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A strange blue challenge : someone has said if you listen carefully to various forms of classical music you will find the roots of the blues ?


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Initial post: 2 Aug 2012 16:54:40 BDT
sounds far fetched...anybody agree/comment/care ?

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 17:03:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Aug 2012 17:09:43 BDT
Why far fetched? It is written down using European musical notation whatever its origins, which appear to be many and various.

According to Wikipedia, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a composer of African and European parentage, used 'blues' notes before the blues were developed as a genre.

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 17:17:32 BDT
interesting - can you suggest a starting point..a track or two ?

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 18:01:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Aug 2012 18:13:42 BDT
JayJayDee says:
No.
Sorry, Mistah. That is way, way, right off kilter!
The roots of the blues was/were developed in Africa, and then refined separately and independently after the torturous slavery experience across the whole of the Americas... This was totally independent of WHAT WE ALL NOW REFER TO AS classical music. The two musics were not mutually interactive or mutually dependent. The slave ship captains emphatically did NOT have wind-up gramophones on the slave ships playing baroque music to 'tame the savages'. Plenty of that garbage came later when the embarrassment of slavery became apparent.

Now if you had suggested that the roots of ALL music were maybe common....then THERE'S the discussion.
Music is music. Even birds make music. How the emotion of it reflects life as the author/composer knows it needs neither writing down nor inspiration from an outer source. It comes from human experience. Blues artists rarely notated or wrote down anything they wrote. No need.

Now if you were to suggest that some western classical composers had tried to 'use' the blues to improve their music, I'd agree...and usually that has been an embarrassing mistake!

Have you heard any Grits music? Traditional west/north african string music with a wailing accompaniment. There might lay a source, or a root!

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 18:14:52 BDT
I agree - but as you say all music is connected - maybe some traveller picked up some kora music in Mali and it seeped into the roots of european classical music somewhere along the line, and emerged...who knows...
Dark Was The Night

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 18:28:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Aug 2012 18:29:08 BDT
JayJayDee says:
No I'm not saying all music was connected.
I'm saying it developed independently.
And is a product of the culture it comes from. That's why Blues cannot have come from European/Western classical music.
There was no big white god up in the sky who handed down music to everyone and said 'Develop it your own way, but start from Palestrina'

Or are you saying that western music started from Mali's kora?

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 19:00:18 BDT
hahahahahah big white God hahahahaah - we evolved in the African plains so, er, yes I am saying that Bach and Sting's musical DNA can be traced back right there to Adam (ethnicity unspecified) sitting on his porch playing Satie's vexations on his harmonica and stomping a deep dub beat...that would echo down the millennia and emerge in the Black Ark studio

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 19:20:04 BDT
man says:
How can you mention Sting in the same breath as Bach? It's like comparing a diamond to a dog turd, and just in case people get confused Bach is the diamond....

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 19:36:11 BDT
JayJayDee says:
You have changed tack, Mistah. Your first premise was that the roots of the blues is in classical music. Now you're saying what I said...which is that the roots of all music were maybe common. And based on human experience.
The musical forms we are referring to here are surely only a few hundreds of years old, whereas the evolutionary process to which you refer was considerably more than 40,000 years before the first string instrument, Marshall amplifier and even before the first vinyl turntable system.

Micro - I'd rather step on a diamond left in the street than a dog-turd. But one takes longer to produce than another, so the comparison is a trifle unfair on Sting!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 19:51:03 BDT
gille liath says:
I'd say you'd be better off listening to European folk music - especially British music of the C18th - West African Folk music, and American Old Time.

Posted on 2 Aug 2012 20:04:01 BDT
JayJayDee says:
I'd say he needs to get his medication doses re-assessed.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 20:21:41 BDT
man says:
Yeah fair point, apologies to Sting fans, but he'll never come any where even remotely close to Bach's genius, I did like some Police songs when I was a teenager to be honest, 'So Lonely' springs to mind...

Posted on 3 Aug 2012 09:32:08 BDT
JJD: I have no idea whether you are right or wrong but the surprising thing (to me) about the Wikipedia article is the claim that there was actually very little African input into the blues. African-American musicians developed the blues in the early 20th century from their own resources, any African input must have been fairly remote by then (I'm not saying it didn't exist). The post-Civil War period was one of great hardship but they still seemed to have developed a wide range of music, jazz and spirituals (both with roots in European music) amongst them.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 09:37:51 BDT
gille liath says:
Yes, if you listen to the musics that evolved into blues, you can hear that the African influence is overstated. Still, as I say, in West African music you can definitely hear the sort of patterns that the early acoustic bluesmen used.

Posted on 3 Aug 2012 10:40:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2012 10:45:20 BDT
JayJayDee says:
And the Afro-Americans didn't have the blues when left to their own devices back home either. Their blues (as an emotional response) started on the slave ships.

I haven't seen the Wiki article (which one GC?).
Like I tried to suggest above the forms of musical expression are responses to environment. Shostakovich's music simply couldn't have been written for Esterhazy!
Accordingly the whole premise of blues deriving from western classical music is out of court for me.

If the original poster meant by 'various forms of classical music' the classical music of West Africa circa 16th - 17th century, then maybe there's a point, but this forum is understood to focus on the western tradition so the debate could and should usefully be opened up to the Music Forum's wider (?) audience!

Posted on 3 Aug 2012 10:51:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2012 10:53:32 BDT
JJD: Try this - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues - the article has copious references and further readings.

Possibly 'European music' would be better than Western Classical Music - the slaves were forcibly christianized and then exposed to European music in church. Again, when given the opportunity, they did their own thing with that music.

Posted on 4 Aug 2012 03:09:56 BDT
S. R. Tulip says:
I agree entirely with Micro man re Sting and herein lies the problem with CM folk. The ( what you call ) popular music most of you listen to is absolute dross. I could just as easily go on about Il Divo and Bond and say ' popular ' music is miles better.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2012 03:26:47 BDT
man says:
What popular music do you like?

Posted on 4 Aug 2012 04:07:20 BDT
JayJayDee says:
OK Mr.Tulip.
So If Albert Collins, Ben Harper, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Soft Machine, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Peter Tosh, Crusaders, Whitesnake, Johnny Clegg, Colosseum, Yothu Yindi, Arthur Crudup, Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, INXS, BB King, Thin Lizzy, Santana and The Yardbirds are dross, then what is 'da latest bomb'.

And will anybody be listening to it in ten years time/twenty years time?

And who the hell is Il Divo and Bond?

Posted on 4 Aug 2012 08:32:52 BDT
he he he - lovely stuff. Yes thats right micro man I am really comparing sting with Bach (did they not cover sacasm at your school)

jayjaydee - I would like to recommend the beautiful (and I'm serious now) output on Water Lily Acoustics - who specialise in perfectly recording combinations of Indian and other Eastern musicians with more Western types - the sleeve notes are fascinating tracing the links between Celtic folk and ancient music in Asia - perhaps Adam wasn't playing a harp, no he was strumming a koro-sitar hybrid (but the tune was a variation on Danny boy, the old Derry air) :Electric Modes Vols 1 & 2
A Meeting By the River
Mumtaz Mahal

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2012 08:37:13 BDT
jayjaydee - 'their blues started on the slave ships' - sort of - the rhythms and call/chorus may have been African forms but when they got to america, God help them, they encountered European stuff - jigs and reels, polkas and airs/laments. The fusion of these was the rich soil the beautiful blues grew from...

by the way thanks for the comments which are interesting, I suppose what I was really looking were - were examples of 'classical' whatever that means, music with blues phrasings, note bendings or general atmosphere because I'm, odd.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2012 09:40:28 BDT
MacDoom says:
Dead one,

Your first port of call might be the (first) violin sonata by Ravel, which has a middle movement named 'blues'.

Posted on 4 Aug 2012 10:09:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Aug 2012 10:11:05 BDT
Mistah Kurz: I didn't read your original posting carefully enough. The Wikipedia article I mentioned above to JJD contains the following statement - 'That blue notes pre-date their use in blues and have an African origin is attested by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's "A Negro Love Song", from his The African Suite for Piano composed in 1898, which contains blue third and seventh notes'. We have discussed Coleridge-Taylor before in this forum but I must admit to not having heard much of his music including The African Suite.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was born in Louisiana of parents of European descent. He had a completely European musical training but he was influenced by the music of Louisiana and the Caribbean. It gave his music a syncopated character some 50 years before the birth of ragtime and jazz; whether his music contains any pre-echoes of the blues I have no idea.

I suppose if you trawl through western music carefully enough you will eventually find harmonies associated with the blues somewhere but whether the African-American musicians of the early 20th century were aware of it is doubtful. I suspect they developed their novel 'blues notes' because they were self-taught and hadn't been told certain harmonies were forbidden by a teacher. Most western composers had an academic training of some kind (even if it was from their fathers, eg. Mozart) and would have been taught all the rules of harmony, counterpoint etc. Needless to say some composers broke those rules occasionally when it suited them but that is different from developing a whole new genre based of novel harmonies etc.

Incidentally, the Ravel piece mentioned by MacDoom post-dates the blues so it possibly isn't what you are looking for but listen to it in any case.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2012 11:17:55 BDT
MacDoom - thanks for this I will explore....but be reassured it is the tragic figure of Kurtz who is deceased not I....I am sick but safe on the boat back out of the heart of darkness...are you a relative of the Latverian Dooms ? the ones who keep having misunderstandings with Marvel's Fantastic Four ?

Posted on 4 Aug 2012 11:23:09 BDT
Mr Cryer - informative as ever, 'blue notes' - on a related theme : The Blue Moment: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music - is a fascinating read - tracing the influences of Miles Davis beautiful album on all manner of things from Eno's ambient music (which David Toop traces back to Debussy in his weird 'oceans of sound' book and CD compilation - Ocean of Sound and Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds (Five Star)..) and ECM chamber jazz...the Richard Cook book is a delicious read.

cheers one and all...
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