San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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April 15th, 2008
Hartman to read from his new book on Texas music history

By ANN FRIOU
University News Service

SAN MARCOS – Gary Hartman, a history professor who teaches courses on Texas and Southwestern music history at Texas State University-San Marcos, says he often encounters questions from students such as “What exactly is Texas music?” “Is it a unique musical form? If so, what makes it different?”

To answer these questions, Hartman has published a book, The History of Texas Music, the first broad-based study to explore the musical developments of Texas and the Southwest and many of the individuals who have played an important role in the evolution of Texas music. Hartman’s goal is to show how Texas’ diverse musical heritage reflects how certain groups in the Southwest evolved and attempted to reconcile their own sense of history and culture with that of others in the region.

Hartman will read from and sign his book at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Southwestern Writers Collection on the 7th Floor of the Alkek Library. Live music will be provided by Ponty Bone & the Squeeztones. The event is free and open to the public.

Hartman, founder and director of Texas State’s Center for Texas Music, is Associate Professor of History and a guitarist in the well-known Austin band The Texas Swing Kings. Drawing from both academic and non-academic sources, he hopes The History of Texas Music will appeal to scholars and the general public. He said, “I have done my best to combine my scholarly training in ethnic community history with my firsthand knowledge of how important music is as a cultural medium.”

The first chapter examines the social, cultural, economic, and political history of the Southwest, as well as the importance of music to human society. The remaining six chapters focus primarily on individual ethnic communities or sets of communities throughout the region and how their history, traditions, values, and beliefs shaped the region’s music. Chapters explore Native-American musical traditions of the Southwest; Mexican-American music in the Southwest; the African roots of Texas music; the German, Jewish, Czech, Polish, and French influences on Texas music; Anglo-American music in Texas; and Texas rock and roll.

Determining who to include as a “Texas” musician presented a challenge, Hartman said. Most artists he discusses were born and/or raised in Texas. Others weren’t, but they spent a substantial amount of time in the state or were strongly influenced by the music of the Southwest. The book isn’t meant to be a roster of famous Texas musicians, Hartman said. “While I certainly have included many prominent artists from the Southwest, I also have tried to examine how music has played an important role in the lives of ‘ordinary’ Texans. I hope to illustrate how music has been vital to the daily fabric of Southwestern culture for virtually all people living in the region.”

Hartman’s book is the first in the John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, published by Texas A&M University Press. The Press will publish one book per year, written by an expert on a certain aspect of Texas music history. The next book will be on Texas blues, by acclaimed music historian Alan Govenar. The series is underwritten by John and Robin Dickson, owners of Dickson Productions in Austin. Dickson Productions organizes music festivals and other events around the country. The Dicksons are longtime supporters of the Center for Texas Music History.

The History of Texas Music is available from Texas A&M University Press and from Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

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