American Music At The Turn Of The 20th Century

2090 words - 8 pages

To understand whether an ‘American’ music emerged out of traditions in the turn of the 20th century, we need to focus on the term ‘American’ and what musical genres fall under that category. For one, America, in a cultural sense, is seen as one huge ‘melting pot’, an amalgamation of cultures, ethnic traditions, beliefs and styles of music. It is very difficult to label one genre under the category of American music, as a vast amount of styles, in historical terms, have come about from a mixture of styles such as Jazz and Country music. Influences from a variety of ethnic backgrounds provided the chance for the growth and commercialism of genres and made them more mainstream. With the focus being on jazz and Country, it is made clear that these genres came from an array of ethnic traditions formed from their birthplace regions. The idea of music in America being diverse can identify genres as indeed American and that indeed an American music emerged from traditions that entered the twentieth century.

Ethnically, blacks can be credited as emerging the Jazz traditions from Blues roots and other sub-genres such as ragtime, but on a regional front, despite New Orleans being the birthplace of Jazz, it wasn’t made popular and in my opinion, American, until it spread into other cities, thanks to White musicians and composers.
When exploring Jazz music, it is essential to explore its roots in Blues Music. Derived from the regional traditions of the south and ethnic traditions surrounding the slaving culture of the 1800s, Blues music can be traced back to the Mississippi Delta plantations and industries that demanded heavy manual labour for Blacks (Crawford, 2001b, 557). The blues inspired jazz at the end of the nineteenth century and it is argued that it is America’s most original and native music form (Mauk & Oakland, 2009, 353). Other sub-genres that came out of Jazz included Ragtime, a typically ‘black’ musical style, first created on homemade instruments for their own entertainment on southern plantations (Taylor, 2005). Again, having its foundations traced back to its southern origins, it became widely recognised by John Sousa, who blended both syncopated jazz with classical music brought over from across the pond.
In terms of ethnic traditions, music which emerged from early black culture cannot technically be defined as American alone. These purely African styles of music, fused with slave culture, laid the foundations for Jazz (emerged from Blues) music but cannot solely be categorised as American. It was when the Creole population (black population who were born in America) began to develop in the mid-nineteenth century, along with merges from European classical music, that the genre, created by this ethnic group, was received as American. As time moved on, so did Jazz’s musical development. Its links with white-American musical styles increased in order to categorise itself as popular music. Despite the genre having its initial, strong...

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