here is probably William Tans’ur, New Musical Grammar ([London]: the Author, 1746), Book I, p. 1.
291 [WB:] I would not be understood, by the candid reader, to be guilty of so great a piece of absurdity as this may appear to be, at the first glance; viz. the attempting to destroy a monument which (in the answer to the preceding question) I was so industrious and solicitous in erecting, to immortalize the name of Guido; so far from that, I think I reflect great honour on Guido, in supposing him capable of improving, or making any addition to a musical scale of King David’s invention; the man who, in scripture, is stiled The Lord’s anointed, the man after God’s own heart, the chief musician, &c. [II Samuel 23:1; Acts 13:22. Although many Psalms of David are headed “To the Chief Musician,” the title was never applied to David himself.] The daughters of Israel sang by way of congratulation, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” [I Samuel 18:7], and by way of simile, thus sing I, “Guido hath done well, and David hath done better.”
292 Aaron Williams, The Universal Psalmodist, 2d ed. (London: Joseph Johnson, 1764), p. 5.
293 [WB:] We find it recorded in sacred writ, that “Jubal was the Father of all such as handled the harp and organ” [Genesis 4:21]. But who was the father, or rather the former of the human voice? The Lord God Omnipotent!. Then surely a greater than Jubal is here; we know that neither Jubal, or any of his successors were ever able to frame an organ, that can distinctly articulate these words, “Hear my prayer[,] O Lord,” or change the key and say, “Praise the Lord[,] O my soul,” surely not. The most curious instrument that ever was constructed, is but sound, and sound without sense: while man, who is blest and endued with the faculties of speech can alternately sing of mercy and of judgment as duty bids, or occasion may require. The Royal Psalmist, who calls upon “every thing that hath breath to praise the Lord” [Psalm 150:6] has made this very beautiful distinction, where he says, “the Singers went before, the Players on instruments followed after” [Psalm 68:25]. Here you see the singers took the lead, while the instrumental practitioners humbly followed after. Lord what is man that thou hast thus distinguished him, for thou hast made him but a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour [Psalm 8 4–5]. To return, I think it no great encomium upon the Creator of heaven and earth, to acknowledge his superiority in constructing a vehicle for the conveyance of sounds, which is at once both capable of vociferation and articulation; for indeed I think it not much short of blasphemy, to set up Jubal as a competitor with the Almighty of Heaven. Repent ye Jubalites, lest his jealously [jealousy] awake and punish the presumption. “O Lord how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all” [Psalm 104:24]. Help us O Lord to admire Jubal for thy sake, and adore thee for thine own sake. Then shall we render unto Jubal the things that are Jubal’s, and unto God the things which are God’s [paraphrase of Luke 20:25].
294 Joseph Stephenson (1729–1810), clerk of the Unitarian chapel in Poole, Dorset, England, published a collection entitled Church Harmony (3d ed., London, 1760, is the earliest extant edition) containing psalm settings, many set as fuging-tunes. His fuging-tune setting of Psalm 34 was extremely popular in America and became the prototype for the typical American fuging-tune. See Richard Crawford, The Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody, Recent Researches in American Music, v. 11–12 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1984), pp. l–li.
295 John Arnold, The Compleat Psalmodist, 5th ed. (London, 1761), p. v.
296 William Tans’ur, The Royal Melody Compleat (London, 1755), p. 8 of rudiments section; also Tans’ur, Grammar, Book I, p. 18.
297 See Tans’ur, Royal Melody Compleat, p. 7 of rudiments section; Williams, Universal Psalmodist, 2d ed., p. 10.
298 See Arnold, Compleat Psalmodist, 5th ed., p. v.
299 See Tans’ur, Royal Melody Compleat, p. 7 of rudiments section; also Tans’ur, Grammar, Book I, p. 15.
300 [WB:] I never place a double Bar for a repetition of notes, but always make use of an :S: though I sometimes make use of a double Bar dot[t]ed for a repetition of words; for where the same word occurs several times successively, a double bar dot[t]ed answers the same purpose as the word written at length, and saves a great deal of labour and room.
301 [WB:] Among the many other absurdities which always take place, where this contemptible practice of reading between the lines is still kept up, this one may be added, viz. the great tendency it has to shut such an excellent body of divine poetry (as is contained in the psalm and hymn book now in vogue among us) out of private families; for where the singing is carried on without reading, the performers must (of necessity) be furnished with books; on the other hand, there are many who excuse themselves from procuring books in this manner, viz. why should I be at this unnecessary expense, when I am enabled (by the help of the Clerk, or Deacon) to sing without it? Ironically, I answer, and why need we be at the expense of purchasing a bible, or trouble ourselves with perusing it at home, so long as we may, by going to meeting once a week, hear a chapter or two gratis. (I confess this remark should have been inserted in the body of the work, but it did not take place in my mind till the pages were full; therefore I plead benefit of margin, a glorious privilege, for which bad memories and dull authors cannot be too thankful.)
302 The practice described here, known as “lining out,” dates in America back to at least 1647, when John Cotton wrote in his tract, Singing of Psalms a Gospel Ordinance (London, 1647), “it will be a necessary helpe, that the words of the Psalme, be openly read beforehand, line after line, or two lines together, that so they who want either books or skill to reade, may know what is to be sung, and joyne with the rest in the dutie of singing.” Quoted here from George Hood, A History of Music in New England (Boston, 1846; repr. New York, 1970), p. 47.
303 [WB:] Whatever Mr. Clerk, or Mr. Deacon, or Mr. Any-body-else, who sustains the office of retailer may think; I shall take the liberty to tell them, I think it a very gross affront upon the audience, for they still go upon the old supposition, viz. the congregation in general cannot read; therefore they practically say, we men of letters, and you ignorant creatures.
304 [WB:] Here take the Doctor’s own words. “It were to be wished that all congregations and private families would sing as they do in foreign protestant churches, without reading line by line, though the author has done what he could to make the sense complete in every line or two, yet many inconveniences will always attend this unhappy manner of singing.” &c. [see “Advertisement to the Readers” in Watts’s The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1767), p. v]. Thus he, the Rev. Doctor, does not tarry upon this subject long enough to enumerate the many inconveniences he seems to refer to. I imagine his reasons for declining the task, were, the great tendency such an undertaking would have to swell each page to a treatise, or rather a volume; therefore we may reasonably conclude that the omission was merely for want of room, not for want of reason.
305 Billings’s source here is probably Tans’ur, Grammar, Book I, p. 12.
306 [WB:] There are several species of good Time, which may be divided in the following manner, viz. one good division of Time is, when the performers give each note its due proportion, viz. the semibreve as long again as the minum, the minum as long again as the crotchet, &c. Another good division of time is, when the performers give each bar its due length of time, not performing one bar quicker than another. Another good division of time is, when the performers move exactly together. Another good division is, when the performers move in exact conformity to the vibration of a pendulum. N. B. These are all grand divisions, and to carry this military idea still further, you may consider the single bars in the stead of file leaders, and the pendulum in the place of the standard.
307 [WB:] You may take this as infallible, 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 triple time. The motion of the hand in beating time is as correspondent with the music, as the feet of the soldier is to the sound of the fife; and through the medium of the eye, as well as the ear, it conveys the accents into the minds of the audience, and serves to strike the passions in an extraordinary manner; for the accents are the life and spirit of the music, without which, it would be very insipid, and destitute of meaning.
308 Third mood, Common Time (2/2 time signature in this edition).
309 See Lesson V, no. 8; this volume, p. 9. What Billings seems to be saying here is that triplet rhythm is to be performed very precisely.
310 [WB:] To the above definition this might be added, viz. that the flat key has its lesser sixth, and seventh, rising above the key note; and the sharp key has its greater sixth and seventh, rising above the key note; but as these are circumstances which must take place in consequence of the former, they are suppos[ed] to be included in the above answer.
311 [WB:] I take this opportunity to make this remark, viz. the impropriety of setting a Hallelujah in a flat key; the reader may observe, that the import of the word is, Praise ye the Lord.—Query, is it not very inconsistent to praise the Lord, in tones which are plaintive and prayerful? for certainly the words and the music, must contradict each other. N. B. This errour I confess myself guilty of in a former publication, but upon more mature reflection, I heartily wish it were in my power to erase it. [The reference may be to Billings’s anthem “Hear My Prayer, O Lord” in NEPS; see WBI, p. 293.]
312 The reference is to David driving the evil spirit from Saul through the use of music, as told in I Samuel 16:23.
313 [WB:] It is probable that at the first glance, this may appear inconsistent, viz. that any two things opposed should be said to excel each other; but I presume (upon second thought) all who are judges of music will allow that the sharp and the flat key are so excellent each in its own way, that considering them in this light, though so different, they may (without any impropriety) be said to excel each other.
314 [WB:] I think it may not be amiss to rank the sharp key (by reason of its majesty and grandeur) in the masculine, and [the] flat key (by reason of its softness and effeminacy) in the fem[i]nine gender; and all indifferent pieces, which are of no force in either key, may (with contempt) be ranked in the neuter.
315 A possible source is Tans’ur, Musical Grammar, p. vii; Billings’s account is much more elaborate than Tans’ur’s.
316 [WB:] The reason why B is the first letter flatted, is, because it is the sharpest tone in the whole octave, and E is the next sharpest tone, and A the next and so on as they are laid down in the rules of transposition: and the reason why F is first sharped, is, because it is the flattest tone in the whole octave, C is the next, G is the next, &c. For it is a maxim with musicians to flat the sharpest tones first, and sharp the flattest.
317 This verse, which also appears in Billings’s The New-England Psalm-Singer, is probably Billings’s own (see WBI, p. 14).
318 Lesson VIII, p. xi; this volume, p. 15.
319 The range indicated is G above the top line of the treble staff and B (or perhaps B-flat) two ledger lines below the bass staff.
320 [WB:] The utility of that little instrument, called a Pitch Pipe, is so universally known and acknowledged, that it would be needless for me to engross the reader’s time in proving a thing which is already granted.
321 [WB:] It may not be amiss here to trace this matter back to the fountain head, viz. the cliffs, for the cliffs ascertain the place of B-mi, and B-mi constitutes the key note, and that determines the tones above or below it to be either flat or sharp, according to the scale.
322 Billings seems here to be saying that in early American psalmody, the seventh degree in the minor was usually sung as a leading-tone, whether or not it was notated as one (i.e., raised by an accidental).
323 [WB:] It is an old maxim, and I think a very just one, viz. that variety is always pleasing, and it is well known that there is more variety in one piece of fuging music, than in twenty pieces of plain song, for while the tones do most sweetly coincide and agree, the words are seemingly engaged in a musical warfare; and excuse the paradox if I further add, that each part seems determined by dint of harmony and strength of accent, to drown his competitor in an ocean of harmony, and while each part is thus mutually striving for mastery, and sweetly contending for victory, the audience are most luxuriously entertained, and exceedingly delighted; in the mean time, their minds are surprizingly agitated, and extremely fluctuated; sometimes declaring in favour of one part, and sometimes another.—Now the solemn bass demands their attention, now the manly tenor, now the lofty counter, now the volatile treble, now here, now there, now here again.—O inchanting! O ecstatic! Push on, push on ye sons of harmony, and
Discharge your deep mouth’d canon, full fraught with Diapasons;
May you with Maestoso, rush on to Choro-Grando,
And then with Vigoroso, let fly your Diapentes
About our nervous system.
An EJACULATION OF PHILO FUGING
Grant I beseech thee, O Apollo, that these thy devotees may never want competitors, and let these thy fugers be unanimously disagreed, and sweetly irreconcilable. —
Hark! Hark! hear the voice of reason, who in disguise has attended through the whole controversy, and thus she addresses the contending parties. “Give over your fruitless endeavours, ye sons of Consonance, and no longer attempt impossibilities, for we have heard with our ears, and our auditory nerves have informed us [paraphrase of Psalm 44:1], that the author of this composition has ingeniously turned all your efforts for ascendency into the right channel, so that all your extraordinary exertions for supremacy, has but a tendency to animate and stimulate your rival competitors; therefore we do, by and with the advice of th author, both counsel and command that (for the present) you let all musical hostilities subside, and it is our royal will and pleasure, that your thirds and fourths, your sixths and tenths, be resolved into the unison and octave, the twelfth and fifteenth from the bass.
By the command of REASON,
The AUTHOR, SECRETARY.
324 [WB:] But says the critic. Ah! well, what says the critic? “I think, Mr. Author, your precept is excellent, and your practice but indifferent, for in your New England Psalm Singer, you seem to take but little notice of either emphasis or accent, and whether the reason is founded either upon ignorance or inattention, I am not able to determine, but I am rather inclined to think the former.” Hark you, Mr. Critic, a word in your ear, hear and be astonished, and let me assure you, upon the word and honour of an author, that what I am about to confess is neither ambiguous nor ironical, but you may depend upon my sincerity, when I acknowledge, I was fool enough to commence author before I really understood either tune, time, or concord. “Indeed, this from your heart.” This from my very soul. “Amazing, what condescension is this, in an author of your popularity? But sure, Mr. Author, you do not intend to publish this acknowledgement to the world.” O, by no means, as I told you before, this is only a word in your ear. “But if my opticks inform me right, I saw this same confession inserted, verbatim, in a dialogue between you and your pupil, how then do you suppose it possible to conceal it from the world, when it is typically conveyed to every reader.” Softly Sir, not quite so loud, if my pupil (who is hard by) should chance to hear your interrogation or my confession, his great opinion of my infallibility, would be entirely destroyed, and instead of respect for my knowledge, he would, no doubt, show his contempt of my ignorance, and he might also (with great propriety) express his indignation at my impudence in attempting to instruct him in a science of which I have confessed myself entirely ignorant; although such teachers are no novelty, yet no doubt the consequences to me would be this; the loss of my character, which would be attended with the loss of my business, and consequently the loss of my bread; therefore Sir, in the name of charity, I must entreat you not to be so clamorous. “But indeed, Mr. Author, your manner of answering my last question is very foreign from the purpose, and entirely evasive; but I am resolved your equivocation shall not excuse you from answering this concise question. How do you expect to keep private, what you have already made public?” I do not intend to have it inserted in the body of the work, but by way of whisper in a marginal note, and I intend to order the printer to print it on a very small type, in an obscure part of the book, and as near the bottom of the page as possible. I suppose, Mr. Critic, I need not inform you that all readers may be divided into these two classes, viz. the curious and incurious; the curious reader, by perusing this work, will (without this information of mine) be fully satisfied that the composition is both inaccurate and indifferent; therefore, as I tell him no more than he knew before, my popularity will not be diminished by this frank confession; but if he has a spark of generosity, he will bestow large encomiums both on my honesty and modesty; and if he does not (I still further confess) I shall be prodigiously chagrined, and confoundedly disappointed. As to the incurious readers (by way of gratitude) I confess they are a set of people I have a great respect for; because they constitute the greater part of my admirers; and as they seldom trouble themselves with marginal notes (unless some Type-Master-General should be so ill[-]natured as to inform against me) they would be none the wiser, and (by this artful evasion) I presume I shall be none the worse for this honest declaration[.] And now Sir, in my turn, I shall take it upon me (however you may receive it) to interrogate you. Pray Sir, how came you so impertinently officious in your criticisms upon me? You syllable catcher, if you are but half so honest as I am condescending, you will acknowledge I have made game out of your own hand, and beat you at your own weapons! You comma hunter, did I not inform you that I intended to discharge you from my service, and do my own drudgery; and now Mr. Semi-critic, once more I command you to quit my Consonance, with the velocity of a Demisemi; and
If you ever be so hardy as to traverse my Quartas,
Or score off your Eptachords with my Diapasons,
I solemnly protest,
By the graveness of Adagio, and vivacity of Allegro
The Forte of my Canon well charg’d with Septi Nonas,
Shall greet your Auditory with terrible Sensations,
And fill you with tremor.
I’ll beat your empty bars in the twinkle of a pendulum,
By way of Syncopation I’ll score your composition,
And with a single Solo I’ll close up your Chorus
In tacitness eternal.
325 Billings’s text has “Walker.” He evidently meant Thomas Walter, who wrote in his The Grounds and Rules of Mustek Explained (Boston, 1764), “a Fourth is by some accounted a Chord, by others a Discord; but I am inclined to think the former” (p. 24).
326 [WB:] Although it is generally supposed by philosophers that the more frequent the coincidences the more agreeable the concord, yet Mr. Martin (in his Philosophical Grammar) says, “there is something else besides the frequency of coincidences, which constitute a concord,” otherwise a fourth would have the preference to a greater third, which is contrary to experience. [Benjamin Martin, The Philosophical Grammar, 6th ed. (London: J. Noon, J. Rivington, et al., 1762) first published in 1735. Billings’s quote comes from p. 88, note 20, and is a paraphrase. Martin’s original passage reads: “There is somewhat [sic] besides the Frequency of the Coincidences of Vibrations, that qualifies the Ratio for Concordance or pleasing Sound, or else 4:7, or 5:7, both Discords, would be preferable to 5:8, a Concord, contrary to Experience.”]
327 [WB:] The utility of the bass is as conspicuous in this example, as it can possibly be, for by taking away one note you take away two concords, which were not only concords in themselves, but by their joint force they converted a discord into a concord; and in order to illustrate this point still more fully, you may select out one of the best tunes that was ever composed, and let the upper parts perform without the bass, the noise would be almost intolerable, but, vice versa, let one of the upper parts be taken off and the bass substituted in its stead, the concert would be agreeable, although it would be diminished from a full chorus. And here it may not be amiss to inform the reader that in a concert of four parts, with their octaves, there is a great number of chords, or harmonious tones struck at the same time; I have heard between twenty and thirty different tones struck from the four parts, and their octaves [Billings seems here to be describing summation and difference tones produced in the ear by the interactions of different pitches in the various parts. See Don M. Randel, ed., The New Harvard Dictionary of Music (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986), sv. “Combination tone”.]; but time would fail me to insist largely upon this subject, for if a man (Briarious like) had a hundred hands, and a pen in each [Briareus, a giant with a hundred arms, is mentioned in Thomas Bulfinch, Mythology (London: Spring Books, 1964), p. 90], the ages of all men from Adam down to the present day, multiplied together, would be too little to comment at large upon this subject, and I think I may safely defy all the mathematicians in the universe, to calculate the number of coincidences and vibrations which take place at one and the same instant of time, for there is something magical in it, and out of the reach of human art. Dr. Biles [Mather Byles] expresses it very beautifully and emphatically in the following Lines,
“Then rolls the rapture through the air around,
In the full magic melody of sound.”
[“On Music”, published in NEPS, see WBI, p. 12.]
328 NEPS, see WBI, p. 32.
329 The first voice part Billings refers to is the Tenor, the second the Bass, the third the Treble (Soprano), and the fourth the Counter (Alto). The additive method of composition in psalmody is discussed in the editor’s introduction to WBIII, pp. xxxviii–xlii.
330 [WB:] I think we may with propriety make a distinction between those who (are said to) have a musical ear, and those who have an ear for music; for any who are pleased and entertained with musical sounds, may be said to have an ear for music, but before they can justly be said to have a musical ear, they must be able to make very nice distinctions.
331 [WB:] I have heard some object to this definition, because it was a partial one, for they say that all divine words when set to music, may with propriety be called divine songs, whether in prose or verse.—In answer, I grant that the remark is very pertinent; but as words were made to convey ideas, and different names were given to different things, for the sake of distinguishing one thing from another: I have (for the sake of convenience) distinguished Anthems from Psalm-tunes in the manner above mentioned.
332 Billings’s reference is to three gold coins commonly used as legal tender in 18th-century New England. The double-jo was Portuguese, the moidore French, and the guinea either English or French.
333 [WB:] I think the Friends are the only religious sect, who exclude music from their devotions; but, although it is against their principles, yet it is not always against their constitutions: which sometimes occasions their getting behind doors, or under windows, to gratify an itching ear—which they happened to be born with. One of this sect was once so catholic as to allow two of her neices [nieces] to attend my school, and I observed that she came almost every evening, “to see the girls safe home,” as she expressed it; and what is most diverting is, that she always came an hour or more before school broke up, and that was, as she said, “to be there in season;” but her pretentions were so thin, they were easily seen through, for if I am not much out of my conjectures, she was as highly entertained as any of the audience. And yet this woman would never acknowledge that music was any gratification to her, nor would she allow it to be practiced in her house. An arch Wag brought her a fiddle to play on, she resented it highly; upon which he told her the following story. “Once on a time all the beasts met together in order for diversion, they were all for music but the Devil and the Ass, chuse which you will.”
334 [WB:] Scholar. Farewell Preceptor!
Master. Farewell! dear pupil, your pertinent interrogations, have sweetly extorted many remarks and digressions from your loving preceptor; and if you are as much edified in the reception, as I was delighted, in the conveyance of these broken hints and imperfect ideas, the satisfaction on my side will fully compensate for all my trouble; and I take this opportunity to recommend your inquisitive turn of mind to all my pupils, for the answers edify (not only the interrogator, but) all within hearing.
335 [WB:] There is a very striking passage recorded in Ecclesiasticus, viz. “he that is not wise will not be taught”, [Bible, Authorized version, Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus 21:12] a conclusive argument that ignorance and conceit are inseparable companions. To illustrate this more fully, take one instance. In my musical excursions through the country, I became acquainted with a superannuated old Deacon, who had officiated as chorister in his parish upwards of thirty years successively. He frequently told me, that he understood the scale of music perfectly: and by close application and severe study, he had found out that there was no half tones in nature, but that their imaginary existence was introduced by pedantic singing masters to keep people in ignorance in order to fleece them of their money. This same gentleman happening to be at some distance from home was invited to attend a monthly lecture: where, without being desired, he undertook to set the psalm, which happened to be long metre. The Deacon struck St. Martin’s [a C.M. tune by William Tans’ur], “that won’t do.” Then New-Gloucester [anonymous British C.M. tune]—“nor that.” Then Wantage [anonymous British C.M. tune]—“never the nearer.”—He then made an effort to sing Bangor [a C.M. tune by William Tans’ur], but was sagacious enough to discover his mistake, by the time he had ended the second line. In this interval or cessation of sound one of the congregation set Buckland [an L.M. tune by Aaron Williams], which relieved the poor Deacon for that time.—After divine service was ended, one of his acquaintance interrogates the Deacon in the following manner. “How now! Deacon, [t]hat a man of your vast abilities in music make such intolerable blunders?[”] To which the Deacon (by way of resentment) made the following reply. “Do not blame me, blame the minister, for it is vastly out of character in him to give out a long metre Psalm, on a Lecture day.”
336 [WB:] ———“where they introduce
The[ir] sacred song; and waken raptures high:
No one exempt, no voice but well could join
Melodious part: such concord is in heaven.”—milton
[Paradise Lost, Book 3, II. 369–72]