Theses Doctoral

Implications of Contemporary Bluegrass Music Performance at and around a New York City Jam Session

King, Jonathan Tobias

Bluegrass as it is played in the United States today is not simply a resistant category of country music, but performs a particular and emergent view of past/present relations. More than a "micromusic" mediating between "supercultures" and "subcultures" (in Mark Slobin's terms 1993), in fact bluegrass's complex history resists simple top down or bottom up perspectives, articulating a distinct space of authenticity. Active `genre tending' in a jam setting poetically articulates emergent social relations, in a specific spatiotemporal frame, at New York City's The Baggot Inn jam scene, a site of bluegrass performance at which the genre is employed creatively as a way of socializing and articulating contemporary presence. Learning a genre on an individual level is an actively embodied linking of technique and feeling, and differing listening experiences may lead to differing ideas of what a musical text represents. Expressive skill, executed through embodied musical gestures derived from specific pieces of music, may embed personal biography with social history and experience. Successful coperformance of a genre (bluegrass, in this case) requires a dynamic performative flexibility. This flexibility in turn can permanently affect both player and context, though different players may have to work to agree or disagree. These live, face to face interactions which depend on local specifics, maintain the coherence of the wider musical genre that facilitates those very actions themselves.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Fox, Aaron A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 23, 2014