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The creolization of American culture; William Sidney Mount and the roots of blackface minstrelsy.


The creolization of American culture; William Sidney Mount and the roots of blackface minstrelsy.

Smith, Christopher J.

U. of Illinois Press


314 pages



Music in American life


Creolization emerged as a result of colonization and the mixing of the cultures of Africa and Europe. Smith (musicology/ethnomusicology, Texas Tech University School of Music) constructs a portrait of the multiethnic nineteenth-century America that produced blackface minstrelsy as seen through the eyes of William Sidney Mount (1807-1868), a musician and artist who lived in New York's Lower East Side. Drawing on primary sources, he clarifies how the sound and movement of the creole synthesis accelerated the creolization of North American culture. There are six chapters: recovering the creole synthesis; the creole synthesis in the New World; Long Island and the Lower East Side; minstrelsy's material culture; melody's polyrhythmic polysemic possibilities; akimbo culture. He defines the creole synthesis, focuses on Long Island and Lower Manhattan, and describes the musicians Mount portrayed in his paintings, musical repertoires he collected, dance cultures he depicted, and fine-tunes the heretofore unrecognized scope and spread of the creole synthesis. Finally, he notes how many American music idioms could only have happened on this continent "as a direct, intimate result of our complicated, contested, painful, extraordinary colonial history." This is a book for scholars and students of music, dance, and art, anthropology, and history. There is an appendix, notes, color plates, and seven images.

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Publication:Reference & Research Book News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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