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American Popular Music Essay

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Updated: Feb 24th, 2021

Minstrel show

Minstrel shows represented one of the shameful chapters in the American musical history in the mid and early nineteenth century. During the performances, both black and white performers wore blackface with a consequence of portraying racial discrimination and hatred. White’s: who imitated the black’s pigmentation by blackening their faces with grease paint or cork, threw sentiments of slavery and its rightful status quo to the African-Americans who were thought of being contented with slavery and apparently enjoyed subjectivity to white masters. The minstrel shows gained large popularity well into 1950s, since the northerners, mainly whites were cynical about the blacks.

They embraced songs that draw large audience interest and colorful comics associated with dark people. Though the show’s popularity dwindled from 1950s, as black men campaigned for political powers, its traces in modern day are still evident. Think of white rock musicians, white rappers. By taking after black musicians, do they express admiration to them or are they attempting to steal some African-American musical artistry? Some whites like African-American music in spite of disliking blacks reminiscent to minstrel shows audience.

Phonograph Technology

Since initial recording of Mary had Little Lamb using the first viable phonograph, its impacts to the revolution of the music industry are deeply felt even today. The phonograph technology invention and patenting was done by Thomas Edison, which on commercialization enabled people to buy and replay music, which was then played at radio stations free of charge as repeatedly as they would wish.

Even though the technology may seem old, it has reappeared and enormously affected the modern music industry. The turntable technology is a replication of the phonograph Technology. With redesign and modifications such as replacement of wave forms tracing pins with optical readers, a twenty first century phonograph has been produced which is widely used by DJs. Vinyl recording systems and turntables are principally used for mixing different forms of electronically recorded music.

The instruments permit enormous latitude of various levels of physical manipulation of music in dance floors by DJs. In the case of hip-hops, as opposed to ordinary playbacks, the instruments allow records manipulation as part of the music. Furthermore, current USB turntables have been designed to provide compatibility with computers to permit direct transfer of sound to remotely connected computer. Consequently, the music industry is flexible than ever it has been.

Popular music

Studying popular music has many difficulties. In the first place, there exists non-uniformity in the definitions of popular music by many musicology scholars. Secondly, the music is produced for audience with deferring social and cultural inclinations hence lacking specific reflection cultural identities. It is only possible to produce it in economic industries, which look at the popular music in terms of monetary value in which it is considered as a commodity. Furthermore, it is always subjected to the rules of capitalism: it must sell to as many people as possible at as little as possible and to as much as possible to yield optimal returns.

In comparison to jazz, folk or classical music, it is harder to study it since unlike them; it is not restricted to local audiences, which are small for oral and academic critical evaluation. To amicably study popular music, the musicology scholars have got to overcome the problems of disunity amongst the scholastic approaches to the subject, seize special ways of understanding music of multicultural settings which amounts to understanding ‘otherness’ in terms of cultural and musical behaviors. In addition, the problem of resolving on the desired target groups need to be addressed since such groups, more often than not, may have died out at the time of studying the popular music, which is normally dynamic and easily overtaken by events.

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"American Popular Music." IvyPanda, 24 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/american-popular-music/.

1. IvyPanda. "American Popular Music." February 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-popular-music/.


IvyPanda. "American Popular Music." February 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-popular-music/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "American Popular Music." February 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-popular-music/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'American Popular Music'. 24 February.

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