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The Blues Meaning and Significance Essay


What is the blues? It seems that the answer to this question can be easily found while examining its peculiarities as the music style, but this issue remains to be one of the most controversial questions which are associated with the blues as the music and philosophy.

Moreover, the attempts to define the blues as a notion gave the start for the discussions of the blues as the expression of the African-Americans’ identity and the possibility to play this music by white people. Thus, can white people play the blues? To examine the problem and give the reliable answer, it is necessary to pay attention to the blues as the cultural phenomenon and to its ethical significance.

In his work “The Blues as Cultural Expression”, Phillip Jenkins gives the answer to the question and discusses the blues from several approaches to it as the cultural and aesthetical phenomenon. Jenkins states that it is necessary to differentiate between two understandings of the blues in order to be right while answering this provocative question.

Thus, he accentuates the blues as “the cultural expression” and as “the musical form”[1]. When people speak about the blues as the cultural expression it is important to focus on the fact that white people cannot play the blues because they do not have those national identity and historical, social, and cultural experience and background which the African-Americans have.

However, when we speak about the musical form it is possible to state that “the blues is really nothing more than sound patterns or forms that require only the ability to manipulate the instruments (including the voice) in the right way”[2]. That is why white people can follow the blues techniques and play it. Nevertheless, is it a real blues?

In their work “Even White Folks Get the Blues”, Douglas and Nathaniel Langston argue the first one of Jenkins’s principles and support the second statement about the blues as the possibility of white people to play the blues as the musical form[3].

Their argument is based on the idea that it is unnecessary for people to be black, if they come from the South and feel the blues as the African-Americans do. Moreover, the blues can exist in the world of white people as the specific form known as the white blues[4]. That is why Jenkins’s thesis can be considered as rather controversial.

The blues is the music which traditionally reflects the feelings and emotions of the African-Americans in relation to their state in the country, the peculiarities of their living and visions of their life. Thus, the main ideas of the blues are closely connected with the issues of justice and liberties in the society.

That is why it is possible to discuss the blues in the context of social and ethical significance. To understand this significance, it is useful to refer to Michael Sandel’s ideas about social liberties which reflect some which are typical for the blues. Social justice can be based on individual rights and the freedom of choice[5]. This idea is close to the ethics of the blues because the blues is the music of freedom of will, choice, and desires which are not limited by restrictive social norms.

It is difficult to define the blues as a notion and to develop strict considerations about its meaning and significance because the blues is the music of the souls which freedom cannot be limited by any social, cultural or philosophical norms.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Phillip. “The Blues as Cultural Expression”. Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low. Ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather. USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011. 38-49. Print.

Langston, Douglas and Nathaniel Langston. “Even White Folks Get the Blues”. Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low. Ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather. USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011. 167-176. Print.

Sandel, Michael J. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Print.

Footnotes

  1. Phillip Jenkins, “The Blues as Cultural Expression”, Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low, ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather (USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011).
  2. Phillip Jenkins, “The Blues as Cultural Expression”, Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low, ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather (USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011) 40.
  3. Douglas Langston and Nathaniel Langston, “Even White Folks Get the Blues”, Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low, ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather (USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011).
  4. Douglas Langston and Nathaniel Langston, “Even White Folks Get the Blues”, Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep About Feeling Low, ed. Jesse R. Steinberg and Abrol Fairweather (USA: John Wiley and Sons, 2011).
  5. Michael J. Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).
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IvyPanda. (2019, May 7). The Blues Meaning and Significance. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-blues/

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"The Blues Meaning and Significance." IvyPanda, 7 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-blues/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Blues Meaning and Significance." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-blues/.


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IvyPanda. "The Blues Meaning and Significance." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-blues/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Blues Meaning and Significance." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-blues/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Blues Meaning and Significance'. 7 May.

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