8.9 Chapter Summary

The musical styles that have developed in the United States are as varied as the people who live here. In this chapter, we learned that ragtime, New Orleans jazz, and the blues are all critical to the creation and growth of the popular music we enjoy today. We learned about the emphasis on rhythm inherited from African roots, and that syncopation refers to accented notes that are not on the beat. We also learned that from the country's colonial beginnings to the present day, the musical, societal, and cultural establishment has not always approved of popular music—particularly ragtime, blues, and jazz.

Scott Joplin and others developed the distinct style that was called "ragtime," which contributed, along with other African American music styles to the formation of jazz in and around New Orleans. We saw Louis Armstrong rise to international fame as a jazz performer, recording artist, and movie star. This was followed by the "big bands" of the 1930s and 1940s, and later the small groups, or combos that performed the highly sophisticated music known as bebop. We discussed the evolution of rhythm and blues (R&B) into modern R&B and learned to identify rap music as a style based on two central elements; a strong rhythmic beat and lyrics. We explored the wide variety of folk songs in America. We also learned that folk music in America largely developed from music of the British Isles and Europe, as well as the music brought here by African slaves. We also investigated how rock music incorporated the blues and an emphasis on beats two and four borrowed from jazz to create an exciting new music that appealed to the youth culture.

In the realm of country music, we learned about bluegrass music, which developed largely in the Appalachian region, as well as honky-tonk and hillbilly music, both of which were variations of country music. We examined Western swing as a subset of country music that often uses dance band instruments, and recognized contemporary country music as a mixture of rock and country styles.

America was also home to a wide variety of styles of musical theatre. From the minstrel songs of Stephen Foster, which glorified the plantation South, to the operettas of Victor Herbert, which dominated musical theatre at the turn of the nineteenth century, America has a rich history of song and dance. Today, American musical theatre takes the form of the Broadway musical, which features a strong plot conveyed through dialogue and supported by song and dance. We also discussed American opera in the form of Gershwin's folk opera, Porgy and Bess.

The importance of American popular music of the twentieth century cannot be overstated. Genres such as rock and roll and rap have now been exported around the globe. At their root, all forms of American popular music have been influenced by the blues, and thus owe their existence to the cultural contributions of African Americans. Although America was not yet discovered during much of the early development of Western art music, we have contributed much to the culture of the world in a relatively short span of time.

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8.10 Glossary

a song form used often in folk music, which is used to tell a story that usually contains a moral or lesson.
— a style of small group jazz developed in the late 1940s, which featured fast moving harmonies, angular melodies, and highly complex rhythms
Big Band
large jazz ensembles (15–20 members) popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The term "Big Band" also refers to the era in which these bands were popular.
a variation of country music featuring fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass guitar, and the five-string banjo that developed largely in the Appalachian region
a style of music that, at the turn of the twentieth century, began to form out of African American work songs, field hollers, and spirituals. Today, the word "blues" is used loosely and can refer to feeling sad or down, to any song played in a bluesy style, or more specifically, to a song that follows a blues form, which is a twelve-bar strophic song form.
Broadway Musical
a style of Musical Theatre, which integrated a cohesive plot with songs and dances that advanced that plot. Broadway specifically refers to the street of the same name in New York City that became known for this style.
Children's Song
a type of folk song designed to teach a simple lesson. They are often simple to sing and easy to remember.
Contemporary Country
a mixture of rock rhythm sections and a singer singing with a country accent about many of the same topics that traditional country singers have used over the decades.
Contemporary R&B
generally refers to music with jazz, gospel, and funk roots that uses electronic instruments, drums, horns, and vocals.
Country Music
a term describing a broad variety of musical styles including Bluegrass, Hillbilly Music, and Contemporary Country. Generally speaking, most types of music that fall under this category originated in the American South (although it also encompasses Western Swing and cowboy songs) and features a singing style with a distinctly rural southern accent, as well as an instrumentation that favors string instruments such as the banjo, guitar, or fiddle.
Dance Music
music written for dancing. The instrumentation of various types of folk dance music varies with the style.
an early form of jazz developed in New Orleans during the turn of the twentieth century featuring syncopated rhythms, improvised solos and harmonies, as well as a common instrumentation that included trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, banjo, piano, guitar, and drums.
Folk Music
a term used to describe a wide variety of musical forms that developed within different cultures, often for different reasons. Folk music is often passed down not through written music, but orally from one generation to another.
Hillbilly Music
an early form of country music, Hillbilly Music was an alternative to the jazz and dance music of the 1920s and was portrayed as wholesome music of the "good old days."
Honky Tonk Music
a country combo style that became quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Originally performed in saloons known as "honky tonks,' many of the songs dealt with subjects associated with honky tonks such as infidelity and drinking.
the act of creating melodies and harmonies on the spot without reading the music off a page.
Minstrel Show
an American form of theatre developed in the nineteenth century and featuring white performers in blackface performing in a variety show, which depicted black characters as happy participants in romanticized versions of the American slave south.
Musical Theatre
a type of dramatic performance that tells a story through dialogue, with singing and dancing added to support and move the plot along.
New Orleans Jazz
(see Dixieland)
a "light opera" developed in the nineteenth century that required classically trained singers, but featured less complex music than a typical opera.
Protest Song
a type of folk song written to directly, or by suggestion, voice complaints about some injustice.
a musical genre developed near the turn of the twentieth century that featured syncopated rhythms. The style became nationally popular after being widely published as sheet music.
a form of spoken word delivered over a beat. It can be improvised or written out in advance.
Rhythm and Blues (R&B)
a term originally referring to music recorded by black musicians and intended for use by the African American community. The term has evolved throughout the years and encompasses several different musical styles, including soul, funk and now contemporary R&B.
Rock and Roll
a style of music that grew out of Rhythm and Blues and came into prominence during the 1950s. The style features a strong backbeat and often features electric guitar, bass and drums. The style is now known as "rock" has spawned many subgenres.
a technique in which a clip of a preexisting song is isolated and looped, often as a background for a rapper
the technique of improvising a rhythmic solo on one turntable over a beat
a term used to describe the rhythmic bounce that characterizes the jazz style. The term can also refer to the big band music of the 1930s and 1940s.
the act of disrupting the normal pattern of accents in a piece of music by emphasizing what would normally be weak beats.
Western Swing
a style of country music that developed in western cities and borrowed instruments from the dance band such as saxophones, trombones, trumpets, piano, bass, and drums.
Work Songs
a type of folk song devised to help groups of people perform physical work. The music usually uses the tempo of the work itself and was sung by lumberjacks, railroad workers, and prison chain gangs, among others.