Southern and Western American Sacred Music and Influential Sources (1700-1870) (SWASMIS), a new research database, chronicles the history and dissemination of sacred music from Europe and the American Eastern Seaboard to the American south and west from the Colonial Period to the Era of Reconstruction following the American Civil War (1750-1870). It catalogs every known southern and western sacred music composition appearing in manuscript and printed sources, as well as the significant material that directly influenced these compilers. Not confined to English-language tunebooks, this database also documents source material in a variety of Old and New World languages, including German, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Latin and Hebrew from European settlers, and Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Hawaiian, Lenape, and Seneca for Native Americans. SWASMIS also expands the cultural representation in American sacred music through its inclusion of collections for or by African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and Native Americans. In order to represent as broad a swath of the American south and west as possible, it is the first to index the contents of printed and manuscript sources for sacred music, as well as significant words-only hymnals with tune indications above their texts. SWASMIS chronicles the history of the practice of sacred music in its relationship to cultural, denominational, and geographic dispersal of United States’ culture over a larger 170-year period of time. Using the database, researchers can trace and document folk and popular movements over space and relate them to the cultural and social fabric of American society.
Building upon the work of earlier American music scholars in American music bibliography, SWASMIS focuses on the sacred music repertory in all forms and types, extending not only to pieces set to sacred poetry, but also more extended choral pieces such as the anthem, liturgical music, and secular songs found in the various compilations. Each tune entry not only includes information on compositions, composers, texts, and authors, it also contains information in which to assess the cultural context of a particular piece of music, or an entire collection in which these pieces are found. Through the documentation of instrumental accompaniment, musical style, composition type, spelling idiosyncrasies, folk hymns, secular songs, and other compositional features, any researcher will be able to trace the history of a tune and place it within its connection to culture, denomination, and society. In this aspect, SWASMIS is designed to incorporate a number of interdisciplinary approaches to sacred music culture, allowing it to be used by researchers from a variety of disciplines such as musicology, religious studies, folklore, cultural geography, aesthetics, American studies, history, and material culture. Further, SWASMIS serves both the academic and general public within this array of disciplines and interests.
Constructed originally as a FileMaker Pro database, SWASMIS is being transformed into a fully functioning, public access website, allowing for both simple and advanced search functions in both browsing and searching modes. For those persons unfamiliar with the subject but wanting to explore the contents of the database, individual indexes by composer, tune, text, and other features will be available. For those already familiar with the subject matter, advanced searches will allow the researcher to explore the database to enrich and complement their own work. In addition, SWASMIS will also feature a mapping function to be able to trace a particular tune through time and space from its European or American origins to the interior of the country. Further, the database will allow researchers to visualize patterns such as the popularity of a tune across time and space using charting tools. All components are designed to reach as broad an audience as possible and be equally useful to anyone interested in American culture before 1870.
Because of the array of source material regarding its cultural representation, languages, and source type (printed and manuscript), understanding the scope of SWASMIS is critical to searching and browsing through its contents. The full bibliography lists sources by author and source type, with separate categories given to: 1) printed tunebooks, tune collections, musical supplements, and metrical psalters, 2) sheet music, 3) broadsheets, 4) periodicals and newspapers, and 5) manuscript source material. This bibliography details the scope of the database in terms of the number and type of sources. However, the sheer number of sources and their organization by source type can prove somewhat daunting for the researcher not intimately familiar with this material.
Bibliography of sources included in SWASMIS
To give some idea as to the cultural representation and function of these collections of sacred music, three supplemental bibliographies are included below. The first documents English-language source materials included in the database. This bibliography is divided by origin and function of these compilations with sections given to: 1) relative European precedents, 2) denominationally specific American sources, 3) collections for nonspecific sacred use, 4) collections for sacred and social-secular use, 5) social-secular collections, or those intended for social recreation rather than both sacred and secular use, 6) newspapers and periodicals, 7) broadsheets, and 8) manuscript sources. For those collections with a specific denominational identity, sources within this subheading are organized by denominational and theological identity, with categories given to Calvinist (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, etc.), liturgical (Episcopalian, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.), Nonconformist (Methodist), Unitarian, Universalist, and other enthusiastic and evangelical churches. These theological categories are then divided further by the specific denomination associated with a particular collection. The researcher can then start to see the patterns that emerge across denomination and theology and place this information within the time period of compilation and its geographic space.
SWASMIS English language sources
The other two bibliographies are devoted to non-English-language materials represented in SWASMIS. The first of these is structured around non-English European-language materials included in the database. This particular bibliography is divided by language, with separate sections devoted to French, German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Welsh source material. Catholic collections with Latin texts are listed not under Latin sources, but rather the language of the compiler in publishing the work. For instance, Benjamin Carr published a few Catholic compilations, but with the exception of the Latin liturgical pieces, the rest of the collection is in English. So, it would be considered an English-language publication. As with the English-language bibliography, the non-English European-language materials are organized in an identical theological-denominational orientation, and the collections’ performative functions.
SWASMIS European foreign language sources
The final bibliography features all of the material compiled by or for Native Americans. For the first time, Native Peoples are recognized in American sacred music bibliography with two main sections devoted to sources compiled by Native Americans, and sources used as the organ of missionary activity. As with the main bibliography, this text is divided by source type with separate sections given to tune collections, words-only hymnals with tune indications, periodicals, broadsheets, and manuscript sources. However, rather than classify these compilations by denomination, they are instead organized by origin, language, and finally the missionary agency responsible for these publications. Some of these organizations were related to specific denominations such as the American Baptist Publication Society, while others were part of the larger American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). These three more-specialized bibliographies will aid the researcher in finding patterns across, culture, language, denomination, geography, and source type.
SWASMIS Native American language sources
Project Collaborators: Nikos Pappas (Music), Jason Battles (Library Technology Planning and Policy), Franky Abbott (ADHC), Kim Smalley (Web Services), Bill Friedman (Web Services)