Voices Across Time was designed with educational standards in mind. By nature cross-disciplinary, its structure accommodates both chronological and thematic approaches.

The units are arranged chronologically to correspond with the U.S. History standards. Throughout all nine units are threaded six themes, which are inspired by the social studies standards. This structure should help history and social studies, as well as music and language arts teachers, locate songs that address their own disciplines' standards.

The table below graphically demonstrates the relationship between units and themes. In fact, this matrix guided song identification for Voices Across Time: Song choices for each era were eventually narrowed down to two or three songs for each cell in the table.

Themes United/ Divided War & Peace Work Home Moving Along Faith & Ideals
Eras/Units Politics
Civil rights
Unity/ Diversity
Rally songs
War protest
Military songs
Work songs
Labor unions
Work technology
Home technology
Worlds meeting
to 1763
New Nation
Expansion and
Civil War and Reconstruction
Development of the
Industrial U.S.
The Emergence of
Modern America
The Great Depression
and W.W. II
Post-war U.S.
1945 to early 1970s
The New Millenium            


You can view all songs in Voices Across Time organized by theme here.

Politics, civil rights, diversity

This theme explores the great American paradox e pluribus unum: the many consequences of being a nation of diverse people with diverse backgrounds and opinions. Music has allowed even the most disenfranchised to speak up and be heard — that peaceful dissension at the heart of the democratic process. This theme will introduce songs of politics, suffrage, civil rights and cultural pride and conflict.

Rally, heroism, protest

During wartime, songs become weapons, rallying cries and emotional support. As documents of patriotism, propaganda and protest, they invite us to ask questions like: "What is peace?" "What is war?" "Why is the nation fighting?" "What am I fighting for?" "Whatis it like to be a soldier?" "How does it feel back home?"

Labor, pride, conflict

Contrary to popular notions, the arts are not luxuries reserved for affluent times and people. Songs of workare perfect examples of music's role in helping people at all economic levels cope with hard labor, inhumane conditions and unfair practices. Work songs like sea chanties kept crews working together to a beat. Field hollers allowed communication between farm workers. Ballads memorialized heroes, decried working conditions, or expressed pride. Union songs recruited members to fight those conditions.

Family, school, leisure

Everyday life has had a musical soundtrack from the days of singing away long winter evenings to today's world of Ipods® and Muzak®. Songs can reveal much about relationships and values in the home and the drudgery of keeping them. Children learned both moral and academic lessons through songs. And everyone has used music to kick back and have a bit of fun! We put our ears to the doors that most textbooks keep closed to find out more about the humanness of our ancestors.

Migration, transport, expansion

Americans move! Everyone's ancestors undertook great voyages — either voluntarily or by force — to get here and we haven't stopped since. We listen to the songs of migration — from nation to nation, east to west, south to north (and back again!), farm to city, city to suburbs — to hear the reason for those moves. Then we listen to the songs of transportation and discover how technology — wagons, keelboats, steamboats, trains, automobiles, and planes—literally drives these movements over land and water.

Religion, altruism, patriotism

Nothing reveals what people believequite as effectively as the songs they sing. Music is one of the primaryways people pass values from generation to generation. We look at songs of religious faith, devotion to country, ethical convictions and altruistic ideas to try to understand the diverse beliefs and values that motivate Americans. What threads of shared beliefs can we find? In what ways are we different?

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