Do you know the role of music in Fences?

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The play Fences is set in the 1950s and presents themes regarding the African American experience during this time in American history. Music has always played an important role in the African American community, and groundbreaking musical contributions have been made by this community, especially in the areas of jazz,...

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The play Fences is set in the 1950s and presents themes regarding the African American experience during this time in American history. Music has always played an important role in the African American community, and groundbreaking musical contributions have been made by this community, especially in the areas of jazz, gospel, and blues (and later, rock n' roll). Wilson uses these three genres as symbols to reflect the lives of his characters.

In scene 2 of act 1, Rose is hanging up laundry, singing an old gospel hymn:

Jesus, be a fence all around me every day Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way. Jesus, be a fence all around me every day. Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way.

This hymn reflects Rose's deep faith and the importance in her life of God and the church. It also fortifies the symbol of the "fence" that Wilson uses throughout the play. In this metaphor, Rose is beseeching Jesus for protection, just as she asks Troy to repair the physical fence in their yard to serve as protection for the ones who she loves. The gospel hymn serves as a prayer for Rose and as a way to express the desires of her heart.

Lyons, Troy's son from a previous marriage, is a jazz musician. Jazz is a genre of music that revels in breaking the conventional rules of music composition with its unexpected chordal progressions and its allowance of soloists improvising in the moment. This is also how Lyons lives his life: he doesn't follow the conventional rules of what is expected of him by Troy or society. He is more than content to have his wife be the breadwinner as he pursues life as a jazz musician. When Troy tells Lyons that he can get him a position working as a garbage man, as he does, Lyons turns his nose up at this idea. The reader is left with the impression that it is beneath him; Lyons would rather make his own way and figure out his own path, as is also the way in jazz music, than follow the traditional path of his father.

In act 1, scene 4, Troy introduces a blues song about his old dog Blue. The lyrics in this genre are typically about heartache and suffering. The more the audience learns about Troy's life, the more they can see how this is a fitting genre. Troy grew up with an abusive and neglectful father, ran away from home, and spent time in the penitentiary; he doesn't get drafted into the professional baseball league because he is African American, and in the end, he loses all who are most important to him. Troy's life is a blue's song, making this an appropriate genre for Wilson to put into the mouth of his protagonist. At the end of the play, serving as a bookend, Troy's children Cory and Raynell sing this blues song in memory of Troy as they prepare for his funeral.

Wilson uses the genres of jazz, gospel, and blues because of their familiarity to the African American community during the 1950s and as a reflection of the lives of his characters.

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The role of music in the play Fences by August Wilson is an important one because most acts have a song in them or a reference to music. The types of music that can be found in this play are jazz, inspirational, folk, and a lullaby.

Lyons is Troy's son from another woman, and he is a jazz musician. Lyons continually asks his father to come hear him play, but his father refuses, saying, "I ain't going down there. I'm too old to be sitting around in them clubs." Troy does not seem to value music as a profession.

Both Rose and Gabriel sing inspirational songs. Rose sings this as she hangs up her laundry on the line: "Jesus be a fence all around me every day. Jesus, I want you to protect me as I travel on my way. Jesus, be a fence around me every day." Faith and church are important to Rose. Gabriel believes himself to be an angel of the Lord, and he is often found singing. Gabriel sings, "Better get ready for the judgement. Better get ready for the judgement. My Lord is coming down." Music seems to comfort both Rose and Gabriel.

Troy passes on a song he learns from his father about a dog named Blue to Cory and Raynell. The words to that song go like this: "Hear it ring! Hear it ring! I had a dog and his name was Blue. You know Blue was a good old dog. Blue treed a possum in a hollow log." This song is one that Raynell and Cory sing together on the day of Troy's funeral. This song connects Troy's children and connects Troy to his father.

A lullaby is what Troy sings to his baby girl Raynell when he brings her home. The words are "Please Mr. Engineer let a man ride the line. Please Mr. Engineer let a man ride the line. I ain't got no ticket please let me ride the line."

Finally, the play closes with Gabriel singing to St. Peter and God to open the gates on Troy's behalf. Music can be found throughout the play Fences.

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Three kinds of music exist in the play: hymns, jazz, and a folk song. Rose and Gabriel rely on religious music for strength and inspiration. Rose does so more consciously because her life with Troy has been difficult; she sees the church as a refuge. Gabe tries to play music with his trumpet, but because it lacks a mouthpiece, he is unable to. Thus, he also sings, but primarily because he envisions himself as the Angel Gabriel.

Lyons is a jazz musician who seeks a career in music. When he invites his father to hear him play, Troy expresses his disdain for jazz when he declares he doesn't "like that Chinese music." Troy lives in the past when he was a outstanding baseball player; he makes no effort to appreciate "modern" music like jazz or, for that matter, Lyons' talent because this son is not an athlete.

Troy's song "Old Blue" is a song from the past that unites generations. He learned it from his father; by the end of the play Cory and  Raynell are singing it together before they attend Troy's funeral. Not only does the folk song represent Troy's impoverished background, but it also shows Troy's need to have something or someone to depend on, even if it is only a dog. Notice that Blue "died like a man." Perhaps the song actually memorializes a real dog that Troy had. At any rate, the tone of the song is positive; he praises the dog more than he does either of his sons.

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