Mastery and Masquerade in the Transatlantic Blues Revival


Type
Article
Change log
Abstract

Focusing on two influential broadcasts staged for British television in 1963–4, this article traces transatlantic attitudes toward blues music in order to explore the constitutive relationship between race, spectatorship and performativity. During these programmes, I claim, a form of mythic history was translated into racial nature. Ultimately, I argue that blues revivalism coerced African American musicians into assuming the mask of blackface minstrelsy – an active personification of difference driven by a lucrative fantasy on the terms of white demand. I ask why this imagery found such zealous adherents amongst post-war youth, situating their gaze within a longer tradition of colonialist display. Subaltern musicians caught within this regime were nonetheless able to ‘speak’ via sung performances that signified on the coordinates of their own marginalization. The challenge for musicology is thus to heed the relational syncretism arising from intercultural contact while acknowledging the lived experience of African American artists unable to fully evade the preordained mask of alterity

Description
Keywords
3603 Music, 36 Creative Arts and Writing
Journal Title
Journal of the Royal Musical Association
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
0269-0403
1471-6933
Volume Title
143
Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Sponsorship
AHRC (1077009)
AHRC