From Spirituals to Hip Hop:
American Music of the African Diaspora
(MUS 113)
SUNY Broome Department of Music
and Theater Arts
Dr. Julia Grella O’Connell

  • The Stare’s Nest By My Window

    A stare is a common starling. The Stare’s Nest by my Window(William Butler Yeats) The bees build in the crevicesOf loosening masonry, and thereThe mother birds bring grubs and flies.My wall is loosening; honey-bees,Come build in the empty house of the stare. We are closed in, and the key is turnedOn our uncertainty; somewhereA man […]

  • Way Up North in Dixie

    “Dixie,” or “Dixieland,” are names used to refer to the American South. The song “(I Wish I Was In) Dixie’s Land,” more commonly known just as “Dixie,” was written in 1859 and published by a white blackface entertainer named Daniel Emmett. However, the book Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family’s Claim to the […]

  • Soul and the City

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, soul began to address the social and economic problems that faced Black Americans in the (mostly Northern) cities. The textual emphasis on this new wave of soul moved away from the genre’s earlier optimism, instead highlighting dystopian urban visions. This iteration of soul was, in a sense, a […]

  • Intersectionality: Beyoncé Feminism

    “When the Levee Breaks,” Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy (1929): “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin, 1971: Beyoncé samples the Zeppelin version in “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” off Lemonade (2016): She also samples a 1962 speech by Malcolm X: In the official video for “Formation,” we see what happens when the levee actually breaks: Beyoncé […]

  • The Sadness of the New World

    In 1893, Dvorak and his family traveled from New York to Chicago by train to visit the World’s Fair. From Chicago, they went to Spillville, Iowa, a farming community of Czech immigrants. While in Spillville, Dvorak met and heard the music of Native Americans for the first time. As his son described it, they were: […]

  • A Partial Crack Playlist

    Although crack sales and addiction were ramping up in 1983, when Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel recorded this song, they’re referring to the powder cocaine of the 1970s, not to rock cocaine (crack). Note that Melle Mel portrays a Baron Samedi-like character in the video. “Dopeman,” N.W.A., 1988 Too Short, “The Ghetto,” 1990, which draws […]

  • Classically Black: #TakeTwoKnees

    TW/CW: disturbing imagery of Transatlantic slave trade and police brutality. After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic (and the only African-American principal in that illustrious orchestra), recorded himself in his living room playing a mournful, mixed-tonality version of “America the Beautiful,” and posted […]

  • Lush Life

    [This post was written by student Zerin Jamal as her final project for this class in Spring 2020. All text (c) Zerin Jamal.] William (referred to as Billy) Thomas Strayhorn was best recognized for being Duke Ellington’s collaborator and for working with Ellington to produce many classics, such as “Take The ‘A’ Train,” “Chelsea Bridge” […]

  • The Blues Mode and 12-Bar Form (examples)

    A collection of some of the musical examples referred to by Peter van der Merwe in your reading. As you listen, think about the similarities in these musics from across cultures. What makes them blues or blues-like? Charley Patton, “Tom Rushen Blues”. You’ll be reading more about Charley Patton later. For the moment, pay attention […]

  • Gullah/Geechee Resources

    The coast of South Carolina was the port of entry for more than two-thirds of the Africans brought to America as slaves. The wealth of the state, and of its capitol city, Charleston, was built on slavery. Charleston was known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy,” and the first shots in the Civil War were […]