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Brian Ward (2)

Autor(a) de Just My Soul Responding

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Obras de Brian Ward


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In Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations, Brian Ward argues, “Changes in black musical style and mass consumer preferences offer a useful insight into the changing sense of self, community and destiny among those blacks who rarely left the sorts of evidence, or undertook the sorts of activities, to which historians are generally most responsive” (pg. 4). Ward believes “the popular cultures of oppressed groups usually contain within them – explicitly or implicitly – a critique of the system by which those groups are oppressed, and thus actually constitute a mode of psychological resistance to their predicament” (pg. 4). Finally, he argues, “Popular music and popular entertainment more generally have always constituted major fields of social activity in which black and white racial identities, values and interests have been defined and tested, attacked and defended in America” (pg. 9). Ward draws extensively upon historian Lawrence Levine’s work in understanding the role of culture.
Ward argues that “one of popular culture’s most important social functions” is to offer “a creative space in which to dream; an arena in which to play with and test alternative ideas and realities, as well as one in which to explore and express existing ones” (pg. 71). In this way, black music and R&B offered a venue for exploring themes that began during Reconstruction and were continuing in the Civil Rights era. Furthermore, “black pop was the perfect soundtrack to black America’s attempts to work out the relationship between its own overlapping black and American identities” (pg. 150). Ward argues, “Black enthusiasm for black pop and its white counterpart was in many ways the cultural expression of a similar faith in the eventual triumph of the freedom struggle and the possibilities of an integrated, equalitarian America” (pg. 127). Looking at the increasing popularity of soul music, Ward argues, “This shift in mass black tastes reflected important political and psychological developments within black America, North and South, as the Movement entered a crucial phase of triumph and disappointment, continued progress and rising frustration” (pg. 176). He continues, “It is only really possible to understand soul’s significance by placing it within the twin historical contexts of changes in mass black consciousness generated by an evolving black freedom struggle, and the steady secularization of black culture which culminated in the late 1950s and 1960s” (pg. 184).
Examining black music’s popularity among white audiences, Ward observes, “Many blacks, their white allies, and even their white opponents, genuinely believed that the desegregation of popular music culture was terminally eroding traditional barriers between the races” (pg. 231). He continues, “American popular culture has always provided an important arena in which white ideas about race and racial identities have been explored, tested and verified” (pg. 235). Ward concludes, “Although love of black music did not in itself reflect, let alone create, deep changes in mass white racial attitudes, the new appreciation and growing acceptance of black artists and performers – not just in music, but also in film, theatre, television, literature and sports – intersected with and reinforced the bold demands of the Movement for white America to reappraise its racial beliefs, laws and practices” (pg. 251).
Looking at connections between the Civil Rights Movement and Rhythm and Blues artists, Ward concludes that most inflated their role in their autobiographies and, in practice, offered “little more than sympathy and synchronicity” (pg. 293). Further, “It is important to stress that the Movement’s own reluctance to use Rhythm and Blues and its artists in any systematic way partially accounted for their generally low profile in the civil rights activities of the early 1960s” (pg. 296). In truth, the Movement found more support from “the worlds of jazz, folk and Hollywood” (pg. 303). Despite this, Ward concludes that Rhythm and Blues “promoted and sustained the black pride, identity and self-respect upon which the Movement and its leaders were ultimately dependent” (pg. 336).
Of later music he writes, “The most important changes in the sound, sense, presentation, performance practices and economic structure of Rhythm and Blues were closely related to changes in the state of mass black consciousness” (pg. 339). The incorporation of more African-diasporic elements into funk “were musical gestures were a clearly understood racial provenance and a deep symbolic resonance. Functionally, they served to push soul further towards the black end of the black-white musical spectrum in American popular music and thereby reflected the appeal of a new nationalistic black consciousness” (pg. 347). Furthermore, “By the early 1970s it was only in outer space, or in a parallel world conjured up by religious mysticism, magic, drugs, or through some romanticized vision of a lost beatific, sometimes African, past, that it was really possible to site a coherent vision of interracial – or even black – harmony” (pg. 357). In contrast to the Movement’s interest in soul early on, “the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a torrent of treatises seeking to isolate a unique ‘black aesthetic’, and a mountain of manifestos postulating how distinctively black cultural productions might be used to fashion a revolutionary consciousness among the black masses” (pg. 388). Ward concludes, “Thanks largely to the manner of their consumption by the black masses, black-oriented radio and Rhythm and Blues frequently transcended the racial politics and economics of their production to help promote a revived sense of black identity, pride, solidarity and common consciousness” (pg. 449).
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DarthDeverell | Aug 25, 2017 |


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