Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax discusses coding vaudeville; the music of twentieth century modern dance; the Beatles' "Hey Jude"; "Synchronicity" by the Police; the Mighty Clouds of Joy; Paul Robeson's "Old Man River"; Bing Crosby's "How Deep is the Ocean"; Fats Domino; Judy Garland and Gene Kelly's "For Me And My Girl" and other numbers; Eleanor Powell; Les Blank's polka film; and James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag."
:: Project :: Cantometrics, Choreometrics, The Urban Strain
:: Date Range :: 07-15-1986 to 07-31-1995
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
Unidentified Wesleyan professor
:: Subjects ::
Doris Humphrey's ballet to J. S. Bach's "Air on the G String"
Dance style - twentieth-century modern, rhythmic laxness in
Beatles' "Hey Jude" - Alan Lomax on
Police's "Synchronicity"
Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Holy Roller tradition
Paul Robeson's "Old Man River"
Crooning style - Bing Crosby's "How Deep is The Ocean?"
Fats Domino - Alan Lomax on
Judy Garland and Gene Kelly's "For Me and My Gal"
Gene Kelly and Judy Garland's "For Me and My Gal"
Gene Kelly's dance music accompaniment to Cyd Charisse
Les Blank
Tap dancing - film clip of Eleanor Powell on battleship
Vaudeville chorus line of 1920s - Red Rosy Apple
James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"
:: Cultures ::
North American
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: Comments on the chorus line: "Red Rosy Apple." The girls sing at the top of their lungs to reach the back rows. There is an extraordinary lack of vocal blend as each girl tries to be heard by her own individual boyfriend in the audience. The pit orchestra features counter melody on banjo and violins. Alan Lomax: This is the full effect of vaudeville as I remember it from the 1920s and '30s in Dallas. Commentary on coding the music from film footage of modern dance. On the whole, the music is notable for rhythmic laxness and lack of crispness, compared to the rhythmic pulse of African dance [or European folk dance]. Popular modern forms such as the Fan Dance are almost ludicrously relaxed and have to be coded as "irregular rhythm." Tonally, there is strict temperament. Melodies are often doubled and there are parallel chords. Emotional effects gained through phrasing and change of keys. The music for the Fan and Bubble dance feature a lot of sentimentality produced by glissando, rubato, and a slurred approach. Doris Humphrey in PBS's "Trailblazers Of Modern Dance" performs a most beautiful "Air On The G String' [by J. S. Bach]. The orchestral tempo is very slow, with very prolonged notes, rubato and glissando. Dynamics are soft to moderate. Forms are long and elaborate, the structure very complex, through composed. All this is wonderfully reflected in the flowing complexity of Doris Humphrey's choreography. The Beatles "Hey Jude," perhaps their best song, shares some of these characteristics. It also has a gentle pulse, many prolonged notes, and a gentle, soft, successive quality. It begins rather softly and rises to loud at the end. The stringed instruments briefly play patterns of polyrhythm in the foreground. The chorus builds to an emotional climax intoning wordless syllables in an ecstasy of unity. The base line is unison with a simple accompanying role for the orchestra. Wide tonal intervals (fourths and fifths) are qualities of primitive music. Counterpoint and polyrhythm come in for special effects in dramatic moments. The song begins like a ballad and ends with the chorus taking over. Enormously influential, it marks the beginning of a truly symphonic aspect of rock performance. Alan Lomax: "Synchronicity" by the Police, a small white British group, with bass, guitar and a drum at peak amplitude, makes a stand against emergence of powerful, complex black groups. They transport audiences into an ecstasy of holy roller-type enthusiasm by singing at top of range at top volume, depending on powerful repeated phrases. Black influence shows up in isohythmic patterns in both voice and instruments, short notes, enormous energy, but applied with no variation - no shift in voice qualities or rhythmic attack. It is a loud, vigorous, relentless performance that pleases the American crowd to the utmost, since for them; it's the words that count. Mighty Clouds of Joy, an American gospel group in the Holy Roller tradition, which featured services with singing at peak volume that could go on all night. This is the African tradition reduced to its essential - extreme staccato, extreme energy, and a rhythmic truly complex rhythmic texture that is more energetic than anything found in Africa. Alan Lomax believes that this reflects the experience of new world slavery, in which slaves were forced by gun and whip to enormous feats of unending labor. The men came to take pride in their capacity for physical endurance. In prisons Alan met prisoners who bragged of their abilities to work from sun to sun, going from camp to camp for 30 or 40 years. The physical basis of this was a physical strategy developed in Africa using peak energy to work up a sweat to cool the body. But only in America is found the incredible output of unison energy with very hot rhythm underneath. The unison rhythmic pattern captivated white audiences. Today black singers are moving away from former loosely organized, beautifully blended, multi-level harmony. Paul Robeson's sings "Old Man River" in a "good," rounded, open vocal style. He has a low, bass voice, and uses a light, Bing Crosby-like talking style in the verses. He does not belt. The chorus and a tenor sing in conventional musical fashion. Robeson sings solo, the tenor answers, and then the chorus, the finale is in unison. The very wide, open vocal styles, the expressive changes in dynamics and presence of singing in five different ranges - Robeson's bass, the high tenor, and part of the chorus, the angelic choir, is very high; are typical of classical opera theatricality. The enunciation is crisp, accent mid to relaxed. Robeson's mastery of enunciation is such he doesn't sound as if biting off the ends of every syllable, but the words are very clear. The orchestra is in strict temperament with considerable syncopation, it functions as accompaniment with melodic doubling of the singer. Bing Crosby in "How Deep Is The Ocean?" is a model of crooning. He sings in a wide voice, in a low register, with a lot of nasality. Every word can be heard. Tremolo is important, there is gliss in almost every note, often sliding down. Meter irregular, tempo that of leisurely walk. Effect is gentle and very masculine. Song form is strophic with an introduction, there is a tempo change, phrases are often broken into equal halves, orchestra, despite counterpoint, plays an accompanying role as background to the singer, uses blue notes. Characteristics of the crooning style - relaxed, nasal, soft, slow, tending to irregular meter, uses glides to lower pitch, has a speaking quality, syncopated, lazy sounding. Paul Robeson is not a crooner, among other things, because he uses a greater variety of dynamics. Fats Domino is a kind of black crooner. He uses a wide, low-pitched voice, very relaxed, glides down. Sings an up-beat song with three-part blues structure accompanied by his own boogie-woogie (two different rhythms in each hand) piano playing and a sax, playing a counter melody, and a guitar, playing another version of the main tune. Boogie bass made up of long series of staccato short notes. Singer sings long notes. There are many blue notes and sharp attacks. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly sing "For Me And My Gal" with rather wide, clear voices, that narrow and develop rasp when they push the volume. A talking style begins to emerge. Dynamics are used as expressive devices by both voices and orchestra. Jazz qualities are the use of blue notes and passages of syncopation. Orchestra is mainly accompaniment. Chorus makes no attempt to sing in a perfect blend. This is the northwest European way of handling a chorus, or bar-room style. Coding for the white swing band accompanying Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly. Three sections play in unison: saxes, trombones, and trumpets play against each other and against a piano and drums. Meter is irregular, very syncopated. The orchestra plays in complex polyrhythm. Music is obviously written down: there is no looseness, no real rhythmic flow, blue notes are laid on with a trowel. Effect exciting but rather hollow, an extravaganza appropriate for dance. Footage of Eleanor Powell dancing on a battleship in black beaded body suit, top hat, and "wonderful" bare legs, in front of a chorus of girls. She symbolizes sexy femininity. The brass band sections, tubas, trombones march and counter march in rhythmic unison with syncopation, lively drums. At the climax of the number the cannons fire in unison in a patriotic display of sex. The music for Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly's sexy "Apache" dance from "Singing In The Rain" features a dulcet clarinet, a trumpet screaming blue notes, and a very jazzy syncopated rhythm in the bass. There is rasp in the trumpet. Dynamics range from forte to triple forte. Every detail is through composed. There is no feeling of flow, no variation, and the effect heavy, powerful, and dramatic. Les Blank's film about the Polka: "In Heaven There Is No Beer." James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." He sings at maximum volume in a speaking to narrow voice with lots and lots of rasp, ornament, and intermittent nasality. Enunciation is sometimes slurred, sometimes precise. Rhythmic structure is four all the way through. Accompaniment is steadily polyrhythmic. Song is an asymmetrical blues with phrases broken up and with maximum syncopation. Syncopation in orchestra, which is extremely staccato, playful, with blue notes. Essentially it is sprecht stimme, with isorhythm and a screaming tone in the intruments. Polyphonic type: isolated chords with a walking base. Alan Lomax exclaims: No wonder these rock songs made such an incredible impression. Each hit was a wholly new kind of song.

 

 

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