Music In African American Life

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Music In African American Life

  1. 1. Music in African-American Life Section II (18-31)
  2. 2. Regional Differences <ul><li>Blacks brought African melodies, rhythms, and instrumental techniques to America as slaves </li></ul><ul><li>When slaves lived around Whites, they fused multiple styles of music </li></ul><ul><li>Economic differences of Northern and Southern life led them to develop different musical styles and traditions </li></ul>
  3. 3. Characteristics of African Music <ul><li>Enslaved Africans usually came from West/Central Africa, like Niger, Angola, and Nigeria </li></ul><ul><li>Great variety of ethnic variety and musical styles from these regions </li></ul><ul><li>In African culture, music was a part of everyday life, not performed for a passive audience </li></ul><ul><li>Music was a big part of ceremonial rituals, festivals, war preparations, religion, work, and social activities </li></ul>There is without doubt, no people on the earth more naturally affected to the sound of musicke than these people; which the principall persons do hol das an ornament of their state, so as when wee come to see them their musicke will seldome be wanting… Also, if at any time the Kings or principall persons come unto us trading in the River, they will have their musicke playing before them, and will follow in order after their manner, presenting a shew of state. *Richard Jobson on Native Africans
  4. 4. Dance in African Culture <ul><li>Dance/Movement was closely related with African music </li></ul><ul><li>Formation of a circle for singing and dancing continued to slave congregations </li></ul>Dancing is the Diversio nof their Evenings: Men and Women make a Ring in an open part of the Town, and one at a time shews his Skill in antick motions and gesticulations, yet with a great deal of agility, the Company making the Musick by clapping their hands together during the time, helped by the louder noise of two or three Drums made of a hollowed piece of Tree, and covered with Kid-Skin. Sometimes they are all round in a Circle laughing, and with uncouth Notes, blame or praise somebody iun the Company.
  5. 5. African Cultural Music Composition <ul><li>Most percussion instruments (bells, rattles, xylophones) </li></ul><ul><li>Drums of various kinds usually played in groups and led by a master drummer </li></ul><ul><li>Drum rhythm guided dancing and singing. </li></ul><ul><li>Just as some tribal language where pitch guided meaning in speech, drums were often pitched and used to communicate over long distances </li></ul><ul><li>Cultures used body as percussion instrument, something continued by slave music later on </li></ul><ul><li>Plucked string instruments were often used, and may provide insight into why banjos were popular during slave times. </li></ul>
  6. 6. African Musical Construction <ul><li>Melodies contained multiple repetitions of a short musical unit, with the melody or the text varied each time </li></ul><ul><li>Call and Response structure: alternations between a solo singer and a small group singing the refrain </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Parts could overlap and create a polyphonic texture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Song leader would embellish the melody or adapt the text, while the chorus text and melody remained constant. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A simultaneous improvisation could create a heterophonic texture. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>African music placed more emphasis on complex rhythmic patterns, using syncopation and polyrhythms, than that of Europe at the time. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Layered vocal parts could create a form of syncopation as well </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Antebellum Free Black Musicians <ul><li>Free blacks usually lived in urban centers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Baltimore, DC, Richmond, Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans, Boston, NY, Philly had large black populations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Urban free blacks did have access to formal musical instruction, and were, at times, familiar with European musical styles and genres </li></ul>
  8. 8. Free Blacks in Philadelphia <ul><li>By 1790, Philadelphia had 1420 free blacks, the largest of any US city </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Probably helped by the anti-slavery Quakers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Richard Allen (preacher) was the first African-American liscensed to preach in the USA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Published “A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Collected From Various Authors” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Philly was a big player in the underground railroad </li></ul><ul><li>By 1841, wealthy blacks could live at least similarly to their white peers </li></ul><ul><li>African-American women sang and performed on the harpsichord, pianoforte, guitar, etc., just like whites </li></ul><ul><li>By 1849, Philadelphia was home to 32 professional black musicians, including: </li></ul>
  9. 9. Frank Johnson (1792-1844) <ul><li>Black dance orchestras and concert bands existed in many large cities. </li></ul><ul><li>Frank Johnson’s band would become the first American band (regardless of race) to earn an international reputation. </li></ul><ul><li>He began his career as a violin player, but also learned to play the bugle, where he thrived. </li></ul><ul><li>Would “distort” songs: improvising; leaving standard form </li></ul>
  10. 10. Frank Johnson (1792-1844) <ul><li>Johnson started the Coloured Black Band in 1821, consisting of a fife, bass and side drums, and his Bugle. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Militaristic instrumentation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Band eventually grew to 20 members and was invited to play for many whites </li></ul><ul><li>The CBB was the first American band to travel to London </li></ul><ul><li>Johnson composed over 200 selections </li></ul><ul><li>Johnson was popular in churches, and performed in the first integrated concert in the US </li></ul>
  11. 11. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (1824-1876) <ul><li>Born a Mississippi slave, but was taken to Philadelphia as an infant. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Raised in a Quaker household </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Nicknamed the “Black Swan,” After being compared to Jenny Lind (the “Swedish Nightingale” </li></ul><ul><li>Her audience was all white, which was odd for a black performer </li></ul><ul><li>Became the first African-American concert singer to ear recognition in both Europe and the US </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She sang for Queen Victoria in England </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Religious Traditions <ul><li>Most Africans believed in some form of ultimate creator, and that spirits helped control the universe </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They all valued the influence of their ancestors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Second Great Awakening led to motivation to convert slaves to Christianity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Churches designating seating sections for blacks </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blacks in northern cities started their own congregations </li></ul>
  13. 13. Camp Meetings <ul><li>Religious service originating with the preaching of the circuit riders (itinerant ministers who traveled on horseback to preach across the frontier) </li></ul><ul><li>Gatherings held outdoors under a large tent or structure </li></ul><ul><li>Both blacks and whites attended </li></ul><ul><li>Sang “spiritual songs,” usually not written down, but with catchy tunes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similar phrases and choruses could be shared between spirituals, called Wandering Refrains </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Syncopation and “blue notes” also used </li></ul>
  14. 14. Dance Houses <ul><li>Black musicians played in the Five Points district of New York City, they played a more popular less European style. </li></ul><ul><li>Dickens's Place was a hall where black musicians played and whites attended. </li></ul><ul><li>George Foster commented on the unconventional playing loud trumpets bass drum player hitting numerous notes use of syncopation… </li></ul>
  15. 15. Religion and Black Experience <ul><li>Second Great Awakening led to converting and access to religion for free blacks. </li></ul><ul><li>All black congregations grew in number and music was focused around the church. </li></ul><ul><li>Richard Allen est. the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1801 for blacks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He later published the first hymn book specifically for black congregations: A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Collected From Various Authors </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Music of Southern Slaves <ul><li>Slave owners encouraged musical activity. </li></ul><ul><li>Slaves would play both in service of whites (at balls, parties, etc.) and for their own enjoyment </li></ul><ul><li>Few slaves could read or write musical notation </li></ul><ul><li>Frequent improvisation and variation made documentation of this music difficult </li></ul>
  17. 17. Southern Slave Composition <ul><li>Mostly homemade instruments </li></ul><ul><li>Most common instruments on plantations were the fiddle and the banjo </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fiddle: Folk version of the violin. Associated with European tradition. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Banjo: Guitar-ish. Adaptation of African instruments. Most associated with southern blacks. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Drums were outlawed by whites so slaves couldn’t use them to send messages. </li></ul><ul><li>Slaves used their bodies as percussion instrument known as “patting juba” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ done by placing one foot a little in advance of the other, raising the ball of the foot from the ground, and striking it in regular time, while, in connection, the hands are struck slightly together, and then upon the thighs” </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Music of the Coastal Sea Islands <ul><li>Community stayed isolated because islands were separate from mainland </li></ul><ul><li>African elements and traditions were less diffused in these locations </li></ul><ul><li>Extant: original, referring to unadulterated music. </li></ul>
  19. 19. “Blind Tom” Bethune (1849-1908) <ul><li>One of few slaves who became famous as musicians </li></ul><ul><li>Included for free with the purchase of his parents because he was blind </li></ul><ul><li>Likely was an autistic savant </li></ul><ul><li>Was provided with musical training </li></ul><ul><li>Performed for wounded Confederate soldiers during Civil War </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Best-known composition: “The Battle of Manassas” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Was followed closely by Mark Twain </li></ul>
  20. 20. Work Songs <ul><li>Paced the tasks and lessened the boredom and exhaustion of slave work </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Type of work being done determined tempo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Work songs also let owners know that work was being done and where the slaves were </li></ul><ul><li>Usually in call and response form (“Aint I Right”) </li></ul><ul><li>Could also be a field holler </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A short, improvised melody that served as a form of long-distance communication. Carried farther than just a shout. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Spirituals <ul><li>Religious folksongs sung by African Americans </li></ul><ul><li>Spirituals were a communal project, representing the efforts and beliefs of the larger slave community </li></ul><ul><li>Spirituals were more lively and extemporaneous than white hymn singing </li></ul><ul><li>First published collection of Negro spirituals: Slave Songs of the United States (1867) </li></ul><ul><li>One type was the Ring Shout </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An expression of personal feeling, an emotional response to the worship experience. Only religious texts were sung. Religious fervor gradually intensified. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Songs of Freedom <ul><li>Songs with double meanings </li></ul><ul><li>Appeared innocuous, telling tales of Biblical characters or speaking of Christian acts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Really held coded messages or directions for escaping to freedom </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Black identified with Israelites. </li></ul><ul><li>The South became coded as Egypt, Babylon, or hell. </li></ul><ul><li>Masters known as Pharaoh or Satan. </li></ul><ul><li>Ohio River, which marked the boundary between slave and free states was referred to as the River Jordan. </li></ul><ul><li>North or Canada known as The Promised Land </li></ul>
  23. 23. #6: “Live Humble” <ul><li>Heterophonic treatment of melody during the chorus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Everyone sings a similar, but not identical, melodic line </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cadences and Melodic gestures of the soloist are comparable to those used by black preachers </li></ul><ul><li>Lyrics allude to Biblical passages and common sermon topics </li></ul>
  24. 24. #7: “Follow the Drinking Gourd” <ul><li>Used to tell escaping slaves to follow Polaris in the Big Dipper because slaves weren’t allowed to have maps or writings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Uses code to create a verbal map from the Deep South to the north </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Attributed to “Peg Leg Joe,” who was a white carpenter who helped slaves escape the South </li></ul><ul><li>Directions (see if you can decode): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow River North </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Once at the headwaters, travel north over the hills until they reached another river </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow this river to the Ohio river and cross </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They would then be met by a guide, who would help them further </li></ul></ul>

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