Music Networks PresentationPresentation Transcript
Networks in Music: Early 20 th Century America Eric Holmes Honors 204: Loyola University Chicago 9 December 2010
What makes US unique?
High immigration rates in the 19 th Century gave different cultures greater opportunities to interact; the fact that most immigrants during this time settled in cities pushed this even further.
Those immigrating to the U.S. are mostly lower class; idea transfer in Europe up to this time has mostly been confined to the upper classes.
Perhaps most important: interaction between blacks and whites in the U.S. had a character completely unique to the region.
Immigration in the late 19 th Century
Due to disasters such as the Potato Famine in Ireland or the 1848 Revolutions in the German Empire, large “bursts” of Irish and German immigrants.
Immigration is mostly from Northern and Western Europe: in the 1860s, 3.7 million out of 4.1 million immigrants to the United States were from Northern and Western Europe. Nearly 2.2. million (more than half) were from the British Isles.
The greatest transformations in the U.S. musical network began after the Civil War, when traditions of African music began to freely integrate with other cultures in America.
This actually began before the Civil War: African-American Work Songs combined African rhythmic figures with Scottish and Irish religious melodies. (an example from 1960, though likely not very different from a 19 th Century song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oms6o8m4axg)
Styles outside of African Influence
The U.S. was developing its own musical character before blending with African influences.
Folk music from musicians’ native regions (mostly the British Isles) evolved into Appalachian music, a folk music with a regional character reflecting the American landscape.
Perhaps the greatest recognizable music form pre-African influence is the March, a type of music revolutionized by John Philip Sousa.
Early African forms
Work songs were used by African slaves often as a way to keep their motion constant (for example, a slave might sing a slow song while rowing a boat to keep the oar steady). This tradition is present in many Western African tribes, particularly those with agricultural practices.
African folk music influenced the melodies and rhythms of these songs. Additionally, they often would influence the folk music of America. (video of Joli folk music played on an Akonting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GJpFX2AXG0)
Early African Forms
Spirituals were the next step for work songs. They used similar rhythmic and melodic figures, but their texts were often more personal, related to ideas of freedom or suffering.
Gospel was an evolution of the spiritual with texts containing more biblical allusions.
These forms are unique to African-American Christians in the United States.
The “Mocking” Styles
A later, almost independent African style of music and dance was the Cakewalk, a dance that parodied the way whites supposedly danced. The music itself was a parody of European music, using African rhythmic patterns. (a cakewalk dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQVLuR7jj8Q )
Likewise, whites had Minstrel Shows, by far the most popular artform in America up through the early 20 th Century. Performers wore blackface and performed songs that likely drew from African influence, as well as Irish and Scottish folk music influence.
Blues and Ragtime
Blues likely evolved simultaneously with gospel; both share rhythmic and harmonic patterns.
Like gospel, blues has its direct origins in the spiritual. The lyrics tended to reflect some hardship, and the unique notes in the “blues scale” had been used in the scales of early African-American songs.
Ragtime was in many ways a progression of the cakewalk; it parodied “white” song structures—in this case, Sousa’s marches are clear influences—and incorporate African polyrhythmic figures.
Blues and Ragtime together shaped music in North America up to the present.
New Orleans marching bands would incorporate ragtime rhythms into their marches, spawning the new genre of “Dixieland” music and eventually giving way to what became Jazz.
Blues would find its way to Appalachia, where folk musicians would combine blues motifs with Appalachian folk songs to produce Country Music.
Later in the Century, blues guitarists would experiment with different forms and create Rock and Roll.
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