In reforming psalmody in early nineteenth-century New England, participants in the so-called “Ancient Music” movement imported the solemnly refined hymn tunes and scientific rhetoric of Europe. This transatlantic exchange was in part the result of European travels by a generation of young members of the American socioeconomic and intellectual elite, such as Joseph Stevens Buckminster and John Pickering, whom scholars have not previously associated with hymnody reform. This study asserts that non-composers, particularly clergy and academics, played a crucial role in the “Ancient Music” movement, and offers a fuller picture of a little-examined but critical period in the history of American psalmody. Tracing the transatlantic voyages of figures like Buckminster and Pickering reveals that the actions and perspectives of active participants in the Atlantic world shaped “Ancient Music” reform and that hymnody reform was part of a broader project of cultural and intellectual uplift in New England.
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