Archive for the ‘Robert B. Winans’ Category

Author : Robert B. Winans

Source : https://sites.google.com/a/wildblue.net/winansbanjo/

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“The first complete minstrel show was put on in 1843 and was an immediate “hit,” spawning many imitations and initiating what was to be the most popular of popular entertainments for the next forty years or more.  What was it about, this entertainment, especially in its first, formative decade, 1843-1852, that so captivated a nation? Though many factors might enter into the answer, surely one of the more important ones is the music of the shows. For the minstrel show was primarily a musical event, not really “musical theatre” in the modern sense, but what one might call “theatrical music.” Musical performances were what structured the early minstrel show. Printed programs for the shows, which are the primary sources for this essay, look like concert programs (see figure 9). Of course, much more occurred on stage in the actual shows than appears in the programs, which do not indicate all the dialogue and comic “business” that went on in between musical numbers. But the musical pieces on the program structured the evening. And previous scholarship has not dealt very substantially with the music of the early shows, with the partial exception of Hans Nathan’s book on Dan Emmett. So my purpose here is to examine some of the features of that music as it was performed on stage between 1843 and 1852.”

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Author : Robert B. Winans

Source : https://sites.google.com/a/wildblue.net/winansbanjo/

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This brief article, also reprinted in 1990 in the Black Music Research Journal (Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 43-53), is a summary of research based on interviews collected by the WPA in the 1930s (and published in the 1970s).

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Author : Robert B. Winans

Source : https://sites.google.com/a/wildblue.net/winansbanjo/

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“THAT THE WIDESPREAD DIFFUSION OF POPULAR MUSIC made possible by the radio and the phonograph beginning in the 1920’s has had a profound effect on folk music is a commonplace truism. But popular music was also exerting a profound effect on folk music in the nineteenth century long before the advent of mass media. In relation to the banjo in particular, the interaction between popular and folk traditions was, in fact, a rather complicated two-way avenue.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the banjo was essentially a black folk instrument; by the early years of the twentieth century the five-string banjo was largely a mountain white folk instrument. Between these dates two other traditions of banjo playing arose: minstrel banjo, a popular tradition, and classical banjo, a popular/art tradition. This paper
explores the interrelationships between these four nineteenth-century traditions of banjo playing. The ultimate African origin of the banjo is assumed, and the question of if, when, and by whom the fifth string was added is largely ignored, since it has been speculated on by others quite frequently; the focus is on the playing styles associated with the instrument. The white folk tradition is of central interest here, since it is the primary one to have survived into the twentieth century, and
therefore this essay concentrates on the relation of the other traditions to it.”

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