Music in the Westward Expansion

Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier


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About the Book

Over 400,000 people moved their families in search of a better life in the American West during the Westward Expansion. The pioneers made room for musical instruments with their guns, food, and tools, while taking only the minimal necessities that would fit into modest wagons. During what seemed like an interminable dusty journey, music was often the sole source of light and happiness for these exhausted travelers. This book examines the roles of music in the Westward Expansion and the diverse cultural landscape of the Old West, including northern Cheyenne courtship flute makers, fiddle-playing explorers, dancing fur trappers, hymn-singing missionaries, frontier flutists, girls with guitars, wagon-driving balladeers, poetic cowboys, singing farmers, musical miners, and preaching songsters.

About the Author(s)

Laura Dean’s music career spans 25+ years and includes audiences in the United States, Europe, and Mexico. She lives in Seattle, Washington, where she performs, teaches, writes, records, creates music curricula, and offers private and public concerts along with school/community residencies and music education workshops.

Bibliographic Details

Laura Dean

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: 36 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8522-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4520-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 5
1. Northern Cheyenne Love Songs 9
2. The Genesis: The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) 22
3. Trailblazers: Explorers, Mountain Men, and Missionaries 36
4. Setting the Stage for the Oregon Trail: American Musical Life and Oregon Fever (circa 1830–1850) 53
5. Life on the Oregon Trail 69
6. The Music at the Heart of the Oregon Trail Experience 82
7. We’re There! Music on the Homestead and in Early Frontier Communities 99
8. Whoopie Ti Yi Yo: Music and the Real Cowboys in the Old West 118
9. Music in the Settled West: Three Distinct Frontier Communities in 1890 136
10. Western Inspiration: Scholars, Composers, and Musicians 152
Epilogue 167
Appendix A: Selected Songs and Musical Works 171
Appendix B: Suggested Recordings 176
Appendix C: Musical Scores 179
Appendix D: Meaningful Musical Experiences: Ideas to Get You Started on Your Own Musical Journey 189
Chapter Notes 191
Bibliography 197
Index 203

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This thorough, readable, and meticulously annotated book is alive with stories of people, instruments, singing, dancing, and community-building through notes. It’s a reminder that wherever humans go, music goes too—always reminding us of our capacity for joy and grief; always reminding us of our shared humanity.”—No Dead Guys

• “I LOVE this book!”—Mindy Peterson, NCTM, music educator & podcast host