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Chapter 1

MUSIC 2II3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Western Swing, Chess Records, Electric Blues

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Susan Fast

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Chapter 1: The World before Rock and Roll
- Rock and roll developed out of three principal sources that preceded it:
mainstream popular music, rhythm and blues, and country and western
Building a National Audience for Music and Entertainment
- Sheet music publishers and professional songwriters
Newly developed radio and television technologies made a huge impact on
distributing performances, while the business of music publishing
determined how songs were sold
In the first half of the twentieth century, sheet music was the principal
method of selling music
The term Tin Pan Alley has become shorthand not only for the body of
music produced at that time, but also for a way of doing business and a
style of American popular music
Tin Pan Alley songs follow a standard, though very flexible, formal
Many of these songs make use of a sectional verse-chorus format, in
which the chorus is the part of the song listeners are likely to recognize,
while the verse is an introduction that sets the scene for the song
Tin Pan Alley choruses are often cast in a 32-measure AABA form. Over
the Rainbow provides a representative example of this form in a Tin Pan
Alley context
While the sectional verse-chorus form is ratre in rock and roll, the AABA
form common to so many Tin Pan Alley choruses plays a central role in
In the Tin Pan Alley era, the basic unit of trade was the song itself, not a
specific recording of the song
With the rise of musical theater in the 1930s, Broadway musicals became
a prime vehicle for bringing songs to the public’s attention
By far the best way to promote a song during the 1930s and 40s was to get
it on the radio, which was dominated by big bands from 1935-45 and by
star singers from 1945-55
- National versus regional
At the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of Americans lived in a
world very much conditioned by their local and regional surroundings
During the first few decades of the new century, however, thechnological
and marketing developments in radio and motion pictures made the same
kinds of popular entertainment available throughout the country, in many
ways breaking down regional differences
While films were undeniably influential, the most important technological
innovation for the music business was radio
The big bands were heard frequently on network radio, while country and
western and rhythm and blues were not
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Mainstream pop was similar in most markets, and was targeted to a white,
middle-class listening audience
- The rise of radio networks in the 1920s
Discovered two reliable ways to reach larger audiences
First, they broadcast radio signals via high-power transmitter
A second, more effective way to reach a large audience was linking a
number of local and regional stations together to form a network
The network system had a number of distinct advantages: programming
could be run from a central location, and it was possible to run live
broadcasts from member stations
Live radio was also an important vehicle for music publishers, who had to
convince bandleaders and singers not only to perform a song, but also that
using the song in their live shows would serve their career interests
Regional Styles of Country and Western Music
- Country music in the Southeast in the 1930s:
Kept distinct regional accents until the late 1940s, when Nashville became
a hub for this type of music
Country music from the southeast and Appalachia, and western music
from the west and southwest
Country music can be traced to the folk traditions of the region, largely
derived from the folk music of the British Isles
- Western music in the Southwest and California in the 1930s:
Western swing also helped to define western music as a style that put a
cowboy twist on the big band idea
In addition to a rhythm section and horns, as one might expect of a radio
dance band, western swing featured fiddles, a steel guitar and
occasionally, mariachi-style trumpet parts important from Mexico
- Jimmie Rodgers: the first star of country music
The blue yodeler and the singing brakeman images played on stereotypes
of the time, and show an early awareness of the importance of marketing
Rural and Urban Blues
- Migration patterns from the rural south to the urban north
After World War I, popular music played by black musicians and intended
for black listeing audiences was called race music
While country and western had at least a marginal presence in mainstream
American pop, middle-class white listeners were largely unfamiliar with
rhythm and blues before rock and roll. This was a reflection of racial
segregation in American culture
A great migration of African Americans from the South to northern
industrial centers helped to integrate regional African-American popular
styles into the American cultural mainstream
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