Revolutions in American Music

Three Decades That Changed a Country and Its Sounds

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Pub Date 20 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024

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Description

The story of how unexpected connections between music, technology, and race across three tumultuous decades changed American culture.

How did a European social dance craze become part of an American presidential election? Why did the recording industry become racially divided? Where did rock ’n’ roll really come from? And how do all these things continue to reverberate in today’s world?

In Revolutions in American Music, award-winning author Michael Broyles shows the surprising ways in which three key decades—the 1840s, the 1920s, and the 1950s—shaped America’s musical future. Drawing connections between new styles of music like the minstrel show, jazz, and rock ’n’ roll, and emerging technologies like the locomotive, the first music recordings, and the transistor radio, Broyles argues that these decades fundamentally remade our cultural landscape in enduring ways. At the same time, these connections revealed racial fault lines running through the business of music, in an echo of American society as a whole.

Through the music of each decade, we come to see anew the social, cultural, and political fabric of the time. Broyles combines broad historical perspective with an eye for the telling detail and presents a variety of characters to serve as focal points, including the original Jim Crow, a colorful Hungarian dancing master named Gabriel de Korponay, “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith, and the singer Johnnie Ray, whom Tony Bennett called “the father of rock ’n’ roll.” Their stories, and many others, animate Broyles’s masterly account of how American music became what it is today.

About the Author: Michael Broyles holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin and is professor of musicology at Florida State University. He was formerly the music critic for the Baltimore Sun and is a past president of the Society for American Music. 

The story of how unexpected connections between music, technology, and race across three tumultuous decades changed American culture.

How did a European social dance craze become part of an American...


Advance Praise

"Reminiscent of a great Hudson River School painting—the canvas is large, majestic, rich in color and subject, and undeniably American. An exhilarating book." - Dale Cockrell, author of Everybody’s Doin’ It: Sex, Music, and Dance in New York, 1840–1917

"Michael Broyles illuminates three decades when not just music but much else in American culture was more than usually in flux." - James Wierzbicki, author of When Music Mattered: American Music in the Sixties

"By imaginatively connecting such phenomena as country fiddling, modernist experimentation, and rock ’n’ roll to underlying themes of racial injustice and technological change, Michael Broyles positions the story of music in America where it belongs: at the center of the nation’s cultural history." - Joan Shelley Rubin, author of The Making of Middlebrow Culture

"Michael Broyles illuminates three revolutionary eras in American music history by showing the backstories, the political contexts, and the social relevance that in hindsight make them seem inevitable. Only a scholar with his vast knowledge could compare the contexts of rock ’n’ roll, jazz, and the polka with such insight." - E. Douglas Bomberger, professor of musicology at Elizabethtown College and president, Society for American Music

"Reminiscent of a great Hudson River School painting—the canvas is large, majestic, rich in color and subject, and undeniably American. An exhilarating book." - Dale Cockrell, author of Everybody’s...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780393634204
PRICE $35.00 (USD)
PAGES 416

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Featured Reviews

Thank you NetGallery, W.W. Norton and author Michael Broyles for the opportunity to read the arc ebook of “Revolutions in American Music.”

This is such a well-researched and stimulating read based upon the premise that during certain periods in our history music inspired notable changes in our society. Broyles is a well-known American music historian and he presents detailed information in the most interesting and enjoyable manner. Beginning with minstrel entertainment in 1810 and continuing through early jazz, the invention of radio and phonograph, the founding of symphony orchestras, the development of country music, 1950s rock and roll and modern contemporary composers, the information flows in such a natural and interesting manner one forgets that this is scholarship at its best. When the book presents finite information it reveals facts often overlooked in other histories. A perfect example is the section on early jazz that omits so much of the repeated fiction and presents the real development and important musicians. Each section brings a realization of just how America’s social fabric was heavily influenced by a concurrent musical genre. This is a thoroughly wonderful book.

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