The definition of bluegrass is loosely defined as two things. One is a bluish-green grass that was introduced into North America from northern Europe. It is widely grown for fodder, especially in Kentucky and Virginia. The other is a kind of country music influenced by jazz and blues and characterized by virtuosic playing of banjos and guitars and high-pitched, close-harmony vocals. Do either of these definitions really explain what Bluegrass is? I probably not the first one, but the second one may have scratched the surface. As far as musical combinations, I would say that it is a mixture of old time music and blues. The melodies and harmonies resemble old time, a lot of the solos and breaks resemble blues music. Bluegrass typically has around 5 instruments in the band: banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass.
“Bluegrass music is an art form. To me art is a human contrivance that stimulates the human intellect. What proves it to be what it is, is nothing but time. That same Mona Lisa that captured peoples attention three or four hundred years ago is doing it today. And the tunes and the melodies of Stephen Foster are still being sung today. Time proves it to be what it is.” -Butch Robbins
Bluegrass has stood the test of time and has established itself as an art form. Just like many other kinds of musics coming from the south eastern US such as jazz, blues, rock and roll, and country. It is amazing to think that the larger part of music that we listened to today was invented in this same reason due to a mixture of english, celtic, french, and african american cultures.
So what is bluegrass? I think that bluegrass is a clash of different art forms particularly over the Appalachian region. It was a developing and now developed art form that is deeply entrenched in Appalachian tradition.
- Quote from Butch Robbins came from and interview my good friend Bud Bennett conducted with him last year. He made a 5 part documentary out of the interview called Bluegrass Music, It’s Origin and Development as a Unique and Creative Art Form.