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Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924

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The early decades of American popular music are, for most listeners, the dark ages. It wasn't until the mid-1920s that the full spectrum of this music -- black and white, urban and rural, sophisticated and crude -- made it onto records for all to hear. This book brings a forgotten music, hot music, to life by describing how it became the dominant American music -- how it o The early decades of American popular music are, for most listeners, the dark ages. It wasn't until the mid-1920s that the full spectrum of this music -- black and white, urban and rural, sophisticated and crude -- made it onto records for all to hear. This book brings a forgotten music, hot music, to life by describing how it became the dominant American music -- how it outlasted sentimental waltzes and parlour ballads, symphonic marches and Tin Pan Alley novelty numbers -- and how it became rock 'n' roll. It reveals that the young men and women of that bygone era had the same musical instincts as their descendants Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and even Ozzy Osbourne. In minstrelsy, ragtime, brass bands, early jazz and blues, fiddle music, and many other forms, there was as much stomping and swerving as can be found in the most exciting performances of hot jazz, funk, and rock. Along the way, it explains how the strange combination of African with Scotch and Irish influences made music in the United States vastly different from other African and Caribbean music; shares terrific stories about minstrel shows, 'coon' a motley collection of performers heretofore unknown to all but the most avid musicologists and collectors.


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The early decades of American popular music are, for most listeners, the dark ages. It wasn't until the mid-1920s that the full spectrum of this music -- black and white, urban and rural, sophisticated and crude -- made it onto records for all to hear. This book brings a forgotten music, hot music, to life by describing how it became the dominant American music -- how it o The early decades of American popular music are, for most listeners, the dark ages. It wasn't until the mid-1920s that the full spectrum of this music -- black and white, urban and rural, sophisticated and crude -- made it onto records for all to hear. This book brings a forgotten music, hot music, to life by describing how it became the dominant American music -- how it outlasted sentimental waltzes and parlour ballads, symphonic marches and Tin Pan Alley novelty numbers -- and how it became rock 'n' roll. It reveals that the young men and women of that bygone era had the same musical instincts as their descendants Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and even Ozzy Osbourne. In minstrelsy, ragtime, brass bands, early jazz and blues, fiddle music, and many other forms, there was as much stomping and swerving as can be found in the most exciting performances of hot jazz, funk, and rock. Along the way, it explains how the strange combination of African with Scotch and Irish influences made music in the United States vastly different from other African and Caribbean music; shares terrific stories about minstrel shows, 'coon' a motley collection of performers heretofore unknown to all but the most avid musicologists and collectors.

30 review for Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I love this book. David Wondrich has to be the angriest white man alive. Seriously, if a brother said half the things that David says about race and entertainment, I swear they would've shot his ass. But Wondrich is hysterical. He's also incredibly knowledgeable. He perfectly straddles the line between academia and pop culture. I've also learned more about early American music and its disgusting racial history than I've ever known (and yall know how absolutely nerdy I am). I think everybody and I love this book. David Wondrich has to be the angriest white man alive. Seriously, if a brother said half the things that David says about race and entertainment, I swear they would've shot his ass. But Wondrich is hysterical. He's also incredibly knowledgeable. He perfectly straddles the line between academia and pop culture. I've also learned more about early American music and its disgusting racial history than I've ever known (and yall know how absolutely nerdy I am). I think everybody and his mother should definitely check this bad boy out. Thank you, Wondrich.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie (Beveroth) Rider

    The author's snarky tone detracted from what could have been a decent history of American Music. I found it difficult to get past the myriad of digs and personal quips to actually get down to the content. There is, however, a decent section on Blackface Minstrelsy and he has an interesting take on Sousa's career as well. It's obvious the author knows a lot about this music, but he presents the information pompously. The author's snarky tone detracted from what could have been a decent history of American Music. I found it difficult to get past the myriad of digs and personal quips to actually get down to the content. There is, however, a decent section on Blackface Minstrelsy and he has an interesting take on Sousa's career as well. It's obvious the author knows a lot about this music, but he presents the information pompously.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Read for 76-221, Roots of Rock and Roll, and really liked! Also notable as the most recent, and quite possibly last ever, book about which I wrote an essay.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This book examines the emergence of "hot" music in America from the mid 19th century through the first quarter of the twentieth. Wondrich defines hot music as having at least one and preferably both of two characteristics: drive, which is a stomping propulsive pulse, and swerve, which involves warping or deviating from the beat or the tonal scheme or both. Wondrich then traces the presence and development of these characteristics through minstrelsy, ragtime, early jazz, and the blues. Wondrich wr This book examines the emergence of "hot" music in America from the mid 19th century through the first quarter of the twentieth. Wondrich defines hot music as having at least one and preferably both of two characteristics: drive, which is a stomping propulsive pulse, and swerve, which involves warping or deviating from the beat or the tonal scheme or both. Wondrich then traces the presence and development of these characteristics through minstrelsy, ragtime, early jazz, and the blues. Wondrich writes in a chatty, slangy, yet very clear style that make Stomp and Swerve really enjoyable to read. However, the book does ramble at times and Wondrich does not always convey a clear through-line to his argument. However, he does a wonderful job of uncovering and discussing a lot of music and musicians who are less well-known but no less important to the development of jazz. He also does a great job of connecting all these threads to each other and to the eventual development of rock n roll.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    A highly subjective but ultimately quite interesting and entertaining book of musical history. It's somewhat irritatingly written, both in terms of its haphazard structure (which finally hangs together better towards the end) and Wondrich's diction, which sometimes reminds one of a talented but smug thirteen-year-old who leans a bit too heavily on his thesaurus. Definitely worth reading as a casual introduction to the antecedents and early history of jazz. A highly subjective but ultimately quite interesting and entertaining book of musical history. It's somewhat irritatingly written, both in terms of its haphazard structure (which finally hangs together better towards the end) and Wondrich's diction, which sometimes reminds one of a talented but smug thirteen-year-old who leans a bit too heavily on his thesaurus. Definitely worth reading as a casual introduction to the antecedents and early history of jazz.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Informative and entertaining. I enjoyed thoroughly and learned a lot.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    So many tomes so little time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An excellent and informative read. I will seek out more from David Wondrich.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Micah

    Yeah, I don't really like this book. The way it's written isn't very good. The information is mostly solid, but the way it's portioned out is kinda poopy. Yeah, I don't really like this book. The way it's written isn't very good. The information is mostly solid, but the way it's portioned out is kinda poopy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    For what it's worth, my favorite of my books, if a bit bratty. For what it's worth, my favorite of my books, if a bit bratty.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Giannangeli

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beka Salazar

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marlena Abraham

  14. 4 out of 5

    David T.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Luke Plummer

  16. 4 out of 5

    CHUANSHEN WU

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

  18. 5 out of 5

    JAMES MORAN

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jon Santer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick Lagrow

  23. 4 out of 5

    Serg Ronin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  26. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Atmospheric Eric

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  29. 5 out of 5

    N.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Confetta

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