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MUSC 2140
Howard Spring

Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1 MUSC*2140 – UNIT 1 – Antecedents of Jazz + New Orleans Unit One Objectives: 1. By the end of this unit you should be able to identify and describe a blues and a ragtime piece. 2. You should also be able to recognize New Orleans jazz style and some specific recordings. 3. You should be able to describe some of the historical context of New Orleans and know who Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and Sidney Bechet were and why they are important. 4. There are some musical terms that show up in this section as well. The most important are improvisation, polyphonic texture, blues scale, and call-and-response. You will learn to recognize these musical features when you hear them. Textbook Notes (pg. 53 – 55) There are three (3) different categories which situate jazz within our society: 1. Jazz is an ART FORM.  “America‟s classical music”  Skillful musicians, thus demands respect 2. Jazz is POPULAR MUSIC  Jazz recordings compromise only ~3% of the market, but jazz has always been a commodity  sold in liver performance, media, etc…  “Musicians constantly negotiating with the restless tastes of the American public”. 3. Jazz as FOLK MUSIC  Jazz is distinctly urban, at home & on the street corner, and comfortable with modern technology, BUT jazz is marked as different than other genres because of its folk origins (usually African American) Jazz & Ethnicity Simple & provocative assertion  “Jazz is African American music.”  Miles Davis  “If a Jazz musician could play, he „didn‟t give a damn if he was green and had red breath‟.” o Obviously not everyone shared this opinion  “African American” also tells us about ethnicity (how culture makes us) o The difference between ethnicity and race is that ethnicity can change Jazz has deep musical grammar that ultimately can be traced to Africa.  Characterized by polyrhythm within short, repeating cycles  Relies heavily on call and response, the principle of interaction  Melodies use blue notes to alter pitch  Vocalists use timbre variation as a fresh, creative device It’s not these elements that make it African American, but the particular combination of them. Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1 (pg 58 – 64) BLUES  3 line stanza (unusual) rd  unlike the ballad (which was coherent, chronological account in 3 person), the blues was personal o This change in perspective matched the time  African American society had recently shifted from the communal confines of slave culture to the cold, terrifying realities of individualism  Blues was a sobering metaphor for the meaning of freedom Country Blues o Combined folk elements + new technology  Rhythmic flexibility (old) + guitar (new) o Performed by solitary male musicians accompanying themselves throughout rural south o Loose and improvisatory Vaudeville (“Classic”) Blues  Ma Rainey (Gertrude Pritchett) “The Mother of the Blues”  Vaudeville  theatrical form featuring female singers, accompanied by a small band, on the stages of black vaudeville circuits in the 1910s + 1920s  Evolved into strict 12 bar stanzas with written harmonic progressions  W.C. Handy  “Father of the Blues”, heard railroad station music and wrote it down for his dance ensemble o Published “Memphis Blues” (1912), “Beate Street Blues” (1917), “St. Louis Blues” (1914)  St. Louis Blues was recorded more than any song Recordings  By 1910s, Blues was hot commercial property  Initially audience was Caucasian, but after Black artist Mamie Smith, recording companies realized the African American market  Although people were eager to claim themselves as newly urbanized, Back people still wanted music that proclaimed their folk roots o Blues became “their” music  Poor treatment of black singers (recording artists) o Only modest performers‟ fee, ONLY recorded the Blues  Stimulated a small boom in the music economy Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937)  The most popular blues artist of the era, “Empress of the Blues”  Powerful singer who could project her voice, but also sensitive and adapted to the recording studio  200 recordings in only 14 years, establishing her style as the standard or singing blues  Enjoyed 1920s in style, career peaked in 1929 with the St. Louis Blues Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1  “Controversial” death (apparently was rejected at a “white” hospital when injured)  John Hammond‟s ultimate message  that Smith‟s death was attributable to the casual violence that was the fabric of life for Black musicians in the deep south o His message rang true for many Reckless Blues (pg 63 – 64)  Although Louis Armstrong wasn‟t Smith‟s favourite accompanies, he shows how thoroughly the language of the blues had expanded by 1925  Reckless Blues is a duet for two great artists striving for attention o Smith is in command and control, but Armstrong is alert to every gesture (responding to her call), filling in even tiny spaces in the middle of a line  Armstrong‟s sound is affected by 2 mutes  straight mute to reduce the sound and a plunger for “wa-wa” effects RAGTIME (pg 72 – 77)  Came from “ragged time”, describing African American polyrhythm o At time of Civil War, would‟ve been heard on the banjo, but over time was heard on the piano (which was a symbol of middle-class gentility, but also sturdy enough to be played in lower class saloons catering to black people) o Two beat polyrhthymic foundation: low bass notes alternating with higher chords  Against this background, the right hand added contrasting rhythms that contradicted to the dupe meter  To “rag” a piece meant to subject it to this rhythmic complication  Rag meant different things to different people Coon Songs  Yoked polyrhythmic accompaniments to racial stereotypes o Coon was a derisory nickname for blacks Cakewalk  Imitating the ballroom finery of a formal dance  Satisfied both sides: blacks felt like they were parodying their masters‟, while whites enjoyed the blacks‟ exaggerated movements  Through cakewalk, white people became comfortable with ragtime syncopations, and so began the long process of adapting black dance Ragtime Pieces & Scott Joplin  Ragtime was a piano style that survives today as published sheet music  First “rags” appeared in 1897  Adopted march form, fitting rhythmic contrast into a succession of separated strains  A famous composer was Scott Joplin o A child of the Reconstruction, so he believed in the power of literacy to lift black people out of poverty o In 1899, he composed the “Maple Leaf Rag”, a piece that wedded African American polyrhythm to the harmonies and structure of a concert march Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1 o He was smart enough to insist on royalty payments instead of a flat fee, so that when the song became popular, the income supported him for the rest of his career o Published several dozen rags, but is probably best known for “The Entertainer” (1903), which brought him to posthumous fame from the 1970s movie The Sting o Didn‟t live to witness the Jazz Age, so we celebrate him not as a jazz musician but as a composer The Path to Jazz: Wilbur Sweatman (1882 – 1961)  Ragtime became jazz when a new generation of musicians began to use recordings, rather than written notation, to represent their music  Wilbur Sweatman o Career parallels the changes of the ragtime era o His exuberant showmanship (clarinet playing) catapulted him into the theatrical stage in the 1910s o Musicians admired his knowledge of music and professional brilliance o Originally a ragtime composer o Best known piece was “Down Home Rag” (1911), a multistrain piece in march/ragtime form built around a type of polyrhythm known as secondary ragtime  Cross rhythm  main melody repeats a pattern of 3 notes, while meter of the piece is duple  When he decided to record it, his performance hinted at a new era of bluesy improvisation. He chose an alternative recording company (Emerson Records) that used new technology only playable on a few machines. Which kind of sucks because now Down Home Rag isn‟t very well known. (pg. 79 – 83) New Orleans “Imagine jazz as a river, like the Mississippi, fed by numerous tributaries such as blues, ragtime, and marching band music, and you will gain a sense of its nationwide scope.”  N.O. jazz took its distinctive character from the ever changing social conditions of that metropolitan area  It was distinctive enough to attract the attention of the country Noteworthy musicians:  King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong New Orleans jazz became the foundation of the jazz tradition.  Derived from marching bands and dance music, but transformed them through a highly unusual polyphonic texture known as collective improvisation. In a typical performance,  Melodic lines created by a handful of winds (cornet, clarinet, trombone) combined Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1  …which interacted with chaotic rhythmic complexity  …over a firmly stated dance beat Drew on time-honored African American folk principles like  polyrhythm, vocalized timbres, repetitive, cyclic structures. Complex Racial History  Black people pouring into New Orleans from nearby plantations encountered a racialy mixed group  the Creoles o the Creoles tied their sense of social superiority to musical standards drawn from European culture  Jazz resulted from a struggle between the two groups (Creoles and blacks)  Jazz drew its strengths from its own mixture of European and African traditions  Jazz therefore represents a sort of victory for African American musicians who refused to conform to European gentility and sustained homegrown musical principles Early New Orleans  New Orleans is located in the bend of the Mississippi, and faces Lake Pontchartrain, allowing the city to grow as a major port (before railroad shipping). It also gave it the distinct cultural character, blending American commerce and those of a Caribbean island  Lively urban center with distinct architecture, etc (European influence)  18 century – N.O. was a hub for the high life & opera  Also, balls, parades, celebrations to suit everyone (rich and poor alike)  Africans allowed to retain their own languages, beliefs, customs. Congo Square (French Quarter)  Prominent conservation of African musical & dance parties o Free Black community set up market, and free Blacks were permitted to congregate to dance and play music on Sundays  Intricate vocal choirs, massed groups of musicians playing drums, stringed gourds, homemade instruments… Creoles of Colour  The same tolerance
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