DRAM and Sound American ask "What Is American Music?"

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

DRAM has always been engaged with the question of what defines a piece of music as "American." Now DRAM's counterpart Sound American devotes the first in a series of issues to this question. Through conversations with five custodians of lost American music--specifically, the music of the nation's essential immigrant population--Sound American explores the role of this population in our collective musical heritage.

The immigrants that flocked to the United States, especially those making America their homes and workplaces in the early 20th century, do not always receive credit for the level of influence their cultures had within their new homeland. While certain American musical forms (such as jazz, blues, and country folk music from the South and Appalachia) have received considerable well-deserved attention, the music of European, Ottoman, and Asian diasporas are not so prominently discussed, though they were equally important in defining the musical tradition of the U.S.A.

Issue #4 of DRAM's companion journal, Sound American, delves into this area through interviews, streaming audio and video, and essays by, from, and with some of the leading curators of this distinctly American music. People like Ian Nagoski and Dick Spottswood whose work is featured in DRAM in recordings such as "To What Strange Place: Music of the Ottoman American Diaspora 1916-1929" from Nagoski and "Spiew Juchasa/Song of the Shepherd: Songs of the Slavic Americans" by Spottswood, are featured in this Winter issue of the journal, alongside Josh Rosenthal, founder of DRAM's newest label addition Tompkins Square. 

DRAM is proud to offer a new forum for these voices. As we grow as a community of listeners, researchers, musicians, and thinkers, this music can be an important touchpoint to remind us of the base upon which American music continues to be built.