Category: MUS 113

  • 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 Happy Heaven of Harlem

    Many artists moved to Harlem, where they were free to cultivate the inner life. Langston Hughes, the most famous poet of the Harlem Renaissance, reading his poem “I, Too”: The Harlem Renaissance was the artistic flowering of the Great Migration. As Duke Ellington wrote in “Drop Me Off in Harlem”: I don’t want your Dixie,You […]

  • 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 […]

  • A Curated Motown Playlist

    The first single released on the Motown label in 1960. The Motown house band, the Funk Brothers.

  • Some Motor City History

    Blind Blake (1896-1938) recorded “Detroit Bound Blues” for Paramount in 1928. It’s a kind of miniature record of at least some of the impetus behind the Great Migration. I’m goin’ to Detroit, get myself a good jobI’m goin’ to Detroit, get myself a good jobTried to stay around here with the starvation mob I’m goin’ […]

  • The DNA of American Folk Music

    Engraving of Pocahontas (1595-1617). In 2018, in response to pushback against her longtime claims of Native American ancestry (including from President Trump, who refers to her mockingly as “Pocahontas”), Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren had her DNA tested, and made the results public. The test indicated that Warren had a Native American ancestor […]

  • Rap ≠ Hip Hop

    Trigger/content warning: racist language in sources, including the n-word. Wynton Marsalis has said of hardcore rap: I call it “ghetto minstrelsy” . . . Old school minstrels [i.e. whites in blackface] used to say they were “real darkies from the real plantation.” Hip-hop substitutes the plantation for the streets. Now you have to say that […]

  • JumpJim’s Southern Journey

    Some of the music JumpJim describes hearing on his trip to buy old blues records with Chester Bly — a trip that has many unintended consequences. JumpJim describes: Chester, knocking on doors, asking his monomaniacal question. Got any records? Under your porch, maybe? Pay a dime a piece. Here are some of the records the […]

  • Captain Jack

    In the novel White Tears by Hari Kunzru, which is about the haunting of a 21st-century sound engineer by the ghost of a forgotten early-20th-century bluesman, the allegorical figure of “Captain Jack” appears early on, in a quoted song lyric. The lyric is from Son House’s “County Farm Blues” (1941): Down South, when you do […]