Not since Paul Oliver have we had someone who has not only helped popularise the blues but has been willing to undertake research on the blues and its contextualised history – going back to its African roots.
Adam Gussow who is well known in terms of blues harp technique now shows his willingness to share his knowledge on a more academic (but still practical) level.
This is a real creative initiative from Adam -here how he describes his new initiative:
For the past six years, I’ve been offering free blues harmonica tutorials on YouTube. I’ve done my best to share the knowledge I’ve accrued in the course of my 38-year career as a blues performer. One thing I haven’t done–until now–is share the academic side of my life in the blues with a YouTube audience.
For the past decade, I have been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on blues literature and culture at the University of Mississippi. Would it be possible, I wondered, to take everything I’d learned as an online harmonica instructor and use it to shape a series of improvised lectures on a range of blues subjects, offering a scholar’s-eye-view of what you might call “blues studies” without sacrificing the accessibility and humor of my working musician’s perspective?
“Blues Talk” is my attempt to do just that.
Beginning today, New Year’s Day 2013, I will upload to YouTube a pair of one-hour video lectures, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday, every week for the next six weeks. The twelve units of Blues Talk, modeled on the twelve-bar blues, will address the following topics in the following order. (The release dates are noted; all videos go live at 12 AM CST):
Blues Talk 3: “bluesmen,” “folkloric melancholy,” and blues feelings (1/8/13)
Blues Talk 4: blues expressiveness and the blues ethos (1/10/13)
Blues Talk 5: W.C. Handy and the “birth” of the blues (1/15/13)
Blues Talk 6: Langston Hughes and early blues poetry (1/17/13)
Blues Talk 7: Zora Neale Hurston and southern blues culture (1/22/13)
Blues Talk 8: the devil and the blues, Part I (1/24/13)
Blues Talk 9: the devil and the blues, Part II (1/29/13)
Blues Talk 10: blues form, blues portraiture, blues power (1/31/13)
Blues Talk 11: the blues revival and the Black Arts movement (2/5/13)
Blues Talk 12: blues and the postmodern condition (2/7/13)
If you’re willing to join me for two hours a week, six weeks in a row, you will reach early February filled with a world of new ideas about the blues. Blues Talk won’t just deepen and complicate your sense of what the music is about, but it will familiarize you with the ideological lenses through which people make sense of the music and cultures of the blues, along with the scholarly debates that swirl around those things.
As a specialist in blues literature, not to mention a blues memoirist, musician, music teacher, and promoter, I bring a range of perspectives to bear. If you give me a chance, I’ll teach you to think critically about an African American art form–and American art form, and world music–that some would rather cloak in crossroads mythology and others would prefer to maintain as a sort of pastoral retreat, a “blues cruise” filled with booze, BBQ, and cool gear. Both ways of framing the blues tend to shortchange the sociohistorical realities of race, and that’s a mistake.
I talk bluntly about race in Blues Talk. I deconstruct mythologies and do my best to facilitate honest dialogue. Among other things, I’ll help you navigate the compelling claims of black cultural nationalism on the one hand and “no black, no white, just the blues” universalism on the other. I’ll help you understand why neither perspective is ultimately adequate to the task of telling the truest possible story of what the blues, always fiercely dialectical, is (or are) about.
Each Blues Talk episode will have its own page on ModernBluesHarmonica.com. Just below each video you’ll find a series of hyperlinked citations–books, articles, poems, videos–for source materials that I’ve referred to in that episode. I’ll also offer you a selection of my own course materials and syllabi, all for free. My hope is that the videos will encourage you to explore the diverse array of primary and secondary sources that I’ve drawn on, broadening and deepening your own education in the blues.
I have also created a Blues Talk forum
where, after registering (again, for free), you may, if you wish, find others with whom to share knowledge and debate the issues that I raise. I heartily encourage viewers, including my fellow scholars, not just to dialogue on the forum and broaden our collective knowledge base, but to upload response videos. My call means little, frankly, without your response. I encourage it.
Here is one of the first talks on the social function of blues harmonica:
Learn and enjoy…