By Christopher J Smith
Reading Mount's renderings of black and white musicians opposed to a history of old websites and practices of cross-racial interplay, Smith deals a cosmopolitan interrogation and reinterpretation of minstrelsy, considerably broadening historic perspectives of black-white musical exchange.
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Additional resources for The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy
21 Emmett (b. S. 22 By 1842 he had reached New York, where the first performances of his seminal Virginia Minstrels (mixing song, comedy, dance, and instrumental music in a full evening’s entertainment, and featuring the iconic combination of fiddle, banjo, bones, and tambourine) in January 1843 are conventionally described as the “birth” of both minstrelsy and American popular music. But the idiom begins in the liminal creolizing environments of the southern and western riverine and maritime frontiers.
In precisely the same way, I will suggest, the dancing polyrhythm of Jim Crow’s dancing body cut (and undercut) the straightforward 2/4 rhythms of Anglo-Celtic fiddle tunes (see chapter 5). And it was thus that the participatory pleasure of African American polyrhythmic dance infiltrated Anglo-Celtic performance culture. Vocal music does not appear to have been one of Mount’s areas of particular interest, though it was a topic relatively well-served by antebellum printers and publishers, and his own papers contain a fascinating cross-section of vocal music prints from the period (discussed in chapter 5).
What Cockrell has identified is a shift in the representation of performance in sheet-music form; a kind of appropriation: the straitening and objectification of a sounding improvisational practice into a more fixed and prescriptive form. 1840s sheet music, as sold to a middle-class audience, sought to capture the more accessible, normative, and “scientific” details of the performance practice, being unable to fully capture the more intuitive, imitative, and nonnotated elements. And it attempted this capture precisely because a middle-class consumer, distant from the riverine and maritime origin zones of the creole synthesis, could no longer be expected to have heard the sounding performance practice.