An assistant professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross, Bertram D. Ashe discusses how the intersection of an African American cool style with a black vernacular tradition and multi-racial audiences complicates audience-performer relations. In the vernacular tradition, performers play not "to" but "with" an audience, drawing on the call-response patterns that characterize the black aesthetic. Ashe notes that the vernacular tradition is not racial but cultural, and class can be as important a marker as race in determining audience expectations. Differing cultural backgrounds create, in Ashe's words, "competing realities," distinct sets of expectations that can shape a musical performance. Ashe presented this paper at a Cyrus Chestnut Trio concert in Worcester, Massachusetts, January 16, 1998.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 1999, University of Massachusetts Press. This chapter first appeared in Signifyin(g), Sanctifyin', and Slam Dunking: A Reader in African American Expressive Culture.

Please note that downloads of the book chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at University of Massachusetts Press.