New Hampshire Folklife Logo
New Hampshire Folklife - an official New Hampshire Government website
Smaller text size Reset text size Larger text size
link to website translation page

Music & Dance Traditions

Over time, every culture develops melodies, rhythms, and instruments to express a range of emotions – happiness, pride, sorrow, reflection, and love. Ordinary people become the masters of traditional music and they usually know a great deal about their community, the human heart, and the healing power of music.

fiddle and bow

Would you like to learn more about traditional music and dance in New Hampshire?

What makes traditional music special?

Most traditional music and dance developed in family and community settings before modern communication systems like radio, television, home stereos, and computers filled our lives with sound. Music was made by people for people. If you heard music, it was usually performed by someone in the same room or close by, as there were no microphones and amplifiers to project it over great distances.

A lot of traditional music is social. It is meant to be played, sung or danced to with family and friends. Some, traditional music, however, is very personal and enjoyed more privately. Traditional musicians often learn to play "by ear" (without musical notation) and over their lifetime they master a range of complex techniques and a vast repertoire.

hands playing harp

In a traditional culture, music and dance are often inseparable – musicians are brought to life by dancers and dancers energize musicians. Dancing in community settings has traditionally been a way for people to socialize, get exercise, and express the joy of living.

Would you like to find out more about recordings of traditional music?

Visit the Traditional Music Collection.

Grant opportunities to support one-to-one instruction between a master traditional artist & an apprentice are available through the NH State Council on the Arts.

Photo credit: Lynn Martin Graton

New Hampshire State Council on the Arts
19 Pillsbury Street - 1st Floor, Concord, NH 03301