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Music (10)
MUSIC 0711 (10)
Chapter 6

MUSIC 0711 Chapter 6: The Blues

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MUSIC 0711
Doretta Whalen

The Blues  The blues as a separate jazz form has been the subject of much research since its popular acceptance during the early 1900s o Some say the blues are not related in any way to jazz o Claim the harmonic structure of the Blues proves that the blues is definitely not African-American in nature since the early African slaves didn’t have harmony as one of their working “musical tools”  In the U.S. the blues was always taken for granted by most and hidden by the rest  In the 1940s most “so called-intellectual blacks” were ashamed to admit that they liked the Blues o Attitude prevailed until the beginning of the 1960s when young whites adopted the Blues as the “official” revolutionary music of their time  The acceptance of African-American Blues by young whites in America and eventually in Europe signaled interest in identifying with the struggles of their oppressed black brothers and sisters o Prompted the people in the music industry to take a serious look at what was then called R&B or Rhythm and Blues  During this period, the Blues again proved capable of bringing together thousands of people from various cultural backgrounds  The Blues physically brought thousands of young Americans together o Also gave insight into the African-American lifestyle  There is no official birthdate for the Blues  The Blues is an African-American creation  The closest thing that people can fund resembling the blues in Africa are the Bantu rain song and the African “signifying” songs, or songs of “ridicule” o Both of these forms do have strong Blues-like features o Both use blues tonalities that suggest a strong tie to African-American folk blues  The Delta area – Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and most of the Gulf area  The territories – Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri  The southeastern seaboard – Georgia and Florida  These areas represent the geographical locations most saturated by a particular type of music  Country blues was born in the rural areas and has no specific geographical boundaries o Later migrated to the urban areas of the North, underwent a few changes in character, and became known as urban Blues  During the early development of Blues it was unheard of to find a professional Blues singer  Anyone could sing the blues  There was no definite form in the Blues during its early stages o Each person shaped his or her own melody  The idea of a definite form in Blues did not come until much later in its development during the 1900s  Form was introduced in the Blues simply to facilitate the playing of the Blues by more than one or two people  Historians looked for a connection between British folk music and Blues since both forms tended to use the drone as base for melodic movement  The bending of certain notes, namely the third, fifth, and seventh degree, gave Blues its blue, or low-keyed, sound  To flatten a note is to lower the note one half step  To bend or lower the note suggests lowering the note anywhere from one half step to three or more steps  One of the major problems in interpreting the blues, and other forms of African- American folk music today, is that we have not developed a system for analyzing the music, we cannot expect to preserve its originality  A technique often used by the Delta area Blues singers was bottlenecking o The performed slides his or her hand up and down he strings of the guitar, producing a slide effect o This sound was originally produced by placing the broken tips of whiskey bottles on the fingertips and sliding the fingers along the strings  Another fascinating fact about the structure of Blues, is that Blues singers developed the habit of singing a musical statement and immediately repeating that statement before finishing that statement before finishing the idea with a closing statement  Some historians believe that the blues performer repeated the first line of the Blues for two reasons o He or she wanted to be sure that the message reached the audience o The performer was improvising the lyrics and the repetition gave him or her time to think of the next phrase  Jazz is Blues and Blues is jazz o One cannot exist without the other Urban Blues:  Urban Blues with all of its “modernization” was still country Blues  The major difference between urban Blues and country Blues was the lyrics  Country Blues tended to be about working habits, love affairs, and general problems of the country
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