Reflections on Bluegrass

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Chastity Kolmorgan Music Appreciation Reflections on Bluegrass I have always personally really enjoyed bluegrass. I was first exposed to bluegrass at a very young age when my cousin formed a band and started belting out bluegrass on her instruments. We would often sit around her while she serenaded us with her musical woes. Bluegrass has historically been used as a medium for storytelling. The traditions of bluegrass’s oral narratives originated in the mountains of Appalachia. It was often used by the settlers there as an outlet for their systemically problematic lives, in a rural area; that was very taxing on their humble financial resources. They would use their instruments to tell stories of their difficulties and wretchedness in their relationships and love affairs, woes that often, even related to their attachment of the Appalachian Mountains. It was largely because of this bluegrass origin that it was dubbed “hillbilly” music. That word “hillbilly” just makes so much sense for me and I can totally relate to that terminology. That relating is exactly what made that music such an integral part of those early immigrants lives and for that matter, for my family as well. What is fascinating however, is exactly how that relating is relayed musically. There’s a lot about blue grass that is very appealing. The storytelling element found in bluegrass is similar to the storytelling element found within operatic music. There are some key differences between the storytelling of opera and the storytelling of bluegrass; in that they tell their stories in a very different “musical textuality.” Opera uses what is called “seconda prattica,” in which the lyrical aspect takes precedence over the instrumentalism of the music. The instrumental aspect of the music is secondary to the voice of the music, serving to accentuate the musical character which

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