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- Local Warehouse Music- History and Criticism

Work Songs


Work Songs Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

All societies have relied on music to transform the experience of work. Song accompanied the farmer’s labors, calmed the herder’s flock, and set in motion the spinner’s wheel. Today this tradition continues. Music blares on the shop floor; song accompanies transactions in the retail store; the radio keeps the trucker going on the long-distance haul.

Now Ted Gioia, author of several acclaimed books on the history of jazz, tells the story of work songs from prehistoric times to the present. Vocation by vocation, Gioia focuses attention on the rhythms and melodies that have attended tasks such as the cultivation of crops, the raising and lowering of sails, the swinging of hammers, the felling of trees. In an engaging, conversational writing style, he synthesizes a breathtaking amount of material, not only from songbooks and recordings but also from travel literature, historical accounts, slave narratives, folklore, labor union writings, and more. He draws on all of these to describe how workers in societies around the world have used music to increase efficiency, measure time, relay commands, maintain focus, and alleviate drudgery.

At the same time, Gioia emphasizes how work songs often soar beyond utilitarian functions. The heart-wringing laments of the prison chain gang, the sailor’s shanties, the lumberjack’s ballads, the field hollers and corn-shucking songs of the American South, the pearl-diving songs of the Persian Gulf, the rich mbube a cappella singing of South African miners: Who can listen to these and other songs borne of toil and hard labor without feeling their sweep and power? Ultimately, Work Songs, like its companion volume Healing Songs, is an impassioned tribute to the extraordinary capacity of music to enter into day-to-day lives, to address humanity’s deepest concerns and most heartfelt needs.


The place of music in different forms of work from the earliest hunting and planting to the contemporary office.


A bestselling music writer describes the roles of work songs in societies around the world, from prehistoric times to the present

About the Author

Ted Gioia, pianist, composer, and one of the founders of Stanford University’s Jazz Studies program, is the author of Healing Songs, also published by Duke University Press, as well as several celebrated books, including West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945–1960. His book The History of Jazz was selected as one of the best books of the year by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post, chosen as a notable book of the year by the New York Times, and honored with the Bay Area Book Reviewers’ award for best nonfiction work of the year. His book The Imperfect Art won the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award and was named a Jazz Book of the Century by the Jazz Educators Journal. He has recorded several compact discs as a leader, including The End of the Open Road and Tango Cool.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction: Why Work Songs? 1

1. The Hunter 13

2. The Cultivator 35

3. The Herder 63

4. Thread and Cloth 79

5. The New Rhythms of Work 99

6. Sea and Shore 115

7. The Lumberjack 137

8. Take This Hammer! 150

9. The Cowboy 169

10. The Miner 182

11. The Prisoner 200

12. The Labor Movement and Songs of Work 225

13. Music and the Modern Worker 242

Epologue: The Calling 256

Notes 261

Recommended Listening 305

Bibliography 313

Index 337

Product Details

Gioia, Ted
Duke University Press
History and criticism
Songbooks - Popular
Working class
History & Criticism - General
Work songs -- History and criticism.
Working class - History and criticism
History & Criticism *
Music -- History and criticism.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
9.50x6.46x1.13 in. 1.53 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Folk » American Folk
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Folk » Folk and Traditional
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Jazz
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Religious » Gospel
Arts and Entertainment » Music » History and Criticism

Work Songs New Hardcover
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Product details 368 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822337263 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
The place of music in different forms of work from the earliest hunting and planting to the contemporary office.
"Synopsis" by , A bestselling music writer describes the roles of work songs in societies around the world, from prehistoric times to the present
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