EOL 3: Music, Myth, and History (Bohlman)


3. Journey without End

Diasporas embody forms of journey and history that arise from considerable imagination and metaphor. They are usually sacred journeys that promise no end. Many, if not most immigrants to North America, did not embark on diaspora knowing exactly how their journey of immigration would end. Mobility was often characteristic of immigrant musicians, who might move from opportunity to opportunity, with the eventual goal all along of returning to an original home (cf. Magrini in this issue). The slaves brought from Africa unquestionably regarded their violent removal from Africa as a journey into uncertainty. For these reasons fundamental to diaspora, mobility and journey have been formative tropes in the history of the United States quite unlike anything known in Europe.

This mobility is profoundly embedded in American music, for example in the lyrics of the blues or hip-hop and rap. In American music, journeys provide escape and hope; they resolve contested landscapes by setting communities in motion. Charles Ives realized the qualities of motion in his representations of American musical space, challenging and resisting the hegemony of the European art-music canon by portraying intersecting brass bands or children walking about a fairgrounds (e.g., Three Places in New England [1903]). Music of the New World has absorbed the images of diaspora that originated in Europe or Africa, and in the patterns of dispersion that frame the Mediterranean.

Audio 1
120K (short)
320K (long)

Audio 2
"Fifty Miles of Elbow Room"

110K (short)
400K (long)

Two Musical Examples from
African-American Music

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