Cover image for Swing, that modern sound
Swing, that modern sound
Bindas, Kenneth J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, [2001]

Physical Description:
xix, 209 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3518 .B56 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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It was for stage bands, for dancing, and for a jiving mood of letting go. Throughout the nation swing re-sounded with the spirit of good times.

But this pop genre, for a decade America's favorite, arose during the worst of times, the Great Depression.

From its peak in the 1930s until bebop, r & b, and country swamped it after World War II, swing defined an American generation and measured America's musical heartbeat. In its heyday swing reached a mass audience of very disparate individuals and united them. They perceived in the tempers and tempos of swing the very definition of modernity.

A survey of the thirties reveals that the time was indeed the Swing Era, America's segue into modernity. What social structures encouraged swing's creation, acceptance, and popularity? Swing, That Modern Sound examines the cultural and historical significance of swing and tells how and why it achieved its audience, unified its fans, defined its generation, and, after World War II, fell into decline.

What fed the music? And, in turn, what did the music feed? This book shows that swing manifested the kind of up-to-date allure that the populace craved. Swing sounded modern, happy, optimistic. It flouted the hardship signals of the Great Depression. The key to its rise and appeal, this book argues, was its all-out appropriation of modernity--consumer advertising, the language and symbols of consumption, and the public's all-too-evident wish for goods during a period of scarcity.

As it examines the role of race, class, and gender in the creation of this modern music, Swing, That Modern Sound tells how a music genre came to symbolize the cultural revolution taking place in America.

Kenneth J. Bindas is an associate professor of history at Kent State University, Trumbull Campus, in Warren, Ohio. He is the author of All of This Music Belongs to the Nation: The WPA's Federal Music Project and American Society, 1935--1939 .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

After two successful books exploring the links between music and complex social issues (All of This Music Belongs to the Nation, CH, Sep'96, and his edited volume America's Music Pulse, CH, Feb'93), Bindas (history, Kent State Univ.) here takes on the cultural context of swing music from its beginnings in the 1930s to its decline after WW II. Carefully showing how modernism influenced swing music and vice versa, this useful study builds on more strictly musical studies like George Simon's classic The Big Bands (1967), swing autobiographies such as Duke Ellington's Music Is My Mistress (CH, Mar'74), and analytical approaches like Gunther Schuller's The Swing Era (CH, Sep'89). Bindas's lens is wider, however. He discusses swing music within a larger historical context, beginning with the Great Depression, moving on to the New Deal, examining the role of radio, advertising, race, class, ethnicity, and gender, and winding up with an analysis of the effect on swing of WW II and the emerging Cold War. Occasionally overwritten but never underresearched, this book tells how swing music came to symbolize both the US and modernism. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. M. Meckna Texas Christian University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
The Swing Generation: What Is Swing and How Is It the Music of Its Era?p. 3
Machine-Age Music: The Connection of Swing to Modernityp. 20
Swinging the Marketplace: Advertising and Selling Swingp. 39
The American Swing Dream: The Role and Influence of Class in Swingp. 76
The Swing Stew: Ethnicity, Race, and Gender within Swingp. 103
Swing's Low: The Decline of Swingp. 145
Notesp. 169
Indexp. 199