Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 694
Blues People: Negro Music in White America is a 1963 non-fictional novel written by American writer, poet, and music critic Amiri Baraka, aka LeRoi Jones. It is, essentially, an analysis of African American music and culture.
The idea that came through in the Renaissance and took hold of the West was that life was no mere anteroom for something greater or divine. Life itself was of value—and could be made perfect.
. . . This development signified also that jazz would someday have to contend with the idea of its being an art (since that was the white man's only way into it). The emergence of the white player meant that Afro-American culture had already become the expression of a particular kind of American experience, and what is most important, that this experience was available intellectually, that it could be learned.
According to Baraka, the history of the African-Americans can be chronologically studied, sorted, and classified through their music. Thus, he covers themes that predominately analyze the various musical genres that can be credited to African Americans, such as blues, jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues. He also wrote his opinions on rock ’n’ roll and modern music.
The reason for the remarkable development of the rhythmic qualities of African music can certainly be traced to the fact that Africans also used drums for communication; and not, as was once thought, merely by using the drums in a kind of primitive Morse code, but by the phonetic reproduction of the words themselves—the result being that Africans developed an extremely fine and extremely complex rhythmic sense.
To be sure, rock 'n' roll is usually a flagrant commercialization of rhythm & blues, but the music in many cases depends on materials that are so alien to the general middle-class, middle-brow American culture as to remain interesting… Rock n' roll is the blues form of the classes of Americans who lack the "sophistication" to be middle brows, or are too naive to get in on the mainstream American taste; those who think that somehow Melachrino, Kostelanetz, etc., are too lifeless.
Baraka argued that black music has been extremely influential in numerous art fields. Through his study, he established that music has no race, and that blues is neither black music nor white music. It is simply the music of the American culture.
One of the most persistent traits of the Western white man has always been his fanatical and almost instinctive assumption that his systems and ideas about the world are the most desirable, and further that people who do not aspire to to them, or at least think them admirable, are savages or enemies. The idea that Western thought might be exotic if viewed from...
(The entire section contains 694 words.)
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