Crossroads : Popular Music in America

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-01-01
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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For introductory, general education pop-music courses intended for students who have no prior musical training; courses on American Popular Music. Innovative, lively, and contemporary in focus, this comparative study of the multicultural music of the United States explores the five broad groups that constitute American society. With its blended approach; strong contemporary focus; and coverage of a wide variety of musical stylesfrom folk music, to banda.

Table of Contents


1. Context: Music in Multicultural America.
2. Native American Music Traditions.
3. The Roots of European/Anglo-American Music Traditions.
4. The Roots of African American Music Traditions.
5. The Roots of Hispanic/Latino Music Traditions.


6. The Blues.
7. Jazz.
8. Gospel.
9. Cajun and Zydeco.
10. Country.
11. The Urban Folk Revival.


12. The Ethnic and Racial Roots of Rock 'n' Roll.
13. Motown, Soul and Funk.
14. Tejano, Banda, and Contemporary Mexican.
15. Caribbean and Salsa.
16. Asian American Music.
17. Hip-Hop and Rap.


This textbook was written to meet the needs of today's more diverse student population. Returning to the classroom in 1995 after a 9-year hiatus as an academic Dean, I was aware of the student demographic changes, but I was unprepared for the pedagogical implications of those changes. As I struggled to engage my students in a traditional music survey course, they looked at me with bored, apathetic faces and I knew I had to find a better way. I could have attempted to teach one of the new popular music courses, but I just didn't feel "hip" enough, and I feared that even if I managed to catch up and be hip atone moment in time, it was a 'slippery slope back down and I would inevitably be out of date by the following year. I could also have retrained to teach a version of a world music course, but my experience observing these courses was that the curriculum was not always successful in engaging students because the music and the cultures were often remote to students' experience and aesthetic interests. What I decided instead was to create a new course called "The Musics of Multicultural America," based on my analysis that an important characteristic that seemed to unify my students was "Americanness." Working with U. C. Berkeley's Center for the Study of American Cultures, I developed a course that traced a variety of contemporary musics such as rock 'n' roll, salsa, gospel, blues, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, and Tejano from their roots in the music traditions of immigrant groups to their hybridization and development into uniquely new American musics. My efforts paid off. Soon my classes were filled with enthusiastic students who had enrolled on the recommendation of former students, friends and counselors. The traditional survey course used to average anywhere from 40 to 60 students per year. In 2000-01, enrollment in "The Musics of Multicultural America" was 1,137. By any standard of measurement, that is phenomenal growth. This textbook is the result of my work developing materials for that course. I am not an American historian, and I am not trained in ethnic studies. I do know, however, that perspectives on American history, experiences with race, the development of ethnic identity, and one's preferences for musical style are complex and potentially polemical issues. The safest strategy is to ignore them, and continue to teach the monocultural European-based music in which we were trained and that has been the mainstay of American higher education for centuries. But this is ultimately self-defeating: The population of the United States is characterized by increasing and unprecedented ethnic diversity, and the traditional approach, although important, needs to be balanced by alternatives. European-based classical music is only a portion (and an increasingly smaller portion) of all American music. Besides, we are no longer a colony. Isn't it time to start celebrating our own significant contributions to the world's music? Given my decision to create a new American-based music course, one obvious approach would have been to adopt one of the existing textbooks on music of the United States. But these textbooks generally ignore issues of race and ethnicity, implicitly (or explicitly) viewing American music as an extension of European traditions. Another approach would have been to pull together a reader, or a book that consisted of chapters written by different experts. After beginning, I realized that what my students needed was narrative consistency. To achieve this, I decided to solicit the assistance of people who are knowledgeable in all of the various areas and distill this information into a single voice. I believe that their multiple perspectives and diverse expertise channeled through my own writing, though far from perfect, is the best approach at this time. This book and the accompanying instructor's guide will provide faculty with the necessary tools and framework to teach their own version of a course

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