This chapter discusses the blues, which has provided the basis for so many genres of African American and popular musics throughout this century, and provides two principal reasons for focusing on this genre. First, blues can help academic music study out of a longstanding methodological impasse: the chapter draws on blues as a clear example of a genre that succeeds magnificently in balancing convention and expression. Second, any account of twentieth-century Western music must dwell extensively on the blues in its various manifestations because this is the music that has most shaped our era. Finally, the blues-based repertory deserves our careful attention simply because it contains so much superb music, and this is among the principal reasons we bother to study any repertory.
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