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MUS111H1 Lecture Notes - Crooner, Signify, Love In Vain

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Joshua Pilzer

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Genres cont’d
Idea of genre in early North American folk-music landscape
Folk term associated with rural peasantry, which North America has never really had
Often the idea of folk music is associated with the simple ideas of the origin of popular music,
but it‟s more complicated than that – banjo, being a recreation of an Af. Am. instrument,
somehow finds its way into „white music‟, how?
We think of „folk music‟ as something that isn‟t mass mediated but orally transmitted, yet what
we have in NA is some aspects of perhaps folk culture that circulate through mass media and
popular music (MINSTRELSY) in order for the concept of the NA folk to be created, that
concept relies on the process of mass mediation … PARADOX?
Impression these processes of mass mediation played in the origin of folk
Example: Different versions of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”
Old version: Changing metres lyrics are primary „solo performance‟
o Tradition of solo ballad singers who have the ability and skill to adjust the music to suit
the lyrics as you count through the original song, the metre changes; modern version is
strictly 4/4 time
Older version has pretty minimal variation; modern version takes on a different form and
incorporates more instruments (role of instruments is much more important)
Older version: older version is more „stoic‟
Form & Content
Person: 1st / Form: Light / Content: Sad, tragic, etc.
3rd / Melancholy / Sad, tragic, etc.
Direct expression requires device of emotional restraint “Protestant cultures”, allows for a
certain kind of pained expression
Vicarious expression more direct
Content expresses one meaning, but the form relays a different aesthetic „style‟ in the
contrast, the meaning is more effective
Form (not covered in class) cont’d
Hymns/spirituals and derivative music
ABCB etc. (refrains)
Priority variously given to text and expression becomes “verse/refrain” form in popular
A‟A”A”‟ etc. – varied repetition
Priority given to text
Drones provide backdrop for text and melody
Irregular metric structures to accommodate text “rationalized” over 20th century; ex: “I‟m
a Man of Constant Sorrow”
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