Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Early Musical Theater and Tin Pan Alley

Moving into the 20th century, composers, librettists, lyricists, producers, and actors increasingly sought to incorporate an American identity in their work. This led to the use of popular American forms including ragtime, cakewalk, and jazz. Many shows contained plots about life in America. A new form of vernacular entertainment even developed known as musical comedy. The musical comedy contained musical numbers inserted into a play and tended to deal with popular, modern subjects. It had a lighter feel than opera. Though the musical comedy originated in Britain, Americans made it their own after 1900 with the rise of big names you may be familiar with such as George Cohan, Al Jolson, Jerome Kern, Ira and George Gershwin, Fred and Adele Astaire, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. We will talk more about some of these names next time.

Today, let’s focus in on one aspect of the music industry during the early 20th century that played a large role in the development of musical theater and American popular music: Tin Pan Alley.

Tin Pan Alley: Courtesy of wikipedia.org 


Tin Pan Alley was located at 28th and Broadway in New York City and became known as the home for major sheet music publishing companies. It was given its name because the pianos inside the company offices sounded like banging tin pans from outside on the street. Tin Pan Alley cornered the American song publishing market and the name eventually became a way to reference the style of popular music during the early 20th century time period. One great example of a famous American tune that came out of this period is “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”!

Do you have a favorite American popular tune from this time period? Join me next time as we take a closer look a few famous names from the Tin Pan Alley era!


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