University of Texas at Austin

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Historian Chronicles Color Lines in Southern Music

51s6JJYvpsL._SL500_AA300_This month, Austin will be pulsating to the dizzying array of beats coming from thousands of musicians from all over the world who are trying to get their big break into the music industry. For four days, up-and-coming crooners, strummers and drummers will be showcasing their talents in hopes of making connections with record labels at the annual South by Southwest music festival.

So what does it take for a band to get its big break? In “Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow,” (Duke University Press, 2010) Karl Miller, assistant professor of history, examines the complexities of the music industry – from the commercial embrace of southern music to the marketing logic of MTV.

Focusing on a complex range of sounds and styles of southern music during the late 19th and 20th century, Miller chronicles how folk music was pigeonholed into distinct genres linked to racial and ethnic identities.

Have you ever wondered how the blues became intrinsically linked with African Americans? Or how rural white southerners became assigned to country music? Pick up Miller’s book to find out how such genres as “hip hop” and “bluegrass” were created by the music industry.

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