Academic journal article American Studies

SWEET AIR: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song

Academic journal article American Studies

SWEET AIR: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song

Article excerpt

SWEET AIR: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song. By Edward P. Comentale. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 2013.

In his ambitious study of popular music and modernity, Edward P. Comentale looks at blues, country, folk, and rockabilly, and traces "how earlier musical forms generated new attitudes and stances that allowed people to engage and cope with the experiences of being or becoming modern" (6). Sweet Air challenges both a romantic embrace of authenticity of these musical styles (such as Greil Marcus' notion of an "old, weird America") as well as the critique of the culture industry by the Frankfurt School and stretches the concept of modernity to include poor rural communities. Individual chapters of the book depict some much-discussed performers, but Comentale manages to present them in a different light through his reading of music as "affective" and through his focus on modern technologies like the radio and the phonograph. By connecting them to literature, music, and art of the avant-garde, Comentale exposes modernist aesthetics in the works of Charley Patton, the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly.

Sweet Air's fresh perspective on old music is commendable but somewhat dehistoricized. Choosing a time frame that roughly stretches from 1910 to 1960 might have been a bit too broad, and the "airiness" of the argument does not always hold up to historical data, for instance, when Bessie Smith is discussed as a representative of the Delta blues. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.