Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax's reflections on the black family in the South and the breakdown of support structures in urban migration; Alan Lomax and Forrestine Paulay on Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in "Easter Bonnet," Bill Halely's "Rock Around The Clock;" and a PBS film about Miles Davis
:: Project :: Cantometrics, Choreometrics, The Urban Strain
:: Date Range :: 09-27-1986 to 12-31-1987
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
Paulay, Forrestine
:: Subjects ::
New Orleans jazz and African American voluntary organizations
African American culture - traditional support systems for black mothers in rural South
Single parenthood not necessarily source of social breakdown in urban black neighborhoods
Gene Kelly's performance style in Easter Bonnet
Cultural continuity in "Rock Around The Clock" - small ensemble versus big band accompaniment
Judy Garland in Easter Bonnet
Rock and roll and return of the Arctic hero figure in which one singer carries whole show
Miles Davis's performance style
Bebop - World War II origins in alienation, increasing militancy of black men left behind in Harlem
Agnes De Mille's wedding ballet sequence in Oklahoma
:: Cultures ::
North American
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: Alan Lomax: The importance of voluntary organizations in black communities in nurturing New Orleans jazz. The importance of traditional street life as a source of emotional support for individuals. Fatherless families are blamed as cause of black problems today but are not a new phenomenon and probably went back to slavery times. What is new is the lack of the traditional support system of church, kin, and community networks that black mothers could count on to help sustain them in the rural South. Forrestine Paulay: a Choreometric analysis of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in "Easter Bonnet" number. Her crisp vitality and constant movement, cocking of head, turning of torso, swinging of hips as she walks. Very peripheral, playful touches with hand. Pert, little girl quality. We are seeing a highly trained young singer being put through her paces, trying to be cinematically interesting rather than just standing there and belting it out. The effect is rather crude. Orchestra - brass in the lead, mostly very plain with just touches of syncopation. Voices very wide. Text important, enunciation very precise. Notes prolonged, surprising number of descending phrases in the song. Men use a speaking voice like Bing. Hollywood movies were the first opportunity for audiences to see performers close up. Main acculturated quality is movement in the torso. With "Rock Around The Clock," the striking thing is the substitution of the small instrumental group for the former big band orchestra. More fun than Tin Pan Alley. The singer almost spoke or shouted. Every man in the audience thought he could do it too if he wanted. The band was not sitting down, was having fun, too. It grabbed the new youth audience. Lyrics important and full of double entendres. "Rock" might mean anything young men wanted it to. Rhythms very peppy. Texts very repetitive. The song is an expanded blues of the fast Kansas City type; "I'm going to Kansas City, honey, where they won't allow you? ?Every syllable gets its own staccato note. Music constructed isorhythmically. The song provided the dance music (as in Celtic mouth music, among American Indians, and in West Africa). It was innocent fun, Bill Haley was a nice healthy boy, smiling and laughing, and the girls fell in love with his music. One singer carried the whole show. In a way it was a reinstatement of the Arctic hero figure who stood for the needs of everyone present. The Eurasian style of hunter origins put singing ahead of the orchestra. It has been swallowed for a while by the powerful influence of the central European orchestra and the genius of black jazz orchestration. Forrestine Paulay notes the importance of constant movement to rhythms and words: moves from pelvis, African-style arm flapping. Miles Davis, classically trained in St. Louis plays European style without showing air pouches like Dizzy Gillespie. Whole statement of his body language is not to let anything out, even his voice. Only his eyes are moving. Focus of his group is down; they don't look at each other. This isolation is not typical. They are listening to the puzzle each player is presenting. Rhythmic unity is heard not seen. No tonal unity. Alan Lomax: Rigid trunk, massive stillness is the ideal of Western- (not Central-) European musicians aiming produce magical shifts of tonality with minimum physical exertion. Miles Davis, who has conquered the Arctic style, is naturally the hero for upwardly mobile African American. (cf. Bill Cosby: the champion middle class parent in total control, who makes witty comments about urban life.) Miles came to Julliard to study music, found Dizzy Gillespie. His typical European harmonic style is more sophisticated than Ellington, imitating all kinds of sounds with trumpet, playful screaming and talking, noisy, harsh, raspy, high, narrow, and always very precise. Big, complex, though composed in European fashion. The origin of "cool." During World War II blacks had own regiments, officers, big achievements in the army. Bop musicians had been turned down for enlistment and stuck at home where Jim Crow/segregation was still in force. They were on the outs with everybody, black and white. They put on dark glasses, berets. Their songs had the quality of "So what." Agnes De Mille's marriage ballet sequence in "Oklahoma" is a pageant of social events with symbolic use of groups: male / female (bride and her friends, groom and his friends). It has a serial, story-telling structure. Cowboys appear in phalanxes with wide stance, showing thighs, simultaneous and linear in public role, showing a low level of stress. The women show higher level of stress - convey excitement: someone is getting married. Men use rebound, women use whole gamut: explosive, pulsation, sustaining, follow-through. Love duet is very different. The male partners use flowing, curving, more successive movements. Women have moderate adjustment of torso, men basically rigid, except when they lift the female. Group space is basically formal, wide. There is a tremendous amount of symmetrical posing (main characteristic of Western choreography), asymmetrical in fantasy section, but no posing for comic effect in this dance, unlike most Broadway musicals. Formal organization is extremely regimented but there is a good deal of free play on the individual level. Each dancer is dressed a little differently, in the chorus, each sounds a little different, an important American pattern.

 

 

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