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MUSIC 2II3 Lecture Notes - Folk Music, Cotton Gin, Sahara

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Simon Wood

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It isn't "Art" (classical) music
Not absolutes, they are our opinions
Is made by people for their own entertainment
Made by people who do something else for a living
You do it because you love it
Folk music
Not considered folk music
Neither good nor bad
Money is involved, people trying to make a living at it
Making, producing and performing for a market
Interested in people listening to it and liking it
Because market are involved we need distribution
Music that is produced for money
Dealing with music that is very important in terms of its relationships with mass media
Interconnected with changes in technology
There is music that you like, there is music that you don’t like. But there is nothing objectively in music
There is no such thing as bad music
Music that we like reflects social values that we believe are important
What went into forming Popular Music
Massive social experiment that started 400 years ago
Mass amounts of Africans and Europeans living together
Most important influence
Issues of gender, business etc.
What is "Popular Music"?
West coast just under Saharan Desert
South: African culture
North: Middle East
England, little bit of the British Isles
We create culture based on models we see around us
Based on where you grew up and with whom you grew up
In North America those divisions are drawn on physical appearance
Birth place of rock and roll
The interaction of "African" and "European" Culture
When does the history of Popular Music in the West begin?
First time we know of this happening on North American Soil
Millions of folks from west African were attacked, beaten into submission, chained (many killed), loaded on a ship,
shipped across the ocean in HORRIBLE conditions, then sold to the highest bidder. As long as they did their work
they lived, when they could no longer work they died
North American Slave Trade
Differences in North and South American based on religion of slave owners
African Retention more obvious in South American music
Spain and Portugal controlled south America, big chunk of Central America
During free time slaves were allowed to practise and do whatever they wanted to do as long as
they didn’t cause trouble
New Orleans
France controlled South America, North America (till war with British), Caribbean
Wanted to stamp out "Africanness"
British controlled North America
Treatment of Slaves
Interest in percussive and distorted timbres
Values in the Ecstatic and the Cathartic
Rhythmic complexity - syncopation
Use of "riffs"
Use of "call and response"
Slavery ends when Abe Lincoln signs the emancipation proclamation
Civil war fought over slavery?
Really fought over whether the territories to the West of the Mississippi would be slave states or free states
Would have died out by 1820
Slavery was already on the way out
Made cotton production easier
Eli Whitney
Slavery ends in 1865
Recording technology not created until 1875
Made a great effort to inform people about how life was really like as a slave
Mark Twain wrote about his travels in the south
Wrote at length about slavery
Charles Dickens
James Brown - invented Funk music
African Retentions in music:
Group coordination
Pay careful attention to the way the things were the night before
Set pace to the slowest/weakest worker
Pass time/set pace, coordinate work
Work Song:
Example of African American musical culture
Example of what a lot of music historians think you might
have heard if you were listening to African slaves working
Written in 1945
Realized in the south that many cultural practises
were going to vanish and went to rural towns to
record all songs
Recorded by Alan Lomacks
Old Alabama
Timbre: quality of sound
Distortion indicates an overload of emotion
Putting themselves physically in jeopardy
Call and response: musical tennis
Shown as showing commitment
Syncopation: Very complex rhythms
Legacy of slavery is
fundamental to what goes
on in the US today
Riff: small self contained piece of music that
repeats creating a larger composition. (remains
the same throughout the music)
Led Zeppelin - Whole Lot of a Love
Motif: changes in every possible way
Example of a Riff:
Pre-War Period
8:38 PM
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Set pace to the slowest/weakest worker
Created songs everyday
Slave owners realized this
A good song leader got more work done
Song leader
"floating pool of verse"
No instruments
Acapella, music made only by singing
Slaves had virtually nothing
All documents tell us they sang
Specific music was sang for different things
In West African Culture music was all over the place
Old Alabama's format-
Called a 'Form chart'
4 3 3 4 3 3 4 4 3 4 3 3 3 4 3 3 3
A a b a a b a a b a a a b a a a b
The numbers represent the number of bars or 'measures' for each line of words.
The lower case letters refer to the text of the song
Upper case are melodic
In Old Alabama, they repeat the first two lines then change what the lyrics are for the third line thus it goes
a(same) a(same) b(different). This resets every 'verse'. So if it was abc for the first verse the second verse would
not be def, it would be abc again (or a different derivation)
If a professional musician wrote the form chart the bars would all be the same and the verses would all be aab as
well instead of changing it later to aaab
The workers lack self-consciousness- did not pay attention to right or wrong notes, just felt through the music,
hence the shift in bars and verse length
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which prolonged slavery.
Thomas Edison invented the Gramophone in 1875
-->Friday notes
Audio files found at
First two chapters available at
Slaves read the bible and learned of the tale of Moses(Israelites being put into slavery and saved by Moses)
Call and response
Use of body-clapping and stomping
Ecstatic outcry of participants during song
Distortion of vocal timbre
"Oh Jonah" The Golden Jubilee Quartet
Line Hymn usually does call and response, but the slaves added their improvisation into it.
Gospel develops early in the post-war period when after the freedom of the slaves, a lot of people who were
supporting it opened up colleges and universities for blacks.
"Lined Hymn"
They needed to sing for the whites to make money and made a more typical European sound, Gospel.
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New forms of music begin to appear during the late 1800s: Ragtime, Jazz, Blues.
No new cultural forms occur until 20 years after slavery because of the lack of a change of mindset.
Ragtime: Example- The Entertainer
Jazz- Addition of the drum kit.
Blues- Considered as a musical aesthetic OR an actual musical structure.
performed by a wandering musician who sang and accompanied himself with an acoustic guitar
First form of Blues is called Country (rural) Blues.
It was dangerous to travel in the rural areas, especially if you were alone and black.
Very plaintive vocal sound
The themes are interesting because they are all things of which the now free slaves could not have prior to the
end of slavery
Themes included :Travel, Economics and Love.
Aesthetic characteristics,
12 measure phrases
a-a-b lyric pattern
call and response between guitar and voice: Voice sometimes would go for two bars then guitar would play the other two
associative coherence
floating pool of verse: Blues musicians would slip local names and issues into their songs
Chords are based around the chromatic scale. I being the first chord IV being the fourth chord.
Subject: Travel/ Economics
Uneven bar counts
Lack of self-consciousness
Accent and nasal sound of voice
Makes music for the love of it not for money
"folk musician"
Starts off with an improvised narrative then moves onto the blues part after the fact.
One of the three (arguably most) influential structures in music
In Travelin Blues he makes a transition into 2/4 at the end of each line
Willies Mctell's lack of self-consciousness is important because when Blues gets recorded Blues goes under a
large change
'Travelin' Blues'-1927
Blind Willie McTell- Blues musician.
Robert Johnson is the source of a whole generation of Blues musicians
Known as a 'Guitar Hero'
He defined standards for blues guitar
Recorded November 1936 and June 1937
Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
Even bar counts
Intro and Conclusion aren't very common in folk music but they're in this song
Call and response
Demonstrates self-consciousness
Dynamics in the intro
Sweet Home Chicago
1453- Printing Press
1557- Queen Mary: Stationer's Company- First copyright law.
First time we see copyright law reorganized into something we would recognize today
1709- The Statute of Anne
1790- First US copyright law: Its the model for copyright law in the entertainment industry
1831- Amendments to the copyright law to cover sheet music: Tells us there were a lot of people trying to make a
living by making and playing songs(Lobbying the government)
Important events for the "Standardization of Music"
variety show that depicted African-Americans in a negative light
simplistic, child-like people
slavery was a natural state
White performers in blackface
Minstrel shows were a medium written by whites, performed by white, performed for whites and had nothing to do
with black culture
Minstrel Show:
The forerunner to the Vaudville show(Something that showed the first movies etc.)
Typical instruments you would see in these types of shows were: An Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Fiddle,
Tambo(tambourine player)
Minstrel Shows were a massive source of popular music.
The Bones(played sticks ((somewhat like playing the spoons)) )
Racist depictions- Coon songs- often depicted the life of the slave as idealistic
Musical Form
Post Slavery
11:01 AM
Music 2II3 Page 3
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