Why is it important to Elijah Wald’s thesis to argue that “blues” in the 1920s meant a style of popular music to audiences, rather than a style of folk or art music

| March 13, 2016

1. Why is it important to Elijah Wald’s thesis to argue that “blues” in the 1920s meant a style of popular music to audiences, rather than a style of folk or art music. 2. The Blues Queens of the 1920s represent a significant evolution of black performance style beyond black-face minstrelsy. However, they also present a racially stereotyped or confining set of performance practices. Discuss this dichotomy. 3. The 1920s saw the emergence of two broad styles of blues music – one that reflected the experience of rural blacks in the south, and the other reflecting a growing population of urban, middle-class blacks in the industrial north. Using one specific example from each, discuss the difference in musical style represented by these two genres (southern rural vs. northern urban). 4. Using the first half of Susan McClary’s “Thinking Blues” article as a framework, discuss the way in which the musical conventions of the blues serve as expressive devices in W.C. Handy’s song “St. Louis Blues” (and, in particular Bessie Smith’s performance of it). 5. The musical conventions of the blues are typically thought of as useful for expressing the harsh realities of poverty and racial oppression in the early 20th century. However, those same conventions have also been used to express the power of religious faith in black gospel music. Discuss how blues style functions in gospel music.

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