Sound, The Second-Line, and the Politics of Post-Katrina Memory

In January of 2006, thousands of displaced New Orleanians returned to their sunken city from a variety of locales. They came from as close as Baton Rouge and as far as Portland, Oregon. Following a strange diaspora, an extension of forced exile caused by inadequate and disorganized evacuation plans sponsored… Continue reading

The Death Dance: the Pickwick Club Disaster in Boston, 1925

Investigations would later reveal that the Pickwick was structurally unsound, but in the immediate aftermath of the disaster city officials, the media, and residents speculated over the cause, with many concluding that jazz music and jazz dancing were responsible. Continue reading

‘Can the Subaltern Play?’ Jazz as Voice in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1910 – 1949

One of the most interesting developments in contemporary subaltern studies has been its growing engagement with culture, particularly music. In 1988, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, in the context of postcolonial research, asked, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ which, through its focus on agency, inspired greater inclusiveness and self-critical research on the other, life on the margins, and unheard peoples. Since then, many scholars have engaged with the political consequences of Spivak’s question and used her essay as inspiration. Continue reading

60 Seconds With Katerina Webb-Bourne

Last month we invited you to spend 60 seconds with the new members of the U.S. Studies Online editorial team. Now the new members of the BAAS Executive Committee have kindly let us learn more about their lives, their interests, desert island books, and memorable moments… Continue reading

Book Review: Sounding American: Hollywood, Opera, and Jazz by Jennifer Fleeger

According to Fleeger, during the 1920s, many composers, hoping to create and distribute truly American music, attempted to create jazz-operas, a genre that recalled America’s European roots, as well as its ethnic and racial diversity. Although not traditionally described as jazz-operas, Fleeger considers the how The Singing Fool and Yamekraw function as jazz-operas, specifically the ways in which they advertise the Vitaphone, a new synchronous sound system. Continue reading

“Teaching America” series Round-Up

Throughout September 2015 U.S. Studies Online ran a collaborative series with the Historians of Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) on the theme of “Teaching America”. The series offers readers an insight into the ongoing conversations around teaching U.S. history in higher education. Catch up on the series in our round-up here. Continue reading

Teaching America ‘Online’: Designing and delivering the Online Distance course ‘A History of the Blues’

The sixth post in the ‘Teaching America’ series is by Dr Christian O’Connell (University of Gloucestershire), author of Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues, who discusses the benefits to online distance learning when teaching the history of U.S. music. Continue reading

R&B entertainers didn’t take too long to get involved in the civil rights movement

Glen Whitcroft re-evaluates the financial and musical legacy of some of America’s most beloved and commercially successful African American entertainers, such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone. Continue reading

Merging aesthetics and politics: Toni Morrison’s jazz affect in JAZZ (1992)

Morrison produces an aestheticism that is driven by her own political impulse, which means that her political impulse – to protest against American history – is felt rather than known. As a result the untold stories of black America become real. Because Morrison writes American history through feeling, sense, and blurred images, not through definitive, clear information and files of data, to the reader her history of America becomes more than a history, it acts like a memory. Continue reading

500 Shades of Blues: ‘Bluesologist’ Gil Scott-Heron’s “H2Ogate Blues” as Meta-performance

For performance scholar Lesley Wheeler, “print exchanges presence for longevity, voice for script” but by including the audience reaction to an already recorded performance for “H2Ogate Blues,” Scott-Heron manages to pay tribute to the longevity of art through a permanent record while simultaneously honouring the presence of the poet in the original performance by putting him in dialog with a second audience … Scott-Heron refuses to substitute the importance of orality and performance that permeated alternative artistic cultures in the 1960s and 1970s, especially the Beat Generation, the Black Arts Movement and the Nuyorican Movement, for the textual condition that has brought artistic expression to the forefront of our everyday lives since the advent of writing and then printing. Continue reading