Introduction to the Online Edition

Voices Across Time is a tool to help educators shine a light on the diversity of the people in the parts of the world now known as the United States of America. It supports teachers looking to harness the power of music to educate students about the regions, cultures, ideas, beliefs, and institutions that have shaped the human experience in these places. 

Throughout the history of colonial America and the United States, music of different peoples has sometimes fused into something new—sometimes naturally, other times through coercion—which some commentators have celebrated as emblematic of a uniquely American melting pot. But the “melting pot” metaphor does not fully account for America’s rich history. For, through their music, peoples have not only come together but also fiercely competed with each other, sought to drown out oppositional voices, or simply coexisted with little exchange or influence across social divisions. Voices Across Time provides educators with a window into different aspects of social life, from the forces that bring us together to those that drive us apart. 

There is a lot of music in Voices Across Time, yet we have not curated its contents with the aim of providing a comprehensive overview of musical artists and styles. Instead, we have selected examples of songs that respond to and shape immigration, migration, class, identity, regionalism, political ideology, social problems, war, religion, science, technology, and much more. Although we might occasionally lament the absence of a favorite artist or song, the guiding principles of Voices Across Time strengthen its usefulness in a variety of teaching situations, from primary to secondary and higher education, and from social studies to music, English, technology, physical education, and any other subject that engages with US history or culture.  

Voices Across Time is not a curriculum. It’s a resource with songs, background information, timelines, teaching tools, and classroom strategies that help educators integrate music into their existing curricula. Since its inception, Voices Across Time has been curated by musicologists, librarians, cultural historians, and education specialists with national and state standards as well as pedagogical flexibility in mind.  

The songs in Voices Across Time are discoverable in three different ways. If your teaching is concerned with historical eras, you can browse songs in ten historical periods that correspond to the chapters of most middle- and high-school US history textbooks. If your teaching is more concerned with transhistorical topics, you can browse songs in six categories: United/Divided, War & Peace, Work, Home, Moving Along, and Faith & Ideals. You may also have your own unique teaching goals, and we encourage you to use our keyword search to help you find content that meets your needs. 

Voices Across Time is licensed as an Open Educational Resource. Educators have the freedom to reproduce, adapt, and alter its content however they want. All they need to do is acknowledge Voices Across Time as their source.  

This online Voices Across Time builds on the printed edition, which was first published in 2004 under founding project director Deane L. Root and has served as the text for institutes and workshops across the United States. We are excited that as an online resource Voices Across Time can now be regularly updated and expanded as our collective knowledge of history evolves. Instilling in students the skills to decipher messages communicated to us by voices from across time is important precisely because it is an ongoing, ever-changing process. 

—Christopher Lynch, 2021

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