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The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace

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In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African Am In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African American performers, at the height of Jim Crow, transformed their racial difference into the mass-market commodity known as black music. Gilbert shows how Europe and others used the rhythmic sounds of ragtime, blues, and jazz to construct new representations of black identity, challenging many of the nation's preconceived ideas about race, culture, and modernity and setting off a musical craze in the process. Gilbert sheds new light on the little-known era of African American music and culture between the heyday of minstrelsy and the Harlem Renaissance. He demonstrates how black performers played a pioneering role in establishing New York City as the center of American popular music, from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, and shows how African Americans shaped American mass culture in their own image.


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In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African Am In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African American performers, at the height of Jim Crow, transformed their racial difference into the mass-market commodity known as black music. Gilbert shows how Europe and others used the rhythmic sounds of ragtime, blues, and jazz to construct new representations of black identity, challenging many of the nation's preconceived ideas about race, culture, and modernity and setting off a musical craze in the process. Gilbert sheds new light on the little-known era of African American music and culture between the heyday of minstrelsy and the Harlem Renaissance. He demonstrates how black performers played a pioneering role in establishing New York City as the center of American popular music, from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, and shows how African Americans shaped American mass culture in their own image.

28 review for The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    As good a book as there is about the complex relationship between music and race in the early 20th century. Gilbert provides a detailed geography of the places where black musicians (and a constellation of white folks, interested for a range of reasons, good bad and other) forged a "ragtime identity." That identity engaged the forces of modernity--economic, cultural, political, psychological--in ways that sketched fascinating possibilities for combining a deep sense of a (non-essentialized) blac As good a book as there is about the complex relationship between music and race in the early 20th century. Gilbert provides a detailed geography of the places where black musicians (and a constellation of white folks, interested for a range of reasons, good bad and other) forged a "ragtime identity." That identity engaged the forces of modernity--economic, cultural, political, psychological--in ways that sketched fascinating possibilities for combining a deep sense of a (non-essentialized) blackness with a cosmopolitan vision. Love what he does with James Reese Europe, who should be much much better known than he is; with the importance of dance to the spread and reception of the music; and with the dynamics of marketing. My sense of pre-Harlem Renaissance New York City was transformed by Gilbert's careful mapping of the racial turf. Theoretically sophisticated but clearly written. highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wisconsin Alumni

    David Gilbert MA’03, PhD’11 author

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  4. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Hoad-Reddick

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elena F.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maia

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    Alexander

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rana Domenic

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Paternotte

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alli

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael Borshuk

  13. 4 out of 5

    Slithy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kori

  15. 4 out of 5

    NVCC Manassas

  16. 4 out of 5

    Addy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Izetta Autumn

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Dauterive

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

  21. 4 out of 5

    G

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Ewing

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christine Schwab

  24. 5 out of 5

    Agustina Monasterio

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nickbosanko

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Osita Nwanevu

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