Welcome to the first of many free English classes from Magoosh! We're starting with a series on Music in America! Join along as we teach you a little about American music, complete with a reading passage, vocab and grammar guide, and quiz to test your understanding.
Difficulty Level: C2 Learners
Time: Approximately 15 minutes
Music in America
Click below to listen to a recording of this reading passage.
Music in America is as diverse as the melting pot that makes up American culture. It is composed of a variety of different genres, many of which are internationally renowned. The cultural influences of American music are limitless, as are the historical influences that created this musical mixture. Though there are some more notable than others.
The original musicians in America were the Native Americans. It was an essential part of their lives and served a variety of purposes including ceremonies, expression, and even healing. And as settlers moved on to the continent, many of their musical styles were combined with European styles. You can find their influences in blues, jazz, rock, and even country music.
However, African Americans had the most influence on modern American music. The emergence of blues and gospel music in the late 19th and early 20th century set the stage for a musical revolution across the country. The combination of native and European styles with African roots helped shape popular music as we know it today.
America has a number of cities with music scenes that are heavily integrated with the character of the city. New Orleans is known as “the birthplace of Jazz”.
The origins of Blues and Rock and Roll are both attributed to the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Also from the state of Tennessee, Nashville sound started in the 1950’s and now dominates country music.
The city of Seattle helped popularize both the alternative rock and grunge genres. Atlanta, Oakland, Houston, New York, and Los Angeles all have vibrant rap music cultures.
No matter where you go in America, you’ll find a diverse music culture to explore and live bands playing in a bar or concert hall somewhere. So next time you’re going out in the U.S., try to catch a concert and experience the styles, characteristics, and melodies of American Music.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in bold from the passage.
English is full of many literary devices that writers and speakers use to express topics or ideas. Sometimes, the purpose is humor, and other times, they’re meant to have a message or deeper meaning. Writers also use them to make things sound more pleasing.
The writer used a literary device in the passage above. Did you notice? Take a look at this sentence:
It is composed of a variety of different genres.
This sentence is an example of a pun.
A pun is a way of playing with words that have two definitions. They exploit the meanings and/or the sounds of words as a means of humoring a reader or listener.
In the example above, the writer used the word compose as a pun because it can mean the elements that make up something. As in:
This material is composed of zinc and iron.
But compose can also mean to create a work of art, typically music. In this case, the writer was referring to the topic of music in the passage.
It’s said that a pun isn’t funny if you have to explain it, and I’m clearly guilty of that. But if you want in on the joke when you’re reading, you’ll need to expand your vocabulary even further!
Here are a few more examples: