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Fireside Chat: Cultivated by Hand: Amateur Musicians in the Early American Republic (Book Talk)

Scattered in archives and historical societies across the United States are hundreds of volumes of manuscript music, copied by hand by eighteenth-century amateurs. Often overlooked, amateur music making played a key role in the construction of gender, class, race, and nation in the post-revolution years of the United States. These early Americans, seeking ways to present themselves as genteel, erudite, and pious, saw copying music by hand and performing it in intimate social groups as a way to make themselves—and their new nation-appear culturally sophisticated.

Following a select group of amateur musicians, Cultivated by Hand makes the case that amateur music making was both consequential to American culture of the eighteenth century and aligned with other forms of self-fashioning. This interdisciplinary study explores the social and material practices of amateur music making, analyzing the materiality of manuscripts, tracing the lives of individual musicians, and uncovering their musical tastes and sensibilities. Author Glenda Goodman explores highly personal yet often denigrated experiences of musically “accomplished” female amateurs in particular, who grappled with finding a meaningful place in their lives for music. Revealing the presence of these unacknowledged subjects in music history, Cultivated by Hand reclaims the importance of such work and presents a class of musicians whose labors should be taken into account.

Dr. Glenda Goodman is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works on the history of early American music. She publishes in musicology and history journals and her research has been supported by the ACLS, the Institute for Advanced Studies, and other fellowships, including the Library Company of Philadelphia in 2010. Dr. Goodman is currently working on a book on sacred music and colonial encounter in eighteenth-century New England, as well as a collaborative project, American Contact: Intercultural Encounter and the History of the Book, which will result in a volume and digital project. Today she’ll discuss her first book, Cultivated by Hand: Amateur Musicians in the Early American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2020).

This chat originally aired at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, October 29, 2020.

Talking in the Library will serve as an audio platform for researchers to share the incredible work they’re pursuing using the rich collections at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Talking in the Library is hosted by Will Fenton, the Director of Scholarly Innovation, and produced by Ann McShane, the Project Digital Asset Librarian at Emory University.

Logo design by Nicole Graham. Theme music by Krestovsky (“Terrible Art”).

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