Reimagining the blues: A new narrative for 21st century blues music
AbstractThis project explores the extent to which blues music in the 21st century is linked to its cultural past through identification and examination of the key concepts and relationships that may contribute to a contemporary understanding of the blues and cultural artefacts, as circulated and consumed in popular music practices. Despite the vast amount of scholarship on blues music, including revisionist literature that emerged in the late 20th century and in the first decade of this century, there has been no singular study of popular music or the blues that has specifically addressed the sociocultural and musicological links between the traditions of the past in the context of 21st century popular music in sufficient depth and so research into contemporary interpretations of blues music as it exists in the 21st century remains relatively scarce. This project provides an account of the cultural resonances and development of the blues genre in popular music culture to establish what the blues means, how it means, and to who it is meaningful through the formulation of a conceptual framework offered as a unique methodological tool for identifying and exploring blues music in the 21st century. Within this interdisciplinary framework, concepts including those concerned with technological mediation, intertextuality, cultural identity, memory, and meaning, are mobilised, refined, and combined in order to reveal and explore problematic relationships that exist in and between concepts of race, place, and technology as connected to blues music in the 21st century. Through an ethnomusicological strategy of enquiry and largely inductive approach to the collection of qualitative and quantitative data, the results of analyses conducted using a broad range of methods including music theoretic analysis, semiotics, intertextuality, survey, and interview are presented in order to both address how and why a contemporary blues music revival may be perceived to be taking place and to offer a fresh historical review of the context in which the blues has developed from a 21st century platform. This study finds that popular music performers and consumers are continually reimagining the blues through engagement with the traditions of the past and accordingly argues for an extension to the boundaries of blues music in its stylistic and cultural categorisation in 21st-century discourse. It is also argued that the results of research presented here also go some way in illustrating both how such engagement with the traditions of the past may directly reflect tensions in contemporary society, and how blues-marketed artefacts are demarcated and declassified within the music industry.
CitationMartin, N.J. (2019). 'Reimagining the blues: A new narrative for 21st century blues music'. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Derby.
PublisherUniversity of Derby
TypeThesis or dissertation
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