Written by Austin resident and founding director of the “Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University” Gary Hartman chronicles the background and history of what he defines as Texas music. He attempts to define what Texas music was and is today. That definition can basically be boiled down to being part of anything and everything out there in music. He then attempts to show how the nature of the sound has changed over time.

 

To do so, he looks at the history and culture of the American Southwest before looking at various ethnic groups such as Native American, Mexican American, and others that influenced Texas music. Each had a period of strong influence in the sound of Texas music before slipping back and being replaced by a different ethnic group that had risen to prominence. Those ethnic changes relate directly to the changing of culture and history in the Lone Star State and he argues that these changes make Texas music unique.

 

And while he may have a point, too often that idea is lost because of the heavy commentary full of dates, facts, too few anecdotes, and an immensely dry writing style. Musician as well as a historian, Gary Hartman uses this book to expand on an essay he originally wrote for “The Roots of Texas Music.” As such, this book is first and foremost a history book. Clearly the author knows his subject matter from both a personal and a professional standpoint. Still, unfortunately, this book never really comes alive for the reader. Instead, it drones on and on for more than 226 pages with plenty of names, dates, and all the rest, but no human sense of who these people were. The occasional anecdote sheds some light but even then the background is told in a sterile academic style robbing the material of any human component that would relate to most readers.

 

The text that includes numerous pictures is followed by forty-one pages of notes. The notes, like any research project, are broken down into chapter references. There is also a bibliography of primary and secondary sources stretching twenty-two pages. That is followed by eleven page detailed index.

 

Despite the author’s stated intention in the introduction that this is a book intended for the general public and not just academics, this is a very dry history book. It won’t appeal to most readers in the “just the facts” style and tone that it is written in. Instead, this comprehensive book will primarily appeal to those who are mentioned in it, academics, and those who have a deep interest in the subject matter. For those selected groups, this 304 page book is excellent reference material both in text and pictures to further their studies.

  

The History of Texas Music

Gary Hartman

Texas A&M University Press

http://www.tamu.edu/upress/BOOKS/2008/hartman.htm

2008

ISBN# 1-60344-002-X

Paperback

304 Pages

 

Review copy provided by the staff of the Plano Public Library System.

  

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

 

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