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Four Parts, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Quartet (American Musicspheres Series) [Paperback]

Gage Averill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 Oct 2010 American Musicspheres Series (Book 1)
Four Parts, No Waiting investigates the role that vernacular, barbershop-style close harmony has played in American musical history, in American life, and in the American imagination. Starting with a discussion of the first craze for Austrian four-part close harmony in the 1830s, Averill traces the popularity of this musical form in minstrel shows, black recreational singing, vaudeville, early recordings, and in the barbershop revival of the 1930s. In his exploration of barbershop, Averill uncovers a rich musical tradition-a hybrid of black and white cultural forms, practiced by amateurs, and part of a mythologized vision of small-town American life. Barbershop harmony played a central - and overlooked - role in the panorama of American music. Averill demonstrates that the barbershop revival was part of a depression-era neo-Victorian revival, spurred on by insecurities of economic and social change. Contemporary barbershop singing turns this nostalgic vision into lived experience. Arguing that the "old songs" function as repositories of idealized social memory, Averill reveals ideologies of gender, race, and class. This engagingly-written, often funny book critiques the nostalgic myths (especially racial myths) that have surrounded the barbershop revival, but also celebrates the civic-minded, participatory spirit of barbershop harmony. The text is accompanied by a companion website.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (7 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195328930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195328936
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 15 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 946,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Averill generally manages to strike the necessary balance among the needs of disparate audiences: scholars, college students, and barbershop singers themselves. In (Ethnomusicology)

Gage Averill has given us an elegantly written volume that should be read by anyone interested in the history of American popular music.

Succeeds both as a historical account and as a survey of barbershop as an institution in the United States today. In his discussion of race, of values, of relations between generations, Averill finds ways to put historical issues in useful contexts and relate them to modern concerns. (John Spitzer, Professor of Music, Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University)

The story Averill has to tell is an important one for every scholar and student of American music, and it has never been told so well and in such detail before....It should be on the reading list of every course in American music. (Charles Hamm, Professor Emeritus of Music, Dartmouth University)

About the Author

A superbly written piece of scholarship that promises to be an important contribution to our understanding of American vernacular music. (Ray Allen, Institute for Studies in American Music, Brooklyn College)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for barbershop singers 4 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This fascinating review of how organised barbershop singing has emerged from impromptu, spur of the moment, harmonising throws a clear spotlight on the story of close harmony singing. Very strong on the early days, less so post 1950, it is nevertheless an academic study that is readily available to non-academics. Sometimes just singing is not enough, and this background work provides the reader with an understanding of the many and varied sources that have shaped today's very structured style of music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good 26 Jun 2009
By Reader Guy - Published on
"Four Parts" is authoratative but very readable. The accompanying CD has rare tracks that would be difficult to find anywhere else. If you want a book to help you understand barbershop and it's importance in the american art forms this is the best you will find.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Treatment 15 Jan 2013
By Duane P. Johnson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a long time barbershop singer, I appreciated this treatment by a mostly disinterested author. It fills in a lot of blanks, and corrects a lot of mistaken assumptions about the history of barbershop music. With the current rising enthusiasm for youth choruses and quartets, history is still being made in this genre, and perhaps an addendum will soon be in order.
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