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Unique American Culture and Blue Ridge Folk Music

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The Unique American Culture and Blue Ridge Folk Music

Class:Regional American Culture

When we define American culture, we use “Melting pot” which describes unique characteristic of American culture. Many people from diverse countries are living in America. As they have lived together, they made distinct culture that all of culture each people have is conflated. Above all, the conflated culture makes new culture which has ever existed before so that we regard American culture as “Melting pot”. Thanks to this cultural trait, Americans could create unique their own culture. However in these days, people don’t use “Melting pot” instead, they use “Salad bowl” because people think each culture coexists in the one cultural bowl rather than they are melted. The reason why I explain these “melting pot” and “salad bowl” culture is because I think the Blue Ridge folk music can be explained by these cultural characteristic. Actually not only Blue Ridge folk music but also many traditional American cultures were formed through the way that many culture was mixed. For example, the celtic is fusion music which is based on traditional Irish music and combined many other music genres from country music and folk music to recent new age. For this reason it is made by using traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle, banjo, cittern, mandolin, accordion, and more with various elements of modern music for example electric guitar. The background of the celtic is also due to America’s immigrant history. Because of the potato famine, over half of Irish population emigrated to the U.S or died from 1845 to 1850. There is another example that shows result of immigrant history. Chicano music is mixture of diverse music made by among immigrants in California. Like this American culture has been made by diverse constituents. For this reason, I wonder how Blue Ridge music was conflated with other culture and American’s attitude toward those mixed cultures.

First of all, I researched the history of Blue Ridge. In 1730 a community of Germans settled an area near what today is Luray, Virginia. The Germans were followed by English Quakers, who were followed by Scotch-Irish, French Huguenots, Irish, Welsh, and more English. African American slaves were brought into the Blue Ridge by some of these settlers. Other African Americans came with owners who moved into the region as Tidewater lands were worn out by the unrelenting planting of tobacco. Especially, in the late 1800s, logging and mining companies expanded operations in the mountains of western North Carolina and Virginia. Laborers from across the region were hired to work in the mines and log the forests. The employment of African American work crews to lay track and drill tunnels introduced work songs and ballads to mountain musicians and audiences. By 1805, a year in which the population of the entire nation was only two million, as many as 10,000 travelers passed through Abingdon in the far southwestern corner of Virginia. By some estimates, fully one-fourth of the present population of the United States has ancestors who used this route to move westward. As a result groups traveling the Valley Road brought cultural traits and skills from many homelands and from diverse sections of those lands. A few of these traditions have survived to the present day, but most cultural attributes blended with those from other cultures and changed into something altogether new as people moved and settled together. According to this historical background, it is clear that Blue Ridge music was mixed by diverse culture regardless of which culture more affected compared to other culture. The representative instruments of Blue Ridge folk music also demonstrate this historical background because a “Fiddle” was from Europeans and a “Banjo” was from West African.

From this point of view, it is interesting that Americans accept this mixed culture of Blue Ridge folk music as their traditional culture and try to preserve or develop it. In fact, after the folksong revival of the 1950s and 60s, young urbanites began to visit the Blue Ridge to find old-time and bluegrass musicians. They made recordings and films of traditional artists and introduced mountain musicians to college and city audiences. In addition, recent immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Asia are bringing their musical tastes and preferences to the region. As a result, Blue Ridge folk music has become a major influence on every country music. In this mix the established traditions of the Blue Ridge continue to thrive and evolve. As the Blue Ridge Folk music shows us, Americans always adopt other cultural characteristic and make those



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