Tin Pan Alley: A Chronicle of the American Popular Music Racket

By Isaac Goldberg | Go to book overview

2. Before the Flood

WHAT is American music? And what is American popular music? For there seems to be a difference. One of our most gifted and radical critics of music and the other arts, Paul Rosenfeld, begins his monograph on the music of the country with the categorical statements that American music is not jazz and that jazz is not music. One of our most conservative and academic spirits, Daniel Gregory Mason, shakes hands with Rosenfeld across the keys. Aren't these violent reactions to a violent stimulus? Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever said that American music is only jazz; to say that jazz is not music is to issue an ukase instead of exercising discrimination. The distinction between so-called art music and the music of the people is one of degree, not kind. Often the two musics overlap, not only in interest but in value. To say that popular music aims only at superficial entertainment, while art music seeks to establish values inherent in esthetic relationships is to indicate a difference of critical approach, a difference in temperament on the part of the special composer and the special public. To be sure, popular music of later days is a frankly commercial pursuit. It thus tends to establish formulas, to turn out a product of robots, by robots and for robots. In a word, in its own way, it becomes aridly intellectual, just as the cheapest melodrama, in its own way, becomes intellectual, formulized, and only pseudo-emotional. Yet the aim of the composer may be one thing

-13-

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Tin Pan Alley: A Chronicle of the American Popular Music Racket
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • About the Author vi
  • Introduction vii
  • Table of Contents xiii
  • List of Illustrations xv
  • 1. ≪vamp Till Ready . . .≫ 1
  • 2. Before the Flood 13
  • 3. Pearls of Minstrelsy 31
  • 4. Blackface into White 60
  • 5. the Rise of Tin Pan Alley 84
  • 6. the Rise of Tin Pan Alley: Ragtime 139
  • 7- Sousa, De Koven, And--Principally --Victor Herbert 178
  • 8. Ballyhoo 197
  • 9. Transition 234
  • 10. King Jazz 259
  • 11. Bye, Bye, Theme Song 297
  • 12. Codetta 320
  • Acknowledgments 326
  • Index 329
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