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Work Songs


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A bestselling music writer describes the roles of work songs in societies around the world, from prehistoric times to the present

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction: Why Work Songs? 1
1. The Hunter 13
2. The Cultivator 35
3. The Herder 63
4. Thread and Cloth 79
5. The New Rhythms of Work 99
6. Sea and Shore 115
7. The Lumberjack 137
8. Take This Hammer! 150
9. The Cowboy 169
10. The Miner 182
11. The Prisoner 200
12. The Labor Movement and Songs of Work 225
13. Music and the Modern Worker 242
Epologue: The Calling 256
Notes 261
Recommended Listening 305
Bibliography 313
Index 337

About the Author

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

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