essay .................... Blacks and Irish on the Riverine Frontiers The Roots of American Popular Music by Christopher J. Smith Riverine environments became spaces in which behaviors adopted from more racially fluid milieus could meet and spread. A Savannah minstrel, ca. 1905, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress. nvironments--geographical, demographic, historical, and contextual--have played a key role in American popular music, particularly in the case of minstrelsy, the nineteenthcentury black/white synthesis that lies at the root of vaudeville, tap-dance, Tin Pan Alley, and musical comedy. Scholars have identified the role played by shifting antebellum conceptions of class, race, and politics in the creation of blackface minstrelsy, and the way the idiom ritualized or contested these conceptions, but, with a few brief exceptions, they have neglected the physical environments--the contested public spaces--in which the blackface synthesis first occurred. Place--particularly the boundary spaces of maritime and riverine environments on the southern and western frontiers of antebellum North America--was a key element in shaping the Anglo-Irish/ African American cultural collaboration that made blackface minstrelsy possible. Received musicological history has depicted blackface as a phenomenon of northern urban environments, but this is to neglect the frontier contexts that both enabled
Southern Cultures – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 12, 2011
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