This article highlights practices of exclusion embedded in musicology—especially in relation to race, racialized people, and race relations—in order to rupture its constructed borders and decentralize the normative systems that have come to shape the discipline, its membership, and its discourses. To this end, I define and apply the concept of Blacksound—the sonic and embodied legacy of blackface performance as the origin of all popular music, entertainment, and culture in the United States. Blackface emerged as the first original form of US popular music during chattel slavery, and it helped to establish the modern music industry during the time in which Guido Adler began to define Musikwissenschaft (1885). Blacksound, as the performative and aesthetic complement to blackface, demonstrates how performance, (racial) identity, and (intellectual) property relations have been tethered to the making of popular music and its commercialization since the early nineteenth century. Blacksound also reveals how practices of exclusion that are germane to musicological discourse are connected to the racist practices and supremacist systems that defined society and popular culture throughout the nineteenth century. To redress the impact of these customs, this article defines and employs Blacksound as a means of placing (the performance of) race, ethnicity, and their relationship with other forms of identity at the center of the way we approach and select our subject matter and create musicological epistemologies within the development of music studies.
Race, Blacksound, and the (Re)Making of Musicological Discourse
MATTHEW D. MORRISON is Assistant Professor in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He has held fellowships at Harvard University, the Center for Popular Music Studies, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Mellon Foundation, and the Library of Congress. He is currently completing a book titled Blacksound: Making Race and Popular Music in the US.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Matthew D. Morrison; Race, Blacksound, and the (Re)Making of Musicological Discourse. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2019; 72 (3): 781–823. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2019.72.3.781
Download citation file: