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- Publisher: Duke University Press
- Format: Hardback | 368 pages
- Dimensions: 155mm x 236mm x 33mm | 703g
- Publication date: 30 April 2006
- Publication City/Country: North Carolina
- ISBN 10: 0822337266
- ISBN 13: 9780822337263
- Sales rank: 1,207,136
All societies have relied on music to transform the experience of work. Song accompanied the farmer's labours, calmed the herder's flock, and set in motion the spinner's wheel. Today this tradition continues. Music blares on the shop floor; song accompanies transactions in the retail store; the radio keeps the trucker going on the long-distance haul. Now Ted Gioia, author of several acclaimed books on the history of jazz, tells the story of work songs from prehistoric times to the present. Vocation by vocation, Gioia focuses attention on the rhythms and melodies that have attended tasks such as the cultivation of crops, the raising and lowering of sails, the swinging of hammers, the felling of trees. In an engaging, conversational writing style, he synthesizes a breathtaking amount of material, not only from songbooks and recordings but also from travel literature, historical accounts, slave narratives, folklore, labour union writings, and more. He draws on all of these to describe how workers in societies around the world have used music to increase efficiency, measure time, relay commands, maintain focus, and alleviate drudgery. At the same time, Gioia emphasizes how work songs often soar beyond utilitarian functions. The heart-wringing laments of the prison chain gang, the sailor's shanties, the lumberjack's ballads, the field hollers and corn-shucking songs of the American South, the pearl diving songs of the Persian Gulf, the rich mbube a cappella singing of South African miners: Who can listen to these and other songs borne of toil and hard labor without feeling their sweep and power? Ultimately, Work Songs, like its companion volume Healing Songs, is an impassioned tribute to the extraordinary capacity of music to enter into day-to-day lives, to address humanity's deepest concerns and most heartfelt needs.
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Ted Gioia, pianist, composer, and one of the founders of Stanford University's Jazz Studies program, is the author of Healing Songs, also published by Duke University Press, as well as several celebrated books, including "West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960." His book "The History of Jazz" was selected as one of the best books of the year by Jonathan Yardley in the "Washington Post," chosen as a notable book of the year by the "New York Times," and honored with the Bay Area Book Reviewers' award for best nonfiction work of the year. His book "The Imperfect Art "won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award and was named a Jazz Book of the Century by the "Jazz Educators Journal." He has recorded several compact discs as a leader, including "The End of the Open Road" and "Tango Cool."
"In previous books, Ted Gioia proved himself one of our most incisive thinkers about jazz. Now he has integrated vast expanses of knowledge and recordings from cultures across the globe to shed valuable new light on work songs. A dazzling accomplishment."--John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution "Ted Gioia enriches and makes real the powerful message that music is, and has always been, an integral part of the toolkit that ordinary humans have used to navigate life. He shows that, far from being a pastime to fill idle moments or a distraction from everyday preoccupations, music addresses fundamental issues of human existence, survival, and liberation. Gioia's work offers hope to those who fear that the corporate mass media may have suffocated the age-old impulse of ordinary people to make music their own."--John Sloboda, author of Exploring the Musical Mind " ... a stimulating and well researched journey right back to the dawn of music ... "--The Wire, May 2006 "Work Songs explores the vast body of music created to ease the burden of physical hard labour, from the yam-pounding songs of Ghana to the coal-mining songs of Northumberland ... engaging and humane ... "--The Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2006 "These are fascinating works of musical history which aim at putting two song genres fairly and squarely into their most basic context--human need. Gioia is a pianist and composer linked to Stanford University in the States, and here reinforces his reputation for combining inquisitive scholarship with lucid readability."--Classical Music, 12 May 2007
Back cover copy
"Ted Gioia enriches and makes real the powerful message that music is, and has always been, an integral part of the toolkit that ordinary humans have used to navigate life. He shows that, far from being a pastime to fill idle moments or a distraction from everyday preoccupations, music addresses fundamental issues of human existence, survival, and liberation. Gioia's work offers hope to those who fear that the corporate mass media may have suffocated the age-old impulse of ordinary people to make music their own."--John Sloboda, author of "Exploring the Musical Mind"