Save 40% on UNC Press books during our American History SALE! See details.

Save 40% on UNC Press books during our American History SALE! See details.

Harnessing Harmony

Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788–1865

By Billy Coleman

268 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 halftones, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5887-2
    Published: August 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5886-5
    Published: August 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5888-9
    Published: June 2020

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Following the creation of the United States, profound disagreements remained over how to secure the survival of the republic and unite its diverse population. In this pathbreaking account, Billy Coleman uses the history of American music to illuminate the relationship between elite power and the people from the early national period to the Civil War. Based on deep archival research in sources such as music periodicals, songbooks, and manuals for musical instruction, Coleman argues that a particular ideal of musical power provided conservative elites with an attractive road map for producing the harmonious union they desired. He reassesses the logic behind the decision to compose popular patriotic anthems like "The Star-Spangled Banner," reconsiders the purpose of early American campaign songs, and brings to life a host of often forgotten but fascinating musical organizations and individuals. The result is not only a striking interpretation of music in American political life but also a fresh understanding of conflicts that continue to animate American democracy.

About the Author

Billy Coleman is a postdoctoral fellow in early American history with the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri.
For more information about Billy Coleman, visit the Author Page.


"In engaging style, this book significantly advances our understanding of the intersection of music and political culture in the early republic."--Catherine Kelly, author of Republic of Taste: Art, Politics, and Everyday Life in Early America

"Coleman provides us with a unique lens to view the early interaction between politics and music. His clear prose and creative use of sources make this a welcome contribution to the scholarship on American politics and culture."--Christian McWhirter, Lincoln Historian at Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum