New Orleans as a Music City
Chapter 1: New Orleans as a Music City: This class explores the colonial and 19th c. musical antecedents to jazz, from the street criers and serenading activities found in open-air environments to dance halls and theaters, including coverage of the musical implications of trans-Atlantic slavery driven by syncretism in Place Congo, Eurocentric bals masqués, American vernacular forms such as minstrelsy, work songs related to labor on the Mississippi river, pan-Caribbean Latin tinge derivatives of danza and danzon, and dance-oriented string bands and ragtime. This chapter will introduce students to theoretical perspectives emphasizing the cultural ramifications of the city's geographical situation, including concepts related to the convergence of discrete systems of cultural production (trans-Atlantic Eurocentric and Afrocentric; Gulf/Caribbean creolization; and American vernacularism) in New Orleans. Students read Jerah Johnson, "New Orleans's Congo Square: An Urban Setting for Early African-American Culture Formation," Louisiana History, 32/2 (Spring 1991), 117-157 Lester Sullivan, "Composers of Color of Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The History behind the Music," Black Music Research Journal, 8/1 (1988), 51-82 (with reports due on the following week).
Congo Square was a site where African ethnic musical cultures blended into an African American variant that was specific to New Orleans and a threshold for further development.
The French Opera House (1859-1919) brought the latest Eurocentric culture to New Orleans. Ironically, its educational component was called the 'Milano Conservatory' by students because most of the teachers were Italian.