Tag Archives: musicology

Ancient Greek music: now we finally know what it sounded like

The Conversation

File 20180730 106502 1yjy0gz.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Wikimedia Commons

Armand D’Angour, University of Oxford

In 1932, the musicologist Wilfrid Perrett reported to an audience at the Royal Musical Association in London the words of an unnamed professor of Greek with musical leanings: “Nobody has ever made head or tail of ancient Greek music, and nobody ever will. That way madness lies.”

Roman mosaic with aulos player.
Wikimedia Commons

Indeed, ancient Greek music has long posed a maddening enigma. Yet music was ubiquitous in classical Greece, with most of the poetry from around 750BC to 350BC – the songs of Homer, Sappho, and others – composed and performed as sung music, sometimes accompanied by dance. Literary texts provide abundant and highly specific details about the notes, scales, effects, and instruments used. The lyre was a common feature, along with the popular aulos, two double-reed pipes played simultaneously by a single performer so as to sound like two powerful oboes played in concert.

Despite this wealth of information, the sense and sound of ancient Greek music has proved incredibly elusive. This is because the terms and notions found in ancient sources – mode, enharmonic, diesis, and so on – are complicated and unfamiliar. And while notated music exists and can be reliably interpreted, it is scarce and fragmentary. What could be reconstructed in practice has often sounded quite strange and unappealing – so ancient Greek music had by many been deemed a lost art.

An older reconstruction of ancient Greek music.

But recent developments have excitingly overturned this gloomy assessment. A project to investigate ancient Greek music that I have been working on since 2013 has generated stunning insights into how ancient Greeks made music. My research has even led to its performance – and hopefully, in the future, we’ll see many more such reconstructions.

New approaches

The situation has changed largely because over the past few years some very well preserved auloi have been reconstructed by expert technicians such as Robin Howell and researchers associated with the European Music Archaeology Project. Played by highly skilled pipers such as Barnaby Brown and Callum Armstrong, they provide a faithful guide to the pitch range of ancient music, as well as to the instruments’ own pitches, timbres, and tunings.

Central to ancient song was its rhythms, and the rhythms of ancient Greek music can be derived from the metres of the poetry. These were based strictly on the durations of syllables of words, which create patterns of long and short elements. While there are no tempo indications for ancient songs, it is often clear whether a metre should be sung fast or slow (until the invention of mechanical chronometers, tempo was in any case not fixed, and was bound to vary between performances). Setting an appropriate tempo is essential if music is to sound right.

Apollo plays the lyre. Wikimedia Commons

What about the tunes – the melody and harmony? This is what most people mean when they claim that ancient Greek “music” is lost. Thousands of words about the theory of melody and harmony survive in the writings of ancient authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Aristoxenus, Ptolemy, and Aristides Quintilianus; and a few fragmentary scores with ancient musical notation first came to light in Florence in the late 16th century. But this evidence for actual music gave no real sense of the melodic and harmonic riches that we learn of from literary sources.

More documents with ancient notation on papyrus or stone have intermittently come to light since 1581, and now around 60 fragments exist. Carefully compiled, transcribed, and interpreted by scholars such as Martin West and Egert Pöhlmann, they give us a better chance of understanding how the music sounded.

Ancient Greek music performed

The earliest substantial musical document, found in 1892, preserves part of a chorus from the Athenian tragedian Euripides’ Orestes of 408BC. It has long posed problems for interpretation, mainly owing to its use of quarter-tone intervals, which have seemed to suggest an alien melodic sensibility. Western music operates with whole tones and semitones; any smaller interval sounds to our ears as if a note is being played or sung out of tune.

Musical fragment from Orestes by Euripides. Wikimedia Commons

But my analyses of the Orestes fragment, published earlier this year, led to striking insights. First, I demonstrated that elements of the score clearly indicate word-painting – the imitation of the meaning of words by the shape of the melodic line. We find a falling cadence set to the word “lament”, and a large upward interval leap accompanying the word “leaps up”.

Second, I showed that if the quarter-tones functioned as “passing-notes”, the composition was in fact tonal (focused on a pitch to which the tune regularly reverts). This should not be very surprising, as such tonality exists in all the documents of ancient music from later centuries, including the large-scale Delphic Paeans preserved on stone.

With these premises in view, in 2016 I reconstructed the music of the Orestes papyrus for choral realisation with aulos accompaniment, setting a brisk tempo as indicated by the metre and the content of the chorus’s words. This Orestes chorus was performed by choir and aulos-player at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in July 2017, together with other reconstructed ancient scores.

It remains for me to realise, in the next few years, the other few dozen ancient scores that exist, many extremely fragmentary, and to stage a complete ancient drama with historically informed music in an ancient theatre such as that of Epidaurus.

The ConversationMeanwhile, an exciting conclusion may be drawn. The Western tradition of classical music is often said to begin with the Gregorian plainsong of the 9th century AD. But the reconstruction and performance of Greek music has demonstrated that ancient Greek music should be recognised as the root of the European musical tradition.

Armand D’Angour, Associate Professor in Classics, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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On the Banks of the Tigris – a documentary that traces the forgotten history of Iraqi music

The Conversation

Robyn Sloggett, University of Melbourne

Decoupling people from their culture is a perennial tactic in war. The millions of Syrian refugees now seeking asylum across Europe retain little of their material culture, and within Syria cultural material is targeted for destruction. But people’s stories, songs and music do not need suitcases to survive, and it is worth being reminded that war is transient, regimes pass, but culture and identity are shared, enduring and powerful constructions.

In March, I was part of the audience invited to a screening of an extraordinary film, On the Banks of the Tigris (2015) – the product of 10 years of vision, belief, and sheer hard work by documentary filmmaker Marsha Emerman and Iraqi-Australian writer and actor Majid Shokor. The film chronicles Majid’s journey to reconnect with the music he loved as a child and which he heard in coffeehouses, on the radio and in the markets of Baghdad.

Last month, the film was awarded Best Documentary Film at the Baghdad International Film Festival. The award celebrates the resilience, in the face of relentless attack, of the people who create, nurture and preserve cultural identity.

On the Banks of the Tigris is, at its heart, the story of culture triumphing over regime. It presents Iraq as a significant multicultural centre, where Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions were welded together in a unique Iraqi culture that today appears almost utopian.

It explores the influence of Iraqi Jewish musicians in the cultural life of Iraq, charting their passage from Baghdad to Israel, from celebrity to anonymity. And it reflects on Majid’s own journey as a refugee from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, and the journeys of so many like him.

In Australia, the memory of the music of his childhood leads Majid to explore its history and to uncover the extraordinary truth that much of this music, still loved by Iraqis, was composed and performed by Iraqi Jews. This revelation takes Majid from Australia to Israel, Europe and Iraq to meet Iraqi-Jewish musicians, and other great Iraqi musicians, and to learn their stories.

Kawkab Hamza, one of Iraq’s most famous songwriters in the 1960s, explains how the then Vice President, Saddam Hussein, contrived to erase the names of Jewish composers and other musicians unsympathetic to the regime. Refusing Saddam Hussein’s “invitation” in 1973 to join a committee to “review Iraqi musical heritage”, Hamza fled the country, with devastating results for himself and his family.

Yair Dalal and Majid Shokor. Fruitful Films.

In Israel Majid hears acclaimed composer, violinist, oud player, and singer Yair Dalal. Born in Israel to Iraqi-Jewish parents, Dalal performs traditional Iraqi music as well as his own compositions and teaches Iraqi music to young Israelis. “Arab” music, once dismissed in Israel, is now all the rage, an irony not lost on Dalal or those students from Arab-Jewish backgrounds.

Ahmed Mukhtar master oud player. Fruitful Films.

In the UK, Majid meets master oud player Ahmed Mukhtar, a composer and recording artist, born in Baghdad but a political refugee in the UK where he teaches oud and Arabic music theory at the University of London.

Farida Mohammad Ali.

In the Netherlands, Majid watches Farida Mohammad Ali, the first woman teacher at the Baghdad Institute of Music and considered the greatest living interpreter of Iraqi maqam singing, perform with the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble.

The film culminates with a celebratory and jubilant concert at London’s Barbican Centre, thus realising Majid’s ambition to bring Iraqi musicians of all faiths together again.

Regimes dislike culture that is not theirs to own. They dislike the contradictions inherent in cultural production: the mercuriality and immutability of cultural identity, the recklessness and cautiousness of cultural activity.

Regimes also dislike culture that is presented in a language they cannot understand. This dislike often manifests in attacks on the people who create, nurture and protect culture: the murder of the great Chilean singer Victor Jara; of Oromo musician and poet Ebisa Adunya; or more recently of the traditional Syrian folksinger Ibrahim Kashoush, or the great Palmyra archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad.

Baghdad Radio Orchestra. Fruitful Films.

Asylum and relocation are leitmotifs that run throughout the film. In the 1930s, Jewish Iraqis comprised a third of the population of Baghdad. By the late 1960s most had fled. As a young aspiring actor, Majid was forced to flee Saddam’s regime with his wife and two young daughters in 1995. In Australia singing songs from his childhood helped retain his links to the Iraq he loved.

A world away in Israel, elderly diasporic Iraqi-Jewish musicians meet regularly to play this music for the same reason.

On the Banks of the Tigris is an extraordinary story of cultural resilience and identity. When war and conflict dominate the news, this film reminds us that real heroes play music, tell stories, and, in this case, make films.

On the Banks of the Tigris will screen in Sydney on November 8 and in Melbourne on November 12 and 15 as part of the Jewish International Film Festival. Details here.

The ConversationRobyn Sloggett, Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Obama’s Amazing Grace shows how music can lift oratory high

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Liam Viney, The University of Queensland

Where words leave off, so music begins – Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

Amazing grace, amazing grace … (trailing off). Amazing grace, how sweet the sound (now singing) – Barack Obama, 2015.

Barely a week after Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch provided a problematic example of music in the political sphere, Barack Obama’s eulogy at the Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral in Charleston, South Carolina on the weekend provided the polar opposite; an example of how music can propel oratory into regions of meaning and impact that most politicians can only dream of.

To be sure, the two events are categorically distinct on many levels; Trump’s campaign launch (likely attended by paid actors) sits firmly in the political sphere (or the commedia dell’arte sphere, depending on your viewpoint), whereas a funeral, even one freighted with political issues, connects with music more readily through the raw and exposed emotional nerve endings of the people in attendance.

Yet music played a fascinating role at both events, and in each case, context was everything. Unlike the Trump campaign launch, however, Obama’s most recent public musical moment (there have been others) has reverberated positively around the world.

Only a hard heart could fail to respond on some emotional level when the President of the United States of America, eulogising at one of the most emotionally and racially charged funerals in US history, started singing Amazing Grace.

Only blindness could deny the power of witnessing the US’s first president of colour break into song, powerfully illustrating his connection to one of the most musically rich religious communities on Earth (the African American Church generally), galvanising an entire nation into finding strength in a time of great need.

Obama’s words alone that day would have been enough to inspire awe. His performance approached the emotional intensity of a sermon, and subsequent speakers were compelled to anoint him “Reverend President”.

Compared to the anodyne and anaemic cultural engagement leaders of most Western neo-liberal democracies exhibit, it was hard not to be transported back to the heady days of Obama’s election win in 2008 by the centred charisma he showed onstage.

The power of the moment

Near the end of an almost 40-minute eulogy, after a perfectly-judged rhetorical crescendo, Obama paused, bowed his head, and gently launched into a rendition of the first verse of Amazing Grace:

Obama sings Amazing Grace.

A re-reading of the names of the shooting victims follows, and the climax of the eulogy is reached. Many news stories that feature video of the event cut into the moment a split-second before Obama sings, and only some include the subsequent reading of names.

But to fully understand the power of the moment, it’s worth going further back into the text of the eulogy.

The theme of grace, God’s grace here, was threaded throughout. And like a great symphonist embarking on a lengthy musical journey, Obama drops his theme right at the beginning: the first thing he’d noticed upon meeting Rev. Pinckney had been his “graciousness”.

Obama builds his theme

After beautifully describing the Reverend’s biographical embodiment of graciousness, Obama pivots from the personal to the general.

As Pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pinckney was profoundly connected to the history of African American religious culture. The references to history open the door to a political dimension, which comes a bit later.

He then twice describes the alleged killer as “blinded” by hatred, saying “he would not see the grace” of the people he would soon murder. Obama was clearly building his rhetoric around the last line of the first verse of Amazing Grace:

was blind, but now I see.

Obama then explicitly refers to grace as the central theme of the eulogy:

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.

He quotes lines from Amazing Grace, described the local community’s reaction as graceful, and referred to the grace shown by the victims’ relatives upon facing the alleged killer.

Pondering the opportunity grace provides further, Obama again uses blindness to bring up a list of acutely painful issues for American society: blindness to the pain cause by the Confederate flag, to the role of past injustice in present-day problems, to poverty, to endemic problems in education and employment, to the criminal justice system, to recent problems with law enforcement, and to voting issues.

Ultimately though, it is gun violence that Obama settles on. He implores Americans to approach the issue with open hearts, to find “reservoirs of goodness” that will allow grace to emerge.

He then says:

If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.

He trails off. Then he pauses.

The pause generates electricity, it suggests something is about to happen, and it makes people listen. Like musicians who don’t begin a performance until an audience has fully settled, Obama wants silence in the space before music.

In lesser hands, this moment could have been a corny disaster, and as an artistic moment, people are free to find it such. Critical discussion in most of the press, however, seems to have judged it a success – testament to Obama’s consummate skill as a political performer.

Don’t forget, Obama had just spoken the words “amazing grace” twice, and trailed off. When he then started singing Amazing Grace, he was literally re-creating Heine’s philosophical perspective on music’s post-linguistic status. Adding melody the on the third repetition was not only a great segue, but at a fundamental dramatic, theatrical, and philosophical level, pretty clever.

Many things then happen in quick succession. The church leaders behind him spontaneously beam, voice their pleasure at what is happening, and stand to join in. The congregation, surprised to find itself feeling so good about what is happening (it is a funeral after all) doesn’t cheer so much as collectively smile audibly, then sings too. The musicians figure out what key he is in and improvise an accompaniment (almost certainly unscripted).

Of course there are some who may have reacted negatively.

Amazing Grace is so ubiquitous as to almost warrant cliché status. The 18th-century English slave-owner turned abolitionist John Newton penned the words, and the melody we know today has been associated with those words since the 1830s and the Second Great Awakening. Used ever since in countless different contexts, especially since the 1950s, Amazing Grace is in danger of losing its power thanks to over-familiarity.

For the purposes of this eulogy, however, the singing of Amazing Grace was a perfect tool to take the political message into stratospheric emotional territory.

Three classic notes

The opening three notes outline the most ubiquitous structure in post-1600 Western music – the major triad. But they are arranged in a particular way: the first note, sung to “ah-”, is not the strongest of the three notes, but it leads into the most structurally stable, sung to “-maz-”.

The rhythmically longer “-maaaaz-” mirrors the way we speak the word when we want to emphasise it – as in, “wasn’t that speech amaaazing”.

By the third note on “zing”, we certainly know which song we’re hearing. These three notes resonate on deeper levels for anyone familiar with American music of the past. Just one example: Aaron Copland’s seminal Appalachian Spring (1944) is built on the same material, derived in turn from the opening figure to the traditional Shaker song Simple Gifts.

These three notes, outlining what’s called a second-inversion triad, create a beautiful, open sound. It’s this open sound that Copland uses throughout Appalachian Spring to depict the vast openness of possibility represented by the story of young pioneer love in the original ballet, and it’s the same open sound that gives Amazing Grace the open heartedness that Obama was campaigning for in his words about gun violence.

Back to Obama’s singing: another thing happens on “zing” – Obama sings a bit flat. Naturally, as a singer without formal training, who has had certain other things to attend to recent years, he may have just not have the best singing technique. Intonation insecurity and dubiously executed melismata were balanced by an undeniable connection to African American musical culture. That flatness was very likely Obama channelling the blues.

These observations pale in comparison to the overall impact this part of the eulogy delivers. It is thanks to the way music lifts the words about grace out of the quotidian, that Obama can then ride a wave of emotion to the end of the eulogy.

He goes through the names of the dead again, appending “found that grace” to each name, in a full and passionate voice. The soaring effect he creates builds on the music we just heard. “That grace” is a grace that’s had new and deeper meaning conferred upon it by the song.

His reading of each name is a righteous call, in full sermon mode, and the audience responds each time in a cathartic final acknowledgement of the victims. The musicians continue to riff, accompanying the whole antiphonal interaction, commenting on Obama’s words right to the end.

This subtle musical background ensures the emotional vibration continues and elevates the final moments of the eulogy.

By this stage Obama has carried the congregation into the realm of truly powerful communication, underpinned by a musically-accessed emotional state.

The way in which the Obama let music take over where “words left off” demonstrates music’s capacity for consolation in a profoundly important way. And it is salutary to consider that only a culture that understands music, that knows music, that values music, and that realises it needs music, will be able to benefit from it in this way.

If people were moved by Barack Obama’s eulogy, it was ultimately music, as much as God’s grace, that made them see.

The ConversationLiam Viney is Piano Performance Fellow at The University of Queensland. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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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.

Copyright notice: © All rights reserved. Except for personal use or as permitted under the Australian Copyright Act, no part of this website may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, communicated or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission. All inquiries should be made to the copyright owner, Tim Harding at tim.harding@yandoo.com, or as attributed on individual blog posts.

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Hot Syncopated Rarities of the 1920s & 30s

by Tim Harding

2-CD Album: ‘Hot Syncopated Rarities of the 1920s & 30s’ (VJAZZ 029). Australian Jazz Museum, Wantirna.

Since its establishment in June 1996, the Australian Jazz Museum (incorporating the Victorian Jazz Archive) has amassed a huge collection of jazz recordings and memorabilia.  The main aim is to collect and store jazz music performed and/or composed by Australian musicians; but the AJM also houses recordings of jazz produced outside Australia, to be used as a reference source.  The bulk of the overseas recordings have been generously bequeathed to the AJM as part of deceased estates.

In recent years, the AJM has issued some 31 CD albums of recordings from this collection on its own VJAZZ label.  ‘Hot Syncopated Rarities of the 1920s & 30s’ (VJAZZ 029) is the AJM’s first album of overseas recordings and hopefully not the last.  It is an excellent selection of 48 tracks (24 on each CD), recorded between March 1926 and March 1940.  The cover notes say that this period was chosen firstly to avoid the earlier low-fi acoustic recordings prior to 1926 and secondly to avoid the less rare recordings made after 1940.

Most of the recordings are indeed relatively rare – for instance, I already had only half a dozen of the 48 tracks in my collection, which is reasonably comprehensive from this period.  To me, this implies that many of these recordings may not have previously been reissued on CD.  All tracks are American except for six recorded in London, UK; and almost all of the American tracks were recorded in New York.

Well known bandleaders include Red Nichols, Frankie Trumbauer, Eddie Condon, Fletcher Henderson, Harry Reser, Sam Lanin, Ben Pollack, Ambrose, Nat Shilkret, Ted Weems and Ben Bernie.  Even some of the lesser known bands have stars such as Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti in them.

The AJM has ‘cleaned up’ the original 78 RPM records from its collection by removing annoying surface noise; but otherwise the tracks do not sound is if they have been extensively graphic equalised or interfered with.  The resulting audio quality sounds like that from 78s in very good condition, which I think is a good audio standard to aim for.

I also think that there is a good musical quality in the tracks selected.  Jazz purists might prefer to classify some of the tracks as ‘hot dance’ rather than jazz, but to my ears they all have a jazz feel to them.  The AJM has used Brian Rust’s discography ‘Jazz Records 1897-1942’ as a guide to both jazz classification and recording personnel.  There are no insipid best forgotten commercial pop songs amongst them; and many of the so-called hot dance tracks contain some good ad lib jazz solos.

In my view, the best jazz solos on this album include those by trumpeter Henry Red Allen (Sweet Sue, Yellow Dog Blues); trombonists Jack Teagarden (Makin’ Friends, Monday Morning), Miff Mole (My Blue Heaven) and Dickie Wells (Sweet Sue); clarinetist Buster Bailey (Lorna Doone Shortbread); tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (Sweet Sue); bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini (No Foolin’); and tubist Joe Tarto (Hittin’ the Ceiling and Just the Same).

There are a couple of 8-bar cornet solos by Bix Beiderbecke on Frankie Trumbauer’s My Sweeter than Sweet, recorded on 19 October 1929Bix also plays quietly behind Smith Ballew’s vocal, but this recording is not amongst Bix’s best work, in my view.  Joe ‘King’ Oliver solos on muted cornet in Blue Blood Blues (1929) by Blind Willie Dunn’s Gin Bottle Four, but once again, this is not Oliver’s best work.

Roughly half the tracks have a vocal chorus on them, but whilst adequate, the singing is not particularly memorable.  Unlike many of the instrumental solos, the vocals sound more ‘dance band’ than jazz.  A couple of exceptions are Jenny’s Ball (1931) sung in a classic jazz style by Mamie Smith, and Wipe ‘em Off (1929) sung by Clarence Williams.  Interestingly, Clarence also plays jug on the latter track where the pianist is Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith.

One track of historical interest is Skeleton Jangle recorded in 1936 by a reunion of the 1917 Original Dixieland Jazz Band, with a different pianist.  Whether by accident or design, the 1936 band sounds remarkably similar to the 1917 band, but with better audio quality.

This album is available for purchase online from the Australian Jazz Museum at: http://vicjazzarchive.org.au/

The current online price for this 2-CD album is $25 plus packing and postage, which is very good value in my opinion.

Disclosure: Tim Harding is a life member and former board member of the AJM when it was the Victorian Jazz Archive.


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Way Down Yonder in New South Wales

(This review was published in Jazzline magazine,
Vol. 47 No. 1, Autumn/Winter 2014).

CD Review by Tim Harding

Album: Way Down Yonder in New South Wales Volume 2* – A wide ranging selection of rare early jazz recordings in Australia’s oldest state’ (FJM-039). The Jack Mitchell Library, Lithgow.

This compilation CD has been put together by the Australian jazz collector and discographer, Jack Mitchell.  It is an interesting cross-section of early Australian jazz and hot dance music, recorded in Sydney between the years 1926 and 1961, but mainly in the 1940s and 50s. The bands range in size from the traditional 6 or 7 piece groups led by Ray Price to the larger swing band format of Jim Davidson and his Orchestra.

way down yonder

The first thing a listener can’t help noticing is the low-fi audio on most (but not all) of the tracks on this album.  Ironically, at least 6 of the tracks were recorded live on tape by the late Robert Parker.  It doesn’t sound as if any of the original recordings have been remastered; and this detracts from the listening experience in some cases.  Nevertheless, most of the tracks are likely to be of interest to jazz historians and collectors.

The obvious next question is whether the music is good enough to justify a future effort of audio restoration, which can be a difficult and painstaking exercise, as remasterers tell me.  My answer would be ‘yes’; although some tracks are musically more worthy than others.

The star of the album is undoubtedly the youthful Bob Barnard on cornet.  When he recorded the Louis Armstrong flag wavers Cornet Chop Suey and Ole Miss Rag** with the Paramount Jazz Band at the Sydney Jazz Club in 1957, he would have been only 24 years old.  It must have been thrilling in those days for jazz aficionados to hear some of Louis’ hottest early solos played live.  Bob also plays on six tracks with the Ray Price Trio and friends – these are Chicago, 2.19 Blues, Stardust, My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms, If I Could Be With You and Someday You’ll Be Sorry.

The other stand-out soloist, in my view, is Bob Cruickshanks on alto sax.  Bob also plays clarinet on the album, but his alto solos with Ray Price on Chicago and Someday You’ll Be Sorry are beautifully melodic.  Norm Wyatt places a lyrical trombone solo on If I Could Be With You, indicating some Jack Teagarden influences.

The two opening tracks on the album were acoustically recorded in 1926 by The Palais Royal Californians, who apparently were the first professional American jazz band to visit Australia.  That Certain Party sounds datedly ‘ricky-tick’, and probably would not qualify as jazz without the ad lib solos by Australians Frank Coughlan on trombone and Ern Pettifer on baritone sax.  The Paul Mares/Ferd Morton composition Milenberg Joys is played about twice as fast as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings version of 1923 and comes complete with barnyard novelty noises.

Jim Davidson’s Eventide – A Mood is vaguely reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, even down to the brief Duke-like piano interlude.  It was recorded in November 1933 alongside Davidson’s far better known (and better sound quality) Original Dixieland One Step, which is also on the album.

There is a swinging 27-second excerpt from a film short by a wartime army bigband called the Waratahs.  The track is titled ‘One O’Clock Jump’, but it sounds to me like Bugle Call Rag.  Then a mainstream quartet featuring Merv Acheson on tenor sax plays Study on the Jump Notes apparently recorded for a 1943 radio broadcast.  Lester Young and Count Basie have been obvious influences here.

The Port Jackson Jazz Band recording of I’m Nobody’s Sweetheart Now in 1947 features Ken Flannery on cornet instead of Bob Barnard.  Bob Cruickshanks plays a decent solo on clarinet but I do prefer his alto playing.  Ken Flannery later appears on trumpet in two tracks recorded by the Les Welch Orchestra.  These are West End Blues recorded in 1951 and Back Back Baby of 1956, which includes a vocal by Les Welch and a clarinet solo by Don Burrows.  (Les Welch was the founder of Festival Records, and claims to have pressed the first 78 rpm shellac disc and the first 33 rpm long-playing record in Australia).

Don Burrows and Errol Buddle (tenor sax) play some nice solos on the final track The Craven A Theme by Bob Gibson’s Dixie Group, which also includes George Golla on guitar.  Apart from the solos, this track is not particularly memorable.

In its current form, this album is primarily one for jazz historians and collectors.  However, after some decent audio restoration and remastering, it could also be an album enjoyed by the general jazz listener.

Endnotes

*The album front cover says ‘Volume One’; whereas the back cover, the spine and the disc itself are labelled as Volume 2.

** W.C. Handy’s Ole Miss Rag is listed as ‘Blues (Rent Party??)’ in the cover notes.

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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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