GCSE MusicArea of Study 2 The Blues
Influence • Much of the structure of todays pop music has been shaped by the blues music of the early 20th century
1800 USA • Before the US became independent four countries occupied America. Can you name them?
The four countries are • Great Britain • France • Spain • Portugal
During the 18th and 19th centuries, thousands of people were taken as slaves from africa to america. • Often a voluntary journey – relocation • Journey took over 3 weeks by ship (no other way to travel). Torrid conditions on the boat, poor sanitation and food lead to many deaths • Promise of new life in the new world • Write a paragraph describing possible living conditions
For the africans in the u.s, life became a nightmare. • Sold in auctions • Put to work on Farms • Families split up and sold off • Life as a slave was often cruel, with white people abusing the blacks
What about the music? • African tradition and way of life – taken with them to the u.s.a • Started to express their feelings via unaccompanied song, sung in harmony these are called NEGRO SPIRITUALS
NEGRO SPIRITUALS • Like hymns – same music but different words each time: STROPHIC • Uplifting and happy. • Often very long • Repetitive (music and lyrics) • ‘Catchy’, lyrics tell a story – often biblical (didn’t my lord deliver daniel…) • NO INSTRUMENTS – only voices singing in harmony
Other music • Songs for healing the sick • Lullabies for babies • Rhythmic tunes for working in the fields, keep the beat as they worked • Work songs for keeping a rhythm in the fields
Intruments? • Drums: many sizes and shapes, played in different ways by hands, fingertips or sticks. Drum sticks could be large cattle bones. • Shakers: worn on ankels and wrists. Made from anything, including dried out nut shell with seeds (STOMP tins with pebbles) • Tambourines • Scrappers: jawbones with teeth • Fiddle: played with a curved bow.
Afro-american • Black people started to colonise. (Missippi, Alabama, New Orleans etc) • Church was the centre of the village – to pray for a better life/worshiping god in hope • Music upbeat – spirituals with instruments then became GOSPEL (sister act2) • Call and response still evident in the music
Out of Gospel - BLUES • 1900 – started to sing blues in underground drinking taverns – CULT • Whites began to accept the music • Guitar and harmonica to accompany the singers, lyrics still about life being unkind • Started to include lyrics about relationships.
The word ‘BLUE’ has been associated with the idea of depression and melancholy since the Elizabethan era What does the word ‘BLUE’ mean to you? Definitions Depression, Heartache & Pain
Field Hollers Ballads Church Music Jump ups (Rhythmic dance tunes) Early English ballads The Baroque basso continuo – repeated chord progression that provides a basis for improvisation All of which combined to create a call and response style known as THE BLUES Call and response was between voice & guitar The blues ancestors
A brief history • The term ‘the blues’ was first used by the American writer Washington Irving in 1807 • Musically, the blues first appeared around the 1860’s • A native southern American musical form • Blues started out as a masculine, black discipline. It wasn’t until the form became more widespread that black women started to become involved • Came to the USA via African slaves • Although Guitar is synonymous with the blues, the banjo was the original choice of instruments
A brief history cont… • Is a combination of African & European slave music • Became popular around 1911 through the black composer W.C. Handy (1910 – publication ofMemphis Blues) • The first blues song to be written down was probably Hart Wand’s ‘Dallas Blues’ published eventually in 1912 • Became immensely popular after WW1 with the return of the american troops • 1920’s America, the Blues become a national craze • The first blues recording to be made was ‘Mamie Smith’s Crazy Blues’ recorded in 1920
A brief history cont… • 1940’s saw the introduction of the electric guitar into the blues • This was followed by saxophone, drums, piano, double bass, amplification • Before WWII numerous songs had a ‘floating pool’ of verses. That is, various verses appeared in more than one song • During the 30s & 40s the music became widespread before becoming the ‘big-band’ sound, and eventually amplified.
How it came about • Each blues song tells of the pain & suffering of the slaves • Around Mississippi the slaves were often abused and left or worked to death. The songs reflected this lifestyle • These sufferings turned into the Field Holler, which eventually became the negro spiritual, and then the blues • Southern prisons also contributed via their work gang songs, death row & warden songs • The US army (which was still segregated in WWI) travelled around singing the blues
The BLUES • Bending and slurring of notes and words – MELISMA • High pitched melodies (wailing) • 1920’s: 2 distinctive styles, country and city • Stories love, sex and characters in trouble.
CITY BLUES • More sophisticated, backed by piano or full jazz band/orchestra • Women singers ie Bessie Smith
Homework task • To find ten facts about Bessie Smith
COUNTRY BLUES • Rural Mississippi and Texas (area of current weather crisis) • Raw ‘tinny’ sound – banjos and harmonicas • Male singers ie Robert Johnson
1940’s and 50’s • Blues changed: became louder and fiercer: was now called RHYTHM & BLUES or R&B • Instruments amped and singer had a backing group
R & B performers Eric Clapton John Lee Hooker BB KING Muddy Waters McKinley Morganfield
12 bar blues • Most common form of blues is 12 bar blues • Length of music is 12 bars, fitting with traditional lyric set up of: 1st 2 lines repeated 3rd line different For example: I been hurt an’ mistreated ‘till I done made up my mind I been hurt an’ mistreated ‘till I done made up my mind Gonna leave dis ol’ country an’ all my troubles behind
The Crossroads • Many blues songs mention ‘the crossroads’ What do you think this is?
The crossroads • As legend goes many early blues performers were considered to be so gifted at music (and played such an unusual style of music) that people thought they had sold their soul to the devil. The crossroads is where the devil meets the person and the their soul is sold.
The Crossroads cont… • Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA where highway 49 & 61 meet – the unofficial crossroads • Legend no1 = In Nigeria people worshipped a spirit called Ligea of Yarba, the keeper of the crossroads and regarded as a practical joker • Legend no2 = If you went to the devils crossroads at midnight, and waited, a figure would step out of the shadows. You hand him your guitar, where he would tune it and hand it back. If you took it you had sold your soul
Contemporary jazz music Big band jazz music Rhythm and Blues Ragtime music Gospel Pop music Rock music (Rolling Stones, Cream, Fleetwood Mac) Rap music Vaudeville Country blues (3 styles – Texan; Mississippi Delta; Piedmont) Mississippi Delta blues – backed by bass, drums, piano & harmonica. Black Jazz Country & Western Boogie woogie Motown So what has it influenced? All these styles (especially Jazz music) have in the past used the basic blues chords progression to help improvise the style of music
Ragtime music • First published ragtime music in 1895 • Scott Joplin hailed as the ‘King of Ragtime’ • Ragtime musicians made enough money from tips to have a decent living • Usually played behind closed doors, after closing time, or for personal enjoyment
Playing the blues Blue notes Definition – any note pitch between adjacent notes in the 12-tone Western musical system • A blue note is a bent note that cannot be played on a piano but can be played on any string instrument, or the voice. This results from African origins where the music is made up of the pentatonic scale, omitting the 3rd & 7th note of the scale. To perform these blue notes were created
Playing the blues • The blues scale - The standard musical scale but with the 3rd, 7th & sometimes the 5th degree lowered to resemble a minor scale • The slide guitar – A round metal tube is placed on the neck of the guitar instead of playing the individual frets • The Harmonica – Widely considered to be an instrument used to imitate the human voice
Playing the blues Blues Lyrics Blues lyrics are/can be : • extremely personal • Autobiographical • Discuss pain and betrayal • Can cover romance, broken love etc • Deal with unhappiness • Racism • Deal with homelessness or joblessness, hunger, destitution • Sing about any unhappy situations regards the individual • Usually cover two topics:- • Their feelings and experiences • Their hopes Why do you think this is?
Playing the blues • Usually in 4/4 time • Three line verses are the norm with line two repeating line one (possibly giving the singer the chance to think of a third line) • The lyrics do not have to fit the music • Early examples followed speech patterns instead of creating melodies • Swung rhythm patterns – Two quavers being played as a triplet, crotchet – quaver pattern
12 bar blues by far the most common though 8 & 16 bars are used The one-four-five Playing the blues • Four bars of the tonic chord • Two bars of the sub-dominant chord • Two bars of the tonic chord • Two bars of the dominant chord • Two bars of the tonic chord • OR = I I I I – IV IV – I I – V V – I I This chord can also be changed to chord IV This is an influence taken from the advent of Rock music
Singing the blues • Several three line verses with each verse following an ‘aab’ pattern • The singer will incorporate three distinct vocal techniques to help heighten the emotions of the song 1. Vibrato – A rapid fluctuation of pitch 2. Melisma – several notes sung on the same syllable 3. The insertion of cries or grunts between words
Sample blues lyrics Blues lyrics follow a simple aab pattern I’m gonna leave you baby, ain’t going to say goodbye I’m gonna leave you baby, ain’t going to say goodbye But I’ll write you and tell you the reason why Or You better come in my kitchen, its gonna be raining outdoors You better come in my kitchen, its gonna be raining outdoors We’ll talk about us leaving, trav’lin to distant shores Or Woke up this morning…
William Charles Handy (1873 – 1958) Bessie Smith (1920’s) Billie Holiday (1930’s) Muddy Waters (1940’s) John Lee Hooker (1950’s) Howlin Wolf (1950’s) Rolling Stones (1960’s) Fleetwood Mac (1960’s) Eric Clapton (1970’s) B.B. King (1970’s) Led Zeppelin (1970’s) Steve Ray Vaughan (1990’s) Leading Blues artists
W.C. Handy 1873-1958 • American composer • Cornet player • Bandmaster to the minstrel shows • Born in Florence, Alabama, the son of a priest • Educated in the town’s public schools • 1900 – 02 music teacher in Huntsville, Alabama • Turned to composition in 1907 • Opened his own publishing house in 1914 • Later became a writer, publishing several books • His music took blues from its roots in Southern USA and placed it onto an international stage • His songs include: Memphis blues (1912), Saint Louis blues (1914), Beale Street blues (1917), & Loveless blues (1921) • Immortalised in the song ‘walking in Memphis’ by Cher
Bessie Smith 1894 - 1937 • Known as the empress of the blues • Born in Chattanooga, USA, in extreme poverty • Toured the south, singing, before arriving in New York in 1923 • Recorded with all the leading jazz musicians of the time, including Louis Armstrong & Bennie Goodman • Was noted for her deep, expressive, intense and powerful voice • Became the most popular female blues singer of her time • At the peak of her career (1925-35) she was reported to earn $2000 per week • Advent of Hollywood & radio saw a decline in popularity • Became increasingly addicted to alcohol • Died during a car crash in Mississippi 1937
Now its your turn Any Questions ? • You are going to compose a blues song of your own Using your knowledge of the blues lyrics (content and layout) create your own blues song – lyrics only • 2 verses and 1 chorus • If you are stuck for a topic then use Castle View School • The first thing to do is to create the AAB three line verse – Aim for at least 3 verses • Once you have completed your verse simply apply the 1-4-5 chord structure used in Blues music
TASK • Using your knowledge of the blues lyrics (content and layout) create your own blues song – lyrics only • 2 verses and 1 chorus