“Barbara Allen” – H.J. Beeker (English-Celtic Ballad)
This song was very simple and easygoing. I imagine myself sitting by a tree strumming a guitar and looking out into the distance. The lyrics really tell a story and is filled with many images. The melody and tune throughout the song are the same; there are no fluctuations and it never gets higher or lower. This reflects a strophic form, where everything is sung at the same tune. It has a very consistent pattern and you have an idea what is coming. The version of the song by HJ Beeker came out in 1936 and I think it reflects its time. This was during World War 2 and was a more solemn time. This music isn’t boisterous, but rather it is simple and calming. If you read the words, it has a pretty sad ending. I feel like the tune is peppy and you wouldn’t think that something sad happens at the end. Iambic foot is also used which is a pattern for putting the stress on certain words. This gives it a predictable pattern.
This is an example of a ballad, which is a poem that is sung, and usually depicts a story. Country music and Blues styles of music also use ballads to tell their stories. Ballads tend to use the strophic form where the lyrics are all sung at the same tune. They also tend to have ballad meter in which stanzas of four lines have stressed syllables in the pattern of 4 + 3 + 4 + 3. This is especially seen in “Amazing Grace” and other hymns. Other ballads include: “John Hardy” by the Carter Family and “Gypsy Davy” by Woody Guthrie.
“Jacob’s Ladder” – Paul Robeson (Spiritual)
This song has a heavier melody and is very loud. Robeson was a human and civil rights advocate and I think this is reflected in his song because it is very powerful and is a statement piece. You can’t forget it and I think this shows that he was a strong fighter. There is a climax where the song gets very loud; however, it does get very soft at one point. I think this makes it stand out a lot because you remember when it changes. This song has call-and-response in it. The singer calls for the audience to sing and they respond to this request. Call and response was very common back when not everyone could read or there weren’t enough books for everyone to read off of. This is seen in gospel songs we will hear later in the class. The main instrument, or only instrument, in this song is a piano. The piano and voice harmonize. There are only 4 distinct lines in this song. He repeats each one 3 times with a common line at the end of each verse. The first few times I was listening I didn’t even notice that he was saying the same thing. Every time he repeats it, it sounds so different because it gets louder or softer. At the end of the song, the congregation joins in with the lead singer.
This song is representative of spiritual music that came out of Africa. Traditions and cultures were passed down to further generations and many things were only passed on verbally. Some spirituals were known as “slave songs.” These spirituals relate a lot to the Old and New Testament, which really relate back to the gospel and psalm section. They are quite religious in nature. They have more general views of the world and most have anonymous authors.
“Para Los Rimberos” – Tito Puente (Mambo/Caribbean Music)
This was one of my favorite songs of this section. I am a Spanish minor and have studied abroad in Buenos Aires. I enjoy this style of music a lot because it is fast and fun to dance to. This song shows the use of clave, which uses the repetition of rhythm to make a pattern. There are many different instruments used which give it multiple layers and textures. This song is also an example of mambo and salsa. It is upbeat and has a quicker rhythm. This music originated in Cuba and it seems to become more eclectic as it becomes more integrated into America.
This music relates to other units of this class in a way that it originated in other parts of the world and ended up migrating to the United States. It’s very cultural to Latin America. It’s a piece made to be danced to and many other pieces are dance pieces also. While “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland is a ballet piece and has a much slower rhythm, it’s still made for dancing. You can see aspects of Latin American music in American jazz and other popular music. It’s very upbeat and energetic.
“Cotton Eye Joe” – Bob Wills – Western Swing
It is very eclectic and has a lot of different sounds going on. It has a rhythm that you can dance to and it has a very quick pace. This song reflects its time because Texas was home to the mixing of different styles, including country and jazz. Many people swing dance to this song. Instruments played include a fiddle, guitar, and it has a “boom chuck” accompaniment. More specifically, he used a steel guitar which gives it more of a country vibe. I honestly could never understand the words before so reading them was a bit strange. He repeats a lot of the same words and in my opinion it doesn’t really tell a story. It refers to cotton patches and his fiddle which reflects back to the time period of this song. The lyrics are sung very fast and it’s almost like he’s yelling them at you instead of singing them.
The string instruments are also very important during this time period. This song is more of a western swing, which introduces saxophones and trumpets. This is similar to the instruments played in jazz. Something that I realize more in this song is the relevance of the dialect and regionalism. You can tell this is a country-type of song because of how his voice says the words. Overall, I really enjoy this song. They used to play a different version it during the seventh inning stretch at Braves game and it reminds me of my childhood going to the ballpark. The melody sounds similar to some of Jimmie Rodgers songs, with its guitar and sometimes steel guitars. Country and Blues songs usually tell stories and express the feelings and lives of the present day people. Another song with the country melody and sound is Hank Williams’ “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers helped develop the style of singing called yodeling.
“Texas Flood” – Stevie Ray Vaughn – Blues
This song was out in the 1980s and was written in the 1960s. To me, this song was slower but very vibrant with the use of the electric guitar, which gave it a mixture of different styles in my opinion. For me, electric guitar reminds me more of rock and roll and this is a little toned down from that. This song is in a twelve bar blues form (AAB). There is a long introduction with just instrumentals and I think this sets the tone. This introduction is in the form of a four-bar guitar intro. There is a strong presence of drums and the electric guitar gives it a texture. The lyrics are sung at a slower rhythm and are really drawn out. He repeats most of his phrases at least 2 times and it overall tells a story but it takes a while to get all of the lyrics across. It’s about a flood in Texas and he’s just staying out in the rain because he can’t call anyone. I don’t necessarily think the words match with the rhythm and instrumentals behind the song.
While it is in the Blues section, it definitely incorporates some techniques from the rock-and-roll era with the electric guitar. It has the twelve-bar blues form though. The 60s-80s was a time period where people were finding their own expression and pushed the limits. You can see the mixing of styles in this song.
“Preachin’ Blues” – Robert Johnson – Blues
This song is from the 1930s and you can tell it’s an older song. The singing has soul to it and it tells a story, similar to country music. It utilizes the bottleneck style, which is when you slide over the strings of the guitar with the broken top of a bottle. It mimics the sound of a whaling voice and gives the vocalist an extra accompaniment. There is more variability in his singing and you don’t necessarily know which way it’s going to go. This blues song sounds more country and reminds me of an older song that would be sung out on the farm. The way Johnson uses the guitar allows him to add his own style which became more recognized throughout the rest of the century. His style influenced many other musicians later in time. It also follows the twelve bar blues form (AAB).
Many notable musicians have covered this song, including The Rolling Stones and Led Zepellin. He carved the way for many famous rock-and-rock singers of future generations. The use of the bottleneck is similar to the new technological sounds we see later in the song “Hyperprism.” People used what was around them and thew new advances to change music.
“Amazing Grace” – John Newton (Psalm/Hymn)
This song is very familiar to me, as it was played every Thursday at chapel when I went to high school. It is prevalent in many movies and is a very popular tune. People often reference this song so nonchalantly that it is very involved in popular culture without even recognizing it. In this song you can hear the technique of lining out, in which the head singer sings the lyrics before the group and then they repeat the lyrics back. This is usually used in a group, unrehearsed setting. This song is usually sung in a church. This song reflects the period of the Usual Way. This was a way of passing down of religious songs during colonial America. Lining out was used because the leader would have to trigger the memories of the crowd because there were limited books to be read from. The version the listening guide has a very slow tempo. The words are very powerful and I think they match the slower pace of the song.
This uses characters similar to those used in spiritual music. Lining out is similar to call and response, and this was used because many people didn’t know how to read. It was an easier way to verbally pass down these songs and the traditions that lay behind them. This ultimately led to slower paced songs along with many songs with similar tunes that were easy to remember. I think this style of music also similarly relates to gospel music in the sense that it has religious themes and is usually sung in a religious setting, like church. “Amazing Grace” is a quintessential hymn that most people know despite their religion. Below is an example of a country singer performing this piece. It also shows that musicians of other genres can blend together their styles to make a different sounding piece.
“Swing Down, Chariot” – Golden Gate Quartet (Gospel)
I have heard this song before and it is usually more solemn and in a slower tempo with less musical accompaniment. The version by the Golden Gate Quartet was a different version and I really enjoyed it. This is an example of a Black Gospel song during the 1930s. This style has some characteristics from the blues and jazz. The gospel quartet was a group of 4 men who sang in harmony without musical instruments. This type of music usually began slow and finished with a more rhythmic finish. In the version of the song by the Golden Gate Quartet, they used some instruments, including piano, guitar, bass, and drums, but they also used their voices to mimic some other sounds. The song starts out rather slow and speeds up throughout the entire song. I think this makes it a little dramatic at the beginning and builds the suspense. It also makes the ending fun and joyous, because this is a very spiritual song.
At the beginning of the 1900s, black gospel quartets became very prevalent. They came out of the boom of gospel songs and choirs. However, these quartets have faster rhythms and include more instruments. Black artists were also paving their wave in jazz and blues styles and groups of singers became more popular. Their sound takes parts from jazz and R&B. This gospel style is typically seen in churches and other religious settings which is similar to psalms.
Wondrous Love – Anonymous IV (Psalm/Hymn)
This song wasn’t my favorite and had a different style. In my opinion, it’s a little harsh sounding to the ear. This song displays elements of the regional folk characteristics that were introduced during its time. “Wondrous Love” exemplifies the use of austere open consonances, where it is played in a stricter or straightforward manner. It is very simple in texture and there are no ostentatious instruments or jumping around in pitch and notes. The tune is in tenor. It almost sounds like it is being sung in a round. It is a very religious song and I can imagine it being played in a church or during a religious service. It is hard for me to listen to the words because the voices almost sound like screeching and it is not a soothing song.
This is different from the hymn we heard earlier, “Amazing Grace.” It seems much slower and it is sung at a much higher pitch. However, it is similar in the way that it has the same tune throughout the whole song. Lyrics are also very repeated which has been prevalent in most songs we have observed so far.
“Yankee Doodle Boy” – Little Johnny Jones: Richard Perry – Musical
I really enjoyed this song. I have heard “Yankee Doodle” growing up, so this song sounded very familiar. It incorporated many different tunes and lyrics from other songs, including “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Dixie.” Its eclectic lyrics reflect the eclectic culture of America, which is fitting because this is a patriotic song. It has a very fast pace and sounds almost like a march song. It seems very “American,” with references to Uncle Sam and Yankees. I feel like this would have been very patriotic during its time and would unite a group of people together. The piano and drums are very prominent and give it a marching band vibe. I think all the rhyming words are also fun and gives it a bounce. The melody is simple and repeats and is easy to follow along. The tune has carried on through popular culture and is very recognizable.
This song is meant to stir up a sense of nationalism and unite a group of people. In a way this is like the spiritual songs that African Americans brought over to the Americas because it gave everyone a common ground to bond over. This song appears in the musical Little Johnny Jones and is reflects the way American musicals were straying off. Some people often dance to this song so it ties back into songs made for dancing, like Western swings.
“Cool” (West Side Story) – Leonard Bernstein – Musical
This song comes from the musical West Side Story, which takes on a plot similar to Romeo and Juliet. This musical came out in 1957. It incorporates many styles of music, including jazz, rock, and Latin. The beginning of the song has a mysterious tone to it, using many instruments to give it many different layers. A big aspect of the changing musical was the inclusion of dancing and different choreography. I can imagine people on stage moving around the stage when I hear this song. I can see people interacting and snapping along. You can hear the jazz aspect in the song with the use of the saxophone. This song doesn’t sound typical of this time and you can tell there’s a story behind it. It’s made for the stage because he’s basically singing the dialogue instead of simply speaking it. I like all the different instruments used to give it some complexity and different ranges.
Because this song is written for a musical, there is definitely a story behind the lyrics. This is similar to opera because the words and script are sung instead of spoken. Musicians, like George Gershwin, wrote music for musicals and he is also mentioned in the topic on American Classical Music. The jazz and Latin music are used to represent each group of people in the play. The jazz reflects the white gang and the Latin music represents the Puerto Rican gang. Other styles of music often stereotype groups of people also. For example, some country music is referred to as hillbilly music and many people envision rednecks out on the farm singing it. Others may relate gospel music with black choirs. Music can represent groups of people whether it is accurate or not.
“It Ain’t Necessarily So” – George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Howard – Opera
You can tell this is an older song. It reflects the beginning styles of the opera, in which lines of the actors are sung, not spoken. This song uses call in response, in which the lead singer sings first and the others respond with those lyrics. It goes from slow to fast and back to slow again. It tells a story because this style is usually seen in plays. It seems very relevant to the time it was written and shows the authenticity of the time. I think it makes the song go by slower when they use call and response and it’s not my favorite. But overall, it has a really pretty sound to it and I think it was very important for its time.
Operas used dancing, singing, and acting. They utilized different folk elements and idioms that helped distinguish it from European opera culture. “It Ain’t Necessarily So” comes from the opera Porgy and Bess and shows the close connection between the operas and musicals of this time. This song almost has a blues feel, with the low and steady rhythm.
“Rhapsody in Blue” – George Gershwin – American Classical Music
I remember this piece very well and I remember its smooth and elegant beginning. However, the longer you listen to it you encounter some dissonance and a grandiose climax. The piano part sometimes seems like it is not playing along with the other instruments. After finishing this course and learning about all the different styles, I can definitely hear the blending of jazz elements along with the classical music characteristics. “Rhapsody in Blue,” is a jazz concerto piece that is meant to be played by the piano. There are many solo parts for many different instruments, including the clarinet, trumpet, and piano. I like how it used a crescendo and got gradually louder; this builds the song up and creates a type of anticipation for the listener. It also includes cadenzas, which are long improvisation parts during the solos.
Gershwin’s parents were Russian immigrants and he lived in the eclectic state of New York. This is fitting that he incorporated multiple different styles into his music. Gershwin helped introduce both operas and musicals to an American setting and was very influential.
“Appalachian Spring” – Aaron Copland – American Classical Music
This was another piece I really enjoyed. This song is included in Copland’s trilogy of ballet scores. It is a modern dance score and has a melody that is very simple and pretty. It’s soft and has an elegant feeling to it. It could represent the simplicity of life and this was often played during sacred dances. Copland’s music is very well known today and everyone has probably heard his work even if they are not aware. There are parts where it grows louder and is very strong (the climax), but then there are parts where it becomes very soft. The first half of the song sets the stage for the climax of the song and builds up for the last portion of the song.
Copland changed the way music was played and wanted to express what he was feeling in few words. He got inspiration from jazz, cowboy tunes, and Shaker hymns. I can imagine going to a ballet or a play and having people dance to this song on stage. “Appalachian Spring” came out about 20 years after “Rhapsody in Blue” but I can still hear some similarities in the melodies.
“Hyperprism” – Edgard Varése – Modernism
Varése was an immigrant to the US. He composed during a period known as the Machine Age because new technologies were being created and new artificial sounds were being used. Orchestras were made up of flutes, piccolos, clarinets, horns, trumpets, and trombones, and this new era added instruments like the anvil, a slapstick, rattles, bells, and sirens. The song “Hyperprism” is very loud and incorporates all of these new sounds. There climaxes when the drum is very powerful with the loud sirens, and then there are quiet parts with the conventional flutes. I don’t think there was one constant melody because there were so many different things going on. I could hear some dissonance between all the sounds and it didn’t sound like they should go together. It also has very distinct timbres. He recombines different timbres, or tone colors, and gives the listeners something new to comprehend.
Varése came during the time of new technological innovations. His music has such a distinct sound because it uses these new instruments and machines. This song sounds like it could be apart of a film score. Its texture makes it perfect for the background of a movie and helps place the setting and tells a story. This style really set the stage for current electronica music and EDM.
Overall, music is related in more aspects than it’s not. Common themes in music include religion, freedom, love, hardship, and much more. You can see these themes in all styles of music from country all the way to gospel. It’s also neat to see how all of the styles developed from each other. Most music comes back and relates to folk music and spirituals. From there, immigration, expansion, and traveling took music across the world and allowed for subtle changes to be made. Many traditions were passed verbally and folklore continued in the American South. Country music became popularized in the south and helped spread all types of music. Blues is the most universal style of music and has the most constant form. Many other styles have Blues qualities to it and this is the most recognized. Country music led to Blues, which paved the way for later rock music. Hip-hop emerged from rock music and then later technological advances spurred EDM and new forms of music. Todays musicians are still heavily influenced by people of the 1900s and even earlier. Music never dies but continues to grow as a whole and with characteristics and techniques from earlier generations.