(Le Tour Eiffel, 1889, image from
(Duckelsbuhl, Germany, ca 1900,
image from Yahoo photos)
The Continental Tradition,
The story of "French Fry Alley"?
Popular Music in France and Germany
In March of this year, we featured an essay
Pan Alley and provided a brief history of the American popular music
publishing industry. Our overall focus at PS is the origins of American
Popular music. That history cannot be effectively understood without
fully understanding the influences on our music from other cultures
as well as our influence on others. (Click on the above menu link to
our back issues to also see our essays on, "The Dead Zone",
Native American Music, Cowboy Music, Ragtime and The Blues for information
about various aspects of the development of American popular music.)
Likewise, it is important to view the development of popular music in
other countries parallel with ours to see the differences as well as
Prior to 1900 or so, American popular music developed
with a variety of influences (European, Native American, African) and
as such, evolved into a new style and genre of popular music. In Europe,
though there certainly was a great deal of influence from country to
country, by 1900, the musical traditions of each country were well established
and identifiable. That was also the general case with classical or fine
art music. If one listens to German classical music compared to French,
differences can be heard and styles can be identified. The same could
be said of popular music although at the same time, we can agree that
there was a general continental style that was still firmly founded
on the Western classical tradition.
(Below, the Paris Opera, ca 1880, image from Yahoo)
For late 19th century Europe, Operatic music is perhaps one of the strongest
foundations for popular music's rise. Singers such as Jenny Lind and
Adelina Patti popularized operatic arias through their own incredible
performances. Celebrated arias were sung at popular concerts for the
masses and were published in various versions for instruments commonly
found in the home. Performances of opera excerpts became a staple of
local bands and dance ensembles. In some cases, operatic works were
rewritten as waltzes or quadrilles for dances. Yet developments in the
late 19th century increasingly took serious music out of the reach of
the general public. For one, the operatic works of the late 19th century
became too complex for popular use. The music of Wagner and Verdi for
example became intellectually more demanding and was more integrated
thus making popular extracts much less appealing. One result from this
development, as well as the continuing urbanization of Europe was the
growth of music halls. Music halls provided a place of undemanding community
entertainment that mixed drinking with singing.
Music halls spawned a new type entertainer who created
new styles of music. These folks, often called comics, had no serious
musical aspirations and relied on crude appeal and simple, sometimes
vulgar or common phrases that the public could easily pick up on (see
on our feature this month for a mild example). Often the audience would
join in the singing. Of course, Germany brought the music hall (drinking
& singing) concept to its pinnacle with the "Beer Hall"
and the music usually associated with them. German drinking songs are
some of the greatest the world has seen. Soon, there became a sharp
division between classical and popular music that allowed a different
development path for both. In France, the famed Moulin Rouge became
one of the most famed music halls of the world.
(Below, ad for the Lowenbrau Beer Hall
in Munich, ca 1900 image from Yahoo)
Though this division was established, one could still
see and hear the classical imprint on European popular song. The styles
were still most often in classical form such as the waltz (see "Ein
Wiener Walzer" this month) and art song styles. Yet, by around
1900, American music began to be heard in Europe and a subtle shift
began. The incredible popularity of some mega-hits, such as "After
The Ball", 1892 by Charles K. Harris, the first multi-million selling
work, spread to the continent. At first, the transfer was simply a direct
one where the work was translated into the local language and sold.
Later, the local music itself took on the aspects of American song to
create their own works in the "American style". Here is a
copy of the great "After The Ball" that was printed in a Swedish
language version for sale in Sweden.
This version was published in Stockholm by a Swedish publishing house,
It included both English and Swedish language lyrics.(Download
KAR version Swedish language only)
Around 1910, Brazilian Tangos found their
way to the continent and began to also influence popular song. (More
on the Tango later.) Thus began an evolution where American and other
countries' music began influencing the development of European music.
In spite of these influences, up till the end of W.W. I, the popular
music of France, Germany and the UK continued to carry its own flavor
and was based on the classical traditions.
One need only listen to this highly romantic
and beautiful Parisian waltz song (Amoureuse, click on cover to listen)
from ca. 1900 to be sure that the traditions were still firmly in place.
KAR version French language)
many countries in Europe produced some of the greatest marches the world
has known (who can ignore the blood stirring marches of Germany?), even
this genre began to be influenced by American composers. In particular,
the works of John Phillip Sousa. His band's visit to the Paris Exposition
in 1900 increased public acceptance to the lively rhythms of the cakewalk
and two step march. As early as 1897 a cakewalk was published in London
by Leslie Stuart. Stuart also wrote a number of "coon song"
emulation's that were very successful across Europe and some of his
songs were even popular in America. Stuart's works helped pave the way
for the syncopated rhythms that would soon arrive in force from America.
A strange twist to all this is that the purely American cakewalk style
began to actually be incorporated into some European operettas, in particular,
Lehar's "Die lustige Witwe" of 1905!
The success of the operetta, spawned the musical comedy
or stage musical which helped to develop popular song even further.
Dance styles also began to be influenced by other countries. The traditional
styles for each country continued, but new styles captivated listeners
and dancers and ignited excitement and interest.
One of the most exciting and sensual dance styles to come to Europe
was the Tango, brought to Paris from South America. The first published
Argentine Tango in Paris (not the last Tango in Paris) was A. G. Villodo's
El Choclo, in 1911. By 1912, "tango teas" were fashionable
across Europe, especially London. This beautiful dance also began to
appear in stage shows around the same time.
The tango featured here, El Panete, was published in Paris
in 1911 and then distributed in the US (with the "The Latest Tango"
line added) by Jos. Stern. This version has been sequenced for Tango
accordion, which represents the likely performance you would have heard
of the work in Paris. As usual, click the cover to hear it. Other dances
such as the Boston and Fox Trot found their way to Europe and publishers
rushed to create versions in French or German for consumption in Europe.
According the New
Grove, the real breakthrough for American popular music's influence
on Europe was Ragtime, however, not the Scott Joplin "classical"
ragtime style but the more popular styles introduced by Berlin and other
contemporary composers. Songs such as Alexander's Ragtime Band
and Waiting For The Robert E. Lee brought new ideas to the composers
Marketing and distribution of music in Europe was based
on a performer based system rather than a publisher or composer based
system as was found in the US. Performers owned rights to music and
it was the performer who dictated the publication of a work. As well,
the performer controlled royalty payments. As American musical influence
crept into Europe, so too did Tin Pan Alley marketing methods (see our
Essay on Tin Pan Alley).
As a result Europe moved from the performer based system to the publisher/composer
based system that allowed more performers access to the music. That
change allowed for a much more rapid performance dissemination of music
and increased consumer interest.
Whereas World War One created a plethora of published
music in America and England, the more war torn countries suffered a
dampened popular music scene. Of course, music was published in Germany
and France but the preoccupation with war as well as the horrible consequences
to the logistics systems tended to limit distribution and growth in
the music industry except for patriotic music.
course, Germany's music was of no interest to anyone on the opposite
side of the struggle and the same applied in Germany when it came to
the music of it's enemies. Thus, the development and cross influences
of popular music was considerably lessened till after the war.
This great German march is from the beginning of the War
and is typical of just about every country's music during the war; patriotic,
stirring and showing that right was with them. The title of this work
is "God Is With Us!", a term used by just about every country
involved in a war, no matter which side they are on. The images on the
cover are excellent examples of German patriotic symbolism from the
After the war, with the huge influx of American doughboys,
the post war reconstruction and occupations, the American influences
on European music blossomed and the rush of American style songs increased
tenfold. With the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the
society that had nurtured the Viennese waltz, new musical styles were
readily accepted. In America, largely unaffected by the war, musical
styles had become solidified. From now on, even though the individual
styles of each country's music would remain an important part of their
folk cultures, all major innovations in popular music would come from
America. Dixieland was introduced in 1919 through a tour of the Original
Dixieland Jazz Band. In the early 20's, Paul Whiteman and his band brought
the big band jazz sound to Europe. The continuing introduction of new
dance forms (such as the Black Bottom & Charleston) resulted in
an explosion of "palais de danse" and hotel ballrooms.
Likewise, American musical theater found its way to the
stages of Europe and prompted the growth of indigenous composers and
producers to fill the public's desire for this form of entertainment.
Of course, just like America, as I mentioned, each country retained
a firm hold on its own traditional styles of what we would call folk
American influence was great during this period but certainly did not
overshadow each country's well loved styles. In Germany, Beer Hall music
continued to flourish, and does to this day.
Here is a great German "drinking song"from post
W.W.I .( download KAR version , German language
lyrics only). The same can be said for France and other countries of
Europe. Each retains its own folk style that adds to the musical heritage
and richness of variety that we enjoy today. A current trend in music
is the "World Music" movement that uses unique folk styles
from other countries to create new and appealing sounds for all of us
The development of popular music in America and the world
has been a journey of influence and creativity. Isolated at first, the
world's countries tended to develop styles based on their heritage and
current events. As the world's technology grew and travel and communication
became more easily accomplished, influences became more pronounced and
change came much faster than ever before. Popular music, perhaps more
than any other genre has been the subject of some of the most rapid
change due to the influence of other cultures and ideas.
Rick Reublin, July, 2000
Photos displayed in this essay are from
the Yahoo photo collections accessible at Yahoo.com. Search for a given
city or country at Yahoo and the top listings will usually return a
listing for "Yahoo photos". Of course all sheet music covers
are from the parlorsongs collection. A major source for much of the
text discussion is from The new Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
See our references page
for details of our complete bibliography used for research for this
and other essays in this series..
The Parlor Songs Academy is an educational website, designated by the "ac" (academic) domain
If you would like to submit an article about America's music for us to publish, go to our submissions page for information about writing articles for us. We also welcome suggestions for subjects for future articles.
Please Help Us Continue our Efforts with a donation. The Parlor Songs Academy. is a Tennessee unincorporated association. Donations go towards the aquisition of additional music, preservation of music, equipment and educational efforts. If you like what we do, please help us out. Donation funds are used entirely for the operating expenses of Parlor Songs and/or aquisition of additional music or equipment.
We realize that there are those who prefer not to transact financial matters on the Internet. If you would like to donate or make a purchase by check, email us for mailing information.
A great deal of work and effort has gone into these pages. The concept, design, images, written text and performance (MIDI and other recordings) of these works,
the web pages, custom images and original content are Copyright ©
1997-2023 by Richard A. Reublin or Richard G. Beil. Before using any of these images, text or performances (MIDI or other recordings), please read our usage policy for standard permissions and those requiring special attention. Thanks.
E-Mail us for more information or comments or read our FAQs to get instant answers to our most often asked questions.
Return to Top of Page