Tag Archives: Fletcher Henderson

The early influence of Louis Armstrong on Coleman Hawkins, as mediated by Fletcher Henderson

by Tim Harding

(An edited version of this essay was published in Jazzline magazine,
Vol. 48, No. 2, Spring/Summer 2015)

Jazz musical lineages are normally tracked by instrument. Leading musicians are often described in the literature as having been primarily influenced by their predecessors on the same instrument – trumpeters are influenced by trumpeters, saxophonists by saxophonists, and so on.  In this essay, I propose to put forward a thesis that in the 1920s, trumpeter Louis Armstrong was the major jazz influence on tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins as a soloist; and that Hawkins also influenced musicians on other instruments, such as Roy Eldridge on trumpet.  This influence of Armstrong on Hawkins was mediated by bandleader Fletcher Henderson, in whose orchestra both were members from October 1924 to November 1925.

Louis Armstrong is widely regarded as the first great jazz soloist;[1] [2] although Sidney Bechet was arguably the first notable jazz soloist to make a recording.[3] [4] Armstrong was born in 1901 in the poorest section of New Orleans.[5]  He learned to play the cornet in the Coloured Waif’s Home where he later became leader of the children’s band there.[6] After he left the Waif’s Home, by day he was delivering coal from a mule-drawn cart and later on by night he was playing cornet in honky-tonk bars.  In time, he graduated to become a full-time musician, playing in the bands of Kid Ory, Fate Marable and the Tuxedo Brass Band.[7]

Armstrong’s main cornet mentor during his early life had been Joe ‘King’ Oliver, who had left New Orleans for Chicago in 1918 after the closing down of the Storyville red light district.  In mid-1922, Oliver invited Armstrong to play second cornet in his Creole Jazz Band at the Lincoln Gardens dance hall on the south side of Chicago.  It has never been clear why Oliver made this invitation, as these early jazz bands did not usually include two cornets.[8]

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1923 with Louis Armstrong seated in the centre

The early New Orleans style of jazz was polyphonic, based on collective improvisation rather than solos with accompaniment.  According to Gioia, ‘no early jazz band was better at this ensemble style of playing than Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band’.[9]  The only real exceptions to this ensemble New Orleans style were in the breaks, such as the two-cornet breaks in the Oliver band where Armstrong harmonised with Oliver’s lead.[10]

In the 1923 recordings of Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band we can hear the young Louis Armstrong ‘groping towards a solo-based jazz style: he is beginning to express feelings which will not long be containable within the matrix of the New Orleans model from which he sprang’.[11]  According to musicologist Gunther Schuller, Armstrong was ‘skillfully treading the fine line between the functional requirements of second cornet to King Oliver and his own burgeoning solo tendencies’.[12]

On ‘Chimes Blues’ Oliver allows Armstrong to play two choruses of the melody alone, but it is not really a jazz solo in the improvised sense.[13] [14]  Similarly, Armstrong’s solo on ‘Froggie Moore’ is primarily a statement of the melody of that particular strain of the tune as composed by Jelly Roll Morton, albeit with some of Armstrong’s own embellishments and rhythmic dash.[15] [16] [17]

On the 26 October 1923 recording of ‘Mabel’s Dream’, Armstrong plays an innovative and very appealing open horn counter-melody against Oliver’s muted statement of the original melody, which whether intentional or not sounds louder than Oliver’s playing.  Schuller describes this counter-melody as an amazing performance in its simplicity.[18]  A transcription by Schuller of the first eight bars of both recorded parts is as follows.

Figure 1. – first eight bars of Louis Armstrong’s counter-melody in ‘Mabel’s Dream’, as recorded by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band on 26 October 1923.

mabels dream

Source: Schuller 1968, 83

The writer and musicologist Edward Brooks classifies Armstrong’s counter-melody as a solo that ‘constitutes one of the most moving climaxes of early jazz’.[19]

Interestingly, on the later 24 December 1923 recordings of Mabel’s Dream, Armstrong appears to have been ‘reined in’ by Oliver as his muted counter melodies are barely audible behind Oliver’s more powerful lead in the same passages of the tune.  Such restrictions on his freedom to solo may well have contributed to Armstrong being persuaded by his then wife Lil Hardin to leave the Oliver band in mid-1924.[20] [21]

According to the biographer Laurence Bergreen, Armstrong then experienced some racial discrimination when he tried to join the band of Sammy Stewart, who was a light-skinned African-American who had only Creoles and light-skinned blacks in his band.  Bergreen’s view is that Armstrong was too dark-skinned for Stewart’s band.[22]  Fortunately, Armstrong managed to get a job as first trumpet with Ollie Powers’ band in Chicago.[23]  However, as there are no relevant recordings, it is not clear how many solo opportunities Armstrong had in Powers’ band.

In September 1924, the successful African-American dance band leader Fletcher Henderson hired Armstrong specifically to be his featured soloist in New York.  Henderson had previously heard Armstrong in 1922 whilst on tour in New Orleans and offered him a job in his small touring band, but Armstrong had turned the offer down.[24] [25]  As Henderson’s 1924 offer now provided Armstrong an ideal opportunity to develop his own musical identity, he readily accepted it and travelled by train to New York from Chicago.[26]  Gioia described this transition as a major watershed in jazz history: ‘The New Orleans pioneers exit stage left; Armstrong on trumpet enters stage right heralding the new Age of the Soloist’.[27]  Similarly, Giddens credits Armstrong with changing jazz from a collective idiom to a soloists art.[28]

The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1925, with Louis Armstrong 3rd from left and Coleman Hawkins 2nd from left

Before going on to discuss Armstrong’s performances with Henderson’s band, it is appropriate to outline the social and musical context that Armstrong was heading into.  Not only was there racial segregation between White and Black musicians, audiences and record buyers; there was also a structured hierarchy amongst the Black jazz musicians.  Trumpeter Rex Stewart has outlined what in effect was a four-tiered caste system amongst Black musicians in the New York of the mid-1920s.  At the top was the Clef Club, a union of Black musicians founded by former US Army Lieutenant James Reese Europe who played at ‘society’ functions, including for Whites-only audiences.  Next were the touring vaudeville musicians such as Mamie Smith and her band who played for both Black and White audiences.  Then there were the larger dance bands led by Fletcher Henderson, Sam Wooding and Billy Fowler who played in public for Black-only audiences.  On the lowest rung were musicians playing in small clubs, penny-a-dance halls and presumably speakeasies, again only for Black audiences.  Black musicians in the higher levels had little to do with those on the lowest level.[29]

Jazz historians agree that Henderson was a major figure, initially as a bandleader and musical talent spotter, and later as an arranger and composer.[30] But before Armstrong joined it, Henderson’s band was primarily an expert reading band playing written dance band arrangements inspired by the leading White bands such as those of Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez.[31] [32]  On the basis of their early recordings, the Henderson Orchestra even sounded like these White dance bands, and for this reason are likely to have sold records to White consumers.  Yet Henderson also made ‘race records’ backing blues singers, thus appealing to Black record-buying consumers as well. In this way, Henderson had cleverly segmented both the Black and White markets for his recordings.[33]

Henderson himself and his musicians, such as Charlie Dixon, Kaiser Marshall and Coleman Hawkins enjoyed Clef Club membership and contacts.[34]  So some members of Henderson’s band may have looked down upon Louis Armstrong socially if not musically.

On the other hand, musicians soon came to admire Armstrong’s unrivalled abilities as a jazz soloist.  Schuller is amazed at the disparity in quality between Armstrong’s solos and those of other musicians in the Henderson band’s early recordings.[35]  For instance, Armstrong’s hot solo on ‘Mandy Make Up Your Mind’ immediately follows some corny ‘doo-wacka-doo’ four-bar passages by the other two trumpeters Howard Scott and Elmer Chambers.  These passages were interspersed with some old-fashioned straight tenor sax playing by Coleman Hawkins, complete with the dated staccato slap-tonguing that very soon would go completely out of style.  Louis Armstrong himself described the impact he made on Henderson’s band as follows.

Well, I knew I couldn’t read music as fast as them cats, and Fletcher never let me sing. They’d got me there to blow that hot stuff. Lot of the time all I had to play in the arrangement was a 8 bar, maybe 16 bar solo. First time I did it, they went wild and I did too. Them cats all stood up and applauded and cheered. Just another night to me, you know, but it’s a good feeling to know that they satisfied that you’re with them’.[36]

The British trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton reports Henderson’s principal arranger and lead alto player Don Redman as saying that ‘Louis, his style and his feeling, changed our whole idea about the band musically’.[37] [38]  Every bandleader then wanted to hire a trumpet soloist in Armstrong’s mould, from Paul Whiteman to Duke Ellington.[39]

According to Lyttelton, only one of Henderson’s other musicians, tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, had any potential as an improvising jazz musician.  (This is in the absence of trumpeter Joe Smith who replaced Howard Scott about seven months after Armstrong joined.)[40]

Like Henderson, Coleman Hawkins came from a middle-class African-American family.  His tours with Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds in 1922-23 placed him high in Rex Stewart’s second tier of black musicians.[41]  One of the few other jazz tenor saxophonists of this period, Prince Robinson had toured with Lillian Jones Jazz Hounds in 1919-21.  In this way, the tenor saxophone came to jazz via vaudeville.[42]

Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds in 1923 with Coleman Hawkins 2nd from right above playing saxophone

Hawkins joined Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in 1923, where he remained until 1934, sometimes doubling on clarinet and in the early years, on bass saxophone.  Prior to Louis Armstrong joining Henderson, Hawkins’ solos, whilst musically competent, lacked ‘swing’ or a jazz feel to them. They were typical of the early dance band style of this period.

According to the musicologist Jeffrey Magee, Armstrong’s influence left a profound mark on Hawkins.[43]  He was stunned by the strength of Armstrong’s music and strove to adapt this style to the tenor saxophone.[44]  This influence is illustrated by Hawkins solo on Henderson’s ‘The Stampede’ recorded on 14 May 1926, and notated below.  In this solo, ‘Hawkins now deploys a legato fluency in place of the heavy, slap-tongued staccato articulation’ of his earlier style.[45]

Figure 2. – first fifteen bars of Coleman Hawkin’s solo in ‘The Stampede’, as recorded by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra on 14 May 1926.

stampede

Source: Magee 2005, 113

Magee describes Armstrong’s influence on this solo as follows:

In the first four bars, for example, Hawkins takes a cue from Armstrong’s openings, with a syncopated phrase leading to the familiar three-note figure (mm. 1-2)….Other Armstrong-like effects spring up confidently, like the syncopated double-leap in m.10, and the rising, chromatic downbeat triplet in m.11…..In The Stampede’ we can hear Hawkins telling a story, working on the musical “coherence” that made Armstrong’s solos unique. At the age of 21, fuelled by his encounter with Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins had made impressive strides towards achieving an original solo voice.[46]

Lyttelton puts it this way:

Perhaps the most startling revelation of Armstrong’s liberating influence comes when Coleman Hawkins leaps out of the ensemble for his solo. Here for the first time is a glimpse of the tenor saxophone player from whom all rivals were to stand back in awe for the next decade. Not only is his solo couched in terms strikingly similar to Armstrong’s up-tempo contributions, but the actual notes themselves have a vibrant life of their own.[47}

Hawkins’s dramatic solo may have been one reason that ‘The Stampede’ was taken up by many other bands, with other saxophonists strongly influenced by Hawkins’s ‘Stampede’ phrases.[48] [49].  Roy Eldridge learned the solo by heart on trumpet and got his first job after playing it for an audition.[50] [51]  In this way, Eldridge was influenced by Armstrong indirectly via Hawkins;[52] as well as directly by hearing Armstrong play in person rather than from recordings.[53]  Hawkins went on to become ‘the undisputed master of the tenor saxophone’ and to have a major influence on all the early top tenor saxophonists except Lester Young.[54] [55]

This essay has illustrated how the young Louis Armstrong emerged from the New Orleans ensemble tradition to become jazz’s first great soloist. By the medium of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, and with the encouragement of Fletcher Henderson himself, Armstrong in turn became a major influence on other early jazz soloists such a Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge.  In doing so, Armstrong established the general stylistic direction of jazz for several decades to come.[56]

Works cited

[1] Schuller, Gunther. Early Jazz- Its Roots and Musical Development.  New York: Oxford University Press. 1968, 89-90.

[2] Lyttelton, Humphrey. The Best of Jazz. London: Portico, 1999, 116-122.

[3] Ibid.,55-57.

[4] Schuller, Early Jazz, 196-198.

[5] Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, 88.

[6] Collier, James Lincoln. Louis Armstrong. London: Pan Books, 1984, 42.

[7] Ibid.,69-84.

[8] Ibid., 93.

[9] Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

[10] Schuller, Early Jazz, 79.

[11] Brooks, Edward. Liner Notes for King Oliver Volume One 1923 to 1929. Festival Records, CD recording, D 26123, Sydney, 1995.

[12] Schuller, Early Jazz, 90.

[13] Ibid.,83.

[14] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 81.

[15] Collier, Louis Armstrong, 105.

[16] Schuller, Early Jazz, 80.

[17] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 81.

[18] Schuller, Early Jazz, 83.

[19] Brooks, Liner Notes.

[20] Panassie, Hugues. Louis Armstrong. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, 10.

[21] Schuller, Early Jazz, 78, 90.

[22] Bergreen, Laurence. Louis Armstrong – An Extravagant Life. London: HarperCollins, 1997, 233.

[23] Ibid., 234.

[24] Collier. Louis Armstrong, 42.

[25] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 91.

[26] Schuller, Early Jazz, 90-91.

[27] Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz, 53.

[28] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 88.

[29] Magee, Jeffrey. The Uncrowned King of Swing – Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 30.

[30] Magee, Jeffrey. ‘Fletcher Henderson, Composer: A Counter-Entry to the International Dictionary of Black Composers’ Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 1999, 2.

[31] Ibid., 29.

[32] DeVeaux, Scott and Giddins, Gary. Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, 123.

[33] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 34.

[34] Ibid., 30.

[35] Schuller, Early Jazz, 91.

[36] Meryman, Richard. Louis Armstrong – a self-portrait. New York: The Eakins Press, 1966, 32.

[37] Lyttelton, Humphrey. The Best of Jazz. London: Portico, 1999, 109.

[38] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 92.

[39] DeVeaux and Giddens. Jazz, 150.

[40] Lyttelton, The Best of Jazz, 108.

[41] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 31.

[42] Schuller, Gunther. The Swing Era – The Development of Jazz 1930-1945.  New York: Oxford University Press. 1989, 427.

[43] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 112.

[44] DeVeaux and Giddens. Jazz, 163.

[45] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 112.

[46] Ibid.,113-114.

[47]  Lyttelton, The Best of Jazz, 113.

[48] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 114.

[49] DeVeaux and Giddens. Jazz, 163.

[50] Lyttelton, The Best of Jazz, 410.

[51] Magee, The Uncrowned King of Swing, 114.

[52] Lyttelton, The Best of Jazz, 113.

[53] Ibid., 408-411.

[54] Schuller, The Swing Era, 426.

[55] Gioia, Ted. The Imperfect Art. Stanford: The Stanford Alumni Association, 1988, 142.

[56] Schuller, Early Jazz, 89.

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Count Basie ‘Listen…you shall hear’ (1937)

MI0002963210

by Tim Harding

(This review was published in Jazzline magazine, Winter 1989)

It is generally accepted that the primary characteristics that distinguish jazz from other forms of music are syncopation, improvisation and swing. Most of us know what syncopation and improvisation are, but swing is harder  to define. For me, it means an entrancing inner momentum or self-propulsion, like a powerboat lifting itself out of the troughs between the waves and planing along on top.

Swing is Count Basie’s main legacy to jazz. As an arranger, it was largely he who lifted the wallowing Bennie Moten band out of the troughs onto a higher rhythmic plane. As a bandleader, he added key soloists from Walter Page’s Blue Devils, creating a new style of big band. As an instrumentalist, he demonstrated the value of short silences or gaps in improvisation. I have been told that the venerated Australian jazz musician Ade Monsborough once said ‘the notes you leave out are as important as the ones you put in.’ (This point appears to be lost on some modern-style improvisers, with their endless runs of quavers and triplets).

My first live contact (confrontation?) with Basie’s music was in about 1968, when  Jeremy Kellock (later Jerry Noone of ‘Daddy Cool‘ fame) asked me to join a short-lived Basie-type band playing some of his tunes from the late 1930s. Although we found the ensemble riffs relatively easy, we found the rhythmic side very difficult. We just could not get that band to swing anything like Basie’s, and soon gave it away.  Later on,  I was fortunate enough to hear the Basie band in person at the Dallas Brooks Hall in East Melbourne, and I realise how wise we were to give up trying to play like them.

Basie’s characteristics of swing and improvisation are exemplified on this CD album (hep1025), produced by John R.T.Davies for the hep label. The album reissues  tracks from the first recording sessions by the full Basie band in 1937.  The band had been ‘discovered’ in 1936 by wealthy New York jazz writer and entrepreneur John Hammond. Late one night on his car radio in Chicago, Hammond by chance picked up a broadcast by the Basie band from the Reno Club in Kansas City. Hammond was astute enough to realise he had stumbled on a unique new style of jazz, and how right he was!

The new Basie style is evident from the very first track, Honeysuckle Rose, based on the Fletcher Henderson arrangement. (Henderson was kind enough to give the fledgling Basie some of his arrangements to help them through their first gigs). Former Blue Devil vocalist, Jimmie Rushing, features on six of the sixteen tracks, including the melodic title track, Listen…my Children and You Shall Hear and Good Morning Blues, which later became the title of Count Basie’s autobiography.

Another feature of this album is the marvellous ‘duelling tenors’ in the contrasting styles of Herschel Evans and Lester Young, particularly on One O’Clock Jump, Time Out, and John’s Idea (named after John Hammond). Buck Clayton’s trumpet shines on Swinging at the Daisy Chain, (named after a popular Harlem bordello), and Topsy, a wonderfully hot composition and arrangement by Basie trombonist Eddie Durham. Topsy also features a good baritone solo by Jack Washington, as does Exactly Like You.

The stars of the album, however, are the legendary Basie rhythm section of Jo Jones, Walter Page, Freddie Green and the Count himself. These are the guys who mainly generate the swinging momentum or propulsion, to which I referred earlier, and which no band has been able to emulate since.

The album sleeve has an interesting photo of the 1937 band on the front cover, together with comprehensive sleeve notes by Frank Driggs. I would recommend it as an important addition to any broad-minded jazz record collection.

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Divides between sacred, secular, art and popular music

by Tim Harding

Research topic:  Divides between (a) sacred and secular and (b) art and popular music in the cultural contexts of the Middle Ages, the Nineteenth Century, and the Twentieth Century.

The divides between sacred and secular music have been relatively clear since the Middle Ages, with the possible exception of African-American gospel music in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.  On the other hand, the divides between art and popular music have not been as clear; and have become increasingly difficult to sharply define in terms of musical content and form in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.  Some examples of ‘crossovers’ between art music and popular music (in both directions) are given in this essay, together with an alternative method of distinguishing between art music and popular music (and also folk music), based on function rather than form.

Western music of the Later Middle Ages can be clearly divided into sacred and secular by its form and lyrics (if any).  Most notated music was intended for the Christian Church; indeed, the very first notated music was plainchant, to be sung as part of Christian worship.[1]

According to Fellerer and Brunner ‘in all Gregorian chants uniform melodic material is found, built upon basic formulas and variations, combined into a close unity of composition both in form and structure’.[2]  The Christian Mass was a daily service with a set form of two fixed categories of prayers set to music: the Proper (texts that vary according to the day) and the Ordinary (texts that remain the same for every Mass).[3]  Other sacred music can be clearly distinguished by its lyrics, if not its form.  For example, Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Vitutum is a separate morality play with music (that is, not associated with a Mass).  The final chorus In principio omnes ends with a call to kneel in prayer.[4],[5]

Medieval secular music can also be distinguished by its lyrics, if it is a vocal work.  Poetic love songs were mainly performed by wandering minstrels, known as troubadours in southern France, trouveres in northern France; and Minnesingers in Germany.[6]

According to Stephen Rose, by the fourteenth century, songs had become increasingly polyphonic and closely associated with poetry.[7]

“Initially, their genres were named after poetic forms – the ballade, rondeau, virelai – but by the middle of the fifteenth century, song types such as the chanson or frottola used a variety of poetic forms.”[8]

Instrumental music seemed to perform a different role in Medieval society.  There is plenty of evidence in illustrations, sculptures, letters, and poems that instrumental music was an important source of entertainment during banquets and festivals, in taverns and on the streets.[9]  In the sense of its wide audience appeal, rather than its form, medieval instrumental music could also be described as popular music, as will be discussed later in this essay.  Not much of this music was notated; however, one surviving music manuscript is known as Le manuscript du roi, which includes eight dance tunes called ‘estampies’.  For example, La quarte estampie royal is in a fast triple meter that sounds quite different to medieval sacred music.[10],[11]

The medieval division between sacred and secular music on the basis of their forms and lyrics can be carried through to the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.  According to Fellerer and Brunner, ‘many of the liturgical types developed in the course of history still survive, whereas most secular musical forms developed contemporaneously are no longer a part of musical life’.[12]

A possible exception to this generalization is African-American spirituals or ‘gospel music’, which first appeared during the early Nineteenth Century.[13]  Although initially part of sacred worship, Gospel singing later became a key influence on jazz and ‘soul music’, as well as a form of popular music in itself.[14]  For instance, the familiar ‘call and response’ pattern of gospel music can be heard in Fletcher Henderson’s recording of King Porter Stomp, as shown in the following notation.[15],[16]

king porter stomp

The divides between popular music and art music are less clear.  According to Trevor Herbert, ‘popular music’ can have a number of meanings.  It can simply mean music that has mass appeal; or it can also mean a type of music that is different from ‘art music’ or that which is colloquially known as ‘classical music’.[17]  Herbert identifies a definitional problem in that within classical music, there is a relatively narrow period (1750-1820CE) that is known as ‘the classical period’.  He says that many academic writers avoid such problems by using the term ‘Western art music’ instead of classical music.[18]

Nineteenth-Century popular music is thought to have originated in the 1880s, with the mass publication of sheet music of popular songs for voice and piano by music publishers located on ‘Tin Pan Alley’, a single block on 28th Street of Manhattan, between Broadway and 5th Avenue.[19]  Tin Pan Alley symbolizes not only a type of music published between 1885 and around 1950, but also a style of production and promotion of popular music.[20]  Many of the popular songs published in Tin Pan Alley have since become mainstream jazz standards.

Andrew Ford traces the course of both art music and popular music over the last hundred years or so, linking the changes in these musics to historical events and other societal factors.[21]  He focusses on the harmonic development of each music and the influence that each had on the other.  Nevertheless, he declines to draw a clear distinction between art music and popular music on the basis of musical structure and content, noting that that in the twentieth century, these characteristics were very fluid or constantly changing.[22]  For example, I would suggest that the art music of Stravinsky in the early Twentieth Century was initially far more harmonically complex than popular music.  Yet in the latter half of the twentieth century, modern large ensemble jazz became almost as complex harmonically; for example, the beginning of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite.[23]

Gary Giddens’ book Visions of Jazz is a compendium of essays about 60 jazz musicians and singers ranging in genres from ragtime (W.C. Handy) to modern jazz (Joshua Redman).[24]  It traces of the transition of jazz from its origins as the traditional folk music of New Orleans, to popular swing music of worldwide appeal in the late 1930s, to the art music that modern jazz has become today.  So in that sense, over its 110 year history, jazz has belonged to all three broad musical categories – folk music, popular music and art music.

Giddens also alludes to some ‘crossovers’ between art music and jazz; for example, the author points to swing rhythms in the second half of the Arietta of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32.[25]

“In a remarkable two minute episode, he switches to a twelve-beat rhythm, implying an unmistakable backbeat in alternating thirty-second and sixty-fourth notes, an augury made all the explicit by a melodic and harmonic content that suggests (for example, the major to diminished harmonic change at III 14) the first phrase of ‘Muskrat Ramble’”.[26]

Another ‘crossover’ example is Maurice Ravel’s ‘Five O’Clock Foxtrot’ from his one act opera L’enfant et les sortileges.[27]  This piece sounds like an impression of 1920s popular dance music; and is somewhat reminiscent of the ‘symphonic jazz’ or pseudo-jazz of Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin that Ravel is said to have admired.[28]  The ‘symphonic jazz’ genre is typified by George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is now generally accepted as an art music composition; and is performed by symphony orchestras around the world, despite the earlier disdain of music critics such as Constant Lambert.[29],[30]  Yet on the other hand, Gershwin himself described jazz as ‘American folk music’.[31]

Later on in the 1950s, short-lived attempts were made at a more permanent fusion between jazz and art music, such as Gunther Schuller’s ‘Third Stream’ genre.[32]

Using these crossover examples, I have attempted to illustrate that there is no sharp dividing line between popular music and art music on the basis of form and musical content.  Another method of distinguishing between these categories of music is required.

Defining popular music as music that is neither art music nor folk music is circular and unhelpful.  Defining it as music that appeals to particular sections of society, such as younger generations, is also problematic.[33]

Tagg compares ‘popular’, ‘art’ and ‘folk’ music against a set of criteria related to the production, distribution and storage of the music; and the type of society in which the music occurs – rather than analysing its musical structure and content.  Using this method, he is able to distinguish each of the three types of music from the other two, shown by his following Figure 1.[34]

Fig. 1 Folk, art and popular music: an axiomatic triangle

CHARACTERISTIC

Folk

Music

Art

Music

Popular

Music

Produced and transmitted by

primarily professionals

 

x

x

primarily amateurs

x

 

 

Mass distribution

usual

 

 

x

unusual

x

x

 

Main mode of storage and distribution

oral transmission

x

 

 

musical notation

 

x

 

recorded sound

 

 

x

Type of society in which the category of music mostly occurs

nomadic or agrarian

x

 

 

agrarian or industrial

 

x

 

industrial

 

 

x

Written theory and aesthetics

uncommon

x

 

x

common

x

x

 

 

Composer / Author

anonymous

x

 

 

non-anonymous

 

x

x

Tagg’s argument is that_

“popular music cannot be analysed using only the traditional tools of musicology because popular music, unlike art music, is (1) conceived for mass distribution to large and often socio-culturally heterogeneous groups of listeners, (2) stored and distributed in non-written form, (3) only possible in an industrial monetary economy where it becomes a commodity and (4) in capitalist society, subject to the laws of free enterprise, according to which it should ideally sell as much as possible of as little as possible to as many as possible”.[35]

This paper was written in 1982 – before the present ‘Information Age’ and the global dissemination of popular music via the Internet, much of which is pirated; so his references to ‘industrial society’ and ‘industrial monetary economy’ are now outdated, in my view.  Indeed, Elizabeth Leach has recently suggested updated criteria for popular music, which include dissemination principally via the mass media; and production and uses of the music within other forms of popular culture.[36]

In conclusion, I think that some divides between the various broad categories of music can be identified.  Firstly, medieval sacred music can be distinguished from secular music on the basis of its forms and lyrics, a method of distinction that has carried through to the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, with the possible exception of African-American gospel music.  Secondly, popular music can be distinguished from art music, not so much by its forms and musical content; but by a set of criteria related to the production, distribution, use and storage of the music.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Scores

Anonymous. ‘La quarte estampie royal’, from Le manuscript du roi, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 55-56.

Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum: Closing chorus, In princio omnes. in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 36-37.

Morton, Ferdinand, ‘King Porter Stomp’, as recorded by Fletcher Henderson (1928), beginning of final strain transcribed by Fred Sturm, In Jeffry Magee, Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, 133.

Recordings

Anonymous. La quarte estampie royal, from Le manuscript du roi, Sinfonye. CD Hyperion records ℗1998.

Beethoven, Ludwig von. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111: II. Arietta: Adagio Molto Semplice e Cantabile, Glenn Gould, piano. mp3 file from CD album: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32, downloaded from iTunes, 9 April 2013.

Ellington, Edward. ‘Tourist Point of View’, from Far East Suite. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. CD BMG Music ℗1995 (Remastered).  

Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum, conclusion, In princio omnes. Sequentia, CD Deutsche Harmonia Mundi ℗1982.

Ravel, Maurice. Five O’Clock Foxtrot, Geoffrey Simon & Han De Vries with the Philharmonia Orchestra. CD Cala Records ©℗1991.

Gershwin, George. Rhapsody in Blue. Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra with George Gershwin, piano. Recorded New York, 10 June, 1924. mp3 file from CD album: 16 Classic Performances, downloaded from iTunes, 20 April 2009.

Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra. Recorded New York, 14 March 1928. CD A Study in Frustration/Thesaurus of Classic Jazz Disc 2. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. ©1994.

Journal articles

Tagg, Philip. ‘Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practice’, Popular Music 2 (1982): 37-65.

Books

Burnett, James. Ravel – his life and times. New York: Midas Books, 1983.

Fellerer, Karl Gustav and Brunner, Francis A. The History of Catholic Church Music. Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961.

Ford, Andrew. Illegal Harmonies – Music in the 20th Century. Sydney: ABC Books, 2002.

Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Hardie, Daniel. The Loudest Trumpet – Buddy Bolden and the Early History of Jazz. San Jose: toExcel, 2001.

Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lambert, Constant. Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1948.

Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 176-87.

Morgan, Robert P. Twentieth-Century Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Morgan, Thomas L. and Barlow, William. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls. Washington: Elliott & Clark, 1992.

Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 119-133.

Scheurer, Timothy E. (ed.) American Popular Music Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century Tin Pan Alley. Bowling Green : Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989.

***


[1] Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 123.

[2] Fellerer, Karl Gustav and Brunner, Francis A. The History of Catholic Church Music. Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961, 26.

[3] Rose, Stephen, ‘Early Music’, In An Introduction to Music Studies ,123.

[4] Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum: Closing chorus, In princio omnes, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 36-37.

[5] Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum, conclusion, In princio omnes. Sequentia, CD Deutsche Harmonia Mundi ℗1982.

[6] Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’, In An Introduction to Music Studies, 127.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Anonymous. ‘La quarte estampie royal’, from Le manuscript du roi, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 55-56.

[11] Anonymous. La quarte estampie royal, from Le manuscript du roi, Sinfonye. CD Hyperion records ℗1998.

[12] Fellerer and Brunner, The History of Catholic Church Music, 5.

[13] Morgan, Thomas L. and Barlow, William. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls. Washington: Elliott & Clark, 1992.

[14] Hardie, Daniel. The Loudest Trumpet – Buddy Bolden and the Early History of Jazz. San Jose: toExcel, 2001, 86-87.

[15] Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra. Recorded New York, 14 March 1928. CD A Study in Frustration/Thesaurus of Classic Jazz Disc 2. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. ©1994.

[16] Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp, as recorded by Fletcher Henderson (1928), beginning of final strain transcribed by Fred Sturm, In Jeffry Magee, Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, 133.

[17] Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 153.

[18] Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music, 137.

[19] Scheurer, Timothy E. (ed.) American Popular Music Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century – Tin Pan Alley. Bowling Green : Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989, 87.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ford, Andrew. Illegal Harmonies – Music in the 20th Century. Sydney: ABC Books, 2002.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ellington, Edward. ‘Tourist Point of View’, from Far East Suite. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. CD BMG Music ℗1995 (Remastered).

[24] Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

[25] Beethoven, Ludwig von. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111: II. Arietta: Adagio Molto Semplice e Cantabile, Glenn Gould, piano.

[26] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 9.

[27] Ravel, Maurice. Five O’Clock Foxtrot, Geoffrey Simon, Stephanie Chase, Han De Vries & Philharmonia Orchestra.

[28] Burnett, James. Ravel – his life and times. New York: Midas Books, 1983, 101.

[29] Gershwin, George. Rhapsody in Blue. Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra with George Gershwin, piano. Recorded New York, 10 June, 1924.

[30] Lambert, Constant. Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1948, 162-163.

[31] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 587.

[32] Morgan, Robert P. Twentieth-Century Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991, 416.

[33] Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 176-87.

[34] Tagg, Philip. ‘Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practice’, Popular Music 2 (1982): 4.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies, 189-190.

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