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Histories of the Musical

An Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, Volume 1


Paperback / softback

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Histories of the Musical
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The American musical is a paradox. On stage or screen, musicals at once hold a dominant and a contested place in the worlds of entertainment, art, and scholarship. Born from a melange of performance forms that included opera and operetta, vaudeville and burlesque, minstrelsy and jazz, musicals have always sought to amuse more than instruct, and to make money more than make political change. In spite of their unapologetic commercialism, though, musicals have achieved supreme artistry and have influenced culture as much as if not more than any other art form in America, including avant-garde and high art on the one hand, and the full range of popular and commercial art on the other. Reflecting, refracting, and shaping U.S. culture since the early twentieth century, musicals converse with shifting dynamics of gender and sexuality, ethnicity and race, and the very question of what it means to be American and to be human. The chapters gathered in this book, Volume I of the reissued Oxford Handbook, explore the American musical from both the outside and the inside. This first volume concentrates in particular on large-scale, more philosophical issues of relevance to the genre, considering issues of historical situations and formal procedure as they bear on the narratives we make concerning productions and performers, artists and audiences, commerce and context. The first four essays discuss ways of defining histories and texts, and apprehending the formal choices of singers and dancers; the second group of four take up the subtle challenges of the genre's signal transformations out of minstrelsy and Tin Pan Alley to "integration" and beyond.

Author Biography

Raymond Knapp is Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Mitchell Morris is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Stacy Wolf is Professor in the Program in Theater and Director of the Princeton Atelier in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.
Release date NZ
September 30th, 2018
Edited by Mitchell Morris Edited by Raymond Knapp Edited by Stacy Wolf
7 photographs
Country of Publication
United States
Oxford University Press Inc
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