This introductory chapter explains how music is considered less as a phenomenon unto itself than as a manifestation of the conditions under which it emerged or receded. The music under consideration represents a wide range of styles that attracted the attention of a wide range of audiences, which sounds have little in common. What these types of music do have in common is the fact that all of them sprang up in a particular cultural environment: the postwar Fifties. A great many forces—technology; the economy; domestic and international politics; relationships between black and white people, between men and women, between young and old—animated American society during the Fifties. The lenses through which the whole of American music in the Fifties is examined here represent forces whose interconnected dynamics between 1945 and 1963 are linked to the fact that, for America, the war ended the way it did.
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