MUSC 2140 Study Guide - Louis Armstrong, Emerson Records, Boasting

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Published on 18 Apr 2013
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
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.
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Brit Ho MUSC*2140 Unit 1
(pg 58 64)
3 line stanza (unusual)
unlike the ballad (which was coherent, chronological account in 3rd person), the blues was
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
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
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
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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
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
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