Category: Folk music

  • 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 […]

  • 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: […]

  • 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 […]

  • Playlist and Journal Assignment for “Race and the Embodiment of Culture”

    Content warning: racist imagery. One of your first reading assignments, “Race and the Embodiment of Culture” by John Szwed, was published in the journal Ethnicity in 1975. Szwed makes reference to many music and dance forms, as well as visual imagery, across times, places, and cultures. This post is a compendium of the forms he […]

  • Black Girls’ Handgames

    The D.C.-based arts organization Black Girls Handgames Project is dedicated to remixing and repurposing classic (pre-electronics) children’s games, many of which originated in communities of color. Cofounder OnRae LaTeal explains: The children’s handgame “Miss Mary Mack,” for instance, played here by the great folksinger Ella Jenkins (with some assistance from . . . Barney), dates […]

  • The DNA of American Classical Music

    While driving to Target to buy a new vacuum on Black Friday (oh, the glamorous life of an adjunct!), I turned on the radio to the classical station, which was in the middle of this piece, in a new arrangement for piano quintet (piano, two violins, viola, and cello). At first I thought it was […]

  • Composing Irony

    The round tune “Frère Jacques” (Brother John) is known across cultures and languages in Europe. In German, it’s called “Bruder Martin” or “Bruder Jakob.” In the third movement of his Symphony no. 1 in D minor, Gustav Mahler presents us with a sardonic, funeral-march like version of the song in minor. He was inspired by […]

  • Affrilachian Banjo and Pre-Blues Traditions

    Dink Roberts (1894-1989). John Snipes (1899-1983). Elizabeth Cotten (1893-1987), who was left-handed, adapted both banjo and guitar by simply turning them upside-down. Rhiannon Giddens’s version of “Georgie Buck”: Giddens’s mentor, banjo player Odell Thompson (1911-1994), with his cousin, fiddler Joe Thompson (1918-2012). For more, browse here: https://affrilachianmusic.weebly.com/stylistic-and-instrumental-origins.html The banjo as a genteel parlor instrument: Plink-a-Pong, […]

  • X, UnNaming, and the Cowboy Blues

    You all know this song. When Lil Nas X became a household name, I started thinking about that name. “Lil” like Lil Wayne, or like so many other rap artists? “Nas” like . . . Nas? “X” like DMX? Or even Malcolm X? Apparently not. But words and names mean things. Here, Malcolm X — […]