The Formative Dylan examines the musical roots of 70 songs from Dylan's early career, namely from his first three Columbia LPs, officially released outtakes from those sessions, and his Broadside session recordings released by Folkways. Each of these songs is presented in a short article that details melodic and lyric roots and describes contemporaneous performances to show the process by which Dylan learned or composed his formative repertoire. Three appendixes help the reader to understand this repertoire not only in the continuum of American music but as a reflection of Dylan's own compositional development.
The term "formative" conveys that at that early point in his career Dylan had not yet fully emerged as a composer. During his formative period, almost every song had a clear melodic or lyric predecessor. His influences and his own creativity had not quite meshed into an individual style. His repertoire ranged from traditional Appalachian songs to blues to topical-protest songs, representing the interaction between the traditional and popular streams of American music.
Written during a ten-month Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, this book's primary resources were the Smithsonian's Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.
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Todd Harvey is currently a Folklife Specialist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Previously, he was a Professorial Lecturer at American University in the Department of Performing Arts.Review:
Much has been written about Bob Dylan's early years and the folk revival movement, but this is the first time an attempt has been made to examine from a musicologist's point of view Dylan's compositional development during that seminal period...Harvey's book is truly excellent, and it is pleasant to read, too...Any reader interested in American traditional music and in Dylan's early years will find much to glean here... (The Bridge)
A must for any bookshelf purporting to represent the standard works on Dylan. Anyone wishing to engage with the flow of initial micro-periods in Dylan's development will find this book an invaluable companion. (Uncut)
...a book written with affection, knowledge and attention to detail, as well as an appreciation of the wider context....The Formative Dylan informs, engages, stimulates and expands understanding and appreciation. (Isis)
...Harvey does an excellent job finding relevant influences and analyzing the music... (Choice)
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