Difference between revisions of "Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars"
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RDE, finishing 17Sep21
[[Category: Drama Criticism]]
[[Category: Drama Criticism]]
Latest revision as of 01:40, 18 September 2021
Dinerstein, Joel. Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars. Amherst, MA: U of Massachusetts Press, 2003.
Contents include (from Smithsonian page):
Introduction, bodies and machines -- [...] The jazz train and American musical modernity -- African American modernism and the techno-dialogic: from John Henry to Duke Ellington -- Swinging the machines: big bands and streamliner trains -- The standardized white girl in the pleasure machine: the Ziegfeld Follies and Busby Berkeley's 1930s musicals -- Tap dancers rap back at the machine [...] The world of tomorrow...in the groove: swinging the New York World's Fair, 1939-40 -- Conclusion: the continuing importance of swinging the machine
From the blurb on Amazon.com and Google Books (edited):
In any age and any given society, cultural practices reflect the material circumstances of people's everyday lives. According to Joel Dinerstein, it was no different in America between the two World Wars [during the distinctly Modern part of] the "machine age" - when innovative forms of music and dance helped a newly urbanized population cope with the increased mechanization of modern life. Grand spectacles such as the Ziegfeld Follies and the movies of Busby Berkeley captured the American ethos of mass production, with chorus girls as the cogs of these fast, flowing pleasure vehicles.
Yet it was African American culture, Dinerstein argues, that ultimately provided the means of aesthetic adaptation to the accelerated tempo of modernity. Drawing on a legacy of engagement with and resistance to technological change, with deep roots in West African dance and music, black artists developed new cultural forms that sought to humanize machines. In "The Ballad of John Henry," the epic toast "Shine," and countless blues songs, African Americans first addressed the challenge of industrialization. Jazz musicians drew on the symbol of the train within this tradition to create a set of train-derived aural motifs and rhythms, harnessing mechanical power to cultural forms. Tap dance and the lindy hop brought machine aesthetics to the human body, while the new rhythm section of big band swing mimicked the industrial soundscape of northern cities. In Dinerstein's view, the capacity of these artistic innovations to replicate the inherent qualities of the machine-speed, power, repetition, flow, precision - helps explain both their enormous popularity and social function in American life.
See also Istvan Csicsery-Ronay's "Busby Berkeley and the "Fascist Aesthetic"."
RDE, finishing — with thanks to Istvan Istvan Csicsery-Ronay — 17Sep21