What is Americana?
If you do a Google search for “Americana” and you click on “photos” you get images like American flags, barns, flags on barns, stars, eagles, Lindsey Lohan (Ok, so she’s not really Americana, but I guess she just pops up in most searches! 🙂 – you get the idea though.
When I think of Americana, I think of what might be considered the Golden Age of the 20th Century – a time when life was simpler and slower. American Heritage Magazine considers America’s Golden Age to begin around 1870 and to end in 1970. Although it’s probably still a little too early to write the history on this particular topic it’s still fun to speculate.
Here are some ideas that I have about what is Americana:
Scene 1: A family huddles closely to a radio in the living room of their tiny wooden house to hear the weekly broadcast of The Lone Ranger.
Scene 2: An old man dressed in dusty overalls and a hat sits on a bucket under an oak tree and plays the blues on an old, out-of-tune acoustic guitar.
Scene 3: A uniformed U.S. Sailor disembarks his ship returning from a long deployment and runs to embrace the woman who anxiously awaited his return.
According to Wisegeek, an online source of information,
“Americana refers to cultural artifacts, cooking, art, architecture, and history that distinctly reflect the US culture. In essence, Americana expresses those things that would be most associated with Americans, even if they were beloved in other countries. For example, the apple pie, though made in a number of other countries is thought a perfect example of Americana cuisine. Statements like “It’s as American as baseball or apple pie,” suggest that Americans in a sense “own” certain cultural developments and most associate these things as part of their cultural heritage.”
Americana is also considered a genre of music and is defined by the American Music Association as,
“… music that honors and is derived from the traditions of American roots music. It is music inspired by American culture traditions which is not only represented in classic man made / roots based sounds but also through new and contemporary artists whose music is clearly inspired by these great traditions. It is a great genre, vast, like jazz which encompasses a wide range of music. Like jazz, which spans from Miles Davis to Harry Connick to the Preservation Hall, Americana’s range includes artists like Gram Parsons, Soloman Burke, The Band, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Mavis Staples…”
Wikipedia goes further by defining Americana as,
“artifacts, or a collection of artifacts, related to the history, geography, folklore and cultural heritage of the United States. Many kinds of material fall within the definition of Americana: paintings, prints and drawings; license plates or entire vehicles, household objects, tools and weapons; flags, plaques and statues, and so on. Patriotism and nostalgia play a defining role in the subject. The things involved need not be old, but need to have the appropriate associations. The term may be used to describe the theme of a museum or collection, or of goods for sale.”
I think as simple and mundane as Americana can be, I like it because it evokes a genuine spirit of our United States heritage. Every little item that embodies what Americana stands for reminds us of our past and of our family’s heritage. And I don’t think it really matters if you’ve lived in this country for 1 year or if your family has made a home here for hundreds of years. Every one of us feels the comfortable kinship that Americana inspires.
Austin Americana Photography Studio strives to provoke the same kind of spirit – the Americana spirit that lives within all Americans. With the camera lens we capture all that is American and Americana culture.
- Library of Congress Photography