Billings, William


One of the pioneers of American music. Is said to be the first man who can claim the title of "American composer," as before his time all the music in the colonies was of English origin. Born in Boston. He had very little opportunity for education in his early life and his knowledge of music was entirely self-acquired, but though not constructed according to the rules of harmony and counterpoint, his compositions showed considerable musical genius, being much more pleasing in their vigor and melody than the old English tunes then in use. Later in life he wrote much more correctly and his music became so popular that it was used by the churches almost exclusively. Billings may really be considered as the founder of American church music. He wrote and published, between 1770 and 1794, six collections of music, as follows: The New England Psalm Singer; The Singing Master's Assistant; Music in Miniature; The Psalm Singer's Amusement; The Suffolk Harmony; and The Continental Harmony. These with his anthems were all of his music that was published. He is said to have introduced the cello into church choirs, to have first used the pitch-pipe and to have originated concerts in New England.