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Title:Green Grass and Dirty Old Sidewalks: Evolving Images of the Rural and Urban in Honky-Tonk Country Music
Author(s):Stanislawski, John F.
Advisor(s):Magee, Jeffrey S.
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Country Music
Abstract:A common theme prevails in country music that explores the antagonist relationship between the country and the city. This rural vs. urban theme is very often used as a backdrop for not only espousing the genre’s idealizations of its imagined rural roots, but also serves as a backdrop for exploring a number of other important and constantly evolving concerns in country including gender relations, politics, modernity, and technology. In this paper, I have analyzed five songs from the country subgenre of honky-tonk in terms of lyrical content, style, and sound in an effort to show how the rural vs. urban dichotomy is constructed and also how it has evolved in light of shifting socio-cultural influences and changes brought by modernity. These analyses showed that while the core idealizations of the rural and urban are retained, the rural vs. urban theme is often presented in a way that reflects the reality of an increasingly modern and urbanized world. The larger implications of these analyses ultimately help us to understand what the “country” is and stands for to country music culture. Significantly, this study uses a holistic analytical approach that aims to interpret and understand the non-musical and musical elements of each song as meaningfully interconnected. Counter to earlier academic explorations of country music that only investigated non-musical elements such as lyrics and audience demographics, I integrate musical analysis into my approach to better understand how particular sounds and styles contribute to reinforcing and interacting with not only lyrical content, but also artistic individualism and country’s core concerns, particularly divisions between the rural and urban.
Issue Date:2010-01-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2009 John Stanislawski
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-01-06
Date Deposited:December 2

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