Dr. Ann Ostendorf, a native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, earned a B.A. from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in American History from Marquette University. She works at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where she teaches courses in Colonial American and early United States history, as well as courses on the Civil War and American Culture. Her scholarly interests include cultural history, studies of ethnicity and race, the lower Mississippi River region and music.
Her recent book from the University of Georgia Press, Sounds American: National Identity and the Music Cultures of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, 1800-1860, is now available.
Listen to an interview on Spokane Public Radio's Just a Theory with Tony Flinn to hear more:
For more information on Sounds American visit: http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/sounds_american/0/1
For more information on the Early American Places book series visit: http://www.earlyamericanplaces.org/index.php
Sounds American provides new perspectives on the relationship between nationalism and cultural production by examining how Americans grappled with musical diversity in the early national and antebellum eras.
During this period a resounding call to create a distinctively American music culture emerged as a way to bind together the varied, changing, and uncertain components of the new nation. This played out with particular intensity in the lower Mississippi River valley, and New Orleans especially. Ann Ostendorf argues that this region, often considered an exception to the nation—with its distance from the center of power, its non-British colonial past, and its varied population—actually shared characteristics of many other places eventually incorporated into the country, thus making it a useful case study for the creation of American culture.
Ostendorf conjures the territory’s phenomenally diverse “music ways” including grand operas and balls, performances by church choirs and militia bands, and itinerant violin instructors. Music was often associated with “foreigners,” in particular Germans, French, Irish, and Africans. For these outsiders, music helped preserve collective identity. But for critics concerned with developing a national culture, this multitude of influences presented a dilemma that led to an obsessive categorization of music with racial, ethnic, or national markers. Ultimately, the shared experience of categorizing difference and consuming this music became a unifying national phenomenon. Experiencing the unknown became a shared part of the American experience.
"Sounds American is an excellent study of the role of music in the formation of national identity on the southern borderlands in the early nineteenth century. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and predict that it will interest a wide range of cultural historians of early America."
—Andrew McMichael, author of Atlantic Loyalties: Americans in Spanish West Florida, 1785-1810
"A much needed and deeply researched book. Ostendorf's valuable study adds much to our understanding of the role music played in regional and national formation."
—Jeffrey H. Richards, author of Drama, Theatre, and Identity in the American New Republic