Early American composers "were the products of a homegrown system of music education that had its own teachers, its own apprenticeships, its own publications, and its own artistic standards. The foundation of this musical system was a body of indigenous music that had been rejected by the nineteenth-century sacred music establishment. For the Sacred Harp tradition, the stone the builders rejected had become the cornerstone." -- Neely Bruce, "The Sacred Harp as Experimental Composition," p. 18
Despite being rejected by musical elitists, these old tunes are still being sung several hundred years later.