Creating an American Culture

Driven by the need to reconstruct the American history, Eve Kornfeld, and alumni of Harvard University and a professor of history at the San Diego University stacks together journals dealing with cultural histories, gender equity, evolution and influence of music, women Sufism (feminism) and poststructuralist theories relating to cultural development. Kornfeld is an award winning author who took the Timeons Award in the 1988 as an excellent teacher. In the book ‘Creating an American Culture’ Kornfeld illustrates the impact of ethnic, religious and cultural diversities were unified by revolutionary leaders such as Benjamin Rush, David Ramsay, Noah Webster, George Washington, Judith Murray and Mercy Otis Warren (Kornfeld, 99). These leaders not only fought for independence of America but also the unification of the American cultures. Among the national narrative made by Kornfeld is an illustrative writing that links the growth of the American culture through integration of several genres of music. This generalization connotes the question of the impact of slavery on the growth of music and the subsequent role played by music in the unification of the American culture, nationhood and citizenship.

Looking back in the 18th Century, New Orleans which has come to be associated and termed as the melting pot of sounds was a beehive of musical activities since time immemorial. The town had a tradition of celebrations which included opera music, military bands, the blues, folk music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drummers and church choirs. Apparently Jazz music came into existence in the 18th Century after several artists from Louisiana blended all the traditional music genres that were being played in America (Ward, 17). By 1808, there were many Africans especially from the sub-Saharan Africa in the United States. This was during a time when cotton farmers in South America had invested in the business of slave trade as a way of getting cheap labor for their cotton plantations and as a result there was increased slave trade between West Africa specifically the Congo River basin and white farmers from southern America. These slaves carried their musical traditions which entailed a blend of counter metric structure and African speech patterns into the U.S.

In the 1880’s most Africans associated music with traditional cultural practices and rituals therefore upon being ferried to America, they continued to hold festivals that combined music and African based drum dance at the Congo square in New Orleans in the years 1843. Moreover, there were other black slaves who had the mastery of playing church hymns using harmonics style. These styles were used because they promoted spirituality and gave both the singers and listeners a divine feeling and because of this the hymns became popular in the US. Other genres such as blues, heterophony and homophonic which were authentically American came in handy in composing the jazz beats (Ward, 22). At the same time, the mixed cultures in the U.S promoted ethnic interactions between blacks and the whites which enabled a significant number of black musicians to learn how to play European instruments such as the violin which became a vital part of composing the jazz beats. After the invention of jazz music the European-American performers were responsible for popularizing the music as they traversed America entertaining people at social gatherings.

In a bid to cover up for the diverse ethnic groupings that formed the ancient America in the 1880’s, Louis Moreau adapted melodies from the Caribbean which enhanced the attainment of music genre that integrated African-American to the Afro-Caribbean musical cultures. Two decades down the line, after the American civil war of 1865, drumming was banned in the Congo Square because of the fear that it would spike further civil wars. With time, the African American music incorporated the new Afro-Cuban rhythm into forming the New Orleans music and this gave a holistic appeal to the jazz music which was evolving so fast to match the coalescing American culture. Jazz music was a collaboration of blues, improvisation, syncopation and polyrhythms which are traditionally African tunes merged with other international tunes which were tactfully incorporated into forming American popular music. The music has developed and spread since its inception in the early 18th century. As the music was adapted by different regions and nations, it drew distinct styles such as New Orleans jazz, Kansas City Jazz and Gypsy Jazz (Ward, 27).

Looking back at the historical icon identified in the other journals, it becomes evident that the American society has partially been influenced by the growing music culture. Unlike in the 1800, United States still has a passion for music. Even though black musicians have dominated the jazz music sector, Europeans among other ethnic groups have enjoyed growing relationships created by music which was traditionally coined from the way ethic divides that inhabited America before and after the American civil war of 1865. Combatively, Eva Kornfeld provides an illustrative look into the American history. His incorporation of primary sources of data in the book ‘Creating an American Culture, 1775-1800’ creates a drift from leadership and the current cultural ethnicity enjoyed by all American (Kornfeld, 215). Thus this specific article on the role of evolution of music on the American culture is not only illustrative but also figurative in its creation of a mental image which is then left upon the reader to interpret and suit it in a given context.




Work Cited



Eve, Kornfeld. Creating an American Culture, 1775-1800: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford Series in History & Culture). New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2001.

Ward, George. Jazz: A history of America’s Music. New York: New Haven Press. 2000