There is no trace of the type of music played in French Louisiana, with the exception of a precious manuscript of songs of the Ursulines of New Orleans from 1754, a copy of pieces played in France. Popular music in Louisiana naturally had its roots in French and African melodies. Just looking at its Francophone aspects, we can distinguish Creole songs which turned into Afro-American spirituals, Creole chants which were used in the blues and jazz, and above all Cajun music, by far the most authentically preserved and widely-played today.

Classical music

Grétry's opera Sylvain was the first opera performed at the New Orleans Theater, in 1796. We know that there were a number of musical instruments and scores at the end of the 18th century, but nothing of them remains today. Later, classical music in Louisiana owed little to French influence. John Davis, the impresario of the New Orleans Opera in the mid-19th century, went each year to Paris to recruit artists. The New Orleans composer Ernest Guiraud won the Grand Prix de Rome having finished his studies in Paris, and his conservatory students included Satie and Debussy. Even more extraordinary was the short, brilliant career of the pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), the first great American composer. Gottschalk was the son of a French mother and an Anglo-Polish father, both New Orleans Creoles. Trained in Paris, the young and celebrated prodigy gave recitals, often improvised, in many countries, sometimes noting down the most popular pieces more than a year later. Gottschalk often drew inspiration from the Creole, African and Spanish melodies of his Louisiana childhood.

Henry Desmarest (1661-1741), Les Louanges de Dieu : Sa Puissance, sa Bonté Manuscrit des Ursulines de La Nouvelle Orléans, HNOC
Le Concert Lorrain, direction Anne-Catherine Bucher, K617

Louis-Moreau Gottschalk, La Savane, a Creole ballad, BNF, Musique, Editions Peters, 1974

Louis-Moreau Gottschalk,
La Savane, a Creole ballad, BNF, Musique,
Editions Peters, 1974