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America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century (Anglais) Relié – 30 septembre 1999

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Book by Gura Philip F Bollman James F

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Long before the banjo appeared on the minstrel stage, Africans and African Americans had been making music with similar long-necked, stringed instruments. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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27 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A must for those interested in the banjo's early history. 16 octobre 1999
Par Robert F. DeVellis - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a great book for anyone interested in banjo history. It's well-written, authoritative, and loaded with wonderful illustrations. Even the physical construction of the book is outstanding. I had a copy on order before it was published, based on the strength of other publications of Jim Bollman's related to turn-of-the-century Vega banjos. I met Jim at his shop, The Music Emporium, in Massachusetts a while back. He told me about the book.
The book doesn't deal (other than a brief mention) with the later emergence of the 5-string banjo as the backbone of bluegrass music and the banjos pictured are all pre-war - WW I, that is. As the title suggests, it focuses on the earlier period of the prototypic banjos brought to America by African slaves, the evolution of those instruments during the minstrel era into the four-long-strings and one-short-string format that we all recognize, and their further evolution into technologically sophisticated and culturally refined instruments in the parlors of the wealthy. For many not familiar with the social transformation of the banjo in the late 1800's, this phase of its cultural history may come as something of a surprise. This book is extremely well documented, the product of the complementary skills and interests of its two authors, one an academician the other an ardent collector. Factory records, municipal directories, contemporary periodicals, patent applications, and other relatively inaccessible sources of information have been used to excellent advantage. You really get a feel for the personalities (banjo manufacturer and proponent S. S. Stewart being a notable and colorful example), the times, and significance of this instrument in the lives of people. Although this book is an authoritative text published by a university press, don't assume that it's dry or academic. It's just plain fun to read for people who care about the history of the banjo and its role in American culture. I strongly recommend it.
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Important book but not what you think it is. 6 avril 2004
Par Tony Thomas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
If you buy this book because the title might indicate it is an overall look at the banjo, its playing, its musics, and its place in society, that is not what this book is or pretends to be.
This is a history of the physical development of the banjo and its construction and manufacture during the 19th Century. There are some small references to the different musics the instrument was used for, but not many. There is elaborate and detailed discussion of the main lines of construction of the banjos during this period. The authors also write well and thoroughly about the business dynamics of the chief producers
of the banjo during the 19th Century.
While this book is obviously the work of two of leading banjo collectors in the world and of interest to banjoists and instrument makers of all kinds, it is an important picture of America social and economic history as well. Someone interested in the rise and development of capitalist industry, fetishism of "the finer things in life" by the middle class, and how culture wars were waged in the 19th Century would profit from reading this book.
For the artistically inclined there are a number of beautiful plates of 19th Century Banjos as works of art. It is clear that the authors priviledge the decoration and physical beauty of the instruments as much as they do the instruments "playability."
This work is great in itself. I found it very readable and believe someone who did not know much about banjos would also find this readable.
If you are interested in the social and cultural history of the instrument to the present day, what you need is
That Half-Barbaric Twang: The Banjo in American Popular Culture Culture by Karen Linn.
If you are interested in the African origin of the instrument, its development from African playing styles, as well as the roots of contemporary "frailing" and clawhammer and much else about the musical tradition of the banjo, especially as used in traditional folk music try African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions by Cecelia Conway. Both books are available here on Amazon
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Another "must have" for vintage banjo lovers and collectors 17 mars 2000
Par Hank Schwartz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
At last, another important book has emerged to stand with the few other necessary references on early American 5-string banjos.
Unlike the two fine Tsumura books which are primarily photographic essays of considerable magnitude, Gura and Bollman's treatise combines a highly readable and informed history with a remarkable collection of rare antique photographs and ephemera plus 4 lengthy sections of recent photographs of exquisite instruments and banjo related objects. Any one of these three aspects would be sufficient reason to own the book.
The frequently startling and personal photographs impart a very human feeling as we progress through the story of the evolution of the banjo in American culture. Amazingly, they represent just a minor fraction of Jim Bollman's immense collection.
Special praise is due Peter Szego for his magnificent photographs of the wonderful early banjos from his own collection.
I find it hard to remain objective as I turn the pages and imagine what it must have been like to pose for one of those Dageurreotypes, rudely dressed, banjo in hand, daring the photographer to capture my soul. And again, when I turn to that favorite Boucher or Fairbanks banjo and long to feel and play it.
Well done, gentlemen, and thank you!
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Impressive book that seems like a museum exhibit's companion 16 décembre 2003
Par J. Ross - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
If one were to collect instruments, art and ephemera to organize and document an exhibition about the banjo, a good place to start would be to review Gura's and Bollman's "America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century." This impressive book actually seems like a comprehensive companion to a museum's exhibition which could have the same name, and I could envision such a treatise being a museum gift shop's best-seller.
James Bollman is recognized as one of our Nation's foremost banjo collectors, and his outstanding assortment of Victorian-era banjos and related paraphernalia is one of the finest in the world. He was very pivotal as a project consultant to the fine exhibition that took place in 1984 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called "Ring the Banjar!: The Banjo in America from Folklore to Factory," curated by Robert Lloyd Webb. That exhibit's catalogue had some wonderful information, photographs and illustrations. After seeing it, I was personally inspired to research and write an article about "Banjos at the Smithsonian Institution" which subsequently appeared in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (Vol. 27, No. 5, November, 1992).
Philip Gura, historian and Professor of English and American Studies at the University of North Carolina, is an expert in the history and culture of America's music industry. I found Gura's 2003 charming book, "C.F. Martin and His Guitars 1976-1873," to be well-researched, thoughtfully written, beautifully illustrated, and professionally executed.
In "America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century," Gura and Bollman begin by documenting the banjo's evolution from the plantation to the stage. An interesting overview of the minstrel tradition and early performers is given. The authors show how the popularity of banjos increased, largely due to effective marketing. As the banjo made its way from the minstrel stage to Victorian parlors and concert halls, the physical development of the instrument was also affected. Part III of the book addresses "selling the banjo to all America," focusing on the efforts of Philadelphia's S.S. Stewart. It's interesting that Stewart's adoption of the "cause" of the banjo (nothing short of everything about it) set him apart from other makers. The book's fourth part, "manufacturing the real thing," delves into how the Boston banjo makers (Fairbanks, Cole) began to challenge Stewart's preeminence in the mid-1880s and eventually design and build the acknowledged standards of the banjo world.
Ragtime is given cursory treatment in this book. Another direction that banjo music took was into classical music, and the book could have devoted something to that incarnation of the instrument. I found it curious that this book makes no mention of Alfred A. Farland, "the progressive banjoist," who caused quite a stir in the banjo world in the mid-1890s when he played concertos, Beethoven sonatas, and even Rossini's "William Tell Overture" on the instrument. He was also known as the "Scientific Banjoist of Pittsburgh, Pa."
It also becomes quite apparent that the major banjo makers in the late 19th Century were located mainly in the urban north, and the great majority of major makers are discussed. However, this book should have at least acknowledged J.B. Schall, from Chicago, who built a large number of banjos about 1870-1907. Of a list of manufacturers of "classic" banjos in Akira Tsumura's "Banjos: The Tsumura Collection," most are addressed. Rettberg & Lange (New York 1897-1929) aren't mentioned, and only very brief mention is made of Weymann & Son (who made banjos in Philadelphia from 1864-1935) and Charles Bobzin (who operated in Detroit from 1892-1915).
While this book is beautifully laid out with over 250 illustrations, some of the very special banjos featured in the MIT exhibition, at the Smithsonian Institution, and in private collections such as Akira Tsumura's or David Vachon's, might have further enhanced Gura and Bollman's book. Some of the instruments are credited as from the collection of Peter Szego or Philip Gura, and the other uncredited photographs are apparently from the extensive collection of James Bollman. While the many full page color illustrations are definitely nice, perhaps the book could've added many more by placing two to four per page. Banjo afficinados typically enjoy such "eye candy," and photos speak a thousand words.
Keep in mind that this book only covers the banjo in the 19th Century. There is a cursory link to the banjo in the 20th Century, and there's only minor mention of firms such as Gibson, Paramount, Bacon and Day, and Weymann. While the authors state that "the stories of these companies and their instruments are fairly well known and...belong to the history of the new century," I hope that Gura and Bollman will consider pulling all these tales together into a sequel that documents the banjo in the Twentieth Century. All in all, they've done a very fine job covering a hundred years of the instrument's early history in America. Banjo-players and others interested in the instrument's history should certainly add this book to their library. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A must for banjo ladies 27 janvier 2001
Par Mary Z. Cox - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
James Bollman's collection of banjos and banjo memorabilia is stunning and this volume may be the only way in which I would ever be able to view it in my home a photograph at a time. The history is a resource for historians and reenactors alike. The vintage photos are mostly ones I've never seen before. This collection has the most vintage photos of lady banjo players I have ever seen. The 1860's photo of a young woman playing the banjo on page 93 has enough detail for a reenactor to duplicate her dress and accessories as well as her banjo. The same is true of an 1895 photograph of a woman playing a Fairbanks Electric. The turn of the century all woman banjo band on page 10 is inspiring. It's great to know that there have always been lady banjo players and these photos give the lady reenactor a place to start when planning a period costume to go with a period banjo. There is a section of breath taking color plates in this book that allow you not only to see detail on some rare banjos, but also depict antique banjo clocks and memorabilia. I never knew such pieces existed until this book. A great book and a must have for anyone interested in vintage instruments and pickers.
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