Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America


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This volume discusses the genres of North America in relation to their cultural, historical and geographic origins; technical musical characteristics; instrumentation and use of voice; lyrics and language; typical features of performance and presentation; historical development and paths and modes of dissemination; influence of technology, the music industry and political and economic circumstances; changing stylistic features; notable and influential performers; and relationships to other genres and sub-genres.

This volume features over in-depth essays on genres ranging from Adult Contemporary to Alternative Rock, from Barbershop to Bebop, and from Disco to Emo. A general search function for the whole Encyclopedia is also available on this site.

A subscription is required to access individual entries. The combination of history and description in the text, with the addition of bibliographies and discographies, makes EPMOW the ideal book with which to survey the vast array of musical genres associated with North America.

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The entries are illuminating and insightful and provide an unparalleled resource for teachers and students. This fascinating guide takes us from the Brill Building in New York City to Bakersfield's distinctive country sound; from California's sunny surf music to D. Musics that swept the entire continent rock 'n' roll rub up against sounds that are the product of a few fertile neighborhoods of a single city Mardi Gras Indian Music. This is the one indispensible companion for any fan of popular music, written in such a way that one can read and enjoy the volume cover-to-cover or choose to use it as needed as a reference.

Often appealing to the senses and emotions more than to reason, heritage concretely re-creates the past, showcasing or exhibiting it, as well as bringing it into the present and, as a result, turning the past into something alive and of interest to the general public. Instead of confining social actors to read in a private place, as the book so often does, it brings them together around a performance or a place rich with significance; it awakens a desire to live together, thereby reviving the group as a whole.

At the same time, as it gives life to the past, heritage provides new life to the people who experience it. This is why the Encyclopedia presents heritage in terms of construction, as a work in progress, built and rebuilt by social actors. The goal is to understand how a building, a place or a practice becomes heritage. This is a formidable challenge because heritage construction is a complex and ever-changing process varying both over time and in accordance with the social groups involved. A site or practice recognized in one era may lose its heritage value in another.

For example, intangible heritage rites, fairs, festivals, traditional knowledge, stories, popular arts and crafts, etc. Likewise, what one group defines as heritage may not necessarily be so for another. The very notion that heritage is a construct flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

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As a concept, heritage is founded on the idea of origins, authenticity, continuity, timelessness and even more importantly, that it is a means of transmitting and preserving these selfsame origins. Indeed, heritage practices and discourse are devised in order to create a belief in identities rooted in immutable times and places.


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In fact, heritage is often presented as self-determined, essential and irreversible—and it can be considered as eternal. However, the study of the various ways in which heritage is created and constructed demonstrates that it often consists of recent elements that are presented as being old, having been incorporated by the process of heritagization. Even the most time-honoured elements are integrated into the present by the very process of heritage construction, as they are reinterpreted and their significance brought in to a contemporary context.

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For example, simply restoring of a building or an object often transforms its appearance in accordance with the aesthetic norms of the times, thereby giving as much importance to the present as to the past. Therefore, heritage consists of a reacquisition and thus a contemporising of the past.

Although built over time, heritage is also a social construct. The Encyclopedia explores this social dynamic of heritage by focusing on how the various elements and entities of which it is composed evolve, intermingle and must be negotiated in order to find common ground. When the history of heritage sites or objects is reconstructed, it becomes clear that such cultural proprieties are transformed over the course of their extensive social existence, sometimes as a result of borrowing from other groups or cultures.

The transmission of objects and practices from one generation to another by way of inheritance—or from one culture to another by way of an intercultural exchange—often gives rise to acquisitions, transfers or transformations, not only of the objects and practices, but even of the groups involved.

In the end, the re-contextualized objects or practices also transform those people who deal with them. NOTE 2.

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NOTE 4. More than a simple inert object or location, heritage items and sites express a relation-based, interactive dynamism between various individuals and groups persons who make use of them in order to forge social relationships. The cultural context of North American French-speakers is a field of research that is abundant in opportunities to study the interactive relational dynamics of heritage. This is largely due to the fact that their colonial past is varied and that they have borrowed extensively from other cultures—particularly Amerindian, French, British and American—with which they were successively in contact.

The heritage legacies of French-speaking North America are as diverse and varied as the groups that have created them.

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In order to fully explore this plurality, this encylopedia endeavours to take into account the regional characteristics that have contributed to the development of specific cultural features and practices. Although the Encylopedia seeks to avoid compartmentalising heritage into strict categories and classes, it has however taken into consideration, the three main ways in which humans encounter heritage: natural environmental heritage, tangible architectural and archaeological heritage, and intangible ethnological heritage, which are the three broad heritage categories as they are defined by UNESCO.

The Encyclopedia deals with all three forms of heritage, while paying particular attention to intangible heritage that, although quite prolific, has been very little studied. This type of heritage includes the performative aspects of a given culture, such as rites, celebrations, festivals, traditional knowledge, popular arts and crafts, stories, oral traditions, songs, music and dance. As a living reflection of the phenomenon that it strives to describe, the Encyclopedia is intended to be a vitally dynamic endeavour, in that it involves participation, interaction and ongoing construction.


  1. North America.
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  5. Rather than only keeping to the formal criteria of ancientness and authenticity, the creators of the Encyclopedia seek to select and present heritage assets that are the most cherished possession and legacy of the communities from which they originated. Another way in which the Encyclopedia comes alive is by presenting its articles online and illustrating them with a rich and varied selection of images and audio-visual media.

    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America
    Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America

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