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Lecture 1

MUS321H1 Lecture 1: What made Beatles successful: Importance of the Blues

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James Kippen

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MUS321—Lecture 1 Week 1 What made The Beatles so successful? How was the music of The Beatles a reflection of the times? (1960s) • Much of what happens after 1960s happen on a foundational stone/building block laid down by the Beatles in the 1960s General Context? • Rock and Roll music of the 1950s • 1950s America being imitated in Europe and other parts of the world • it had its roots in the early century in many kinds of music • Boogie Woogie o piano base, based around the blues o mid-late 1930s when this essentially black music was played in white society o constantly repeating harmonic patens • Rhythm and Blues (example from Naxos) o black music out of the blues o Naxos music library from UofT o essentially a black music o strong Jazz elements and solos as well o classical musical mix in the early 1950s where Rock and Roll begins • The question of race? o R&B=black music • The threat to white society? o It was attractive to white youth and that scared middle class white Americans, thinking they were going to be drawn down in moral characters and social stages • Transcending barriers? o Allen Freed o 1997, black people were shock to see a white person there • Excerpts from “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (History of Rock&Roll, vol.2) o Feel for the rock and roll background that is related to The Beatles o Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis etc. Importance of the Blues • Origins in black spirituals, work songs and field hollers of slaves in southern USA • “Blue”—depressed mood, reflecting social disadvantages and personal problems with relationships; love anxieties, heartache... • Simple rhymed verses [AAB] • Presence of “blue notes” o modification of scale o simple and repetitive harmonic structure o notes that don’t actually exist in the major scale o alternations to the third, fifth and seventh degrees of the major scale o typically, these pitches are lowered and often “bent” o more emotionally-expressive melodic possibilities o often out of tune, unstable o a lot of fluidity and flexibility that sits outside of the harmonic scale • Twelve-bar blues o A chord progression covering twelve equal measures (or bars) o each measure comprises 4 counts or beats o in its simplest form, three chords are used: ▪ tonic: I • key in which the song would be written ▪ subdominant: IV ▪ dominant: V • Chord progression of the blues o First line is always repeated: IIII o Repeat of the first line: IV IV I I o Second line: V IV I I o Always goes back to the tonic key o gives you the harmonic cycle o pick any key to start o Example: used in Elvis’ song—“Hound Dog” o Gives you great freedom to change the melodies, text, instruments that you’re using etc. o The blues was not tamed but “Hound Dog” was ▪ the real song is about a women kicking a man out ▪ blues by a black women [Big mama] ▪ structured in the 12 bar blues but pace, orchestration, instrumentation is different than Elvis ▪ echoing and answering the voice o “Lucille”—Little Richard o classic blues form o First line repeated etc. o very different feel, tempos, very upbeat and energetic compared to Big mamas who had a more relax tempo • Harmonic alterations o certain modifications are allowed that do not violate the blues harmonic structure o Addition of 7ths (e7, A7, B7) ▪ gives it a much richer feel ▪ we keep the one chord in those bars but common substitution o Chord substitution at certain points ▪ E E E E E A E E…. o More harmonic hyperactivity within the bar • Other varieties o Blues can be in any key o chord progressions may vary, and can be harmonically sophisticated esp. in Jazz o 12 bar blues most common o Chord progression 8 bar blues: tonic chord, then changes to the IV, IV, V, I o Example: “Heartbreak Hotel”—Elvis o listen to the texture: arrangement ▪ the beginning, there isn’t much of an orchestration, he’s singing with punctuating chords
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