The Harp in Jazz and American Pop Music
Bledsoe, Megan A.
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The harp has endured a tenuous relationship with the genres of jazz and American popular music throughout history. While a few harpists have enjoyed successful and significant careers in these fields, the harp is largely absent from mainstream jazz and American pop. The purpose of this dissertation is to ascertain a definitive cause for such exclusion and use this information to identify a feasible path toward further integration of the harp in jazz and American pop music. This paper examines the state of the harp in jazz and American pop from various angles, including historical perspective, analytical assessment, and a study which compares harpists' improvisational abilities to those of their mainstream jazz instrumentalist counterparts. These evaluations yield an encompassing view of the harp's specific advantages and detriments in the areas of jazz and American pop. The result of this research points to a need for specialization among harpists, particularly in defining new styles. It is evident that harpists' careers generally necessitate a working knowledge of various styles of music. However, this often sacrifices commitment toward refining any single individual area of expertise, including the development of jazz and American pop subgenres which are well-suited to the harp. For this reason, the findings of this dissertation not only elucidate the current and past roles of the harp in jazz and American pop, but also hold the potential to influence the future of these genres.
- Music