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The Birth of the Banjo: Katonah Museum of Art, November 9, 2003-February 1, 2004 download epub

by Robert et al Shaw


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9, 2003 - Feb. 1, 2004. Accompanying catalog to this museum exhibit (north of New York City) devoted entirely to the banjo. three who served as guest curators for the exhibit: Robert Shaw, Peter Szego and George Wunderlich. The exhibition pays particular attention to its African roots and to early nineteenth-century developments. The comprehensive text is illuminated by period photos, paintings, playbills, much more; as well as banjos representing a spectrum of styles and time periods. Text section authors include J. Kenneth Moore, Rex Ellis, Bob Carlin, as well as the three who served as guest curators for the exhibit: Robert Shaw, Peter Szego and George Wunderlich. High quality glossy paper.

by Robert Shaw (Contributor). Publication Data Published August 3rd 2004 by Katonah Museum of Art.

The Birth Of The Banjo: Katonah Museum Of Art, November 9, 2003 February 1, 2004. by Robert Shaw (Contributor). Published August 3rd 2004 by Katonah Museum of Art. Publication Date. Physical Description.

Katonah Museum of Art, November 9, 2003-February 1, 2004. Introduction : America's mythic instrument - Robert Shaw. The African roots of the banjo - J. Kenneth Moore. by Shaw, Robert, Robert Shaw. African Americans and the banjo - Rex Ellis. Early banjo players and banjo music - Bob Carlin. Art and craft of the early banjo - Peter Szego and George Wunderlich. Includes bibliographical references and exhibition catalog (p. -).

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Using Foucaltian perspectives The Birth of the Museum explores how the public museum should be understood not just as a place of instruction, but as a reformatory of manners in which a wide range of regulated social routines and performances take place. For students of museum, cultural and sociology studies, this will be an asset to their reading list.

by Robert, et al Shaw · Book Birth of the Banjo: Katonah. by Robert, et al Shaw. ISBN: 978-15171-64-4. Katonah Museum of Art · 2004.

The exhibition traced the history of the early banjo from its African roots to the blackface minstrel shows of the 1840s and 50s, and finally, to its mass production after the Civil War. Images of pre-banjo instruments from Africa, as well as American handmade banjos, are presented in the comprehensive catalogue, along with paintings, period photographs, and sheet music covers. Pictured in the publication are also toys, ceramic figurines, ephemera, and commercial art in which the banjo can be seen. The handsome catalogue contains five essays by scholars on different aspects of the instrument. (limited stock) 35 illustrations. 56 pp.

Comments: (2)

Risteacor
Well done book meant to accompany a exhibit on banjos. Nice color prints and photos of banjos with a good general history of the instrument. I would have preferred more banjo photos.
Arith
The banjo has a far more complicated and tumultuous history than many realize. One viewpoint sees it as a potent symbol of racism and early white appropriation of black culture - the seductive weapon of 19th century blackface minstrelsy. Another perspective celebrates the instrument as a unique and ingenious African-American invention that somehow survived the horrific dislocation of enslaved Africans to the United States. Most probably have no idea that such things were ever associated with that spoon shaped twangy thing seen in folk revival concerts, on the Grand Ole Opry stage or on episodes of "Hee-Haw." Those who grew up with little or no exposure to country or bluegrass music probably know the banjo only through Steve Martin's late 1970s skits, one which claimed it as a "happy instrument" that one just can't play while depressed. Martin concluded the skit, and made his point, by playing a jubilant banjo tune while singing "Oh death and greed and sorrow and murder." The banjo truly means many different things to many different people and its symbology remains as complex as a cloistered medieval tapestry. This makes it one of the most fascinating and intriguing instruments in American history. But until only recently this taboo history stayed locked up tight in secret, almost mystical, cultural vaults.

In the past twenty years or so a fervent interest in the banjo's origins has emerged from groups of Civil War re-enactors, historians and a population of general interest. Forays into this realm reveal some of the most horrifically offensive eras of American popular culture. One doesn't have to look too far to see why late 20th century popular culture slammed the door shut on its very roots. But its significance, not only for musical history but also for the history of race relations and popular culture, have become too powerful to ignore. For one, the banjo's transformation from an instrument of African slaves into one that made a mockery out of not only the slaves themselves but African-Americans in general remains one of America's strangest cultural paradoxes. Second, the banjo's role in this transformation carries implications for American culture that resonate to the present day. Only in this historical context does the title of Otis Taylor's 2008 album "Recapturing the Banjo" come into full spectrum light.

In late 2003 the Katonah Museum in New York delved into this murky and nebulous subject. The exhibit "The Birth of the Banjo" explored the origins of the banjo, warts and all, with the focus on pre-manufactured handmade instruments. Included were not only extremely rare extant early banjos from the 1840s to the 1870s along with examples of thier African predecessors, but also cultural artifacts of the time, including sheet music covers, broadsides, paintings, books, photographs and toys. Since no banjos owned by slaves survive, the exhibit commissioned Pete Ross to make a replica gourd banjo based on documented historical descriptions of slave instruments. This fascinating item sat side by side with actual historical examples of the big names in early banjo: Boucher, Ashborn, Stichter, Jacobs and other anonymous creations. For the first time someone tried to tell the story of the banjo's origins with actual relics ready at hand.

Thankfully the museum also published an excellent catalog of the exhibit that still remains available. This contains voluminous color photos of the banjos (a few from multiple perspectives) and some of the other artifacts featured in the exhibit. A checklist at the back of the book lists all of the exhibit's artifacts and lets those who couldn't make it know just what a wonderful thing they missed.

The catalog also includes five essays that provide an incredible and accessible introduction to this sometimes complicated topic. A few of the essays have some overlapping content, but not to a distracting degree. All of them focus on the origins of the banjo in African instrumentation. The first essay, "America's Mythic Instrument," covers the basic history of the banjo from the slave trade to the Civil War. This was the infamous "minstrel show" era for which the modern 5-string banjo, accredited to Joel Sweeney, became a symbol. Along the way "Jim Crow" appears as the insanely popular blackface character created by T.D. Rice in the 1830s as well as the first minstrel troupe, the Virginia Minstrels, who debuted in 1843. This initiated the minstrel craze that would run some 100 years while escalating the banjo to America's most popular instrument. Next, "The African Roots of the Banjo" explores the African instruments from which the banjo most likely derived, such as the Xalam, the Koni and the Gambian Akonting. The term "banjo" even has African origins according to many historical accounts from European explorers and slave traders in Africa. Apparently, the bamboo used to make an Akonting neck is called "bangoe." All of these instruments included thumb, or drone, strings which still appear on modern banjos. "African Americans and the Banjo" details the historical relationship that African-Americans have had to the banjo. Even after its appropriation by white culture, blacks continued to play the banjo. There were even 112 all black minstrel troupes in the US from 1855 to 1890. Sadly, to succeed they often had to follow the stereotypes set by white minstrels, complete with outrageous stereotypes of dress, dialect and histrionics, much as some tried to change the norm. "Early Banjo Players and Banjo Music" looks at early blackface and minstrel music from Joel Sweeney to Dan Emmett to E.P. Christy. American Minstrelsy originated in circuses where blackface performers would often perform between acts. The final essay, "Art and Craft of the Early Banjo," takes a detailed look at some of the first American banjo builders such as Boucher, Ashborn and some exceptional anonymous banjos that managed to survive. Eventually the rebellious banjo of the mid 19th century turned into the sophisticated and domesticated banjo of the late 19th century Victorian parlor. By this point banjos were largely mass produced and the handmade era gradually came to an end.

"The Birth of the Banjo" provides a great introduction to this vast topic, with or without viewing the exhibit. Best of all, it doesn't shy away from the uglier side of the banjo's history and cultural impact. As such, it does contain some offensive historical material, though it is presented in proper historical context. All of the essays remain clear and accessible throughout and devoid of unnecessary technical jargon or overly complicated prose. Those already familiar with the material may want a copy simply for the outstanding photographs. Overall, this is a great short introduction to the almost equally acclaimed and maligned banjo. If only the exhibit would return. Encore?
The Birth of the Banjo: Katonah Museum of Art, November 9, 2003-February 1, 2004 download epub
Author: Robert et al Shaw
ISBN: 0915171643
Category: No category
Language: English
Publisher: Katonah Museum of Art; First Edition edition (2004)