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Exploring American Folk Music

Exploring American Folk Music: Ethnic, Grassroots, and Regional Traditions in the United States

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Exploring American Folk Music
    Book Description:

    Exploring American Folk Music: Ethnic, Regional & Vernacular Traditions in the United States reflects the fascinating diversity of regional and grassroots music in the United States. The book covers the diverse strains of American folk music--Latin, Native American, African, French-Canadian, British, and Cajun--and offers a chronology of the development of folk music in the United States.

    The book is divided into discrete chapters covering topics as seemingly disparate as sacred harp singing, conjunto music, the folk revival, blues, and ballad singing. It is among the few textbooks in American music that recognizes the importance and contributions of Native Americans as well as those who live, sing, and perform music along our borderlands, from the French speaking citizens in northern Vermont to the extensive Hispanic population living north of the Rio Grande River, recognizing and reflecting the increasing importance of the varied Latino traditions that have informed our folk music since the founding of the United States. Another chapter includes detailed information about the roots of hip hop and this new edition features a new chapter on urban folk music, exploring traditions in our cities, with a case study focusing on Washington, D.C. Exploring American Folk Music also introduces you to such important figures in American music as Bob Wills, Lydia Mendoza, Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters, who helped shape what America sounds like in the 21st century. It also features new sections at the end of each chapter with up-to-date recommendations for "Suggested Listening," "Suggested Reading," and "Suggested Viewing."

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-266-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. A Preamble to the Third Edition
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. xix-2)
  6. Chapter 1 START HERE!
    (pp. 3-41)

    Thanksgiving in Franklin County, Virginia, marks a period of transition. By late November all of the leaves on the trees are carpeting the gentle knolls of the Blue Ridge Mountains, leaving the landscape bleak and quiet. The high school football season is but a memory and reports of the upcoming basketball campaign have begun to appear in local newspapers. People are just starting to think about Christmas plans, while the deer, bear, and squirrels prepare for their annual winter struggle.

    Thanksgiving Day in 1987 dawned cloudy and the temperatures remained unusually warm. I was among a half-dozen people gathered for...

  7. Chapter 2 MASS MEDIA
    (pp. 42-68)

    The commercialization and popularization of American folk music have taken many paths over the decades. During the eighteenth century, folk music relied almost entirely on aural transmission. Low literacy rates in the United States meant that newspapers reached a small percentage of citizens, few people could read books, and even fewer could read printed sheet music.

    By the middle 1800s, however, shape note hymnals and ballad chapbooks emerged as two early examples of the confluence of the printed media, commerce, and traditional music. Minstrel songbooks also contained much folk material. Most of these were published by small and regional presses,...

    (pp. 69-81)

    Exploring American Folk Music: Ethnic, Grassroots, and Regional Traditions in the United Stateshas described the rich history and development of our roots music, an aspect of our expressive culture deserving of far more historical and contemporary research. This work can be undertaken with relative ease because we are quite literally surrounded by and often immersed in our own musical culture. American folk music touches everyone’s lives at some juncture: over-hearing the jump-rope songs of children as we walk down the street, watching B. B. King and Lucille (his guitar) perform a blues number as part of the annual Grammy...

    (pp. 82-117)

    Exploring American Folk Music: Ethnic, Grassroots, and Regional Traditions in the United Statesgradually exposes you to a wide variety of styles, some of which you’ve probably never before encountered. This chapter, however, focuses upon genres, such as bluegrass, that should be more familiar. Many of the figures discussed here are obscure, others are quite well known because of their exposure in the commercial media: Gene Autry, Bill Monroe, and Bob Wills, among others. Their music, ranging from cowboy songs to the Native American ballads celebrating train wrecks, are discussed in the following pages.

    This music largely developed here via...

    (pp. 118-142)

    Religious beliefs and spiritual concerns of all kinds are core issues for many Americans. And religious music remains a vitally important, often underappreciated aspect of traditional music. The early English-speaking settlers brought their own church songs with them, most notably psalms, so it is very likely that psalms were the first European music sung here. For the first few decades of the establishment of the New World, psalm singing was the only form of music generally allowed in colonial churches. Within one hundred years singing schools had developed throughout the colonies, helping to teach religious singing to the musically illiterate....

    (pp. 143-170)

    The cliché that churches form the backbone of black American life contains a great deal of truth. This need for social cohesiveness and leadership was particularly pressing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries during the decades of legalized slavery. Even following Reconstruction churches served as social services networks, rallying points for civil rights, and public spokespersons, among other functions. Although the federal government sanctioned full civil and legal rights for African Americans by the mid-1960s, black churches remain at the core of life for many people in the United States.

    It is abundantly true that religious music remainstheclear...

    (pp. 171-201)

    It would be difficult to underestimate the profound impact of nineteenth-and twentieth-century black American folk music upon our culture. In this chapter you will learn about the types of secular black folk music that developed in the United States beginning in the nineteenth century. Because slavery’s legacy left so many African Americans in rural southern areas, most of this music originated in the South. These innovations represent a move away from the early Africanized styles of folk music and directly into a uniquely and demonstrably African American hybrid, a process that began slowly but inexorably. The changes only accelerated with...

    (pp. 202-250)

    Prior to the heightening of the Cold War in the early 1950s a great general interest in the diversity of American folk music had developed, at least among some performers and fans. Moses Asch, Folkways’s open-minded founder, included a variety of “ethnic” and Native American recordings among his vast catalogue. Asch’s own roots as the son of European/Jewish immigrants living in New York heightened his sensitivity and interest in a wide variety of musical genres. The first record that Asch issued in 1939 was by a Jewish group, the Baggelman Sisters. Along with their version of Huddie Leadbetter’s “Goodnight Irene,”...

    (pp. 251-280)

    In this chapter we will explore the immensely important, diverse, and burgeoning Hispanic musical presence in the United States, focusing on the Southwest, south Florida, and New York City. These sections of the country have long welcomed immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. These waves of immigration have resulted in a mixture of folk and popular styles with strong and lasting ties to home that help to bring the world closer. Despite the fact that there are many examples of Hispanic American musical communities and traditions throughout the United States, this chapter will concentrate on the Mexican American (and...

  15. Chapter 10 THE FOLK REVIVALS
    (pp. 281-322)

    A folk revival refers to the interest of singers and musicians from outside of a regional, racial, or ethnic group in perpetuating its traditional music. These singers and musicians are often young and just beginning their explorations of grassroots music. Their attention, however, can also stimulate a renewed commercial and popular interest, such as the attention focused on Woody Guthrie and his musical era by Billy Bragg, Wilco, and many others, including Bruce Springsteen. There have been successive waves of folk revivals in virtually each generation as at least some members discover and reinterpret the past. These twenty-to thirty-year cycles...

    (pp. 323-349)

    The majority of significant forms of American popular music that have emerged since World War II have strong roots in the recent past. Our focus in this chapter is on the swiftly changing, ephemeral popular music scene that spawned rockabilly, classic rock, hip-hop, and other related forms since the middle 1950s. Each of these genres owes an immense debt to traditional music, in particular the vernacular musical culture of black Americans. Although records by Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, or Tony Bennett have sold millions of copies since the 1940s, these very talented vocalists are more closely related to jazz—especially...

  17. Chapter 12 URBAN FOLK MUSIC
    (pp. 350-378)

    Most people very closely associate folk music with rural areas of the United States and with music performed on acoustic instruments. In the twenty-first century the contra-dance tradition in Nelson, New Hampshire, which has been ongoing since the early nineteenth century, certainly qualifies as a local community event featuring folk music. Likewise southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas has served as the hearth area for Cajun and zydeco music since the late nineteenth century, decades before touring musicians and sound recordings brought the music to eager listeners across the country. Even contemporary cowboy poets and singers—such as Joel Nelson (Alpine,...

    (pp. 379-381)
    (pp. 382-386)