American Routes explores the roots and routes of selected musical genres and styles in the U.S., their historical-geographical beginnings, and their cultural meanings.

This course considers major vernacular genres, emblematic performers, song content, audiences, circulation, and preservation. Where, when, and why do musical genres and styles emerge and spread? How does popular music express social history, cultural identities, ranges of feeling, “authenticity,” displacement and mobility, and political critique? Genres include: African American spirituals and gospel, the beginnings and early routes of jazz and blues, Appalachian secular and sacred styles, Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco, ‘old time’ and country music, the origins of rock and roll, soul, episodes of protest music, as well as the social contexts of klezmer, conjunto, salsa, rap, and recent ‘singer-songwriter’ styles.