Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax and Roswell Rudd conversing about coding, Al Jolson; Charlie Parker and bebop; the loss of improvisation and group participation in European music.
:: Project :: Cantometrics, Choreometrics, The Urban Strain
:: Date Range :: 12-04-1984 to 01-07-1985
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
Rudd, Roswell
:: Subjects ::
Al Jolson - vaudeville style and sprechtstimme
Coding terms, Cantometric - constant, intermittent, and slight
Talky parlando song style of American middle class
Song style, African American - urbanization and the demise of mellow feeling in
Charlie Parker, "high priest of cool"
Jazz - modern, demise of individuality and warmth in
Jazz - modern, electronic influences in
:: Cultures ::
African American
North American
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: Discussion of coding terms: constant, intermittent, slight, none. Coding Al Jolson: his precise enunciation. His beautiful, super sprecht-stimme. Music hall singer gave up pear-shaped tones for a white version of African playfulness, changefulness, and freedom of movement, isorhythm, syncopation (no blue notes). Roswell Rudd: "He has three different voices, a high, singing voice and two speaking voices." "Swanee" (1926). All the former great songs had clear-cut vowel streams. This one is all front vowels, vocal style very narrow, super European. The orchestra is oompah, oompah with melody and that's it - base chords with melody laid down for the singer. Remarks on the talky style in cowboy songs, Bing Crosby, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson. Its appeal to the middle class - self-effacing, no John McCormack. Blacks in the ghetto had a mellow feeling in their singing. In the country, despite the horror of Jim Crow and segregation, standard of living was comparatively high in the sense that food was relatively abundant in North America. West Indians in the 1930s wanted to come here. Even in the late '50s and early '60s the kids could get mellow. What caused the disappearance of the mellow sound was the breakdown of social networks and support groups. Everyone belonged to six or so organizations/support groups. Not part of the hard-boiled, success-oriented white world. Charlie Parker's "Mood" is a fragmented, expanded 12-bar blues taken to chromatic extremes. Alan Lomax: It doesn't have blue notes or the emotional or verbal qualities of the blues. They began to look at blues as an abstraction, improvisation right from zero, doesn't match intonations of speech. Roswell Rudd: With Parker we have the European intonation system put through a magnificent and brilliant intellect, ground up 500 ways, and thrown back at the creators of the system. This is an abstract language that has nothing to do with field hollers. It's fine art music. At 30 years old, Charlie Parker has completely assimilated a 2,000-year-old system foreign to him and has gone beyond it. The African quality is that it's improvised. Alan Lomax: All of the music of the world is playing with tonalities that exist in the world around them. This is even more abstract. Parker is not interested in the nuances. He knows the chord forms. He has invented a new language called bop. Roswell Rudd: Bop speaks in melodic and rhythmic formulas. Alan Lomax: Scales and arpeggios - any way you can slice the system and grind it up. It came out of saying "Is that all there is? What's the big deal? Everything is still the same." Mellowness is being replaced by anger and militancy. Blacks in the army were sending money home. Bop musicians were 4-F. They were very bitter and had to be very cool in order to endure that. Long solos, a very new thing, are very oriental. Roswell Rudd: The high priest [Parker] is giving instructions, dictating to his fellows. Musically there were very few that could touch this guy. He was in a class by himself. He is putting a lot of feeling into it, tremendous feeling, but you have to think hard all the time to keep up with it. It's like a modern ballet. This is a thinking person's music. Alan Lomax: a similar thing is coming out in Brazilian music. Rules of the game were made in Portugal. The blacks learned the rules but not the dialect. Their music has the disembodied quality of mind music. Roswell Rudd: Building a language from a vocabulary of licks, rhythms, syntax, constantly re-cycling and adding to it. It is the apotheosis of disembodied melody, almost the other side of the coin of mellow. Alan Lomax: I feel it is the basis of what [Ella?] Fitzgerald was doing and all of the others that came later. They don't sing the exact tune. They play the melody on their vocal chords as though it were a saxophone or trumpet. The song becomes, cool, impersonal in melodic context. Roswell Rudd: Historically all European counterpoint was formerly improvised (did it sound so good? Can't say.) Jazz revived a fantastic lost aspect of European culture - and to think that those forms were ever discarded! Alan Lomax: Music left the community, leaving the composer an isolated figure. The orchestra was led by a conductor, musicians played abstract notes on a page. Previously music was not specialized. Everbody could participate. Roswell Rudd: They picked out the stars and left everyone behind. When everyone participates, that's magical. White rock music was genuine dance music, constructed from partially assimilated black forms. In Africa, musicians would be responding to the dancers close by. Roswell Rudd: The problem with disco is that it's all taped, you turn it on and it just goes and goes. Alan Lomax: Profound difference is that black performers are always aware of what people who are not part of the music are doing. With white performers, the performer dominates. Roswell Rudd: With white performers everything is specialized. It's a one-way thing, not an interaction with split-second responses that happens in black communities where there has been a long-standing community relationship. The Commodores - two or three people a little ahead of the beat. Roswell Rudd: It's made up of little detailed pieces. Things are happening all the time. Alan Lomax: Lax emotional nuance. I just went back and played Billie Holliday - her emotional tenderness. Not a drop in the English stuff. Very little in the Commodores. Roswell Rudd. In jazz, the way things are going there's less and less room for individuality. You have to put on a mask if you want to survive this musical charade. Perhaps if you do this long enough at some point you can reintroduce your individuality. Need for electronic equipment. Alan Lomax: Instruments need to have limitations that you overcome. If you have nothing to struggle with there is no tension. Active art comes out of a certain amount of struggle. Roswell Rudd: Jazz began with people who used their bodies all the time. Jazz is a kind of exercise. The orchestra is a struggle between competition and cooperation. There is hate and anger. I might think: "Why can't they get in tune with me?" I put out a call to try to get a response back. How can one person do that from an editing block. The Commodores are actually jiving each other, horsing around in talk.

 

 

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