The Creolization of American Culture
William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
The creolization in the title of this book connotes a process of cultural exchange identifiable in many aspects of antebellum life. In the early-nineteenth-century United States, this exchange was particularly rich and particularly visible in the expressive arts; most specifically, in the sounding and bodily performance genres of participatory Anglo-African music-and-dance. ...
The origins of this research arise from a combination of intuition and conversation: my intuition, as an American musician and long-time practitioner of both Anglo-Celtic and African American vernacular styles, that these immigrant musical traditions might share complex and tightly intertwined social histories. ...
1. Recovering the Creole Synthesis: The Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy
This book uses the artworks, letters, sketchbooks, music collection, ephemera, and biography of the vernacular painter William Sidney Mount (1807–1868), and similar materials from some of his predecessors and contemporaries, as a lens through which to see the multiethnic antebellum world that gave birth to blackface minstrelsy, ...
2. The Creole Synthesis in the New World: Cultures in Contact
This chapter argues that the musical, cultural, and sociological resources for blackface’s creole synthesis were in place long before the founding of the Virginia Minstrels in 1843, the event conventionally identified as the watershed “beginnings” of the minstrel show. ...
3. Long Island and the Lower East Side: Mount’s Background, Youth, and Apprenticeships
This chapter narrows our focus from the western Atlantic and Caribbean to examine the creolizing maritime cultures of two islands— Long Island and Manhattan—that directly shaped William Sidney Mount’s personal and musical world. It explores the ways in which influences from those islands play out in the life of Mount himself, ...
4. Minstrelsy's Material Culture: The Evidence of Mount’s Portraiture [Illustrations follow page 124]
This chapter concentrates on insights provided by examination of the paintings from Mount’s maturity into the material culture of instrumental dance music in the “creole synthesis.” Principal evidence is drawn from four portraits of dance musicians that he painted in 1849 (Just in Tune), 1850 (Right and Left) ...
5. Melody's Polyrhythmic Polysemic Possibilities
Of any musical parameter—texture, instrumentation, tempo, timbre, and other—rhythm is the most essential component to understanding dance music, in any cultural tradition, in any sacred or secular context. More than any other parameter, what defines dance, or a dance, or a dance melody, or a dance performance, is rhythm— ...
6. Akimbo Culture: Dance and the Participatory Pleasures of the Body
This chapter explores the musical information that can be derived from visual depictions of blackface dance (particularly those by Mount himself), and works backward from that evidence to further reconstruct performance practice and the impact of performance practice on minstrelsy’s sound and experience. ...
Conclusion: The Creole Synthesis in American Culture
The goal of this book has been to use primary sources—demographics, tune repertoires, archival materials, and most especially iconography—as tools to construct a portrait of the multiethnic nineteenth-century world that gave birth to blackface minstrelsy; to recover the sounds of that world; ...
Appendix: Blackface Scholarship