The Musical Development From Slave Era Music To Traditional Ragtime Music.

1181 words - 5 pages

Music has been defined by history. Musical developments depended on the changing environments and the people who undergo the changes at those times. These developments, such as slave era music to traditional ragtime music, are examples of music being used as tools to express culture. When the African Americans were brought to America as slaves, they also brought their musical culture overseas. They worked on plantations expressing themselves through work songs and field hollers, which eventually initiated the emergence of spirituals, minstrelsy, and coon songs. This introduction of a new musical culture to America and the developments that occurred from it displays the idea that each style of music provides a foundation for other type of music to build upon.Slave era music, such as the work songs and field hollers, was a method of continuing oral traditions of African cultures. During this time of slavery, a cultural space was created within which Africans responded to conditions and events in their lives through the help of song and dance. For example, work songs and field hollers helped workers fulfill their tasks by pacing their activity, coordinating their movements, and rallying their spirits. This singing followed responsorial practice traceable to Africa; with its strict rhythm and short phrases, responsorial singing encouraged improvisation, especially by the leader. (Crawford 49) When African Americans embraced and assimilated into the white society, they did so without breaking their links to African based music making. Not only did this method spread in the plantation fields, but it also was passed onto the musical development of the religious spirituals.The African American spiritual provides an excellent example of how African cultural memory and American written traditions combined to create a new American form of music. In both North and South, religion loomed large in both black and white relations. The camp meetings of the Second Awakening set religion above race and welcomed black participants. (Charters 174) The blacks took part of this revival generally on their own "shouting ground," where religious meetings were held after the sermon. During meetings, blacks practiced not only their Christianity, but also continued their African traditions by infusing African elements into their religious music. From this mixture, blacks developed a new form of music with heavy rhythmic patterns and Christian beliefs. Known as spirituals, this genre contained themes of oppression, hope, community and Christianity. By taking a story from the Bible as a commentary on their own lives, the slaves fashioned a spiritual song of sober dignity and moral force. (Crawford 50) The songs predicted that just like God delivered Israel from bondage, the same would happen to the blacks. One example of a spiritual is Go Down, Moses. (Crawford 51) Within each verse, the singing is responsorial, representing the voice of God who orders his prophet Moses to...

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