Tuesday, December 13, 2016

copying work of jazz from classical music

  1. 01-27-2011, 02:25 AM #1
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  1. ksjazzguitar is offline
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  3. Jazz - European and African influences?

    So, I've been thinking about this thread. I think that part of the problem is that a lot of people seem to think that jazz sprang up out of nowhere or was solely an African invention. The desire to stress the African-American contribution and perhaps to distance itself from classical music, many seem to think that jazz has little heritage in classical music. (Clearly I disagree. Can you smell my bias? )

    One first thing that needs to be clarified is the difference between "African" and "African-American." Since the importation of slaves to the U.S. ended in 1808, by the time jazz was invented, few if any African-Americans with any memory of Africa were still living (unless for perhaps a little immigration.) African-American culture was a mixture of what was left over and what was forced on them by slave owners.

    So, what (as I see it right now) are the contributions of each:

    African (via African-Americans) Contribution

    Improvisation-Of course, we can point out that there was a rich tradition of improv in classical, it had mostly died down by the time of jazz.
    Swing - Again, there is an antecedent in classical (the notes inégales) but that tradition was dead by the time jazz came along and there are elements that go beyond the classical technique.
    Group Dynamic - I think that the group dynamic of jazz - the group supports while people "step into the center to express themselves." This seems to be of African origin (perhaps in ring dances or ring shouts.)
    Call and Response - It is used for composition in classical but there is a level and importance here that is clearly coming from the African tradition.
    Blue Notes - We can argue about their origin or placement in the octave, but they are clearly an African contribution.
    Rhythm - African music contributed a complex rhythmic system that infused jazz.
    Heterogeneous Sound Ideal - In the classical tradition, when instruments play together, if they are starting on the same beat, we expect then to start together and blend (a homogeneous sound ideal.) In African music, it is often preferable for the voices not to start at exactly the same instant or blend. We hear this sometimes in jazz performance, where the horns choose not to blend or start at the exact same instant, keeping things loose.

    European (via Americans) Contribution

    Chords and Chord Progressions - These are uniquely European concepts. While many cultures have simple vertical harmonic structures, few come close to what we call chords and none have an advanced harmony even close to what we have. Everything we do with chords is of European origin, especially things like functional harmony, modulation, and guide tones.
    Scales - I don't know that much about pre-modern African traditional music, but most pre-European-contact cultures concept of note collections is closer to how the ancient Greeks thought of modes or Hinustanis think of ragas. The notion of scales may be necessary for functional harmony and music that spans many octaves - I don't know, I'll have to think about that one.
    Meter - The use of fixed meters is more European than African. We even mostly use the most common European meters.
    Fixed Composition - Obviously the ability to write down a composition (even a sketch) is a European thing.
    Instruments - With the exception of the banjo, all instruments are of European origin. Of course you can trace instruments like the guitar to non-European origins, but only if you go back a millennium or two.
    Temperament - Even if you add in microtonal blue notes, the temperament that jazz uses if obviously closer to the European one (if not entirely.)

    That's how I see it. This is part of my larger thesis that jazz (contrary to how many of the public see it) is really an extension of the European tradition. For example, all harmonic language in jazz must be traced back to Europe since there is no such thing as harmonic language in Africa. Slaves heard psalms being sung and used that harmony in their spirituals. Many slaves were forced to play European music. After slavery, many African-Americans made a living performing music. For obvious reasons, they made more playing what whites wanted to hear. There was ample chance for African-Americans to absorb the European harmonic language. So, why do so many do somersaults to deny it? Can we imagine jazz without chords, temperament, meter, or scales? OK, I guess that would be free jazz.

    Any thoughts? I'm thinking about doing a paper on this, so any input would be appreciated. If you want to tell me it's BS, just back it up with something besides "'cause I say so."

    Thoughts?

    Peace,
    Kevin

    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-27-2011 at 02:32 AM.

    1. #2
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    1. monk is offline
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    3. Kevin,
      I would agree that jazz is certainly the product of an admixture of African and European musical elements.

      Ragtime, as antecedent and influence of jazz, used classical forms. Scott Joplin was said to have been a great admirer of Frederic Chopin.

      If you haven't already done so, I would recommend that you read Richard Sudhalter's book Lost Chords (Oxford Press, 1999). He makes much the same argument as you.

      Regards,
      monk

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    3. With all due respect Kevin, I was cringing all through your post. The fact that you even use an expression like "African music" demonstrates that you don't know anything about African music.

      "The use of fixed meters is more European than African."

      What is this statement based on? Repeated viewings of the Lion King? Which African music(s) are you talking about?

      "I don't know that much about pre-modern African traditional music"

      You got this part right.

      I've followed a few of your threads and while I find you pedantic ad nauseam, I understand your motive and, by and large, I have found your position well-stated and I've agreed with most of what you've said.

      This time, however, you are way out of your depth. You even admit that, despite your abysmal ignorance of 50% of your subject, you are considering writing a thesis about it! A week ago you were on this forum pleading your quest for academic integrity!

      Sorry Kevin. This time, you fail!

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    1. bako is online now
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    3. I agree with Banksia that you would need to be well informed about the music of 2 continents to address this topic well.
      We (North Americans) often speak of Africa like it's a country instead of a continent. The original people of African descent in the Americas were kidnapped from specific different countries and specific cultural groups within those countries.

      I would contend that the subject would have to include (at least as background research) the emergence and expression of all African American music making in the Americas. One such book that addresses this topic well is The Music Of Black Americans by Eileen Southern, Norton Press 1971, who attempts to uncover this story starting with the source materials available at the time of slavery, newspaper slave sale advertisements, journals and articles. It is a good overview and covers the emergence of early jazz and related styles well, and less detail on later periods.

      I never read the Richard Sudhalter book "Lost Chords" that Monk mentions, but I do remember that he made many people angry and it would probably be easy to find articles refuting some of his contentions.

      I sometimes postulate that the African American influence, creativity and esthetic is the driving force in American popular music.
      My observations appear to bear this out but .......... perhaps that is not proof enough.

      Last edited by bako; 01-27-2011 at 10:51 AM.

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    1. cosmic gumbo is offline
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    3. I always see jazz referenced as African American, which is why Americans want to take credit for it's origin. I don't see many claiming it came from Africa or Europe. I thought it was created by African Americans appropriating western music, not European Americans appropriating African music.

      One thing is for sure, it would not have been created without the African American experience. They took a good thing and improved on it. Jazz would not exist without t's African and European elements. Respected jazz pianist Randy Weston said "To me, it's Mother Africa's way of surviving in the new world". Europeans don't seem to have a problem with that.

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    1. ptrallan01 is offline
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    3. UM

      Pardon me gentlemen but lets deal first with the nature of Africans in the Americas. A huge segement of the population gets left out if we see all African descendants as the descendants of slaves. There were many, many who came here as freemen and their children remained free. Because of our attitude about the evils of slavery this is often omitted.

      African migration to America did not start or stop with the slave trade. Free Africans went to Europe and came here, some came directly from Africa, some came through the Carribean. Each brought a different tradition with them. There were Nubian (black as opposed to white) Africans working on Columbus' first voyage.

      Three of my grandparents came through Ellis Island and the other through one of the Texas maritime ports. They were a mixture of African, Carribe(american indian) and Scottish genetic background. In the United States that just becomes "Black".

      Arguably the best known Jazz song of all times, When the Saints Go Marching in traces back to either Bermuda or the Bahama's before making its way to New Orleans. So even some of the songs we work with don't have an exclusive origin.

      All society's, and cultures who have heard and interacted with Jazz have added and taken from the mix. African and European both contributed and hopefully will going forward.

    1. #7
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
      I would recommend that you read Richard Sudhalter's book Lost Chords (Oxford Press, 1999). He makes much the same argument as you.
      Thanks, I've heard the name before, I have to add it to the list.

      Quote Originally Posted by Banksia View Post
      With all due respect Kevin, I was cringing all through your post. The fact that you even use an expression like "African music" demonstrates that you don't know anything about African music...."The use of fixed meters is more European than African."...What is this statement based on? Repeated viewings of the Lion King? Which African music(s) are you talking about?...
      I am basing it on what I've been exposed to in a survey ethnomusicology class. I am not "ignorant of African music" - I just don't have the expertise that I would like. But that does not prevent me from seeing the basic characteristics and contrast them with those of the European tradition.

      Perhaps "fixed meter" wasn't the right way to phrase it, but my study has led me to believe that the African sense of meter can be much more complex and sophisticated and malleable than the European sense, where meter tends to get fixed into a simple repeating pattern. It is just my assertion that the meters of early jazz have a lot more in common with the European/American tradition than the African one. In fact, I would say that the use of meter in early jazz were less complicated than what was going on in classical music at the time and much less complicated than African dumb traditions.

      As to where in Africa, since most slaves came from the western coast of Africa. Most ethnographers that I have read have grouped these regions together into "West African." No, they are not all one culture, but they are culturally related and this is where the vast majority of slaves came. There is no need to consider the music of Eritrea or Tanzania, since slaves did not come from there.

      If you have something constructive to add, please, please, please do. But I reread your post and I mainly see childish insults without any backing. I fail to see one piece of information that you've added. You mock my authority on the subject but you don't say what your authority is, and just seemed to post for the sole purpose of mocking me, without providing a single fact to the discussion. Is that constructive? You know, just starting your post with "with all due respect" doesn't make it not childish and uninformative.

      But if you have something constructive to add, please do. I'm sincerely interested in anything constructive anyone might have to add.

      Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post
      ...I would contend that the subject would have to include (at least as background research) the emergence and expression of all African American music making in the Americas.
      True. Another way is to treat the African-American syncretic process as a black box. If we examine the inputs and examine the output, we can divine what aspects come from where. Clearly if African music has no tradition of chords, and European/American music has the most advanced chordal vocabulary in the history of the planet, then we can infer that the advanced chord language of jazz can be traced to white ultimately. Similarly, if we can see that improv is dead in classical music and it is thriving in Africa, we can trace that back to its African roots.

      Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post
      One such book that addresses this topic well is The Music Of Black Americans by Eileen Southern, Norton Press 1971, who attempts to uncover this story starting with the source materials available at the time of slavery, newspaper slave sale advertisements, journals and articles....I never read the Richard Sudhalter book "Lost Chords" that Monk mentions, but I do remember that he made many people angry and it would probably be easy to find articles refuting some of his contentions.
      I've been through the Southern book when I did a grad paper on coon song, but maybe I'll have to check it again to see if it has more that might apply. As to the controversy, I get the impression that it is a knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion that blacks didn't do it by themselves and it's entirely black. After a brief search, I find that most reviews by scholars are positive and most of the negative are by musicians that are somewhat chauvinistic about race issues. That is the problem when you start talking about race - there are a lot of people (on both sides) that will make up their mind about what you are saying before they consider the evidence.

      Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post
      I sometimes postulate that the African American influence, creativity and esthetic is the driving force in American popular music.
      I have no problem with agreeing with that.

      [quote=cosmic gumbo;119943]I always see jazz referenced as African American, which is why Americans want to take credit for it's origin. I don't see many claiming it came from Africa or Europe. I thought it was created by African Americans appropriating western music, not European Americans appropriating African music..../quote]

      Maybe I chose my words injudiciously, but I am not saying that Europeans invented jazz, or even that Americans invented jazz. Clearly the vast majority of the work done was by African-Americans. But contention is that these African-Americans were heavily influenced but European music that they heard and learned in hundreds of years of separation from their African roots and hundreds of years of being surrounded by (and even playing) music of white origin. Indeed, many of the fundamental elements of jazz (harmonic language, modulation, instruments, etc) have no antecedents in African culture.

      I am in no way trying to say that jazz in not a product of African American culture. But the point is that "American" is the noun and "African" is the adjective. It is black Americans who built jazz, not Africans. And black Americans at this point were more "American" than "African." Indeed, some of the freed slaves that tried to go back to Africa had a very hard time fitting in - they were now more American than African.

      Please don't be fooled by my use of the word European - I'm just trying to avoid using the word "white" and have this denigrate into a racial thing. But when I am talking about European influence, I am talking about the absorption of the "white" music that was surrounding black Americans and often they were playing.

      Quote Originally Posted by ptrallan01 View Post
      Pardon me gentlemen but lets deal first with the nature of Africans in the Americas. A huge segement of the population gets left out if we see all African descendants as the descendants of slaves. There were many, many who came here as freemen and their children remained free. Because of our attitude about the evils of slavery this is often omitted.
      Perhaps, but my perception is that African immigration was low. Even if not, within a generation, they will be assimilated. I'm sure there was some immigration as to the US, but do you have numbers of what percentage of African-Africans had been born in Africa. Maybe in 1900.

      Quote Originally Posted by ptrallan01 View Post
      All society's, and cultures who have heard and interacted with Jazz have added and taken from the mix. African and European both contributed and hopefully will going forward.
      Yes, but I'm talking about origins, not influences. I'm just trying to fight against this notion that jazz was this magical thing that sprang to life with no antecedents, except from Africa. My thesis is that while African Americans may have done work, we look at the color of their skin and assume that therefore everything that they do is "African." But my contention that several core elements of the music theory trace to European influence, not to Africa.

      Peace,
      Kevin

      Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-27-2011 at 03:01 PM.

    1. #8

    1. keith is offline
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    3. Well it's an interesting topic that I will say off the bat I am not an authority on but will make some comments ( none of them gospel )

      Jazz is very strongly steeped in blues from the early African ( no comment on specific country, not trying to lump them together ) There's a guitarist Bob Brozman who has studied this in depth and has noted that the early influence was more rhythmic and not harmonic. Some early blues are modal or include I-V progression only and that more complex progressions in blues developed over time. The primary point he makes is that in noncolonized ( meaning European colonies ) most of the rhythms are polyrhythmic in nature and the melodies rarely are specifically on beat. His premise is that the militarized conquering european nations had a different sense due to the " march " or the need to provide a fixed rhythm for the military ( or even the dances of the time ) He has noticed this phenomenon in most noncolonized island nations and African countries. Hence although African influences have played a role, other island nations ( Carribean in particular ) where slaves also came from also had a role in blues and jazz. You might want to check out his website.

      I liked the comment about Joplin because there's a guy I thought never got his full due regarding his music. Some of his " rags " - compositions were just beautiful, clearly classical in nature. This done at a time where we can't even imagine what racism was.

      Although this issue is subjective in nature but I wonder how much influence former slaves playing european dance music had on what they played and preferred to play and ultimately created. I had the impression that most of the former slave musicians made money by playing to their own culture and not necessarily whites. There's a link between these musics but I'd be curious to others thought on this.

      Again I'm no expert and no offense intended on any of my descriptions but I always learn something from these open issues.

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    1. cosmic gumbo is offline
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      Please don't be fooled by my use of the word European - I'm just trying to avoid using the word "white" and have this denigrate into a racial thing. But when I am talking about European influence, I am talking about the absorption of the "white" music that was surrounding black Americans and often they were playing.

      I'm just trying to fight against this notion that jazz was this magical thing that sprang to life with no antecedents, except from Africa. My thesis is that while African Americans may have done work, we look at the color of their skin and assume that therefore everything that they do is "African." But my contention that several core elements of the music theory trace to European influence, not to Africa.

      Peace,
      Kevin
      First, I don't think we can dismiss the racial aspect of the equation. The American experience was quite different for blacks, than it was for whites. If Africans had come to this country freely, and been accepted equally as Europeans, there wouldn't be any jazz. We have jazz because it comes from that black experience in America.

      Second, I don't believe there is this widespread notion that jazz is 100% African without other influences. If some people did believe this, is it ignorance, or is there an agenda? It's a shame that jazz is not part of every American's public education. Heck, we can't even learn peeple to spell correktly. If it weren't for jazz, would America even have it's own music, separate from European? There's more important fights to be had. When Buddy Bolden was playing "Funky Butt", he was playing to a room full of stinky black butts, not some white society ball.

      Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 01-27-2011 at 04:25 PM.

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    1. monk is offline
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    3. Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks said that they played for both black and white audiences in the 20s and 30s. His brother Lonnie, a fiddler, could read notation. The Chatmon brothers took pride in being professional musicians.

      Johnny Shines said in several interviews that Robert Johnson was "crazy about polkas" and Muddy Waters claimed that before moving to Chicago that his repertoire included "all of Gene Autry's songs".

      Sam Chatmon complained that the record companies didn't allow the black artists in the 20s and 30s to record anything but the blues. He said that he and his brothers as well as other black bands played a variety of music for both black and white audiences not just blues and that much of what was written early on was spun from whole cloth by the record company marketing departments.

      I would recommend Elijah Wald's book Escaping The Delta to anyone interested in reading a well researched early history of the blues.

      Here's an link to a short interview with Sam Chatmon:



      Regards,
      monk

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    1. Jazzpunk is offline
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      Yes, but I'm talking about origins, not influences. I'm just trying to fight against this notion that jazz was this magical thing that sprang to life with no antecedents, except from Africa.
      I don't believe this to be a widely held notion. I think you've read an ignorant statement here and there and have now internalized it as being some big wrong that needs to be whited...I mean righted.

      Seriously, is this really a problem that needs to be addressed? If there are historical inaccuracies being perpetuated by historians or musicians in positions of influence that overemphasize the contributions to jazz made by African Americans, I would like to see them.

      Any links to books, articles or statements made by credible sources that illustrate that this 'problem' exists in the real world?

      Last edited by Jazzpunk; 01-27-2011 at 05:23 PM.

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    1. ptrallan01 is offline
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    3. Kevin

      You are a bold man!!! I appreciate your starting this discussion!

      The number of Free Africans in the America's is something that is virtually ignored. The number was higher in New Orleans because of the history of French relationships than in other parts of the country. This class of Free Blacks was much more formally trained and educated than their enslaved cousins. A similar study might be done of the West Indians who moved to the USA between the end of British Slavery in 1832 and the end of the Civil War in 1865. They brought another wave of culture with them.

      As I understood it from my studies which were not at the university level, it was the accomodation of African Traditional music to European Instruments that ultimately led to Jazz. The blending of the two approaches resulted in new art forms. The inability of many musicians to read music also added to it. Europeans and Africans are responsible for the elements of the music but Black, a better term for this discussion since it includes people who were of mixed European and African genetics, are responsible for the product.

      Good discussion, thanks everyone for participating.

    4. #13
      Baltar Hornbeek Guest
      Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      ...the problem is that a lot of people seem to think that jazz sprang up out of nowhere or was solely an African invention.
      This may be evident among your peers, but no one I know has this problem.

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    1. Jazzpunk is offline
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    3. Kevin, have you checked the Wiki definition of jazz? Seems like they already summed up what you are trying to say:

      Jazz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      "Jazz is a musical tradition and style of music that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music.[1] Its West African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note.[2]"




      The thesis behind your original post seems to reflect more of a personal issue that you have rather than that of a widespread misconception that constitutes an actual 'problem'. If you're going to spend the time and energy to write a paper, you could probably find something more substantial to write about.

      Just my opinion but you did ask for opinions.

      Last edited by Jazzpunk; 01-27-2011 at 07:49 PM.

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    1. JohnRoss is offline
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      Since the importation of slaves to the U.S. ended in 1808, by the time jazz was invented, few if any African-Americans with any memory of Africa were still living (unless for perhaps a little immigration.) African-American culture was a mixture of what was left over and what was forced on them by slave owners.
      I find this very hard to digest. You are suggesting that the 'indigenous' culture possessed by African slaves in America the 1850s, say, was merely vestigial, and I can't believe that. It's a mere two generations of difference, and I know as a European that folk culture lasts a hell of a lot longer than that. There are many examples of nursery rhymes or lullabies people composed as protest songs or whatever three centuries ago, for reasons we have completely forgotten, but we haven't forgotten the tunes, and not a few of them have their counterparts in the American folk repertoire, Appalachian mountain thingies that were originally Scottish reels and so forth. I'm not all that well up on US social history, but I understand the importation of slaves was substituted by their being farmed / bred, which I can only conceive as reinforcing their sense of cultural difference. Even if attempts were made to obliterate their historical culture, it wouldn't have worked - look at the persistence of Christianity in Soviet countries after nearly a century of prohibition, and I speak as a militant atheist.

      Sorry, Kevin, you're on thin ice, here. Might be no bad thing, for a thesis, to be controversial and so on (if it's totally obvious, it can't be worth a thesis, can it?), but I just can't see it in the terms you have expressed it here.

      Last edited by JohnRoss; 01-27-2011 at 08:33 PM.

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    3. Keith, I'm not sure I follow Brozman's arguments, but I'll check him out.

      Another interesting theory that I once heard at an ethnomusicology conference was that the presence of the English language that helped jazz develop. It was stated that the uniquely unpredictable accents and semi-accents that lent itself to the unpredictable syncopations of jazz lines. Of course, African music already has a very sophisticated rhythmic system, but the speaker was trying to make a case that English was another contributing factor. It was an interesting lecture - I wasn't completely convinced, but he made some good points.

      Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
      ...Second, I don't believe there is this widespread notion that jazz is 100% African without other influences. If some people did believe this, is it ignorance, or is there an agenda? ...
      First off, everyone has an agenda. Secondly, I think that this is a notion, while not held in academia, is somewhat widespread if under the surface. In this forum alone, I often get excoriated for daring to suggest that the history of classical music has anything to do with jazz. If we accept the notion that the European (white) tradition was a major influence on jazz (especially on matters of theory, e.g. harmony, tonality, meter, etc) then why do people seem to see jazz as having nothing to do with the European tradition? True, it may not be a common argument among jazz academia, but there seems to be a virulent, even militant fight to deny that jazz has any tradition that goes back beyond African-Americans. Maybe the sheer volume with which they scream their views makes it seem louder than it is.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      I don't believe this to be a widely held notion. I think you've read an ignorant statement here and there and have now internalized it as being some big wrong that needs to be whited...I mean righted.
      Well, I've read several "ignorant statements" - many on this forum.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      Seriously, is this really a problem that needs to be addressed? If there are historical inaccuracies being perpetuated by historians or musicians in positions of influence that overemphasize the contributions to jazz made by African Americans, I would like to see them.
      Again, it's often not explicit. Usually it comes in the form of diminishing the white contribution and the affect of European music. In some cases it is explicit. Reading through some reviews of the Sudhalter book (trying to give some of the credit for jazz to whites) most of the reviews by scholars were good, sometimes a little skeptical. Many of the negative reviews were from non-scholars, some of them social critics, some of them chauvinistic about African-American heritage. Many of the negative reviews sounded more emotional (almost hysterically so) as opposed to academic. Branford for example ransacked it. Having lived in New Orleans, I know the reputation that Ellis Marsalis had for his chauvinistic, Afro-centric opinions about jazz history. (Ellis - incredible player, great teacher, lousy historian.) Many of these warnings came from black musicians, some of them in their later years so they'd seen some of the history which was being distorted. Ellis passed this on to his kids, we can see it in some of the remarks that Wynton has made. Maybe my perception is a little jaded by living in New Orleans - a very racial city (don't make me start telling stories!)

      But I do find that jazz musicians often want to think of themselves as separate from the classical tradition. They like to think of jazz as the neighbor down the block, instead of a half-brother. And I get this vibe much more from jazz musicians than from classical musicians. Most of the classical guys I meet like and respect jazz and listen to it. Too many amateur jazz musicians I know think that that "other" music has nothing to do with them.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      Any links to books, articles or statements made by credible sources that illustrate that this 'problem' exists in the real world?
      But that's my point. It's not academia that makes this argument, it's the strong streak of amateurs in the jazz and rock/pop world. Perhaps you'll defend me the next time I compare Bird's use of dissonance to Chopin's and I get jumped from 10 directions.

      Quote Originally Posted by ptrallan01 View Post
      The number of Free Africans in the America's is something that is virtually ignored. The number was higher in New Orleans because of the history of French relationships than in other parts of the country. This class of Free Blacks was much more formally trained and educated than their enslaved cousins.
      That's a good point. New Orleans probably had more free and educated blacks then anywhere else.

      Quote Originally Posted by ptrallan01 View Post
      ...As I understood it from my studies which were not at the university level, it was the accommodation of African Traditional music to European Instruments that ultimately led to Jazz....
      But that's exactly my point - in that little summary, it sounds like the only think the the European's offered were the instruments. What about meter, harmony, scales. One of the defining characteristics of jazz is harmony and how it moves. Of course that didn't come from Africa - there were no chords in the sense that we mean. There were no chord progressions. It is this same pat little attitude that tries to diminish the European tradition's contribution that is exactly what I'm talking about. I think that it is common in public perception and is subliminally absorbed by a lot of people even if they don't say it directly.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      Kevin, have you checked the Wiki definition of jazz? Seems like they already summed up what you are trying to say: ... [Wikipedia definition] ... The thesis behind your original post seems to reflect more of a personal issue that you have rather than that of a widespread misconception that constitutes an actual 'problem' ...
      Perhaps. But am I the only one that notices that that definition only lists African contributions? Sure, it mentions European contributions generally, but fails to list them. The only salient that it bothers listing in it's introduction are the ones from Africa. If you took the words "European traditions" out of there, then nearly everything else is talking about Africa. It is a subtle but important thing, at least it seems so to me. Paying lip service to the European tradition and giving it its due are two different things.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      Since the importation of slaves to the U.S. ended in 1808, by the time jazz was invented, few if any African-Americans with any memory of Africa were still living (unless for perhaps a little immigration.) African-American culture was a mixture of what was left over and what was forced on them by slave owners.
      I find this very hard to digest. You are suggesting that the 'indigenous' culture possessed by African slaves in America the 1850s, say, was merely vestigial, and I can't believe that. It's a mere two generations of difference, and I know as a European that folk culture lasts a hell of a lot longer than that....
      I'm not saying that it was lost out of carelessness. It was forced out of them. Families were broken up. People were put together who didn't speak the same language. They were worked to exhaustion. Slaves could be beaten for practicing certain cultural practices or speaking their own language. The culture that African-Americans formed was a mixture of what they could remember and combined with what was around them. Again, they sang spirituals that were based on the psalm singing that they heard the whites do (in some parts of the country and in traveling tent churches, blacks could actually participate.) Blacks were often expected to perform for whites - performing "white" music. Some black children were given a basic level of education - not the multicultural education that we get today. Yes, some African tradition survived. In some places it was preserved better than others - like the Gullah traditions in the swamps of the East coast where the whites were afraid of malaria. They probably out of any other group of blacks remained the most "African" out of isolation - but even they evolved into something that was clearly no longer purely Africa. And that was the extreme case - no other black group came close to their cultural autonomy. And again, many of the freed slaves that went back to Africa found that they did not fit in - their culture had changed too much, due to white interference and influence.

      The European folk traditions go back farther because they were not actively campaigned against and were not in such jarring contrast to other traditions nearby. I am not saying that pure African tradition didn't survive in the Americas because there was something wrong with it, but because it was forced not to. It survived just fine in Africa where it was left unmolested.


      And hey, guys. Relax. We're just having a friendly discussion here. I know it's a subject that tends to raise people's blood pressures. I'm just feeling out the topic and picking up some good input.

      Most of the input has been constructive, even when it's disagreed with me.

      Peace,
      Kevin

      Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-28-2011 at 12:17 AM.

    1. #17
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post

      I am basing it on what I've been exposed to in a survey ethnomusicology class. I am not "ignorant of African music" - I just don't have the expertise that I would like. But that does not prevent me from seeing the basic characteristics and contrast them with those of the European tradition.

      Perhaps "fixed meter" wasn't the right way to phrase it, but my study has led me to believe that the African sense of meter can be much more complex and sophisticated and malleable than the European sense, where meter tends to get fixed into a simple repeating pattern. It is just my assertion that the meters of early jazz have a lot more in common with the European/American tradition than the African one. In fact, I would say that the use of meter in early jazz were less complicated than what was going on in classical music at the time and much less complicated than African dumb traditions.

      As to where in Africa, since most slaves came from the western coast of Africa. Most ethnographers that I have read have grouped these regions together into "West African." No, they are not all one culture, but they are culturally related and this is where the vast majority of slaves came. There is no need to consider the music of Eritrea or Tanzania, since slaves did not come from there.

      If you have something constructive to add, please, please, please do. But I reread your post and I mainly see childish insults without any backing. I fail to see one piece of information that you've added. You mock my authority on the subject but you don't say what your authority is, and just seemed to post for the sole purpose of mocking me, without providing a single fact to the discussion. Is that constructive? You know, just starting your post with "with all due respect" doesn't make it not childish and uninformative.

      But if you have something constructive to add, please do. I'm sincerely interested in anything constructive anyone might have to add.


      Peace,
      Kevin
      Firstly Kevin, my respect for your reference work on the "Modes" thread is sincere, as is my respect for the time you've spent in formal study of the music.

      If I "mock your authority" on this subject it's because you were the one raising the bar of scholarship, yet you present a theory with no references to support your sweeping generalisations. You are the one postulating the theory, it's up to you to establish your authority. What African musics were present in New Orleans in the 19th Century? What were the European musical traditions? Surely not everyone listened to Beethoven. What about the "low" Euro cultures, the folk musics?

      What is my authority? My formal background is in Linguistics and Law, not Music, but I can see an unsupported contention for what it is.

      You think I posted merely to mock you? No, I saw your brief discussion on another thread about Miles, KOB, African music etc. At the time I thought the broad use of "African music" was meaningless but, since the whole issue of modes seemed to have finally died, I didn't want to prolong that thread. Then when I saw you use the term again, without specifying which African musical tradition you were referring to, and drawing a conclusion like "no fixed meter" I assumed you had no idea what you were talking about. Based on the evidence presented in your original post on this thread, I believe that was a reasonable assumption on my part.

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    3. I get the feeling here that your thought sequence is the wrong way round. You have a thesis and are seeking evidence to support it, instead of looking at the evidence and formulating a thesis from it. I have always understood the genesis of jazz to be a process of cultural merging (and not a unique one). You want to push it off centre to make it essentially a derivation of European music, instead, and not just European but European classical music. You have protested about precisely that kind of Occident-centrism yourself more than once, so you really can't be surprised that this idea of yours meets resistance.

      Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      why do people seem to see jazz as having nothing to do with the European tradition?
      I don't think anyone does. Doesn't mean you can go to an extreme and say it has everything to do with it, any more than it would be right to say it is entirely African in origin. To state the obvious, jazz didn't originate in Africa or in Europe, it originated among Africans or their descendants in America. Obliged to perform for white people? And? Fado materialized in cafés in Lisbon, but its origins were in Brazil (where there were far more African slaves than in North America).
      But I do find that jazz musicians often want to think of themselves as separate from the classical tradition.
      Why not? Many people who listen to or play jazz don't want to listen to or play classical, why should they?
      it sounds like the only think the the European's offered were the instruments. What about meter, harmony, scales. One of the defining characteristics of jazz is harmony and how it moves.
      I'm not at all sure about that, jazz harmony has always seemed greatly overrated to me. The contrivances of modern jazz, particularly are just not that central to the music. In short, It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got Coltrane Changes will never catch on.
      Of course that didn't come from Africa - there were no chords in the sense that we mean. There were no chord progressions.
      Instead, there was a whole continent rich in mostly monophonic musical traditions, often linked to tonal languages (I don't know a lot about that, but I think it's probably important) and of a rhythmical complexity not generally found in the European classical tradition. As I say, jazz would still exist without bebop harmonies, would it without syncopation?
      I'm not saying that it was lost out of carelessness. It was forced out of them. Families were broken up... The European folk traditions go back farther because they were not actively campaigned against and were not in such jarring contrast to other traditions nearby.
      Whoa, remember The Wearing of the Green? Not to mention the tartan. Gaelic culture was suppressed in Ireland and Scotland and over a more extended period of time than the two generations you mentioned. The Highland clearances pretty well destroyed the entire clan system, the fabric of Scottish society, and almost eliminated the Gaelic language. Yet Celtic music not just survived but in the long term thrived. And I am not claiming any singularity here, similar things happened all over Europe.

      Allow me to go step back a little:
      Instruments - With the exception of the banjo, all instruments are of European origin. Of course you can trace instruments like the guitar to non-European origins, but only if you go back a millennium or two.
      I pick on this because it's a pretty important exception. And because the decline of the banjo in jazz very roughly coincides with a certain transition, towards a jazz more in line with your thesis, a formal music perfectly in keeping with a European, even European classical tradition. On the one hand, jazz has gained in prestige, acceptability, on the other, it has become less jazz, in a sense degenerate in relation to its beginnings. Instead of finding itself, it became more European. (Just as you are declare your pro-classical stance, I declare mine vis-a-vis jazz academia - it sucks, because it has bugger all to do with jazz. My dear old daddy used to say about military bands and jazz tunes that they could play all the notes, but they just couldn't swing, they missed the point. Like jazz schools.)
      Temperament - Even if you add in microtonal blue notes, the temperament that jazz uses if obviously closer to the European one (if not entirely.)
      So jazz tonality is the result of African tonality meets European tonality. Yes, that's what I always thought. What are we arguing about?

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by Banksia View Post
      If I "mock your authority" on this subject it's because you were the one raising the bar of scholarship, yet you present a theory with no references to support your sweeping generalisations.
      True, but if I supported everything that I said, this would turn into 20 pages. (There is a limit to how much you can put in one post. Is it said that I know what the limit is from several times butting up against it? ) And most of the things that I said are generally accepted and therefore don't require support. Even in a grad paper, most of what I said would not require citation as it is accepted by the scholarly music community at large. I'm sure a few things might have fallen through the cracks, but again, this is not me writing a grad paper, but sketching out and sounding out some ideas - not writing a grad paper.

      And perhaps I'd hoped that my reputation had preceded me that I make my arguments carefully and try not to say something authoritatively unless I have a reason.

      Please understand the context for me when I make a statement like, "I don't know that much about pre-modern African traditional music." The confusion that many people think that to read the Wikipedia article makes them an expert. To me the fact that I've only had an undergrad survey class in world music (with a few chapters of African music), having done grad projects that tangentially touched on African music, having attended a few lectures on African music, and having done a grad paper on 19th century African American music - to me, that still means that still means that I "don't know that much about pre-modern African traditional music" - I just have different standards of "authority" than many here.

      Quote Originally Posted by Banksia View Post
      Then when I saw you use the term again, without specifying which African musical tradition you were referring to, and drawing a conclusion like "no fixed meter" I assumed you had no idea what you were talking about.
      Again, I assumed that it was common knowledge that the slaves came almost entirely from a small section of West Africa. This is a section that ethnographers tend to group together as (relatively) culturally homogenous. Again, things that are understood in the field do not need to be defended, especially when I'm just sketching out ideas. If people want to ask me why I assume that, but that can be done, without mocking lines like, "What is this statement based on? Repeated viewings of the Lion King?"

      And on the comment, "The use of fixed meters is more European than African." - I would think that that is obvious to anyone who's studied or even heard both. Let me make this clear - it is not a value judgement. I am not saying that "fixed" meter is better. I am just saying that the West African concept of meter is much more flowing and malleable than the European one. I would even argue that the African one is more advanced and sophisticated. (Which is fine, European music just expresses itself in different ways.)

      I think that many non-music-scholars mistakenly think that musicologists think that anything not of the European tradition is inferior. This hasn't been true for a century. Much research in music is devoted to zealously cataloging and studying folk traditions around the world. My most recent music history teacher spent years in Mongolia with nomadic tribes to document their music traditions. If I was willing to do field work, I might have better luck getting into a doctoral program - but sadly I'm married so I can't make the commitment.

      But it sounds like we've had some misunderstandings, so lets get passed that.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      I get the feeling here that your thought sequence is the wrong way round. You have a thesis and are seeking evidence to support it, instead of looking at the evidence and formulating a thesis from it. I have always understood the genesis of jazz to be a process of cultural merging (and not a unique one). You want to push it off centre to make it essentially a derivation of European music, instead, and not just European but European classical music.
      First of all. This is a fairly common way to develop a thesis. You look at the data, come up with a preliminary thesis. Then you test it. You get some people to play Devil's advocate and see if it can stand up. At least it was a technique taught to us in my grad research class. I think this notion of someone who remains 100% objective is an illusion. Most of us have an idea where the research might be going. That is fine as long as we're willing to change our minds if the data points somewhere else. And again, I'm just feeling out the topic here.

      I'm not saying that jazz is entirely of European origin. But several structural elements cannot be traced to anywhere else. Harmony is the best example. And whether I say that it is from European classical music that it is from European classical music via the psalms and fold songs that they were hearing is a minor quibble - the origin is still the same. I was stressing the origin of the harmonic language, not the specific route. If someone asks me where I'm from, I tell them where I came from, not the route I took to get there.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      "[KS says] why do people seem to see jazz as having nothing to do with the European tradition?"
      I don't think anyone does.
      Perhaps I overspoke, but I do think there is a certain bias. Can you imagine if that Wikipedia (*sigh*) quote had been the opposite? Listing only European contributions to jazz and paying only lip service to the African heritage? And I have been chastised several times in this forum alone for daring to compare jazz and classical, as if the two had nothing to do with each other. My point is that classical is the uncle of jazz - there is a strong relationship. But maybe this is how the the topic could be narrowed - in what ways and why do the general public and some jazz musicians downplay the European heritage of jazz/blues and over emphasize the African elements.


      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      "[KS says] But I do find that jazz musicians often want to think of themselves as separate from the classical tradition."
      Why not? Many people who listen to or play jazz don't want to listen to or play classical, why should they?
      Because their musicians. Because it's part of their musical heritage. It's the same thing I say to young cats who never listen to anything before Miles. I know guys who never listen to any jazz before 1970. This sort of musical egocentrism that jazz sometimes has is something that I find disturbing. Taking it to an extreme would be someone like Yanni, who I once heard in an interview when asked what he listened to, said something like, "I don't listen to other musicians, I only listen to my own recordings." Is saying "I don't listen to other styles, I only listen to my own" much better?

      It's funny, because classical musicians are usually considered the snobs. But when they have clinics and lectures at the university on world music, it is usually the classical cats that show up. There is even a healthy showing of classical guys at the jazz clinics. But jazz guys? All they care about is jazz - they live in their own little world. (JohnRoss, I know you have a varied background so I'm not saying this about you, but my experience with jazz in general.)

      I'm amazed how narrow the knowledge of many jazz guys is. This is not true of most of the high-level guys I've met - they are usually very eclectic in their tastes, but many of the mid-level guys and far too many of the amateurs just pretend like there is nothing to offer them. Jazz has the most sophisticated harmonic vocabulary on the planet - except for classical. Why wouldn't jazz guys want to want to open up their ears? Many of the greats did. I would even go so far that there is nothing in the harmonic language of jazz that doesn't have antecedents in classical. (I'm sure someone can find an exception - if so, please point it out.)

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      So jazz tonality is the result of African tonality meets European tonality. Yes, that's what I always thought. What are we arguing about?
      Again, I disagree with your use of the word "tonality." "Tonal" in it's most common current usage means "functional harmony" - African music (as I understand it) would more accurately as modal, in the sense that the Greeks used the term. I would say that jazz uses European tonality with some colorful scalar options that come from the African tradition. Again, nothing in the way of functional harmony can be traced to Africa since it didn't exist.

      But my point isn't that this is a new theory, but apparently unknown to the general public and many jazz players, who seem to downplay their European musical heritage, sometimes militantly. I wasn't trying to sketch out the list of European and African contributions as if this was groundbreaking news, but just as a backdrop. And again, I have many bruises from the times that I have tried to suggest that classical harmony and jazz harmony have anything to do with each other - attesting to my assertion that many do not see the connection of jazz to European music.

      Peace,
      Kevin

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    1. MartinsGUITAR is offline
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    3. An african guy like me,realy into jazz guitar playing understands really wat i meant by TRADITIONAL JAZZ, AFROSOUL MUSIC, i am not proofing any history about it now,but what i am all about here is Introducing my favourite musical genre to The world,..

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    1. Jazzpunk is offline
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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      Perhaps I overspoke, but I do think there is a certain bias. Can you imagine if that Wikipedia (*sigh*) quote had been the opposite? Listing only European contributions to jazz and paying only lip service to the African heritage? And I have been chastised several times in this forum alone for daring to compare jazz and classical, as if the two had nothing to do with each other. My point is that classical is the uncle of jazz - there is a strong relationship. But maybe this is how the the topic could be narrowed - in what ways and why do the general public and some jazz musicians downplay the European heritage of jazz/blues and over emphasize the African elements.
      Sorry I posted that wiki quote Kevin. I didn't realize that it was going to get your scholarly knickers all twisted lol.

      The quote was simply to point out that even on a site like wiki which is about as generalized as one can get, it is acknowledged that jazz is a mixture of European and African (via African Americans) influences.

      Again, I don't see the big 'problem' you allude to in your original post. So far all I see is one guy ranting about how African Americans have received a disproportionate amount of praise and credit for their contributions in creating jazz music. I think that's ridiculous but that's just my opinion.

      The burden you'll have in writing this paper will be to prove that, culturally speaking, there is a real 'problem' and that Europeans have truly been slighted by historians as well as the majority of musicians and fans that make up the jazz community. If you don't make this case in a logical fashion with evidence beyond chat room arguments and hearsay, you'll just come off sounding like 'white guy with chip on his shoulder'! I'm not trying to poke fun at you either. I think you are dangerously close to coming off that way in some portions of your rant already so it's definitely something to consider if you want your paper to be taken seriously by a diverse audience.

      It seems to me that you want to emphasize the European building blocks that African Americans assimilated instead of emphasizing the unique language they infused upon them. That is like emphasizing the techniques in painting that were in place when Michelangelo picked up his brush instead of emphasizing the unique art that he himself created and the resulting impact his work would have on the generations that followed!

      It's great that you yourself hold academia and classical music in such high regard. However, trying to over emphasize the European building blocks that were assimilated by jazz musicians as they created a new language really misses the point of what makes jazz so uniquely wonderful.

      Your thesis is akin to writing a paper on how water has been grossly undervalued when discussing why lemonade tastes so good. Most people who read it will probably think, 'Yeah, I know there is water in my lemonade but the lemon and sugar is what makes it taste so damn good!' To down play the lemon and the sugar is to miss the true essence of what lemonade is all about.

      Last edited by Jazzpunk; 01-28-2011 at 10:03 PM.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      Sorry I posted that wiki quote Kevin. I didn't realize that it was going to get your scholarly knickers all twisted lol.
      Wikipedia has it's place. I love Wikipedia - I can't remember how I lived without it. But it is only useful for getting a generalized background on something. The problem is that people are thinking of it as "research." It's amazing how many times that I get into a disagreement with someone here and their "proof" is the Wikipedia article - which somehow trumps all else. It's fine for general stuff, but when you get into the nitty-gritty, your job isn't done until you get a real source.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      The quote was simply to point out that even on a site like wiki which is about as generalized as one can get, it is acknowledged that jazz is a mixture of European and African (via African Americans) influences.
      But it's funny because I read that paragraph and think that it makes my point. It give only lip service to the European contribution while it goes out of its way to enumerate African contributions. Again, imagine if it was reversed - there would be an outcry from the people.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      Again, I don't see the big 'problem' you allude to in your original post. So far all I see is one guy ranting about how African Americans have received a disproportionate amount of praise and credit for their contributions in creating jazz music. I think that's ridiculous but that's just my opinion.
      First of all, most research papers are not on "big" problems. Those get handled and disposed of quickly. Most research papers address small problems or just answer small narrow questions.

      I agree that the tenor of my original statement was too strong and the topic too broad. That I may have oversold the "problem" is a valid criticism. But I think that there is clear indication of a bias in some segments of the jazz community. There is a tendency to play down the contribution of whites and the European tradition. The sometimes viscous (even childish) attacks against Sudhalter by non-scholars for his book are a good example. Many other examples can be found, especially when looking outside academia. There does tend to be this tendency - there is a tendency to downplay the contribution of whites and the European tradition and an almost knee-jerk reaction against people who try to say otherwise - if not in academia then in the mind of the public and many jazz musicians.

      One could argue that a paper could be looking at the artificial line that jazz musicians draw between their harmonic practice and what the classical tradition does. On this forum alone I could get several examples. There are many, many others. Just look at the sheer volume of jazz players (mostly mid and lower level players) that argue that classical has nothing to teach them. Again, jazz history and theory does not go back just to Jellyroll Morton, a very important and interwoven branch extends back to Pythagorus, through Debussy, Wagner, Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, et al. Too many jazz musicians fail to see this, IMHO. Paying lip service to it is not enough. It's hard enough to get them to acknowledge that anything before Bird is worth knowing - how many people have transcribed anything before Bird? (OK, guitarists do Christian, but he's an exception.) And judging by some of the explanations people give about what bebop is, I doubt that even that many have really even looked into Bird. Too many jazz musicians have too narrow of a focus, IMHO.

      Another paper topic I have looked at is tracing the actual effect of the classical music tradition on jazz. Either through the historical absorption of the practice (via American folk tradition being absorbed by African-Americans) or directly by jazz musicians studying classical music. This was actually a doctoral dissertation topic that I suggested.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
      It seems to me that you want to emphasize the European building blocks that African Americans assimilated instead of emphasizing the unique language they infused upon them.
      No, I want to put them back in balance. It is my opinion (for now, it may change) that the European tradition provided much of the structural elements (harmony, meter, temperament, etc.) while the African tradition provided many of the surface elements (swing, improv, blue notes, etc.) Now, please keep in mind, by "structural" I don't mean better or more important - it's just how it functions in the texture. Possibly this is part of the problem - people tend to hear and remember the surface elements. They tend to be what draws us and charms us.

      I'm not saying that jazz is European music. I'm contending that jazz is music, made primarily by African-Americans that is based on a European (white) model that had been "Africanized" to fit their tastes. It is a wonderful synergy.

      But I'm just feeling this out. In grad school, we would often test our paper topics like this. Someone would say what they were thinking and state their case and we would say what we liked and didn't like. We would say what needs to be researched more. We would say where we thought the argument was weak. We would suggest how the topic should be narrowed. It's just how I'm used to working things out and I thought it would be interesting to try it out with this crowd. Especially considering a recent thread where I was lambasted for daring to suggest that we could compare jazz harmonic practice to classical. (Next time you can come to my defense, yes? )

      But I won't be surprised if not everyone agrees. Where is the fun in making the case for an argument when everyone agrees?

      I just thought it would be fun to get away from the "What scale do I use?" questions, get into something deeper.

      Peace,
      Kevin

      Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-29-2011 at 01:04 AM.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      My point is that classical is the uncle of jazz - there is a strong relationship.
      Of all the different kinds of Western music, why single out classical here? You have mentioned psalms, OK, though many musical settings of the psalms would, I imagine, have been pre-classical two hundred years ago (no real evidence, apart from several years singing the damn things in a church choir as a kid). That aside, a more natural choice would have been hymns which, with notable exceptions, are generally not particularly classical, but more like applied popular song. Psalms may be for listening to, hymns are for singing. OK, as Wikipedia says, hymn music "shares many elements with classical music," especially in four-part choir arrangements, but they aren't conceived in the same way or for the same purpose, if they were they would be opera or lieder or whatever. And the kind of interaction between African and European cultures we are considering would not have involved a great deal of Mozart, but it would have included a whole lot of popular / folk songs, including the music of the Scots and Irishmen obliged to emigrate because they were forced off their lands by clearances or famine. That music did not remain static when it reached America but evolved and became something else, even though it was still being performed by the same people, just in a different place, so it is only natural that it should change even more when adopted by people from an entirely different culture. The English "The Unfortunate Rake" became not just the American "The Streets of Laredo," but also "The St James Infirmary Blues," without the interference of a single classical musician or composer. The whole subject of plantation songs, Stephen Foster and minstrel shows and their interaction can be discussed without once mentioning classical music, and that brings us to the doors of the 20th century. I'll grant that classical music was an important influence on ragtime, but so were plantation songs and dances like the cakewalk (possibly a parody of classical music). And ragtime was only one of the precursors of jazz, the other important one being the blues, and I can't imagine you're going to say that the blues derived from the European classical tradition.

      Because their musicians. Because it's part of their musical heritage.
      Oh well, there is just so much heritage, not everyone can or wants to spend as much time on it as you or I. Come to that, rhythm and blues is also part of a jazz musician's heritage, and I wouldn't blame anyone for not knowing all about Louis Jordan, either.

      Again, I disagree with your use of the word "tonality." "Tonal" in it's most common current usage means "functional harmony"
      I'd have let that by if you hadn't snuck that "functional" in there. Tonality is first of all the concept of "tonic" or key (hence the name, do buy a dictionary) and the scales with which it is related, generally diatonic, but also including modes. Harmony is subsidiary (it usually is), just as the relationships between harmonies, the functional bit, are secondary to the relationships between notes.

      African music (as I understand it) would more accurately as modal, in the sense that the Greeks used the term.
      I'm not sure about that, the idea of modal implies one mode at a time to me, and I'm not sure that is generally true with African music. It's certainly not true about the North African music I am best (still not very, I admit) acquainted with.
      I would say that jazz uses European tonality with some colorful scalar options that come from the African tradition.
      You're making up your own definitions again, with a deliberate choice of words to suggest that, e.g., blue notes are mere 'colour,' additions rather than intrinsic. This is a very personal interpretation on your part, I feel.

      Last edited by JohnRoss; 01-29-2011 at 12:35 PM.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      Of all the different kinds of Western music, why single out classical here? You have mentioned psalms, OK, though many musical settings of the psalms would, I imagine, have been pre-classical two hundred years ago ...
      Not that are extant. There are no doubt precede the writing of music, but of course we have no record of them by definition. They are irrelevant as the African-Americans would have had no knowledge of them. This is a red herring.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      That aside, a more natural choice would have been hymns which, with notable exceptions, are generally not particularly classical, but more like applied popular song. Psalms may be for listening to, hymns are for singing.
      Sorry, but you're getting your definitions confused. Keep in mind that some of these definitions change over time and place. But in this time and place, psalms are sung too. The distinction is the text of psalms come from the Book of Psalms and hymns were written by man. The practice of psalm writing and singing was hugely important in our early history. I just finished a grad class in pre-civil war American music, so this is one area where I am particularly fresh.

      And to say that it is not classical music is a bit of a red herring again. True, it is not classical music, but it's melodic and harmonic language is taken from classical music. As I said before, whether jazz is influenced by classical music directly or indirectly through other American music is a moot point at the level at which I am looking - the point is that there is still an influence. Claiming that the influence is indirect does not negate the influence.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      [on jazz musicians who only listen to jazz]Oh well, there is just so much heritage, not everyone can or wants to spend as much time on it as you or I.
      I'm not saying that everyone needs to become experts on everything. I guess I'm struck by the lack of curiosity and the self-imposed musical quarantine. Even if they are too busy, the real reason is the resistance to the idea that exposure to anything other than jazz would be worthwhile. Go hear a Beethoven symphony, hear a Bartok string quartet, go see The Rite of Spring, go see a raga group, listen to a real African drum group (not just the hippies in the park.) I'm not saying that it should take over people's lives, but most truly creative people that I've had the pleasure of knowing have had an insatiable curiosity - I see too many jazz musicians fighting to insulate themselves. I find it sad and damaging.


      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      [on my restriction of "tonal" to functional harmony] I'd have let that by if you hadn't snuck that "functional" in there. Tonality is first of all the concept of "tonic" or key (hence the name, do buy a dictionary)
      When we had this same discussion before, you used the Wikipedia definition. But if you'd read further, you would have read, "today the term ["tonality"] is most often used to refer to Major-Minor tonality (also called diatonic tonality, common practice tonality, or functional tonality), [emphasis added]" That is the meaning that is in use today. Your broader definition is no longer the preferred meaning, and the more narrow definition is preferred. Hence "modal" is not considered "tonal" in the modern use of the word. Again, the text for my 18th century counterpoint was called Tonal Counterpoint, to contrast it with the modal counterpoint of the past. True, "tonal" may have had a broader meaning in the past, but now it defaults to the narrower meaning.

      You are making the etymological fallacy - you are assuming that by taking apart the word and seeing what the constituent components mean, then you can understand what the true meaning of the word is. But language is not that logical and meanings change over time so it just doesn't work. I could give you a long list of English words that mean something different than what they used to mean or than their parts would imply. There is even a long list of words that are their own antonymns - they can mean the opposite things. Language is not based on logic, it is based on usage.

      The word tonal, in its modern usage, refers to music that is centered on a pitch which is supported by functional harmony. If there is no functional harmony, then it is essentially modal. If there is no center pitch then it is atonal. You are assuming that tonal and atonal are binary opposites, but in modern usage, they are trinary opposites with modal. Yes, I sometimes hear "tonal" used as the binary opposite of "atonal" but it must be qualified. I've heard professors say things like, "In contrast to atonal music, we have tonal music - and I'm using the word in it's broadest sense..." Without that qualification, the statement is confusing since the narrow definition is the default meaning for musicologists, if not for pedantic amateur linguists.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      I'm not sure about that, the idea of modal implies one mode at a time to me, and I'm not sure that is generally true with African music. It's certainly not true about the North African music I am best (still not very, I admit) acquainted with.
      But again, we are not talking about North African music. It's a big continent. There's a desert in between North Africa and where the vast majority of slaves are from.

      But again, if it is centered around a pitch and there is no functional harmony, then we are essentially talking modal, which is the melodic tool of almost all folk traditions around the world and even of Europe until the development of tonal harmony.

      Peace,
      Kevin

      Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-29-2011 at 02:46 PM.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
      The distinction is the text of psalms come from the Book of Psalms and hymns were written by man. The practice of psalm writing and singing was hugely important in our early history. I just finished a grad class in pre-civil war American music, so this is one area where I am particularly fresh.
      The text of psalms is biblical, the tunes to which they are sung are not. The practical difference is that while psalms are of course sung by both choir and congregation, they tend to be choir-led, as their melodies are less than catchy. Hymns, however, are generally intended to be sing-along-able, like popular song - almost everyone in England including the atheists would be able to belt out a hymn or two from memory, few would be able to do the same with a psalm. Perhaps 19th-century American psalms had more of a beat to them.*
      And to say that it is not classical music is a bit of a red herring again. True, it is not classical music, but it's melodic and harmonic language is taken from classical music.
      We discrep. You are giving classical music an umbrella position I don't feel it is entitled to. By this token, you could say the musical language of the Rolling Stones is taken from classical music, which is evidently a nonsense. Even if ultimately true, it does not further understanding in any way.
      Hence "modal" is not considered "tonal" in the modern use of the word.
      OK, I cede the point.
      ...if not for pedantic amateur linguists.
      Hey, mind the language. I may be pendantic, but I am not amateur. When I'm wrong about language, I'm wrong in my capacity as a professional.
      But again, if it is centered around a pitch and there is no functional harmony, then we are essentially talking modal, which is the melodic tool of almost all folk traditions around the world and even of Europe until the development of tonal harmony.
      You're always making this assumption as well. Just because a tune is modal doesn't mean it lacks functional harmony. The relationships between the scale notes may not be as clearly defined terminologically as for diatonic scales, that doesn't mean they aren't there. For example, the subtonic in most modes, maybe all the minor ones, works very much like a dominant, pushing towards the tonic. I know the term is usually used about diatonic music (and as the opposite of 'afunctional harmony'), but I see no reason it should not be applicable to modal music as well. Many Irish reels are essentially minor arpeggios on the tonic alternating with major arpeggios on the subtonic. That isn't functional harmony? Even modal tunes resolve. And we aren't looking at music that came into being after the (late 19th-century) development of the theory of functional harmony, either.

      *But I think John Brown's Body would have totally flopped as a rabble-rouser if they had chosen a psalm tune instead.

      Last edited by JohnRoss; 01-29-2011 at 04:55 PM.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      The text of psalms is biblical, the tunes to which they are sung are not. The practical difference is that while psalms are of course sung by both choir and congregation, they tend to be choir-led, as their melodies are less than catchy. Hymns, however, are generally intended to be sing-along-able, like popular song - almost everyone in England including the atheists would be able to belt out a hymn or two from memory, few would be able to do the same with a psalm. Perhaps 19th-century American psalms had more of a beat to them.
      I'm not sure why you point out that the music of psalms don't come from the bible - if you'd read what I wrote you would see that I said that their "text" came from the bible. There is no music from the bible and modern music writing wouldn't even begin for 1000 years. (The Greeks had a system but little of it survives.)

      I'm not sure where your getting those characteristics of psalms and hymns. Psalms were quite well known and were more popular in colonial America. (You keep talking about England, but as I said, these things meant different things to different people at different times.) I read through several diaries from the time and they talk a lot about psalms and little of hymns. Many of the psalms were rendered metrical so that different psalm texts could be applied to different people. Many psalmody schools sprang up and great debates arose about how the psalms should be sung. Wandering psalmody teachers brought it to remote places - anyone who has read Last of the Mohicans may remember the strange character of David Gamut, the itinerant psalmody teacher. I don't know what kind of history of colonial music you get in England in Spain, but I suggest that it might be a bit off. Hymnody did become more prominent as time went on, but I think that you are off in the characteristics that you try to imbue it with. But African-American would have heard both.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      We discrep. You are giving classical music an umbrella position I don't feel it is entitled to. By this token, you could say the musical language of the Rolling Stones is taken from classical music, which is evidently a nonsense. Even if ultimately true, it does not further understanding in any way.
      Sure it does. In the same way, linguists trace most European languages back to a common Indo-European root. It may not be important for a butcher trying to talk to his customers, but it is useful for a linguist trying to understand language. You are right, seeing that that I IV and V chord have roots that ultimately go back to the European classical music tradition - that may not be of interest to a kid in a garage band. But as a musicologist, it is important to me.

      Similarly, it is important that the harmony of jazz is an extension of the harmonic language of classical, directly or indirectly. Without that language, jazz would have no chords or chord progressions.

      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      Hey, mind the language. I may be pendantic, but I am not amateur. When I'm wrong about language, I'm wrong in my capacity as a professional.
      Sorry, I didn't mean it as an insult. I consider myself an amateur linguist. I didn't realize that it was your occupation.


      Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
      You're always making this assumption as well. Just because a tune is modal doesn't mean it lacks functional harmony.
      That is the distinction that is made my modern music theory between modal and tonal. If you have some magical source that trumps that definition, please let me know. But I will stick with the definition given to me by every professor I've ever had, every theory text, every history text, and Grove's Dictionary of Music (the OED of music.) The only people whom I hear not using the definitions that way are people without a strong (or any) background in music. (With the exception that tonal is sometimes qualified to have the broader meaning that you wanted it to have.)

      This is not a definition I come to etymologically, but based of definition and usage by scholars and that are widely accepted in the academic community.

      You go into an explanation of how some tones in modes can act kinda like a dominant. But it is not a dominant, it is just a tone that pulls to the tonic. In functional harmony, dominant function is defined by the leading tone because that defines the V-I relationship, the cornerstone of tonal music.

      Peace,
      Kevin

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    3. There used to be this guy in NYC named Leonard Bernstein, who knew a little bit about classical music, piano, conducting, and composing. He was also an important music lecturer. At one time he had an educational presentation recorded onto an LP, called "What is jazz?". Speaking for the academic community, he explained that jazz could not exist without the blues, and that the main elements of the blues consisted of it's form, cadences, rhythms, and the existence of "blue notes" which resided somewhere BETWEEN the b3 and 3, and the b5 and 5. He said these elements were straight from Africa.

      He said these African blue notes could be accurately done with the voice, brass, strings, etc., but not on the piano, because it was too western tempered. Blues pianists found they could approximate these blue notes by playing a 2 note dissonance, because the blue note was "in between" the 2 notes. Now you are creating new language. This is where the foundation of jazz harmony came into play. Now the blues pianists start adding a New Orleans rhythm and expanding on the blues form and you have ragtime. Then, small brass bands said, hey, we can play that stuff in a group format, and away things went. A bit of a simplification, but Bernstein made a convincing argument.

      The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra recently went to Cuba and Wynton gave a demonstration about how Afro Cuban clave patterns synchronized perfectly over traditional New Orleans jazz rhythms, because they both came from Africa. I wonder what Wynton's whole take on the classical angle would be, since Wynton is an award winning classical performer, and a jazz historian, I am sure he has an educated perspective that would be interesting to research.

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    3. Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
      There used to be this guy in NYC named Leonard Bernstein, who knew a little bit about classical music ...
      And people think that my tone is condescending...

      So many problems with your statements.

      First of all Lenny was not addressing musicologists, he was aiming at the general public. Also, Lenny - while a great conductor, composer and ambassador for music - was not a musicologist. A composer and a musicologist are not the same thing. It would be like saying that an author is automatically an expert on the history of literature.

      Next, your assertion (through Lenny's mouth) that microtonal blue notes are a necessity for jazz or blues is ridiculous at face value - if that were true, neither would be playable on the piano. Is Bill Evans an incomplete jazz player because he can't play microtonal blue notes? Is Otis Spann an incomplete blues piano player because he can't? Plenty of blues and jazz gets played without microtonal blues notes. The crushed m2s that you refer to are not an approximation but just a jarring dissonance that doesn't even come close to the original. They are a colorful feature, but they are not required. Evans would soloing on a monophonic keyboard would not sound like less authentic jazz, and Spann would not sound less bluesy. There are plenty of jazz guitarists who don't use microtonal blues notes - are they not authentic jazz players? No, it is a nice color but it is far from a structural requirement.

      The first two elements that you mention, "form" and "cadences" are clearly European in origin. The forms of jazz are exact copies of common forms in classical. And cadences? Are we joking? These are from the European tradition - West African music doesn't even have chords in the sense that we do. As to rhythms, with a few stylistic exceptions, the rhythms of jazz closely resemble European music - fixed meters (the exact same ones that white music was using), standard subdivisions, etc. There are some important elements of African music (swing, loose rhythmic alignment - "heterogeneous sound ideal", etc.) True, these are very important for the feel of jazz. But to lump that all as "the rhythm comes from Africa" is just plain silly - either you misheard Lenny, or he was overgeneralizing for an audience that knows little about music. Perhaps he is trying to overemphasize the African elements just out of race-guilt, but I would hope that we were past that by now.

      But this is exactly the kind of overgeneralizing that I am talking about. You guys keep telling me that there is no bias towards overstating the African contributions, and then in the process you provide me more examples.

      As to the Wynton thing, as I mentioned he comes from a strong Afro-centric chauvinism. I'm not aware that he is a "jazz historian" as you say. He is a respected performer, but that is not the same thing. Jazz historians publish books, submit articles to peer-reviewed journals, and present at conferences. Just being a respected performer that likes to shoot of his mouth about the slanted view of jazz history that his father taught him - that does not make him a jazz historian. That requires intensive research, not an ego that makes him think that he knows everything. (Don't get me started on Wynton - hell of a player, but thinks that confidence and knowledge are the same thing.)

      Yes the clave seems to have began in Africa. Yes, a dumbed down version of the clave is used in certain New Orleans grooves, like the boogaloo. But New Orleans didn't get it from Africa - it got it from the Caribbean, well after jazz was born. Check out Peter Navaez' article "The Influences of Hispanic Music Cultures on African-American Blues Musicians" in the Black Music Research Journal, Vol 14, no 2, Autumn 1994. Someone had previously mentioned the Caribbean influence, and it is important. When I lived in New Orleans, I even heard some of the old guys talk about Mexican influences. But these are mostly surface elements that are not in the core structure of the music. And Wynton's point is moot since the NOLA grooves he is talking about are mainly played in NOLA (like the boogaloo, originally "bugalú" in Spanish) and in a few R&B grooves (Bo Didley beat, etc.) The clave is not an element of 99.99% of jazz, so it really isn't relevant to this conversation. Having come from New Orleans, I used to try to get the guys in the band to do 2nd line groves, etc, after I came here. Too many blank stares broke me of the habit.

      But it's Wynton being light a loose with the facts again. Anything that makes the black heritage of jazz look good at the the expense of the white heritage of jazz is OK with him. But even if he could prove that they both trace back to Africa (instead of one to another) all that proves is that that one element came from Africa, not everything. I have never said that no elements came from Africa. My point was the tendency to downplay European contribution and oversell the African contribution.

      Thank you for providing some more examples of the subtle reverse racism that amateur jazz historians push on the unsuspecting public.

      Sorry, if I got a little heated. I found your tone at the beginning very condescending.

      Peace,
      Kevin

      Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-30-2011 at 03:41 AM.

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    3. Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Star View Post
    Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.
    The problem is the word "anyone." Good sources are reviewed by scholars. Granted Wikipedia is doing it's best to control certain content to try and ameliorate the problem, but they can only do so much. I've found personally (and has been found in studies) that it is pretty good on general subjects, but the more technical and the more controversial it gets, the more likely you are to run into misinformation. I personally have found and tried to correct several pieces of misinformation, sometimes garnering a hue and cry from the peanut gallery in protest. Many of these have been facts that are easily checkable in any good reference book. But that is the problem with Wikipedia (and information on the internet in general) - it is driven by a bunch of people who half know the subject and think that facts are up for a popularity vote.

    Yes, Wikipedia is awesome. But like anything else, you have to know it's limitations. If you look up "Wikipedia" on Wikipedia, you will see several of these concerns mentioned. I think that Wikipedia is a good place to start research, and as long as things don't get too technical (or controversial) then you are probably OK. But research should never end with Wikipedia - it is just too unreliable on very specific things and it is unverifiable because you have no idea who is writing it and what their standing is. And ultimately it is only one source and real research should never rely on one source (especially an anonymous one.) Of course, once you get beyond high school, no encyclopedia should be used as a research source, but at least regular encyclopedias are written reviewed by experts in their fields.

    But it is great. If I can't go to sleep until I can remember the name of Elizabeth Taylor's 3rd husband, or if I'm dying to remember how many days the Alamo lasted before it fell - Wikipedia is the first place I go. But if I'm doing research into Levy-Straussian structuralism and its application of mediator triangles to Native American trickster folklore for a research paper - Wikipedia just isn't going to be good or reliable enough - not if I want confidence in the information.

    Peace,
    Kevin

    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-30-2011 at 12:50 PM.

    01-30-2011, 06:14 PM #31
    Sorry, I should have attributed that as a quote:


  • #32
    IC

    Now I feel bad. I love The Office.

    Peace,
    Kevin

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    And people think that my tone is condescending...

    Peace,
    Kevin
    That was addressing the whole forum, which is what this place is, it's not private. Probably anyone under the age of 40 doesn't have any idea who Bernstein is, unfortunately. Or perhaps fortunately, because you kind of portray him as a hack, to those who might not know him. I didn't realize he had an agenda, or was so ignorant about jazz. He was using African, blues, jazz, and classical music in his presentation that made a convincing lie.

    Perhaps many of us who have studied the origins and evolution of jazz have been misled by educators with an agenda. We think we are somewhat informed, but actually we are still ignorant. I really try to avoid dispensing inaccurate information.

  • #34
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Sure it does. In the same way, linguists trace most European languages back to a common Indo-European root. It may not be important for a butcher trying to talk to his customers, but it is useful for a linguist trying to understand language.
    Even a musicologist should know when to stop, though. If you are trying to understand a relatively modern linguistic development like, say, the emergence of Catalan, you look at Romance languages, perhaps Germanic dialects, vernacular Latin, maybe even classical Latin, you aren't likely to go as far back as Indo-European stuff because it would cease to be helpful. If you wanted to examine the Rolling Stones from a musicological stance, you would probably look at how British musicians were absorbing black American music at the time, tracing the latter back to your (still disputed) European classical music tradition wouldn't shed much light.
    Similarly, it is important that the harmony of jazz is an extension of the harmonic language of classical, directly or indirectly. Without that language, jazz would have no chords or chord progressions.
    And "directly or indirectly" seems a very important distinction to me, because I don't accept your "everything stems from classical music" position. Classical music is not the father and mother of everything else, secular music came first (and continued), then church music, then classical music. The codification of things like harmonic progressions doesn't mean they originated with classical music. Chopin did not invent the mazurka, for example, he used something extant.
    In the same way, linguists trace most European languages back to a common Indo-European root. It may not be important for a butcher trying to talk to his customers, but it is useful for a linguist trying to understand language.
    Even a musicologist should know when to stop, though. If you are trying to understand a relatively modern linguistic development like, say, the emergence of Catalan, you look at Romance languages, perhaps Germanic dialects, vernacular Latin, maybe even classical Latin, you aren't likely to go back to Indo-European stuff because it ceases to be helpful. If you wanted to explain the Rolling Stones musicologically, you would probably look at how British musicians were absorbing black American music at the time, tracing the latter back to your (still disputed) European classical music tradition wouldn't shed much light.
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    First of all Lenny was not addressing musicologists, he was aiming at the general public. Also, Lenny... was not a musicologist.
    But he was a respected educator, and you're going to have to be more convincing than that to disqualify him. And the theory Cosmic describes so nicely pretty well fits my memories of what Marshall Stearns says in The Story of Jazz. I know it's decades out of date (so am I), but I understand that it is usually criticized for not being pro-negro enough. And that was the orthodox position of the time, that the minor pentatonic scale met the major diatonic scale and a kind of compromise was reached, the blues scale. Of course, Bernstein/Stearns didn't know as much about African music as is known now.
    your assertion (through Lenny's mouth) that microtonal blue notes are a necessity for jazz or blues is ridiculous at face value - if that were true, neither would be playable on the piano... The crushed m2s that you refer to are not an approximation but just a jarring dissonance that doesn't even come close to the original.
    Or essential to jazz. Isn't dissonance an essential part of jazz? Not the dissonant tension resolving to harmony of classical music, but dissonance for its own sake. Come to that, who would you choose as the epitome of jazz pianists, someone technically brilliant, maybe verging on classical virtuosity, like Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson, or someone down and dirty like Jelly Roll Morton or Fats Waller? Doesn't jazz sound better on an upright than a grand piano (and if slightly out of tune, so much the better)?
    They are a colorful feature, but they are not required.
    There's that 'color' trivialization again, your disqualifications are getting repetitive.
    There are plenty of jazz guitarists who don't use microtonal blues notes - are they not authentic jazz players?
    Just to establish a common ground for debate, who? If jazz guitar playing hasn't got actual bends, it tends to have a heap of vibrato to obfuscate the pitch (plus, if it sounds like classical music, maybe that's because no, it isn't jazz).
    No, it is a nice color but it is far from a structural requirement.
    Again. Just saying.
    The first two elements that you mention, "form" and "cadences" are clearly European in origin.
    Of course, we all know the well known "12-bar sonata" form. Not to mention the "first-movement rag," preferred by Salieri.
    either you misheard Lenny, or he was overgeneralizing for an audience that knows little about music.
    Or that was the generally believed idea (and still is) - that African music, transposed to North America, met European harmony (I'll accept that, it's the 'classical harmony' I won't) and they begat the blues which begat jazz. As we're coolish about Wikipedia lately, I'll point you at this page (Understanding Jazz: The Roots of Jazz) from the Kennedy Centre. I'm not suggesting you read it, it's highly simplified, but just count: 30-something lines about the African roots of jazz, and 6 on its European influences. So, rather than that Bernstein was overgeneralizing, it would seem that yours is a rogue opinion.
    Wynton's point is moot since the NOLA grooves he is talking about are mainly played in NOLA...
    And New Orleans has no part in a conversation about the origins of jazz, now?
    The clave is not an element of 99.99% of jazz, so it really isn't relevant to this conversation.
    Anything that addresses the mystery of swing sounds relevant to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post



    Next, your assertion (through Lenny's mouth) that microtonal blue notes are a necessity for jazz or blues is ridiculous at face value - if that were true, neither would be playable on the piano. Is Bill Evans an incomplete jazz player because he can't play microtonal blue notes? Is Otis Spann an incomplete blues piano player because he can't? Plenty of blues and jazz gets played without microtonal blues notes. The crushed m2s that you refer to are not an approximation but just a jarring dissonance that doesn't even come close to the original. They are a colorful feature, but they are not required. Evans would soloing on a monophonic keyboard would not sound like less authentic jazz, and Spann would not sound less bluesy. There are plenty of jazz guitarists who don't use microtonal blues notes - are they not authentic jazz players? No, it is a nice color but it is far from a structural requirement.


    Peace,
    Kevin


    when I was in Jazz history class back in 1976 we were taught that blue notes came to be as a result of the clash of the western major scale with the different pentatonic style scales that made up the music of the various tribes whose member were kidnaped and brought to the west.

    Most of those scale did not contain either the 3rd or 5th so a lot of the African slaves approximated the 3rd and 5th and wound up sliding into then.
    Hence the blue note

    I'm no expert nor am I a historian. But I'm pretty sure this explanation has been published before.

    I remember those Bernstein lectures. They were great for music appreciation. He wrote the score to West side Story. I wouldn't be dissin' him

  • #36
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    ...Perhaps many of us who have studied the origins and evolution of jazz have been misled by educators with an agenda. We think we are somewhat informed, but actually we are still ignorant. I really try to avoid dispensing inaccurate information.
    I don't think that there is a conscious agenda, just an unconscious tendency. Probably a lot of it comes from race-guilt and the tendency to emphasize what was different - the elements that come from the European tradition seem "invisible" to someone steeped in the European tradition.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Even a musicologist should know when to stop, though. ...
    Uhhh, so linguists can go back over 5000 year to reconstruct PIE, but I can't go back 100 years to reconstruct the origins of jazz? At least I'm working from written records. And reconstructing the African origins of jazz require going just as far back as looking for the European ones. It's just not taboo.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    If you wanted to examine the Rolling Stones from a musicological stance, you would probably look at how British musicians were absorbing black American music at the time, tracing the latter back to your (still disputed) European classical music tradition wouldn't shed much light.
    It depends on the scale. If your goal is to see direct influences, then no. If you're goal is to look at the ultimate origins of the language, then you need to look back further than 10 years. You are trying to force and arbitrarily narrow scope. I'm saying that there is value in looking back further.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    ...Classical music is not the father and mother of everything else, secular music came first (and continued), then church music, then classical music. The codification of things like harmonic progressions doesn't mean they originated with classical music. Chopin did not invent the mazurka, for example, he used something extant.
    First of all, we know next to nothing about early secular music. Secondly, for much of western music history, classical and church music were synonymous. Even so, since then all three have had an interwoven relationship. Classical music has informed sacred music (mostly leading.) Classical and folk music fed each other to a great extent. Classical borrowed ideas from folk and folk followed trends in classical (although often watered down.) But classical theory has been the standard by which the others have been understood.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    ...But he [Lenny] was a respected educator, and you're going to have to be more convincing than that to disqualify him....
    "Scholar" and "educator" are no the same thing. Bill Nye the Science Guy is "respected as an educator" - that does not make him a scholar. Lenny had a great ability to connect with the public. But he was not a musicologist.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    And the theory Cosmic describes so nicely pretty well fits my memories of what Marshall Stearns says in The Story of Jazz.
    I'm not saying that it is not widely taught. But it is less commonly taught nowadays (in academia at least.) When Miles went to Julliard he was taught that "black people sang the blues because they had to pick cotton and they were sad." (Forgive me if I mixed up the quote.) Back then, blues and jazz were still "n-word music." It seems that for a while we swung the opposite direction - a sort of reverse-race-bias. I'm suggesting that we swing back to the middle.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Isn't dissonance an essential part of jazz? Not the dissonant tension resolving to harmony of classical music, but dissonance for its own sake.
    Yes. But my point is that micotonal blue notes clearly aren't a requirement since great jazz can be made without it.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    There's that 'color' trivialization again, your disqualifications are getting repetitive.
    You seem to think that "color" is an insult. To me it isn't. Color is very important. It gives music its flavor. I was just trying to distinguish between things that are structural. I'm not saying that the skeleton is more important than the skin, just that it has a different function. Again, as I said before, one could argue that those kind of surface elements are the most important - they are the ones that people most readily recognize.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Of course, we all know the well known "12-bar sonata" form. Not to mention the "first-movement rag," preferred by Salieri.
    That argument would be really compelling if you could show that these forms have African origin. They don't they have much more in common with the regular forms of European music. Again, there is no harmonic form in African music - it is the harmonic movement that defines blues best, not the number of bars. If it is just the number of bars, then there are plenty of examples in the European tradition. And I'm not aware that there are 12-bar forms in African music - indeed, words like "bar" and "form" don't mean the same thing in that music.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    ...As we're coolish about Wikipedia lately, I'll point you at this page (Understanding Jazz: The Roots of Jazz) from the Kennedy Centre. I'm not suggesting you read it, it's highly simplified, but just count: 30-something lines about the African roots of jazz, and 6 on its European influences. So, rather than that Bernstein was overgeneralizing, it would seem that yours is a rogue opinion.
    My argument isn't with Wikipedia, but with non-scolarly, non-peer-reviewed sources replacing scholarship. Notice that there are no sources and it doesn't even tell us who wrote it. For all we know, it was just written by some intern, base on what he read on Wikipedia, and something he remembers from a lecture he once hear given by Lenny. These types of things are usually just derivative of the popular sentiment of the time. It of course goes to great pains to accent African influences but gives short shrift to European ones. They casually mention "harmony" as if it is not one of the most important elements. It ignores form and temperement. It ignores that scales have as much to do with the European version as the African ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    And New Orleans has no part in a conversation about the origins of jazz, now?
    Of course it does. But my point is that if it [jazz clave] wasn't part of jazz when it formed, and it never really made it into jazz beyond NOLA, then how can it be defined as "important"? If the vast majority doesn't have it, then it cannot be described as a defining characteristic.

    The point that Wynton was trying to make was that NOLA music has clave and so does Afro-Cuban music, therefore they both come from Africa. First of all, it is of limited application to this discussion, since the vast majority of jazz doesn't have it. The other problem with Wynton's argument is that he is ignoring the fact that NOLA music didn't get the clave from Africa, but from the Carribbean influence, after jazz and blues developed. Again, the man is not a scholar, and his Afro-centrist view of music history is well known. People seem to think that someone being a musical celebrity automatically makes them a scholar.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Anything that addresses the mystery of swing sounds relevant to me.
    I'm not sure that the clave tells us anything about swing. Swing is one of the few things that can clearly be traced to African music, along with a general looseness in phrasing (again, not an insult, it's just an aesthetic choice.) But I'm not sure what it has to do with clave.

    Peace,
    Kevin
    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 01-31-2011 at 06:07 PM.

  • #37
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    I was hoping this forum was a little more mature and informed. This debate is still going on in 2011? Jazz is American, not European, not African. Informed by both. This is what happens in a country that does not require art and culture to be taught to all in a public education. It's called ignorance. BTW, Wynton Marsalis is the highest paid jazz scholar in the world.
    Last edited by max chill; 01-31-2011 at 06:20 PM.

  • #38
    Thanks Max, but we know that. The point is what elements come from what cultures (assuming that the American music culture was so close to the European one that they were effectively the same for the scale of this discussion) and is there an unconscious tendency to emphasize the African ones and underemphasize the European/American ones.

    Peace,
    Kevin

  • #39
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    You are trying to force and arbitrarily narrow scope. I'm saying that there is value in looking back further.
    I'm not trying to force anything, that isn't my style.
    First of all, we know next to nothing about early secular music.
    We know that it was, that's all I said. And was first.
    Secondly, for much of western music history, classical and church music were synonymous.
    Nuts. You're now saying that composed music = classical.
    But classical theory has been the standard by which the others have been understood.
    Yes, this is what evangelists do. There you are with a perfectly good ritual to welcome in the spring and they come along and call it Easter. No, I'm not having it.
    Bill Nye the Science Guy is "respected as an educator" - that does not make him a scholar.
    No idea who you are talking about. But if he is really respected, that means he doesn't just make it up and present it to the public. Neither did Bernstein, I feel.
    Lenny had a great ability to connect with the public. But he was not a musicologist.
    You asked our opinion not as musicologists but as members of this forum. We aren't musicologists, most of us, at least. Neither are you, as I understand, excuse me if I'm mistaken and not that I want to make anything of it, but if you're doing a Master's in music after coming from somewhere else, you're at most a fledgling musicologist. I didn't call myself a physiologist when I was an undergrad and, never having worked in the field, I never have done. You get the right to call yourself an "-ogist" when you are paid to do it or have exercised for some time, not when you're attending classes. Leonard Bernstein wasn't a musicologist? Bah.
    I'm not saying that it is not widely taught. But it is less commonly taught nowadays (in academia at least.)
    If it is already being taught that European music is more important than was previously thought, where's your thesis?
    When Miles went to Julliard...
    You can respect Miles as much as you like (I can take him or leave him, myself), but he didn't have anything at all to do with the origins of jazz.
    Yes. But my point is that micotonal blue notes clearly aren't a requirement since great jazz can be made without it.
    Jazz is not what it was, more's the pity. Some of us would rather like to have a time machine to be able to go back and assassinate a few key figures in the creation of modern jazz. But, again, that isn't relevant to your thesis. Jazz as it began could not, ever, under any circumstances, be played without blue notes (the 'microtonal' is an irrelevancy, who cares if the correct terminology is ' microtonal'? They're just blue notes).
    I was just trying to distinguish between things that are structural.
    Scales are about as structural as it comes in music, in this case especially so as melody is always superior to harmony, in any musical system. To say that the scale is only 'colour,' or "surface elements... the ones that people most readily recognize" is really missing the point.
    That argument would be really compelling if you could show that these forms have African origin.
    It was just a joke, Kevin. You really do need to get out more.
    Again, there is no harmonic form in African music
    I'll just mention that I'd like to talk about this another day.
    I'm not sure that the clave tells us anything about swing.
    Tells me something. One of the advantages of living in Spain nowadays is the easy access to Latin American music, and it is totally obvious to me that the umph that good salsa has is pretty much the same as swing. And "clave" is really no more than the pulse transmitted in a way that tells the dancer what to do. Bossa, for example, is clave, reggaeton is clave, they're just instructions as to what to do with your hips and so forth, and the pulse that gives you the urge to get up and move. I've always believed that the rightful place of jazz was first and foremost as a dance music.

  • #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    T there an unconscious tendency to emphasize the African ones and underemphasize the European/American ones.

    I've read the whole thread. Since jazz was a new music created by blacks in America, studying the origins raises some logical order to pursuing answers. The basic question is usually, "what makes jazz different from European classical music"? The answer would describe the African elements. You seem to propose a similar question, which is, "what makes jazz different from African music"? Then the answer would be the western classical elements.

    Jazz has evolved to be so much more than it was, but the original jazz needed the African elements to be considered jazz. Scott Joplin's ragtime was not jazz, but Jellyroll Morton's ragtime was, even though they were both black. Joplin chose to let classical be the stronger influence, while Morton did not. It is not unusual to focus on what creators did that made things different. The earliest blues were much closer in melody and form to African music than western music. However, jazz as we know it today has become more complex and evolved because of the application of western harmonic theory.

    Before the blues you would have had field hollers or maybe this...African American or European American?

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6mRdPP6wRo&playnext=1&list=PLA97772E50E20 922E[/youtube]
    Last edited by max chill; 01-31-2011 at 09:58 PM.

  • #41
    Hesitant to weigh in here... But, I must say, that the argument the OP advances is disturbing. I couldn't disagree more with you, Kevin.

    Your argument seems to be premised on an underlying sense of white victimhood, that white jazz musicians and Western aristocratic and bourgeois traditions of "classical music" have been done an injustice by overzealous African American nationalists and pseudo-scholars. While I do not have much use for Bernstein, and regard W Marsalis as in fact deeply conservative, the idea that we would dismiss non-academically-affiliated intellectuals because they do not submit to peer review, etc. is extremely limiting. I spend a lot of time reading peer reviewed academic literature, and I have not found scholarly writing to have half as much profundity and wisdom as the words of Louis Armstrong, Monk, Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, etc. The Italian radical Antonio Gramsci had a term for folks like the giants of bebop-- "organic intellectuals." To my mind, in both words and music, jazz musicians number among the most important social philosophers of the 20th century. (And the academic establishment sure lets a lot of nonsense through the peer-review filter...)

    The argument that jazz's true history has been traduced by overzealous Afro-centric interpreters is all over the recent literature on white jazz (see, e.g. "Lost Chords"), and it is not persuasive, connected as it is historically to the neoconservative attacks of the 1980s and 1990s on efforts to expand the literary canon, offer courses in ethnic studies, etc. In fact, most mainstream jazz thinkers, like Marsalis and Giddens and the Ken Burns Jazz series, offer a highly individualistic story of jazz based on a few remarkable geniuses, and almost always pegged to an American exceptionalist narrative that blunts the sharp edges of jazz's challenge to American self-celebration.

    To return to your argument. I think that the problem of your argument lies in the reification of the score or transcription. This is a "useful fiction" in musicology, but we should recall that jazz is a living form that includes both scores and improvisation, live performance and studio recordings, educational practices as well as social criticism. Noting that certain cadences "come from" classical music, and that syncopation and hemiola can be find in a wide variety of non-African music, seems to me an inadequate means of establishing the priority of one form's influence over that of the other.

    Although I can't imagine you agreeing with this, my take on jazz history and jazz aesthetics comes down to a central, unavoidable point: in the final analysis, jazz is a part of the global black Diasporic aesthetic tradition, an internationalist and syncretic tradition in which improvisation, syncopation, group participation, what Zora Neale Hurston called the "will to ornament," the correlation of beauty and feats of skill, and a deeply dialectical relationship with Christianity (and Christian music) have been and continue to be central aesthetic tendencies.

    I am not essentializing, not being a racial determinist--simply making a commonsensical observation from reasoned historical study and critical reflection. I am not denying that scottish pipers, klezmer fiddlers, or baroque organists improvise--but they don't play jazz, and counterfactually, it is impossible to imagine any context for the emergence of jazz other than African diasporic communities. Am I wrong?

    There is a vast literature on this. I might recommend reading Farah Jasmine Griffin, Robin D.G. Kelley, John Szwed, George Lipsitz, Eric Porter, George Lewis, and the more recent ethnomusicological literature on jazz and blues. You might discover, as some other posters have noted, that your complaint is a very old one, and that in fact the sorting out of taste hierarchies re: jazz and "serious music" is one of the central tensions of American musical history.

    Denying African American music its African American (and African) contexts does violence to historical memory and distorts the political meanings of jazz. (And a final point--the assertion re: African retentions evaporating because of the end of the slave trade in 1808 is deeply wrong... this is a deep and complex subject--among other things, the illegal importation of slaves continued well after 1808, varying levels of solidarity existed in different places and times, and there was a whole network of interaction between diasporic African communities from the beginning of the slave trade to this day-- you might want to read Sterling Stuckey's Slave Culture, Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism, and George Rawick's essays on the WPA slave narratives...)

    Didn't mean to rattle on so long... and sorry to be so insistent. You may well choose to ignore or fight me on these points. That's cool. But if you are going to argue what you argue, I thought you should at least be prepared for some justified anger and bafflement, of the variety presented above.

  • #42
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Nuts. You're now saying that composed music = classical.
    Not that is not what I said. What I said was that through much of Western music history, the vast majority of what we see is church music - that was classical music. It isn't until the second millennium that we see secular court music being written down. I'm sure there was folk and court music going on, but we know little to nothing about it. And since then (and as far as we know before) the three (sacred, court, and folk) have been interwoven. The theory of the folk music that we know of has always been a watered down version of the theory of the court music. This is not like in some Eastern societies where completely different musics evolve in different castes. No, there is a lot of "communication" going on between these musics and they are very closely related.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    No idea who you are talking about. [Bill Nye the Science Guy] But if he is really respected, that means he doesn't just make it up and present it to the public. Neither did Bernstein, I feel.
    He hosts a kids show on science. Well respected as an educator but when the asteroid is plummeting to the destroy the earth, he is not the guy their going to call, because he is a TV personality. Likewise Lenny was just really good at communicating with people (along with other prodigious talents) but was not a scholar. He didn't get a degree in musicology, he didn't spend years working on a doctoral dissertation on the roots of blues, that was later analyzed by other scholars. He didn't submit articles to peer reviewed journals. He didn't go to conferences to present papers to be discussed by panels of experts. That's what scholars do. Lenny was a celebrity and he used that to reach people - Great! - but that doesn't make him a scholar.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    You asked our opinion not as musicologists but as members of this forum. We aren't musicologists, most of us, at least. Neither are you, as I understand, excuse me if I'm mistaken and not that I want to make anything of it, but if you're doing a Master's in music after coming from somewhere else, you're at most a fledgling musicologist.
    True, but the standards of evidence are the same wherever you come from. If this were a physics forum and someone said that perpetual motion were possible, we wouldn't say, "Well, he's not a physicist, so we'll say that he's correct." No, the standards are the same, regardless of the background. People make mistakes, so do I. People have misconceptions, so do I. But the standards of proof are still the same.

    But musicologist is a label. It refers to an approach and an attitude. It is a mindset. I haven't gotten my PhD yet, but I'm getting there. Did I have to wait for my degree in classical guitar to call myself a classical guitarist? I think that having done years of grad work in musicology allows me to wear that hat.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    If it is already being taught that European music is more important than was previously thought [in the development of jazz], where's your thesis?
    That there is a lot of resistance to the idea in the general public.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Jazz as it began could not, ever, under any circumstances, be played without blue notes (the 'microtonal' is an irrelevancy, who cares if the correct terminology is ' microtonal'? They're just blue notes).
    There's a huge difference - but that was mainly about Lenny's idea of the importance of those notes in between the notes. And I've transcribed a lot of Dixie and old swing stuff and I don't recall being bombarded with blues notes. There are many pieces that don't have blues notes. Are they not jazz?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Scales are about as structural as it comes in music, in this case especially so as melody is always superior to harmony, in any musical system. ...
    Well, I don't really think of the blue notes as being scalar - maybe in blues, but not really in jazz. For the same reason that I don't think of the passingtones in the so called bebop scales as being scalar - they are not functioning as scale tones but as chromatic color in the scale. (But this is getting into semantics.) Again, there are heaps of great jazz solos that have no blue notes in them.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    Tells me something. One of the advantages of living in Spain nowadays is the easy access to Latin American music, and it is totally obvious to me that the umph that good salsa has is pretty much the same as swing.
    Well, if you think that Salsa has swing, then you and I are talking about two different things.

    Quote Originally Posted by max chill View Post
    The basic question is usually, "what makes jazz different from European classical music"? The answer would describe the African elements. You seem to propose a similar question, which is, "what makes jazz different from African music"? Then the answer would be the western classical elements.
    Yes, the problem is that people seldom ask the second question.

    Perhaps there is an element of perspective - we notice things that are different. But that fact that they stand out more from our subjective position does not make them uniquely worthy of notice, at the expense of everything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by max chill View Post
    Jazz has evolved to be so much more than it was, but the original jazz needed the African elements to be considered jazz
    My point is that it also needed some extremely important elements from the European tradition as well. These are often given short shrift.

    Quote Originally Posted by max chill View Post
    The earliest blues were much closer in melody and form to African music than western music.
    I think that that really depends on what we're defining as the "earliest blues." Once we get to the point that there is a chord progression, then there is a heavy component of European tradition. What element of "form" are you ascribing to African origin? When I hear Western African traditional music, I don't hear anything even resembling jazz.

    Peace,
    Kevin
    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 02-01-2011 at 02:41 AM.

  • #43
    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    ...Your argument seems to be premised on an underlying sense of white victimhood, that white jazz musicians and Western aristocratic and bourgeois traditions of "classical music" have been done an injustice by overzealous African American nationalists and pseudo-scholars.
    I think "victim" would be harsh, especially to the extent that it pales in comparison to the suffering of African-Americans. But guilt is not a reason to distort facts. Whites are not suffereing as a result - the truth is the victim.

    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    While I do not have much use for Bernstein, and regard W Marsalis as in fact deeply conservative, the idea that we would dismiss non-academically-affiliated intellectuals because they do not submit to peer review, etc. is extremely limiting.
    My complaint is not that they don't have a degree. My problem is that they are putting forth suppositions that they (while consistent with popular sentiment) contradict scholarship. The facts are not a popularity contest. It doesn't matter how many people believe it. Unfortunately, celebrities often think that they are brilliant just because someone sticks a microphone in their face. But being a celebrity and being an expert in music history are not the same thing. I don't blame discount them just because they are celebrities, I discount them because they don't appear to know what they are talking about. They have thrown together a few factoids and spackled it together with suppositions. Forgive me, but Lenny and Winton are phenomenal musicians, but humilty is not a virtue with which either familiar. And good scholars have to start with the humility of assuming that they may not know something and be willing to do the work to find out - those guys are too busy being stars to do the work - but they had an plenty of ego to take it's place.

    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    I spend a lot of time reading peer reviewed academic literature, and I have not found scholarly writing to have half as much profundity and wisdom as the words of Louis Armstrong, Monk, Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, etc. The Italian radical Antonio Gramsci had a term for folks like the giants of bebop-- "organic intellectuals."
    Being inspired by choice words is one thing. But if you want history, ask an historian. If you want inspiration or art, then you want someone with their head in the clouds (not meant as an insult) but if you want good history, you want someone who is careful and follows good methodology.

    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    The argument that jazz's true history has been traduced by overzealous Afro-centric interpreters is all over the recent literature on white jazz (see, e.g. "Lost Chords"), and it is not persuasive, connected as it is historically to the neoconservative attacks of the 1980s and 1990s on efforts to expand the literary canon, offer courses in ethnic studies, etc.
    I think that that is an unfair characterization. (Calling me a neocon - man you know how to wound me. ) The facts are the facts. For the record, I'm a strong supporter of multiculturalism. I think that the African-American contributions to music are strong enough to stand on their own without distortion.

    I notice that you don't delve into the merits of the musical arguments. Where did jazz get harmonic language and chord progressions? Where did it get their instruments? Where did it get its fixed meter? Where did it get its diatonic scales? Where did it get its temperament? Take away even a few of these and it isn't jazz anymore. My point is that if you take away the European influences, then it is just as much "no longer jazz" as if you took away the African influences. But when people talk about the origins of jazz, they only talk about the African contributions and if they mention the European traditions contributions, it is usually just lip service and incomplete. Many definitions of jazz bend over backwards to list and define all the African contributions, sometimes even to the point of exageration.

    Again, I'm not saying that jazz is from the European tradition. I'm saying that it's core (harmony, chord progressions, fixed meter, instruments, scales, temperaments) is essentially European music which has been transformed with African elements (swing, poly-rhythms, call and response, improv, group dynamic, heterogeneous sound ideal, etc.) Both are extremely important and could not have done it alone. But I do feel that one gets emphasized at the expense of the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    Denying African American music its African American (and African) contexts does violence to historical memory and distorts the political meanings of jazz.
    I'm not denying it, just seeing that it's origins are more complex than often portrayed. And let's not conflate African and African-American - they are too very different things.

    Quote Originally Posted by JEdgarWinter View Post
    (And a final point--the assertion re: African retentions evaporating because of the end of the slave trade in 1808 is deeply wrong...
    There was a gradual transformation of culture that took place that accelerated in 1808. Again, many of the freed slaves that tried to return to Africa were in for a major culture shock - they were not the same cultures. Many of the African aspects of their culture were brutally suppressed in the the colonies and the US. Their religion was flat out banned, families were broken up, they were grouped together without regard to language, their languages were often banned. They were also constantly exposed to "white" culture and music. Again, the Gullah culture was probably the most successful of the African-American groups at continuity of culture and avoiding white influence. But even they were no longer purely "African" - in language or culture. And no other group even came close.

    We can call it a travesty of history, but the African-Americans were not allowed to hold onto their culture in its entirety. But I cannot build a time machine. And if it were not for that enforced aculturalization, we would have no jazz - sometimes travesties can have a good outcome (not to diminish the cultural tragedy.)

    Musical traditions were easier to keep. People could sing together even when they didn't speak the same language. Slave owners even encouraged singing because it made it easier to keep track of where their field hands were. Singing and dancing were an easy form of entertainment for slaves. But slaves also heard and even participated a wide variety of "white" music, from songs and hymns, to folk songs, to even classical music.

    Again, I'm not saying that jazz is a product of American/European culture - that would be idiocy. I'm saying that it was music, made by African-Americans which brought together elements of American/European music traditions along with African-American culture, which still had some important elements of African music that they'd managed to hold onto. I just think that the emphasis that is often given is lopsided. If I made it lopsided in the other way, I'd be called a racist. So I guess I'll label the standard slanting reverse-racist.

    Peace,
    Kevin
    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 02-01-2011 at 03:01 AM.

  • #44
    I'm not going to weigh in on the "if the European aspect of Jazz is understated, why is that?" matter, and, personally, as a scholar (undergraduate, admittedly, but definitely going on to post-grad work) I don't think that Kevin should, either. Hypotheses non fingo. It is enough to demonstrate a phenomena without going into why.

    When people ask if this is a topic worth pursuing in a scholarly fashion, I'd have to say the answer is "Yes". The end conclusion of Kevin's work might not end up changing scholarly opinion in any fashion, but it's a perspective out there, and that is what the scholarly establishment IS. A bunch of people yelling their opinions and citing sources about it in such a way that ends up with a general consensus. Just saying "I thought this was already a given" doesn't mean that the work is any less meaningful or worthwhile.

    To Kevin directly- If you're looking at similarities between jazz and European music, I'd say that looking into klezmer is an interesting diversion, if not exactly on topic. The similarities there are rather interesting.

  • #45
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    No, there is a lot of "communication" going on between these musics and they are very closely related.
    Of course. You seemed to be trying to give a pre-eminence precisely to the one least entitled to it, though. You name psalms as a source of European influence, instead of the songs of Stephen Foster, for example. Then you try and say that oh, it's got chord progressions, so even if it isn't classical it comes down to the same thing. Doesn't.
    That's what scholars do.
    I know what scholars do, I've known many. I don't remember any history student or geology student who called himself a historian or a geologist, though. When the meteor is on it's way, as you so nicely point out, they'll call the physicists, not the physics students, not even the physics teachers.
    There are many pieces that don't have blues notes.
    ...there are heaps of great jazz solos that have no blue notes in them.
    You might even be right, but examples, please.
    Well, if you think that Salsa has swing, then you and I are talking about two different things.
    Nothing new, there, then.
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    But if you want history, ask an historian.
    Or an eyewitness.
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Again, I'm not saying that jazz is from the European tradition.
    I, and I think most of those who have replied to you, thought we were arguing about precisely this statement in your original post:
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    This is part of my larger thesis that jazz (contrary to how many of the public see it) is really an extension of the European tradition.
    So, why don't you make up your mind, make your hypothesis coherent? That way we could discuss it coherently. I suspect from what JEdgarWinter says that there may well be scholarly issues involved with which I am not familiar. If your argument is against some kind of supposed exaggeration of the African side of the input, tell us about it. I haven't heard anything here to make me mistrust - either way - what I learned from Marshall Stearns back in the seventies.
    Last edited by JohnRoss; 02-01-2011 at 11:36 AM.

  • #46
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    You seemed to be trying to give a pre-eminence precisely to the one least entitled to it, though. You name psalms as a source of European influence, instead of the songs of Stephen Foster, for example. Then you try and say that oh, it's got chord progressions, so even if it isn't classical it comes down to the same thing.
    Are you saying that the harmonic language of the European tradition have nothing to do with Foster? The harmonic language of all Western music is inextricably interwoven with the classical tradition. That is where it's language ultimately comes from.

    And also Foster is a bad example - he wasn't as much influencing blacks as they were influencing them. He made a living writing songs that were in a "black" vernacular (many of his songs sound quite racist nowadays.) There was two way communication going on at this point. Black music had already absorbed Western harmony, long before, from the psalms and hymns that informed their spirituals.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    You might even be right, but examples, please.
    Nothing new, there, then.
    *sigh* OK, how about Armstrong's recording of"West End Blues." I looked through a transcription of his playing and cannot find a single blue note. There are chromatic notes, but that are consistent with standard composition. Is this not a blues or a jazz solo because it doesn't contain a blue note? No, because blue notes are not a structural element, if we remove it the structure does not fall. Now, what if we removed the meter or harmony, what would happen? The tune would fall apart because those are structural elements.

    OK, I provided an example of a jazz/blues solo without blue notes. Can you provide an classic jazz solo without a chord progression or meter?

    Jazz can exist without blue notes, but it cannot exist without chord progressions or regular meter.

    You seem to be caught up on this terminology as if "structural" is more important. But people remember the Empire State Building, not because of the steel girders that hold it up but because of how it looks on the outside. Both the inside and the outside work together to create the overall effect.

    I am not trying to overemphasize the contribution of the European/classical/white-American contribution, I am just trying to give it the place it deserves. Clearly some very imporatant elements of jazz come from the African tradition and clearly the work was done by African-Americans. But my point is that that is all that ever gets emphasis.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    "[KS said]But if you want history, ask an historian."
    Or an eyewitness.
    I'm not aware that Lenny or Wynton were eyewitnesses to this. And where do you think that historians get their information? They get it from eyewitnesses along with other primary sources and see how it compares with the evidence.

    But eyewitnesses can be tricky things. I was just looking up the death of Crockett at the Alamo - I found 4 different conflicting eyewitness accounts.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    I, and I think most of those who have replied to you, thought we were arguing about precisely this statement in your original post: "[KS said] This is part of my larger thesis that jazz (contrary to how many of the public see it) is really an extension of the European tradition." So, why don't you make up your mind, make your hypothesis coherent?
    Perhaps that is a little bold in an effort to make my point. It's called "hyperbole." And I think that from the perspective of essential elements (those without which the music falls apart) one can build an argument. We have jazz that doesn't have swing, blue notes, etc. Can you think of jazz that doesn't have chords or meter? (Excluding "free jazz" which to me isn't really jazz, but that's for another time.) These African-American jazz-inventors built on a European concept of what music is - harmony, chord progressions, regular meter, etc. It is from that that they added elements that are distinctly African to create something new. But people seem to only ever talk about the African elements.

    But ultimately it is how these two musical traditions come together to make something new that is interesting. I'm just saying that we should look at the contributions in their entirety, not just ignore one side for the sake of race politics.

    And ultimately, I'm allowed to change my mind and adjust my opinions. This is not a doctoral dissertation. This is a discussion. I'm not trying to build a linear and coherent argument at this point. I was sincerely interested in some input. Ironically, some of the "evidence" against my claim has shown some of the bias and hostility to discussion that I was trying to prove.

    Peace,
    Kevin
    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 02-01-2011 at 04:05 PM.

  • #47
    Just thinking here.

    Maybe another way to say it is that the theory (chords, chord progressions, meter, etc.) comes mainly from the American side and the stylistic performance elements (improv, group dynamic, HSI, call and response, etc.) elements come from African elements. Really, the blue note (which clearly is not required or it would have to be in every jazz song and solo) seems to be the only theoretical element that comes from the African tradition.

    Maybe that is a better way to say it (or maybe not.)

    Peace,
    Kevin

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    Europen or African? Mm..I don't know that... Aieeeeeeeeee!!!
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.
    -- Leonard Cohen, "Anthem"

  • #49
    OK, that was cute.

    Peace,
    Kevin

  • #50
    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    *sigh* OK, how about Armstrong's recording of"West End Blues." I looked through a transcription of his playing and cannot find a single blue note.
    It's full of them, unless flattened thirds over major / dominant chords are no longer blue notes. They always were in my day, but I expect they aren't microtonal enough for you. And if you're going to ask people to discuss something then get all petulant and exasperated because no-one buys your theory, I call that just plain bad-mannered. So you can have the rest of this conversation with yourself, as far as I'm concerned.

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    I think the debate of European v African influence in Jazz misses the point. Rather Jazz is something that could not have happened without the meeting of the two traditions. Even the 'blues' which is called Americas folk music, which is why Jazz is called America's classical music because it is a cultured outgrowth of the folk medium. As classical music is from European folk music.
    Even the Blues would be impossible without the meeting of the two traditions, they are mingled and create something completely different. European hymnal tradition introduced African slaves to european harmonies through hymnals...but I and IV as dominant chords! That's something that is uniquely American and uniquely blues. Jazz is an outgrowth of this folk style(influenced by classical european harmonies, introduction of major sixths instead of dominant I's). I would argue by the time the blues developes it has already outgrown 'African/European' influences and has become American. And by the time of Jazz it's silly to even ponder. This is, oddly, an uniquely American obsession. In Europe, they've simply called it American music, since Ragtime.
    For me, it was giving young black musicians who probably otherwise would have been bluesmen or even less grand outcomes, conservatory educations that lead to the explosion of music known as jazz. I don't really think it matters how many white people versus how many black people were involved.
    The history of American music, shows a side of America, that was not commiserate with the offical stance, that there was a lot of 'race mixing' among musicians long before it was ever permissible officially. So I think trying to pick apart who brought what, is not only missing the point but ahistorical. By the time of jazz and blues forming(and lets remember these are artforms barely 100 years old)these influences were American, people whether they were white or black were pulling from the same bucket of influences. And musical differences probably had more to do with geography than race at this time in American history. I think the division of musical genre by race is something that occurred in the 50s as popular music attempted to confine itself to the racial policies of the United States.
    But as far as West End Blues, I just transcribed it the other night and its full of blue notes. It's in Eb and there are plenty of Gb's and Db's in the introduction. At one section he's just wailing on the b7 and root. The last of the first four notes is a Gb and, to me anyway, fundamentally effects the sound. Of course simply because something is named blah blah blues doesn't make it a blues. I think it would be hard to play something 'bluesy' and not atleast hit the minor third as a passing tone, atleast to my ear, it would sound more countrified.
    Last edited by ejwhite09; 02-02-2011 at 06:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    . Probably anyone under the age of 40 doesn't have any idea who Bernstein is.
    Are you serious? REM had that song it's the end of the world as we know it.....and everybody waits for the break...Leonard Bernstein!! Though I guess, if you were listening to that song when it first came out you'd probbably be 40 or about, seeing as the song is as old as my little brother, who is 23, so i guess not so little no mo.

    But on a serious note, Wynton Marsalis said on 60 minutes when Morley Safer asked him was he sad that kids today may not know who Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington is, and he said "not just kids people my own age, and not just Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington, but Walt Whitman! How can we ever come together as a people if we have no idea what binds us together as a people?" The most elegant way I've ever heard the sorry ass state of America put.
    Last edited by ejwhite09; 02-02-2011 at 06:15 PM.

  • #53
    Personally, when I think of jazz as an artform, I conceptualize it as an "emergent culture", which by definition possesses characteristics that cannot be simply reduced discursively into its elemental stylistic components (eg classical, 'african', etc). This conception explains why the OP's theory is doomed to shipwreck...

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    Quote Originally Posted by orasnon View Post
    Personally, when I think of jazz as an artform, I conceptualize it as an "emergent culture", which by definition possesses characteristics that cannot be simply reduced discursively into its elemental stylistic components (eg classical, 'african', etc). This conception explains why the OP's theory is doomed to shipwreck...
    I wouldnt go that far, I would say its doomed because, given,that American culture had been well formed by the time blues and jazz come around and blacks and whites actually lived in closer proximity at this time than probably ever since, diverging who knew what is futile.
    The jazz as emergent and developed is a debate that rages, I think its formation can be analyzed, jazz has emerged its disparate forms have been catalogued and turned,into for,all purposes common practice theory. Classical music is still composed, but,its time as an emergent culture is over. Id say the same for jazz.

  • #55
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnRoss View Post
    It's full of them, unless flattened thirds over major / dominant chords are no longer blue notes. They always were in my day, but I expect they aren't microtonal enough for you....
    Can you point them out? Are you still really asserting that there are no classic jazz solos without blue notes? And you seem obsessed with this "microtonal" thing - it's just a word. It's just a way to distinguish blue note that are in the temperament and those that aren't.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    I think the debate of European v African influence in Jazz misses the point. Rather Jazz is something that could not have happened without the meeting of the two traditions. ...
    Even the Blues would be impossible without the meeting of the two traditions, they are mingled and create something completely different. European hymnal tradition introduced African slaves to european harmonies through hymnals...
    I agree 100%.


    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    but I and IV as dominant chords! That's something that is uniquely American and uniquely blues.
    Yes. I agree that the blue note is one of the African theoretical concepts that clearly is not of white origin. Clearly the idea of the use of a tonic dominant 7th being used in otherwise tonal harmony is not of white origin (not without some ridiculous stretching anyway.)

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    The history of American music, shows a side of America, that was not commiserate with the offical stance, that there was a lot of 'race mixing' among musicians long before it was ever permissible officially.
    Yeah, when I lived in New Orleans, most of the old timers I met said that the musicians mixed freely. They said it was mainly racist club owners that kept them from performing together.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    So I think trying to pick apart who brought what, is not only missing the point but ahistorical. By the time of jazz and blues forming(and lets remember these are artforms barely 100 years old)these influences were American, people whether they were white or black were pulling from the same bucket of influences.
    Yes. But you're just looking at the parents of jazz. I was asking who the grandparents were.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    But as far as West End Blues, I just transcribed it the other night and its full of blue notes. It's in Eb and there are plenty of Gb's and Db's in the introduction....
    I guess it depends on definitions. All those Abs just look like chromatic neighbors and passing tones - completely consistent with classical tradition. If we're just going to define any #9 that resolves to a 3 as a blue note, then Mozart was a master of blue notes. Those Dbs, well I don't really consider a note that is diatonic to the chord to be a blue note - not in the sense that I thought we meant. In this sense I thought that we meant a non-scale tone that is used against the chord as a stable dissonance. But perhaps we're using different definitions. If you are defining a b7 over a dominant chord as a blue note then all blues would automatically have it. I agree that the b7 blue note helped to cement the idea of the dominant chord as tonic. But once that dominant chord became tonic harmony, that b7 is now diatonic. I seem to remember some Ravel that used a tonic dominant 7th - is that a blue note?

    But perhaps it's just a matter of definition. I just chose that because I had it handy in Norton and a quick perusal didn't find any notes that could not be explained by standard chromatic function of diatonicism. Do you guys still really maintain that a jazz solo without a blue note is impossible? Do I really need to look?

    Quote Originally Posted by orasnon View Post
    Personally, when I think of jazz as an artform, I conceptualize it as an "emergent culture", which by definition possesses characteristics that cannot be simply reduced discursively into its elemental stylistic components (eg classical, 'african', etc). This conception explains why the OP's theory is doomed to shipwreck...
    But the problems that you mention are the same problems for any history or theory. All history is by definition imperfect, as is all theory. They are at best generalizations and approximations. (I'm sure I could make some Godel-ian argument here, but I'm too tired.) Jazz musicians like to make this argument of the "exceptionalism" of jazz - that the normal rules don't apply to it. But that is how everyone feels about their own art.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    The jazz as emergent and developed is a debate that rages, I think its formation can be analyzed, jazz has emerged its disparate forms have been catalogued and turned,into for,all purposes common practice theory. Classical music is still composed, but,its time as an emergent culture is over. Id say the same for jazz.
    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    American culture had been well formed by the time blues and jazz come around and blacks and whites actually lived in closer proximity at this time than probably ever since, diverging who knew what is futile.
    Actually, just a nitpicky point. In researching a paper on coon song I was surprised to find out that actually blacks and whites had achieved their greatest level of "togetherness" after the civil war. For a brief time, things were going much better. As Reconstruction failed (largely and unfairly blamed on blacks, even today) and for other complex reasons too numerous to mention racism took a dramatic upswing. That's when you see a lot of segregation and Jim Crow laws popping up. That's when things start turning really nasty. Things didn't really start getting better until the 60s. It's a little OT, but I found it interesting. I'd always assumed that things had been gradually getting better - turns out I was wrong.

    And again, my point isn't that early jazz musicians were consciously picking and choosing from the two traditions. When I chose the words "smart," "intelligent," or "erudite" I'm not consiously deciding to choose a word whose origin is from Old English, from French, or from Latin - I'm just choosing a word. But looking at the ultimate origins is of interest to linguists. In the same way, I'm looking back farther for the origins of the jazz language, rather than the easy answer of the people who invented it. What were their influences, and the people that influenced them? I really don't understand people's objections to this process.

    Peace,
    Kevin
    Last edited by ksjazzguitar; 02-03-2011 at 05:00 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post

    But you're just looking at the parents of jazz. I was asking who the grandparents were.
    Great Granny Gumbo said her grandpa had neighbors who sang like this when they were scrubbing clothes and pots and pans in the river. We know scrub boards and pans are awesome percussion. That harmony stuff must come from Europe.
    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cATZe_jlc9g&feature=related[/youtube]
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 02-03-2011 at 11:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    I guess it depends on definitions. All those Abs just look like chromatic neighbors and passing tones - completely consistent with classical tradition. If we're just going to define any #9 that resolves to a 3 as a blue note, then Mozart was a master of blue notes. Those Dbs, well I don't really consider a note that is diatonic to the chord to be a blue note - not in the sense that I thought we meant. In this sense I thought that we meant a non-scale tone that is used against the chord as a stable dissonance. But perhaps we're using different definitions. If you are defining a b7 over a dominant chord as a blue note then all blues would automatically have it. I agree that the b7 blue note helped to cement the idea of the dominant chord as tonic. But once that dominant chord became tonic harmony, that b7 is now diatonic. I seem to remember some Ravel that used a tonic dominant 7th - is that a blue note?

    But perhaps it's just a matter of definition. I just chose that because I had it handy in Norton and a quick perusal didn't find any notes that could not be explained by standard chromatic function of diatonicism. Do you guys still really maintain that a jazz solo without a blue note is impossible? Do I really need to look?



    Actually, just a nitpicky point. In researching a paper on coon song I was surprised to find out that actually blacks and whites had achieved their greatest level of "togetherness" after the civil war. For a brief time, things were going much better. As Reconstruction failed (largely and unfairly blamed on blacks, even today) and for other complex reasons too numerous to mention racism took a dramatic upswing. That's when you see a lot of segregation and Jim Crow laws popping up. That's when things start turning really nasty. Things didn't really start getting better until the 60s. It's a little OT, but I found it interesting. I'd always assumed that things had been gradually getting better - turns out I was wrong.

    And again, my point isn't that early jazz musicians were consciously picking and choosing from the two traditions. When I chose the words "smart," "intelligent," or "erudite" I'm not consiously deciding to choose a word whose origin is from Old English, from French, or from Latin - I'm just choosing a word. But looking at the ultimate origins is of interest to linguists. In the same way, I'm looking back farther for the origins of the jazz language, rather than the easy answer of the people who invented it. What were their influences, and the people that influenced them? I really don't understand people's objections to this process.

    Peace,
    Kevin

    Well to be nitpicky I didn't make a statement on 'togetherness' but rather physical proximity. Even through the nadir of Redemption and Plessy, whites and blacks, especially in the rural south, lived in close physical proximity, having near if not daily contact with each other, this allowed cross pollinization which creates the unique stew of Southern culture that produced the blues and jazz, it's also the reason I say the South is the only region of the United States with 'culture.' Boston has no culture, unless you consider culture, heaping upon the Irish culture nostalgia ad naseum culture. Segregation, as a fact of life, economic, social, and most important housing, is largely an urban and largely a northern development. My father who was born in 1953, in rural Alabama, went to segregated schools, and lived close enough to white people to deal with them everyday, though they did not go to the same school. The tragic irony in American race relations is that, when the official line race in this country was one of official superiority and inferiority we, atleast in the South, and I imagine, given the low number of blacks and their relative affluence in the North, there as well, a certain proximity between the races existed, even if it wasn't social. As race relations have supposedly improved, it seems blacks and whites have become even more physically segregated than before. In fact, I often say, it seems we did all this fighting to be Equal But Separate.

    I consider a blue note to be the flat third the flat fifth and the flat seventh, the notes which denote the blues scale, in Eb the Gb, the A, and the Db, all of which are present in the introduction solo, and I think treated rythmically important enough to be classfied as a little grander than passing chromatics, and in the essence that the flat fifth is presented, especially, the the chromatic use is the blues scale Ab A Bb is the phrase Armstrong uses.

    But, no, I think it is ridiculous to say a jazz solo cannot be played without a blue note. Though it might be hard to play a 'modern, hip' solo without a #2 or #4(which are blue notes). Perhaps thats a good exercise for students, especially guys who come out of years of rocking pentatonic licks.

    I don't object to the research, I think some have taken exception to the framing of the question and the premise, which are valid. I for one, think trying to distill American culture to the point where African and European influences were distinct is pretty impossible, its a chicken and egg debate. I take the chicken approach, for me, without the cultural pollination which made something with totally new DNA called American culture, the blues and jazz would never have happened. So the dicussion is merely one of recipe, nothing more. And one can't possibly discuss blues or jazz without mention of ragtime, which is proto jazz, in many ways jazz without the improvisation factor. dixieland, etc. Jazz, is itself a mutt, like American culture. And I mean it in a good way. I think the diversity of influences in America, is why our music, has by and large become the popular music of the entire world.

  • #58
    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    Well to be nitpicky I didn't make a statement on 'togetherness' but rather physical proximity.
    Sorry if I misunderstood. I think that there was always cross-polination going on below the surface. Zinn goes into how rich whites actually tried to foster animosity between poor whites and blacks for fear that they might band together and revolt. A few times they tried.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    ...lived in close physical proximity, having near if not daily contact with each other, this allowed cross pollinization which creates the unique stew of Southern culture that produced the blues and jazz, it's also the reason I say the South is the only region of the United States with 'culture.'
    Well, I think that that is a heated statement. I think that there are many Tex-Mex people that might disagree. The Southwest has a different culture, as does the Pacific Northwest, etc. If you start with the notion that it is only culture if it comes out of African-American influence, then what you say is true by definition. But if you look, most regions and even subregions have their own culture, even if it's not so obvious on the surface. Having lived in every corner of the US, I find that to be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    Segregation, as a fact of life, economic, social, and most important housing, is largely an urban and largely a northern development.
    Well, in all fairness, there was plenty of segregation in the South after the fall of Reconstruction. You are correct that in the beginning of the 20th century there was plenty of segregation in the North, especially in urban areas, as blacks migrated to Northern cities looking for jobs. But the North was a late comer to the segregation and also the first one to leave. (Even if they were an enthusiastic participant for a while.)


    My father who was born in 1953, in rural Alabama, went to segregated schools, and lived close enough to white people to deal with them everyday, though they did not go to the same school. The tragic irony in American race relations is that, when the official line race in this country was one of official superiority and inferiority we, atleast in the South, and I imagine, given the low number of blacks and their relative affluence in the North, there as well, a certain proximity between the races existed, even if it wasn't social. As race relations have supposedly improved, it seems blacks and whites have become even more physically segregated than before. In fact, I often say, it seems we did all this fighting to be Equal But Separate.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    I consider a blue note to be the flat third the flat fifth and the flat seventh, the notes which denote the blues scale, in Eb the Gb, the A, and the Db, all of which are present in the introduction solo, and I think treated rythmically important enough to be classfied as a little grander than passing chromatics, and in the essence that the flat fifth is presented, especially, the the chromatic use is the blues scale Ab A Bb is the phrase Armstrong uses.
    Again, if you look through the Classical and Romantic literature, then you'll find many chromatic notes in rhythmically important spots. If this is what you are calling blue notes, then they were invented by Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner. And again, simply defining a diatonic note over a tonic dominant chord as a blue note I think also renders the meaning less valuable. To me, the definition is only useful if we are talking about a dissonant note that is treated as a consonance. Someone once defined blues for me as, "Playing a minor scale over major chords." An oversimplification for sure, but it gets at this idea that the blue note a note that contrasts with the chord, and is part of the scale (not just a chromatic approach.)

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    But, no, I think it is ridiculous to say a jazz solo cannot be played without a blue note.
    That was kind of the point that I was after. If good jazz solos can be made without blue notes, then clearly blue notes are not a requirement, by definition. That was my point - that they are not part of the structure of jazz, since the edifice can stand without them. True, they are an important stylistic element and are part of the flavor of jazz. (Once again, all of you please don't assume that "flavor" is an insult - flavor is important.)

    I will say that I can see the blue note as (possibly) the only theoretical element contributed by the African tradition. The other elements (swing, HSI, imrpov, group dynamic) are more performance issues. (Very important indeed, but just not part of the "music theory.") I explore that a little in the other thread: The division between classical and jazz theory.... Perhaps that would have been the better (and less racially charged) way to approach the subject. I just hate having to pussyfoot around subjects for fear that people might misunderstand and overreact.

    Quote Originally Posted by ejwhite09 View Post
    And one can't possibly discuss blues or jazz without mention of ragtime, which is proto jazz, in many ways jazz without the improvisation factor. dixieland, etc. Jazz, is itself a mutt, like American culture. And I mean it in a good way. I think the diversity of influences in America, is why our music, has by and large become the popular music of the entire world.
    Yes, the road to blues and jazz certainly was a complicated one. You can even take it back to pre-rag coon song writers like Hogan, Cole, etc. Some of the first rags to appear in print were alternate accompaniments in the piano scores of their tunes. (I was also shocked to see how many of the racists elements and stereotypes in their lyrics perpetuated even into jazz lyrics - but that's a discussion for another time.)

    Again, I wasn't trying to determine the parents of jazz. I wanted to know where their ancestors come from, and why people seem to place a greater importance and emphasis on one and not the other (at least in popular culture.)

    Peace,
    Kevin

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Sorry if I misunderstood. I think that there was always cross-polination going on below the surface. Zinn goes into how rich whites actually tried to foster animosity between poor whites and blacks for fear that they might band together and revolt. A few times they tried.
    This is true, I live in Virginia, and there is great historical creedence to race as a function of class. In Virginia slaves and indentured servants(I think we'd call them rednecks today) lived together, intermarried, etc. It was Bacon's rebillion a union of poor whites and blacks that lead to the many of the racial laws by the time of Nat Turner and Prosser's Gabriel, poor revolts had become slave revolts.


    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Well, I think that that is a heated statement. I think that there are many Tex-Mex people that might disagree. The Southwest has a different culture, as does the Pacific Northwest, etc. If you start with the notion that it is only culture if it comes out of African-American influence, then what you say is true by definition. But if you look, most regions and even subregions have their own culture, even if it's not so obvious on the surface. Having lived in every corner of the US, I find that to be true.
    Of course, its a heated statement, I've been to the entire US, and outside of the South, I'm sorry there is no culture. Tell what is uniquely cultural about LA, San Francisco, New York, Boston, or Chicago? If anything these regions merely, experience some sort of painfully trite nostalgia for an 'old country' they've never seen, or some watered down version of southern american culture. I'm sorry enormously cut pizza slices and deep dishes, aren't culture. And as famously said about Chicago, 'everything good there came from somewhere else' including its music which came from where? Culture comes from pain and suffereing, and on this the South has the only true claim. The tortured past of the South has melded a unique culture which doesn't merely consist of pining for Europe, in some form. South does not equate African American. In fact, I don't like this term, I perfer Black American, personally, I'm not African, I'm an American who is Black. My friend whose father immigrated from Nigeria is an African American, like my friend whose grandfather immigrated from Ireland is an Irish American, but theres no record port of entry for my ancestors and my family has been here longer than 90% of the people who ever told me to go back to Africa, so I perfer the term Black American, as it more closely identifies my identity. So when I say the South, I mean the whites, blacks, latinos, etc, that were here in this region, I'd say Tex Mex is pretty southern, after all what is it? Mexican dishes meeting Southern American cooking techniques. This occurs in the South because of the proximity of cultures, which simply does not exist and never did on any large scale, in the North or other regions of the nation. Sure, in San Francisco you can walk through town and hear three dialects of Chinese and get some great Suishi, that may be culture, but it ain't ours.

    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Well, in all fairness, there was plenty of segregation in the South after the fall of Reconstruction. You are correct that in the beginning of the 20th century there was plenty of segregation in the North, especially in urban areas, as blacks migrated to Northern cities looking for jobs. But the North was a late comer to the segregation and also the first one to leave. (Even if they were an enthusiastic participant for a while.)
    There was no segregation in the South after Reconstruction except in urban areas, the South wasn't majority urban until maybe as late as the 50s or 60s of the last century, in rural areas this physical segregation did not exist. Which is why the the Redemption of the South is such a tragedy in America, because blacks were stripped of their citizenship with and efficiency that would not be matched until the Nazis with the Jewish citizenship laws in the 1930s. Yet it produced the same farce, people literally lived and sharecropped next to each other, segregation was more a product of town or city, in the rural areas the culture ruminated. You seem to think, I'm implying some sort of happy coexistence, what I'm saying is there was a physical closeness, which need not be peaceful coexistence which exposes others to others influences. (Take a look at punk and ska in England in the 80s. Where young English kids would listen to Carribbean influenced music and then go beat up recent Carribbean immigrants). This physical closeness did not exist in other regions of the US, in 2011 in NYC, white people still talk about 125th st as if its the gates of Dante's inferno. And black people talk about trips to 'downtown' as if they are excursions to another planet. Segregation is an urban event. You're also, confusing de jure with de facto. The south had a legal system of relations between the races in public discourse. But the idea of ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves didn't happen in the South until the urbanisation began in earnest, its no coincidence this occured with the Civil Rights movement. My mother's family is from Pittsburgh, I'd say the North still has more de facto segregation, even to the extreme in Northern cities, even different white ethnicities are ghettoized. There never was the physical proximity in great numbers in the north of different groups. Which is why you have such strong cultural preservation in the North, its why you can still walk through little Itlay and hear old timers going on in italian. Or Chinese people talking Mandarin or Catonese in Chinatown. Even in larger Southern cities, you don't have this kind of cultural perservation.

    But this is really a debate for another thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Again, if you look through the Classical and Romantic literature, then you'll find many chromatic notes in rhythmically important spots. If this is what you are calling blue notes, then they were invented by Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner. And again, simply defining a diatonic note over a tonic dominant chord as a blue note I think also renders the meaning less valuable. To me, the definition is only useful if we are talking about a dissonant note that is treated as a consonance. Someone once defined blues for me as, "Playing a minor scale over major chords." An oversimplification for sure, but it gets at this idea that the blue note a note that contrasts with the chord, and is part of the scale (not just a chromatic approach.)
    I think its as ridiculous to say that a jazz solo cannot be played without blue notes as it is to say that blue notes were invented by Mozart. I think its how they were thought off. Mozart may have thought of them as passing chromatics, with little melodic or harmonic information. b3 b5 b7 are what, everybody I've ever encountered in my life have refered to as blue notes. they are the notes which define the blues scale. every blue note in the Armstrong solo is not followed chormatically, simply to say he uses blue notes in the solo. I mean if you want to get technical and apply theoretical concepts that did not exist at the time, I could easily say Armstrong is clearly playing a bebop scale, in this solo. That would be ridiculous, as bebop still had 20 years to wait to develop and the bebop scale longer still. I don't think you can say one person started using 'blue notes' unless you complied all music ever made and analyzed it, an impossible task. I would say what makes the blues the blues is the degree to which blue notes are used on their own. Playing minor over major is a very simplisitc way, in my view, to advocate the blues scale. Which is minor has a flat seventh, and a flat 5th, so do eastern europen folk songs(which are heavily minor). Db is NOT diatonic to Eb major. If the I chord is dominant, then it is modal and to think of it as Eb major would obviously lead one to see Db is not diatonic to Eb, except in a minor/modal, manner. I think of the blues as modal music. I hear these motions as dissonant. When he plays the b7 root riff, it sounds dissonant to me, I can hear that b7 is just a bit off from where the key center is.
    Last edited by ejwhite09; 02-03-2011 at 02:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    That was kind of the point that I was after. If good jazz solos can be made without blue notes, then clearly blue notes are not a requirement, by definition. That was my point - that they are not part of the structure of jazz, since the edifice can stand without them. True, they are an important stylistic element and are part of the flavor of jazz. (Once again, all of you please don't assume that "flavor" is an insult - flavor is important.)

    I will say that I can see the blue note as (possibly) the only theoretical element contributed by the African tradition. The other elements (swing, HSI, imrpov, group dynamic) are more performance issues. (Very important indeed, but just not part of the "music theory.") I explore that a little in the other thread: The division between classical and jazz theory.... Perhaps that would have been the better (and less racially charged) way to approach the subject. I just hate having to pussyfoot around subjects for fear that people might misunderstand and overreact.
    I wouldn't go so far as to say they are not requirement, I feel, you could do it, but I feel you'd have a real hard time making a hip solo without blue notes, as I've defined them, to be honest. The emphasis and pentatonic nature of most African melodies may have something to do with it, but many English ballads are pentatonic. I think being understood is as important as not being misunderstood.

    Quote Originally Posted by ksjazzguitar View Post
    Yes, the road to blues and jazz certainly was a complicated one. You can even take it back to pre-rag coon song writers like Hogan, Cole, etc. Some of the first rags to appear in print were alternate accompaniments in the piano scores of their tunes. (I was also shocked to see how many of the racists elements and stereotypes in their lyrics perpetuated even into jazz lyrics - but that's a discussion for another time.)

    Again, I wasn't trying to determine the parents of jazz. I wanted to know where their ancestors come from, and why people seem to place a greater importance and emphasis on one and not the other (at least in popular culture.)
    I think this African v European thing is a purely American way to look at things, which is through a racially obsessed looking glass. For me this debate is always about, who did more white people or black people. Had the culture not melded into something unique, not only would there be no rock and roll, r&b, jazz, blues, but there'd be no country, no country western, no bluegrass. So I honestly think its a false debate that really hides, pussyfoots, if you will around what people are actually debating. Which is some backhanded, roundabout argument of racial pride.
    Peace,
    Kevin[/quote]
    Last edited by ejwhite09; 02-03-2011 at 03:36 PM.  
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