Black Music In America Essay, Research Paper
Black Music in America: A History Through Its People Tahirah Carter
by James Haskins Intro to Music
I have definitely learned allot about the Evolution of American Music in this class. I found it to be very intriguing. So when I was faced with the chore of deciding which book I would do my report on, I chose Black Music in America by James Haskins. This book gave a detailed account of not only the music genres but it?s performers. We already know that American music is made up of music from many different types of ethnic backgrounds. What gives this book a plus is that it highlights some other aspects of American music, and its performers. The items and events that really caught my attention were the concert singing, Minstrelsies, Jubilee songs, and brass bands.
Born as a slave, a girl by the name of Elizabeth Greenfield moved to Philadelphia. She moved there with her Mistress and her parents. Luckily while in Philadelphia they were set free. At the age of forty-two she moved to buffalo New York in order to embark onto new opportunities as a singer. When she reached New York opportunity came knocking. She began a career of concert singing. With a range of three and one quarter octaves you would think that opportunity kept knocking, but it didn?t. Therefore she moved to Europe where she would get the attention and credit that was due to her. While in Europe Elizabeth was shown great appreciation for he talent? Even Queen Victoria demanded that she performed for her at the Buckingham Palace. On the account of Elizabeth doing so well in Europe, She gained newfound popularity in the states.
As you see, it wasn?t easy for blacks to make a living in the U.S. That forced blacks to either perform in Europe or the northern states of the U.S.. Some blacks even had to resort to performing in Minstrelsies. Minstrelsies started out as an avenue for whites that were trying to embark on new and exciting culture. At this time America was free from Britain. Since white America no longer was attached to Britain, they ventured out to gain a sense of American culture. White minstrel actually used to visit plantations to study the way blacks interacted with each other. For their performances, these white Minstrels would take coal and color their faces black. Their performances consisted of skits, including dancing and music, which imitated blacks. Initially minstrelsies weren?t brought about with the pure intent of poking fun at Blacks. But after the Civil War things changed. Whites stopped visiting the plantation for new material. They began to use the same negative material over and over again. This is what gave birth to many of the Stereotypes that African Americans are victim to, even until this very day.
James Bland was one of the African Americans whom got his foot in the door by performing and composing in the black face Minstrelsy. After being a part of white minstrelsies, Bland eventually had the opportunity to play in an all black Minstrel called Haverly’s European Minstrel Show. After the performers departed from that group, Bland decided to stay in Europe
While living in Europe Bland was allowed to perform in shows without having to put on the ?darky face. He became extremely popular. Eventually he returned to the U.S. where he couldn?t fit in because American Music had taken a turn since the time that he left. Bland managed to tone down the black dialect and rhythm in his performances. That may in fact be the reason why at one time he was so successful.
Another group of people that also tried to sing (what I?ll call) ?acceptable? music are The Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were a classy group of singers that started out with the intent to raise money for their school. They began with the plan to sing choruses, duets, solos and other ?acceptable? forms of American Music. Over time, with the influence of their mentor George White, they began to sing Negroes spirituals. On their first tour to Europe they sang before Queen Victoria and her royal family. Due to the predominately white audiences hunger for Old Negroes Spirituals, the Fisk Jubilee singers were able to raise a large amount of money for their school.
Another sector of the Black music history that I think is extraordinary is the brass band sector. I already knew that the ending of the civil war made brass band instruments accessible. But what I didn?t know is that another thing that helped popularize brass bands was the ordinance of New Orleans that restricted prostitution to black neighborhoods. This caused ?between fifteen hundred and twenty two hundred prostitutes to set up shop in an area that became known as ?Storyville?. Even though ?Storyville? wasn?t great in morality it was great economically for New Orleans. It made it possible for many businesses to flourish. Among those businesses were ?Sporting? houses. These ?Sporting? houses employed Brass Bands. Brass bands also played funerals, amusement parks, and other community events.
Buddy Bolden, a jazz pioneer, led quite a few New Orleans Brass Bands. During this time the Creoles and the blacks had no choice but to integrate. Creoles hadn?t really valued black music, and blacks knew that it wasn’t appreciated. Nevertheless that didn?t stop them from playing their hearts out. In fact that prompted them to play as loud as possible in order to overwhelm the Creoles. Buddy Bolden was one of the blacks that had the ability to do just that. Along with his strong sound that he strived for, he improvised standard ragtime and blues pieces. Unfortunately he didn?t have as much control over his life that he had over his trombone. He became an alcoholic, contracted syphilis then ultimately die in a mental institution. I?m sorry to say that he died without knowing his contribution to the development of what we now call jazz.
I made a conscious decision to highlight the information in this book that I had never read about in the past. On the contrary you should know that this book contains very detailed information on the parts of black American music history that is popular in today’s society. It covers everything from slave songs to Motown. Check it out!
Black music in America by James Haskins