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That's My Song! Musical Genre as Social Contract

Seminar Leader:
Guthrie P. Ramsey


Music in American history has been fundamental to identity formation because, as one scholar notes, it comprises “the deepest feelings and qualities that make a group unique. Through moving and sounding together in synchrony, people can experience a feeling of oneness with others.” This seminar examines how various musical genres have served as “social contracts” among audiences throughout the process of this country’s nation building process. By examining languages (both sonic and written) we will view America’s melting pot ideal, looking at how communities of listeners have asserted their convictions about social identity through music. The literature surrounding the notion of “genre” have often made these meanings legible, audible and meaningful. From religious performance practices, to minstrelsy, to Tin Pan Alley to rock and hip-hop, the social agreements made by musical genres help us understand the dynamism of American identities.

Unit TitleAuthor


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