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What types of music would you say are most representative of American culture? PART II

Hola to all of my readers out there, both faithful and casual. It's that time again to dip into some gringo pop culture. If you recall last issue's column, we'd breached the territory of music - specifically, which types have been most influential on American society, and I decided to go back a ways to start with the blues.

I chose that as a starting point due not only to its inception occurring so early in our history, but also because of the myriad genres it influenced if not outright spawned. For instance, if we look at American music today, what do we see? Rock & roll is the lovechild of the blues, country, and gospel.

Country music as we know it came from a combination of the blues, bluegrass, and folk. And blues' fingerprints on hip-hop, soul, and R&B (the "B" is for "blues," after all) seem pretty self-evident. So, we have a single genre that essentially birthed all of these musical babies, which had more musical babies of their own, and so on, making the blues indisputably one of the great grandfathers of American music.

This great granddaddy, as previously noted, came from earlier black communities, as did gospel music - the other musical great grandparent, with its earliest forms having been traced back to African cultures. With those covered, that brings us to the next big papa of American music to come from Black America: jazz.

Alright, so jazz technically arose from blues and ragtime (Google "The Entertainer ragtime," and you'll no doubt instantly recognize the tune), which I suppose would make it more of a grandfather than a great grandfather, but its significance as one of the pillars of American music and culture cannot be overstated.

Its roots can be traced back to the black communities of New Orleans in the late 19th Century and, like most other genres that have been around a good long while, it has since spawned many subgenres of itself which vary wildly between the more traditional ragtime/blues forms to hyper-technical instrumental expressions all the way to what is commonly regarded as avant-garde jazz. Some choice examples of each of these would be Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller, Upswingin' by Tim Simonec, and Snagglepuss by John Zorn (a personal favorite), respectively.

Watch out for that John Zorn, though. Incredibly satisfying if your palette's equipped to take it in for a landing, but it can also serve as a bit of a roundhouse kick to the eardrums if you're not ready for it. Don't say I didn't warn you. And to those of you who can dig it? You're welcome.


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