The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace

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UNC Press Books, May 18, 2015 - Social Science - 312 pages
In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African American performers, at the height of Jim Crow, transformed their racial difference into the mass-market commodity known as "black music." Gilbert shows how Europe and others used the rhythmic sounds of ragtime, blues, and jazz to construct new representations of black identity, challenging many of the nation's preconceived ideas about race, culture, and modernity and setting off a musical craze in the process.

Gilbert sheds new light on the little-known era of African American music and culture between the heyday of minstrelsy and the Harlem Renaissance. He demonstrates how black performers played a pioneering role in establishing New York City as the center of American popular music, from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, and shows how African Americans shaped American mass culture in their own image.

 

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Contents

A Kind of Symphony Music That Lends Itself to the Playing of the Peculiar Compositions of Our Race
1
Ragtime and Representation in Black Manhattan
16
Selling Real Negro Melodies and Marketing Authentic Black Rhythms
47
Ragging Uplift with Rhythmic Transgressions
74
Black Nightclubs and Ragtime Identities in New Yorks Tenderloin
99
Ragtime in Times Square and the Clef Club Inc
132
The Clef Club Orchestra and the Consolidation of Negro Music
163
Social Dance and Black Musical Value in Prewar America
191
From Ragtime Identities to the New Negro
217
Notes
231
Bibliography
261
Index
281
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About the author (2015)

David Gilbert is an independent scholar who received a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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