CHAPTER 13: OTHER MUSIC OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Dr. N. Boumpani
Changes in the art music of the 20th century developed alongside other forms of music that can be considered outgrowths of both the newer forms and the music of the past. In America, jazz developed as the music of the descendants of African American slaves and western music created a new music form. At the same time, a new entertainment medium was born with the advent of motion pictures.
When technology allowed both sound and pictures to be recorded on film, the art of composing for films was developed by composers trained in the tradition of Romantic Opera. These composers created the modern film scores of the Twentieth Century. At the same time, in New York City, a modern adaptation of opera formed and became the Broadway Musical. This was a modernized opera using music, dancing and acting to entertain people; however, recitative was abandoned and replaced with spoken dialogue. Broadway Musicals also included music that sometimes became popular outside of the show. Many songs from these musicals were recorded by popular music stars of the day and some were adapted by jazz musicians and became what are known as jazz standards. Jazz eventually influenced a new kind of music that became “rock and roll.” Rock and roll music branched out and merged with other music influences, philosophies, and cultures into other forms of modern popular music, including country, hip-hop, rap, funk, grunge, etc.
This chapter will examine some of the music associated with these new musical genres and examine how these new genres are related to much of the music we have studied throughout this course.
FILM MUSIC IN THE 20TH CENTURY
Film music can be said to be a direct descendent of opera, and Richard Wagner can therefore be called the grandfather of modern film music. This chapter will look at how music came to be a vital part of films and how operatically trained composers set the standard for early film music that continues well into the 21st century.
Photography had been experimented since the 1770’s with the first practical method established in the 1830’s. The first motion picture was not actually meant to be a moving picture but was rather the result of a bet. In the 1880s, the governor of California, Leland Stanford, made a bet with someone claiming that there was never a moment when all 4 of a horse’s hooves were off the ground at the same time. With use of a method of setting cameras 21 inches apart over 20 feet, and timing them to take pictures in rapid succession, the bet could be settled. When the pictures were developed and then shown in rapid succession, the first moving picture was born. This video can be seen online in several places, including: See YouTube Link in D2L. Once entrepreneurs realized that this new medium could be a way of making money, the film industry was born. Early films were produced and shown without recorded music. At the time, the technology necessary to put video and audio on the same film did not exist. In the early part of the 20th century, films were not being made for commercial success.
Early “moving pictures” were often shown in carnivals or fairs as a novelty attraction. They were often in machines where a person would pay a penny, then turn a crank to allow the pictures to move. With the advent of the film projector, groups of people were able to enjoy a film at the same time. There were, however, two things that distracted the viewers from enjoying the film. First, the projectors were so loud that they were annoying, and, second, many people felt uneasy watching silent people move around on the screen. It gave them an earie feeling, as if they were watching dead people. This may have been partly due to the 19th century practice of “death photos.” When cameras started to become available to more people, someone created the idea of taking pictures of people who had just passed away as a memorial to them. Before that time, and well back in history, death masks were made, mostly of famous people. Some of these “death pictures” would even show an entire family, all who died of some kind of fever or illness, sitting on a couch, as if they were enjoying a Sunday afternoon. These two problems needed to be solved if moving pictures were to become a profitable enterprise. The answer to both of these problems was to add live music to the airing of a film. Therefore, the first reasons for the inclusion of music with films had nothing to do with the story or the action being portrayed on the screen.
As silent films became longer and more sophisticated, producers became aware of the importance of music for its dramatic effect. Many theaters began to employ pianists and organists to play music during the showing of films. If no written music was provided or suggested by the producers, the film was at the mercy of the performer. Eventually producers realized the need to suggest specific musical works or at least specific styles of music that should accompany their film. Italian film score composer Giuseppe Becce (1877-1973) wrote a collection of works for film which he published called Kinothek (sometimes referred to as Kinobibliotek). This basically translates to “book of film music.” In 1824 Ernö Rapée published the book Motion Picture Moods for Pianists and Organists, which was a collection of works that a pianist or organist could use for various scenes. This included music for love scenes, comedy scenes, fight scenes, etc.
As the silent movies became more and more popular, and more theaters began opening, theaters in large towns had to find ways to attract customers. Large movie theaters began to employ orchestras. Max Winkler, an enterprising young man who worked for Schirmer publishing in New York City, saw this as an opportunity to create a new business. He convinced movie producers to allow him to see films before they were released so that he could recommend orchestral works to match each scene. He sometimes used the works of famous composers that were cut to the right length to fit each scene. Winkler then sold or leased these scores to those theaters with orchestras. This proved to be a great business, until the technology arrived that allowed music to be recorded on the same film as the video. Winkler eventually went out of business. The only assets he had to sell at the time of closing his business was his supply of paper, which he sold for a few hundred dollars.
THE ADVENT OF THE “TALKING PICTURE”
Many inventors were working on a system to synchronize music and dialogue to film, including famed inventor Thomas Edison. The Vitaphone system eventually proved to be the first viable system and, in 1927, the first “talking” film was released. The Vitaphone system was developed by the Western Electric Company and purchased by Warner Brothers in 1925. This system used a film projector that was connected to a turntable that used record disks with the dialogue and music. The records had to be replaced after 20 showings because the primitive record needles of the time cut into the records each time they were used. The result was that, after about 20 uses, the sound began to slow down to the point where the synchronization no longer worked. Although the system had been used in several short films back as early as 1923, it was not until 1927 that it was used for a full-length motion picture. In 1927 Warner Brothers released The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. From that point on silent movies quickly became obsolete. By 1930, all of the major film production companies in the United States were creating movies with sound.
THE RISE OF THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT IN FILM STUDIOS
The popularity of music in film lead to the creation of the “music department” with each of the major studios. This was almost an “assembly line” process and the results were often hit-or-miss. Some studios might even take the music from one film and use it in another. Since the composers were employed by the studios as employees, all copyrights to the music were owned by the studio. Even the early academy awards did not recognize the composers of film music and therefore, if the film was given an Oscar for best film score, the award went to the studio.
THE FILM SCORE AND ITS EVOLUTION
The music written for motion pictures is known as a film score, and the composer is the one who “scores the film.” The early process of adding music to a film was done much like an assembly line. There might be four or five composers working on the same film. The film would be divided into parts with each composer being given specific sections. The result did not always work out well, but the producers did not believe the music was that important to the film. Eventually the movie studios came to realize the power of the music score when written by the right composer. The composer credited with creating the first film score that enhanced the film’s story was Max Steiner. The movie he scores was the 1933 original version of King Kong.
MAX STEINER, THE FATHER OF THE MODERN FILM SCORE
Max Steiner (1888-1971) was born in 1888 into a family that had been highly successful in the arts. Steiner was a child prodigy who was composing at a very young age. His first operetta, written when he was 14, was performed in Vienna and continued for a complete year. Max studied under composer Gustav Mahler and experienced the music of Wagner’s operas. Since Steiner was Jewish, and Europe was becoming more and more anti-Semitic, he immigrated to the United States in 1914. Max worked as a theater conductor and arranger in New York City until the stock market crash in 1929 closed most of the theaters in Broadway. With the Great Depression starting in 1929, Steiner moved out to Hollywood to seek work composing for movies.
In Hollywood he established many of the techniques for scoring movies that other composers would use for decades. He was the first composer to use his operatic background to incorporate the idea of Wagner’s leitmotivs into film music. Steiner was a master at creating melodies. He would often get up in the middle of the night and write down melodies that he heard in his head. He was one of the hardest working composers in Hollywood. In 1934, he scored 36 films, and in 1935, he scored another 37 films. No other Hollywood composer has ever come close to this output. Steiner would go on to score over 300 scores in his time in Hollywood. He was nominated for 24 academy awards and won three. These three movies were Since You Went Away (1945), Now, Voyager (1942), and The Informer (1935). Other famous movies scored by Steiner include Gone with the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1941), and The Searchers (1956).
The film that made Steiner the leading composer in Hollywood was the 1933 RKO movie King Kong, starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. Steiner had already composed music for 70 films before King Kong, but this film allowed him to demonstrate his skills with leitmotivs. This one movie showed Hollywood filmmakers that the composer was one of the most important people to any film. Some critics even maintain that Steiner’s score actually saved this movie. For the movie’s special effects, four models were created of King Kong, using aluminum for the frame, foam rubber and animal fur. There was also a full-sized head used for certain shots. The smaller models were placed in a scene, photographed, then slightly adjusted, photographed, adjusted again, and so on. This process, known as stop-animation, was painstakingly slow. As the Kong model was moved, the fur would be altered. As you watch the movie, you can see this effect. Had it not been for Steiner’s music, this film might have failed miserably. We will take a look at this masterpiece by examining the music for three of the scenes.
The title scene begins with a three-note leitmotif that sounds dark, scary and foreboding. This is the theme for King Kong and is used throughout the movie. The music quickly changes around the 20 second mark to introduce the theme for the island tribe. Around 2 minutes into the title scene the threenote motif is transformed into the love theme for the movie. Listen to the opening theme music with the guide below.
EXAMPLE: Title Music from King Kong (1933) M. Steiner
KING KONG (1933) TITLE MUSIC
Max Steiner (1888-1971)
|0:00||Three note Kong theme|
|0:18||Tribal Theme for natives on Skull Island|
|1:00||Tribal theme motive builds as the tempo gradually increases|
|1:13||Music suddenly becomes very slow as a loud chord is played, then repeated in rhythm|
|1:22||The three-note theme is used in the love theme, then fades out into the first scene of the movie|
Steiner was known for overusing a technique that was called “micky-moussing.” This occurs when the music mimics the action on screen in a way that is almost comical, which was similar to the Micky Mouse cartoons of the day. There are several clips online where this is demonstrated. In the YouTube clip entitled King Kong (1933) – Mickey-Mousing Underscore TeRx, posted by the YouTuber “itz Terx,” micky-mousing can be seen as Kong tried to grab John Driscoll who, at the time, is hiding in a shallow cave in the side of a cliff. As Kong reaches in and wriggles his fingers and Driscoll tries to stab the ape’s hand, you hear a sharp orchestra “hit.” In the next scene where Kong attempts to undress Ann, as his fingers brush against her clothes, Steiner uses some low woodwinds to underscore the finger movement. Around the one-minute mark, as Driscoll climbs up the rocks, Steiner uses plucked strings that ascend pitch-wise as the character climbs. Note how, at the 1:12 mark, Kong’s theme is heard. Later, around the 1:40 mark, as Driscoll climbs down the rope, the music features descending pitches to match the movement. Then as Kong pulls the rope up, the pitches again ascend. This technique is seldom used today, except in comedies.
EXAMPLE: King Kong (1933) – Mickey-Mousing Underscore TeRx
Steiner wrote some of the most memorable film music in the history of film scores, including Gone with the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942), Now Voyager (1942), the Searchers (1956), and many others. Because RKO and Warner Brothers both held the rights for much of Steiner’s music, his music was used in motion pictures that he did not score. If you would like to hear more of Steiner’s music from King Kong, it is located in the Chapter 13 folder in NAXOS, in the OPTIONAL TRACKS playlist.
EXAMPLE: The complete score from King Kong (1933) M. Steiner
There were other composers in the early days of Hollywood and through what is known as the “Golden Age of Hollywood” (1915-1963), including Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1987-1957) and Miklos Rozsá (1907-1995). Like Steiner, both of these composers came from Europe to escape the anti-Semitism and both had strong operatic backgrounds. The film music that these composers created became models for the present-day film composers, like John Williams and Howard Shore. Howard Shore wrote the film score for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as well as “The Hobbit” trilogy, but he also scored the 2005 version of King Kong. Shore used Steiner’s 1933 score as a model for the remake. He also used the tribal music from the 1933 film in the 2005 film. In the 2005 film, during the scene right before Kong is presented to an audience in New York City, the tribal music is played by the orchestra in the theater pit. This was a tribute to the great film score composer, Steiner.
This text does not have the time to cover all of the great music that has been written for films. Some historians call film music the “Classical Music of the 20th Century. If you are interested in learning more about the history of film music, please search online. Also, feel free to explore the Appendix entitled “Beethoven Meets the Bride of Frankenstein.”
JAZZ, HOME-GROWN AMERICAN MUSIC
Jazz was born in the United States as a marriage of African and Western music elements. The African elements came to America with the slaves and were passed down generation to generation. Even though these African Americans learned to speak English, they did not forget their musical tradition. One of the elements brought into jazz was the “call-and-response” style of singing. One singer would sing a line and another singer, or group of singers, would respond to it, either by repeating the line or singing a common response. Another element was that of improvisation. African music included improvisation, which was taking a melody or even a rhythm and making changes to that melody or rhythm while the other elements of music remained the same. African rhythms were highly syncopated. If you remember, syncopation occurs when the accented beat in a measure does not occur where it is expected. The section on meter explained how each type of meter, duple, triple or quadruple, was based on strong and weak beats. The first beat of each group of beats was always the strongest. Syncopation moves the strong beat from where it is expected to where it is not expected, yet the basic underlying pulse does not change.
The western contribution to jazz included harmonic progressions, form, and balanced melodies. A harmonic progression is a set of chords that usually moves from the main chord (the tonic) and eventually get to the furthest point away (the dominant) and then comes back to the tonic. This is an oversimplification of the definition, but, for our purposes, it will work. Many of the early jazz works were based on popular or folk songs where the melodies are usually easy to remember.
HOW MUSIC, ESPECIALLY JAZZ, WORKED TO IMPROVE RACE RELATIONS
It was front page news in 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed the first African American baseball player to play in the Major leagues. Much credit has been given to sports for helping to break the color barrier, and rightly so. Little has been celebrated, however, of how musicians, decades before Jackie Robinson, were working together, side by side regardless of race. In the days of Vaudeville, many white performers would put on “blackface” and entertain the crowds because African American artists were not yet allowed into white shows. There is no doubt many white comedians put on shows that made fun of African Americans in a racist manner, and forwarded a stereotype that was not flattering; however, some performers used blackface as a homage to the black performers they would often go a watch in the black shows. Once African American performers were welcomed into entertainment, singers and comedians using black face disappeared, which, thankfully, has not returned (with the exception of a few Hollywood celebrities who thought it would be funny, but it was not).
However, jazz musicians were a different kind of people. Jazz was born as a marriage of western harmony and form and the African American call-and-response, improvisation, and syncopated rhythms. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, jazz was a popular music in the night clubs and speakeasies of the day. Black jazz musicians entertained patrons of black clubs, and white jazz musicians entertained patrons of white clubs. But after the jobs ended, in many cities, the black and white musicians would get together and have all-night “jam sessions.” During these jam sessions, black and white musicians would learn from each other, exchange ideas, and basically form bonds that did not exist in society. This is how jazz evolved.
On January 16, 1938, Benny Goodman made history in several ways. For the first time in history, jazz was performed at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. After three numbers by the all-white Goodman band, and then a Dixieland quartet, Goodman invited members of Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s all-black bands on the stage. By the end of the evening the crown was on their feet, cheering and having a fantastic time. Benny Goodman then toured with his legendary quartet: Benny on clarinet, Gene Krupa on drums, Lionel Hampton on vibes, and Teddy Wilson on piano. This racially integrated band not only made history, but created some of the most memorable jazz performances in history.
Showing that jazz could be fun, vibist Lionel Hampton formed his own band and traveled until near the end of his life. Hampton was known for presenting some enjoyable jazz concerts. He also liked to hire young talent for his bands and many famous musicians got their start in the music field under Hampton. Hampton, went on to incorporate the call-and-response idea in one of his famous tunes Hey Ba Ba Re Ba. Using whimsical lyrics that included response by the band, and, in concert, the audience, Hampton performed this piece in concert until his death in 2002 at the age of 94. Take a moment and listen to the energy and fun in this work. The second link shows Hampton in concert with a different version of the same song.
Some lyrics from Hey Ba Ba Re Ba! (45 seconds into the first file)
Matilda Brown told old King Tut, “if you can’t say ‘re ba’ keep your big mouth shut!”
CALL: Hey ba ba re ba (RESPONSE:hey ba ba re ba) (sung three times before) “Yeah, your baby know!”
EXAMPLE: Hey Ba Ba Re Ba! L. Hampton, C. Hammer
EXAMPLE: Hey Ba Ba Re Ba! L. Hampton, C Hammer
As you listened to Hey Ba Ba Re Ba you may have noticed something familiar about it. That is because it was built on the most familiar form in jazz and early rock and roll – the 12-bar blues form. The 12-bar format is based on a simple Western music harmonic progression coupled with a typical African American work song. The African American contribution was a three-phrase lyric set with each phrase being 4-measures (bars) long. A “bar” in this situation is one measure of music. Since most blues tunes are in quadruple meter, one measure contains 4 beats. The three phrases were usually built on a single phrase that was repeated (the second phrase) and then answered in the third phrase. The early blues were usually sung about the difficulties the singer’s life. Below is one 12-bar section of a 12-bar blues.
My body’s tired because I work from morn ‘til night
My body’s tired because I work from morn ‘til night
If I don’t work hard, nobody treats me right
The next 12 bars would usually add a new twist to the original phrases while keeping to the original idea of the hardship the singer had to endure. Since the topics were usually sad, the genre of this form was called the “blues,” meaning that the person was sad, or “blue.” Even after jazz artists, like Hampton, made the 12-bar blues “fun” the form was still called the “blues.” There are literally thousands of songs, jazz, country and rock, that are based on the 12-bar blues.
Over the years, the harmonic progressions for blues tunes have become refined and more complicated than the original blues, although many composers stick to the simple 3-chord pattern. In its earliest form the blues was set to three main chords. These three chords in the western tradition are known as the tonic, subdominant and dominant chords. Almost all music in the west, until the art music of the 20th century, used this basic outline for major works of music. Written down in notational form, the simple 12-bar blues form would look like this:
Now listen to just the harmonic progression without any melody
EXAMPLE: Bad News Blues (harmonic progression only) N. Boumpani (file)
Can you come up with your own lyrics to this progression?
One of the earliest commercially successful blues artists was Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929). Little is known about Jefferson’s life, but after a talent scout discovered him in 1923, Jefferson began recording. In the span of 4 years Jefferson recorded over 90 records. His records sold well and his name became well known. Sadly, in 1929, while he was coming home from a party at one of his friend’s house, he got stranded in the snow and died of exposure.
Among one of his biggest hits was the song Black Snake Moan, which was the title song for a 2009 movie of the same name starring Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson sang a slightly different version of the song in the movie. Below are links to the original version as well as the clip from the movie.
EXAMPLE: Black Snake Moan Blind Lemon Jefferson
EXAMPLE: Black Snake Moan Blind Lemon Jefferson from the movie Black Snake Moan
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
“Blind” Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929)
FOCUS: The lyrics and what he was trying to say
Aaaaah, I ain't got no mama now
Aaaaah, I ain't got no mama now
She told me late last night, "You don't need no mama no how"
Mmm, mmm, black snake crawling in my room
Mmm, mmm, black snake crawling in my room
Some pretty mama better come and get this black snake soon
Ohh-oh, that must have been a bed bug, Baby, a chinch can't bite that hard
Ohh-oh, that must have been a bed bug, Honey a chinch can't bite that hard
Ask my sugar for fifty cents, she said "Lemon, ain't a child in the yard?"
Mama, that's all right, mama that's all right for you
Mama, that's all right, mama that's all right for you
Mama, that's all right, most seen all you do
Mmm, mmm, what's the matter now?
Mmm, mmm, honey what's the matter now?
Sugar, what's the matter, don't like no black snake no how
Mmm, mmm, wonder where my black snake gone?
Mmm, mmm, wonder where this black snake gone?
Black snake mama done run my darlin' home
Jazz would become the popular music of the 1920’s through until the 1950s. Some early stars included Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke and Kling Oliver. The early jazz groups had anywhere from 4 to around 8 players; however, there was no standard instrumentation. Eventually, at Jazz became more refined, these groups would grow into the standard “big bands” of the 1930’s and 40’s. The big band brought jazz into the realm of popular music and became the most popular dance music of the era. It is important to know that the smaller jazz groups continued to be popular with Americans as well. In the smaller jazz groups, very little music was written down and most groups improvised everything. Once the big bands became popular, the band leaders realized the importance of having arrangements prepared for the larger instrumentation. Eighteen players could not simply “make everything up” as they played. This paved the way for the big band arrangers.
The typical big band included:
A rhythm section which included.
THE BIG BANDS
One of the first big band leaders was Edward Kennedy Ellington, better known as “Duke” Ellington. Other big bands included those of Count Basie, Glenn Miller, The Dorsey Brothers, Harry James and others. The big bands included singers, many of whom would go on to become stars in their own right, including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. These bands lived “on the road” almost yearround, often leaving one performance and then sleeping on a bus as they travelled to their next performance. The big bands of the era produced many works that have become standard through the years. Duke Ellington and one of his best writers, Billy Strayhorn, worked together to produce many of these tunes, including Take the A Train, C-Jam Blues, Perdido and many more. In small jazz groups, everyone got the chance to improvise a solo, but with the big bands, the arrangement usually allowed for one, two, or maybe three soloists per selection, and sometimes there were no improvised solos.
Forms were important to jazz groups, but especially to the big bands. The typical big band work may include most or all of the following components (not always in this order):
In introduction. This was usually a short section that often introduced the work. Some introductions have become standard parts of the work, as we shall see with our listening example.
The “head.” This section was the actual song, usually played without any jazz embellishments. These were usually song forms, like A-B-A forms, but sometimes they might be more complicated.
The "improv” section. There would then be a chance for a soloist to “improvise.” This means creating a new melody based on the harmonies of the original melody. Sometimes this section might be divided between several soloists.
An ensemble section. (optional) The arranger might include a section where he embellishes the original melody, or sometimes creates his own melody. The quality of this section, and the entire arrangement depended entirely on the skills of the arranger.
A Shout section. This section is usually big, loud, with lots of rhythmic activity.
An ending. The ending may actually be part of the head that returns to end the piece, or it can be the end of a shout or ensemble section.
It is important to note that many of the jazz standards were performed by many of the big bands, and often with different arrangements. Even Duke Ellington had several arrangements of some of his works. We are going to hear an arrangement of his “signature” song, Take the A Train. This piece was actually written by a man who was Ellington’s so-writer on many songs, Billy Strayhorn. The arrangement we will here in this section is but one arrangement of the famous work. This arrangement incorporates transition that the original arrangement did not have; however, jazz is the kind of art form where creativity abounds, not just with the players, but the arrangers as well. Listen to this arrangement of Ellington’s famous Take the A Train. Please use the listening guide.
EXAMPLE: Take the A Train, Billy Strayhorn
The Count Basie Band
TAKE THE A TRAIN
Billy Strayhorn (1915‐1967)
The Song itself is actually an A‐B‐A form. The head will present the song with the melody in this format.
|0:00||Introduction||This introduction has become a part of the song|
A section of theme – Saxophones in unison (all playing the same notes)
|0:16||A section repeats with trumpet countermelody||A|
|0:28||B section of head Saxophone in harmony||B|
|0:39||A section returns in saxes with trumpet countermelody||A|
|0:49-1:00||TRANSITION (based on introduction)|
|A Based on A section|
|1:11||Piano continues, saxophones add soft chords||A Based on repeat of A|
Mainly saxes play a “new” melody based on the old one
|B Based on B section|
|1:33||Ensemble continues||A Based on A section|
|1:43||TRANSITION based on original version should section|
|A Based on A section|
|2:08||Saxophone continues||A Based on repeat of A|
Soft Trumpets play new B section
|B Based on B section|
|2:30||Saxes play A section of melody into TRANSITION||A Based on A section|
|2:43||Saxophones play unison A theme||A Based on A section|
|2:54||Saxophones play unison A theme softer, with piano||A Based on repeat of A|
|3:05||TRANSITION –crescendo into drum solo|
|3:14||SHOUT SECTION very rhythmic with lots of drums||A Based on A section|
|3:24||Continues||A Based on repeat of A|
Students are encouraged to explore more of the world of Big Band Jazz. Below are a few suggestions that can be found online, at YouTube and other places:
DUKE ELLINGTON: Satin Doll, In a Sentimental Mood, Caravan
COUNT BASIE: One O’clock Jump, Shiny Stockings, April in Paris
GLENN MILLER: Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, St. Louis Blues March
BENNY GOODMAN: Sing, Sing, Sing, Let’s Dance
HOW JAZZ WORKS
Before we discuss jazz further, it must be noted that jazz performers are often incredible musicians who are some of the best instrumentalists in the world, and, at the same time, extremely creative. Jazz is an art form that happens in time. Each and every time good jazz players perform in a small group, they create a “new arrangement” of that work that will never be performed the exact same way again. Jazz performers have such control of their instruments that the direction of their improvisation is often changed in an instant by other performers in the group. The response of the audience, or even the mood of the performer. Very little is written down in small group jazz because the good performers have memorized most of the “jazz standards,” and have no need for music. Throughout jazz history, there have been many performers who could not even read music! Still, these performers could hear someone playing a song once, and remember it immediately. If you were to hear a professional jazz combo, very rarely will you notice the performers reading music.
To understand jazz, we will examine how a typical small jazz combo performs. These groups usually contain a piano or guitar, upright or electric bass, drums, and one or two “horns.” The most popular jazz instrument is the saxophone, although any instrument can be, and has been, used in a jazz ensemble. There have been jazz violinists, harmonica players, bassoonists, and even tin whistle performers! The songs that are usually played by small jazz groups are called jazz standards. These include songs from movies or musicals, popular songs, and original jazz songs which have been performed for decades. Jazz sometimes incorporates Latin instruments and rhythms as well as electronic and exotic instruments.
Most small-group jazz selections may include several of the elements listed below. The most important aspect of jazz has always been improvisation. Players make up their own new “melodies” based on the original melody and chord progression. As they create these new melodies, the other members of the band, especially the piano, bass and drums will react to the soloist’s new melody in rhythmic, melodic and harmonic ways. To be able to be a good jazz musician not only takes hours and hours of practice, but quite a bit of experience, and thousands of hours of listening.
Below are the typical parts of any small jazz ensemble
Introduction – (optional)
The “Head” – This is the main melody of the song. It is usually played at the beginning and often at end of the performance; however, this is not always the case (As we shall see).
Improvisation by one, two, or all of the performers
An ensemble section that may have been pre‐arranged, or happens spontaneously.
“Trading 4’s.” This happens when a soloist improvises for 4 measure, and is followed by another soloist playing the next 4. This can include all of the instruments, including the bass and drums.
A return to the “Head.” (also optional, but present in the majority of situations.)
A “tag.” Some songs have “codas” that have been an accepted part of the song. Other times, the band might repeat the last phrase of the song twice and, on the third time, slow down.
Sometimes jazz even incorporates classical elements into songs. Below is a link to videos on YouTube that demonstrate this style. The first song linked below is Lullaby of Birdland, written George Shearing in 1952, in honor of jazz great Charlie Parker and the New York City jazz club that was named after Parker: “Birdland.” Parker’s nickname was “Bird” because he composed so many songs with “bird” in the title. The second work on the list is by a talented pianist who shunned fame, but was nonetheless extremely creative and has a trio that performed together for years, Morris Nanton. Both work demonstrate polyphonic textures of the song. On the second tune, the bassist plays a bass line with a bow, until it opens up to a fast Latin samba tempo around 1:50 into the work.
JAZZ WITH CLASSICAL ELEMENTS
EXAMPLE: Lullaby of Birdland, G Shearing
EXAMPLE: Fly Me To the Moon, Bart Howard
Big Band jazz would eventually move from popular dance music to a more refined art form that is often presented in concerts. Both big bands and small jazz groups still perform all over the world, both in concert and in restaurants, bars, as well as private and public performances. Shortly after the end of World War II, a new form of jazz called “be-bop” arose. A be-bop jazz tune is characterized by a very fast tempo and often complex, fast-changing, harmonic progressions. One of the leaders of this style was jazz saxophonist and composer, Charlie Parker. You instructor may want you to listen to this arrangement of Parker’s composition Billie’s Bounce completely. Please note that this arrangement is not typical. The actual “head” does not come in until around 2 minutesinto the piece. Billie’s Bounce is a specialized version of the 12-bar blues discussed earlier. Try to listen for each new start of the 12-bar form. Also notice how the bass player and the drummer are responsible for keeping the tempo steady. Please listen to at least 4:00 minutes of this work.
EXAMPLE: Be-Bop Jazz Billie’s Bounce Charlie Parker
BILLIE’S BOUNCE – BE-BOP JAZZ
Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
|Time||What is Happening|
|0:00||Also saxophone solo begins improvisation over a 12-bar blues.|
|1:43||Saxophone continues, other horns add some harmony|
|1:54||Saxophone plays the “head” of Billie’s Bounce|
|2:04||Other instruments join in and repeat the entire head of Billie’s Bounce. (this part was arranged)|
|2:16||4-measure band rhythmic figure (called a “riff”) leads into the tenor saxophone solo.|
|3:13||Saxophone starts a rhythmic idea that is picked up by the piano and drums for a few measures.|
|3:44||Short accents by the other instruments as the 2nd saxophone continues to solo.|
|3:57||Another short “riff” signals the beginning of the baritone saxophone solo|
|5:34||Baritone solo continues as other players play a different blues-based melody in the background. This melody is actually the “head” of another blues-based song named “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid.|
|5:46||Another 4-measure band “riff” leads to the next alto sax soloist.|
|7:24||Other saxes play soft background while the second alto sax continues. For 12 measures|
|7:35||The last 12 measures repeat, but a little louder|
|7:46||The drummer takes an improvises solo that covers 2-12 measure segments.|
|8:07||The 4 saxophones take turns trading 4’s - each playing 4 measures. This may be hard to hear since some of the saxophone sound so similar.|
|12:10||Entire group play the “head” of Billie’s Bounce. This harmony has been arranged. The head is repeated and the entire work ends.|
OTHER TYPES OF JAZZ
“Be-Bop” was followed by “cool jazz” which was pioneered by trumpeter/composer Miles Davis. Electronics and the influence of other music and cultures would help create styles called Latin jazz, jazz/rock, and fusion jazz, avant-garde jazz, and Afro-Cuban jazz. More genres are being born and will be born because the idea of creating music on the spot appeals to so many musicians. Even with all of these changes, the original key element of improvisation is the one factor continues to binds all types of jazz.
THE BIG BANDS FIND NEW LIFE
In the 1960’s and 1970’s and still today, big band jazz has found a home in concert halls and school music programs, Duke Ellington and Count Basie continued with their bands until they died. However, even after the deaths of these great band leaders, the bands continued to perform, often led by other musicians. The same holds true for other 1930-40 big bands, like Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and others. Newer bands arose in the 1960’s and 70’s. Maynard Ferguson, a trumpet virtuoso who could play incredibly high pitches, and was known to include electronic instruments, had a large following right up to his death. Buddy Rich, the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest drummer” would continue to perform for large audiences until his death as well. Buddy Rich had a long history performing for big bands, as far back to the time Frank Sinatra joined the Tommy Dorsey band. Although both of these bands may still be performing, since their leaders were the main focus of the bands, they are not as popular today. Rich was known for amazing drum solos where his hands moved so fast that his sticks and hands seemed to blur. Once you see a video of him performing, you will understand how nobody could take his place.
Most colleges and universities, as well as a great many high schools have big bands. Students find playing in big band music fun and challenging. Additionally, there are literally thousands of amateur big bands all over America who still perform regularly. YouTube links are provided below should the instructor or student wish to explore the virtuosic playing of Maynard Ferguson or Buddy Rich.
EXAMPLE: Birdland by Joe Zawinul Performed by featuring Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band on the Mike Douglas Show, circa 1970s
EXAMPLE: Channel One Suite (excerpt) by Bill Reddie featuring a great Buddy Rich drum solo.
In the early 19th century, New York was becoming the center of American theater. By the middle of the century, Shakespearian productions were being presented along with a new form of entertainment called vaudeville. Vaudeville was a kind of “variety show” that featured singers, dancers, comedians, jugglers, and other talented entertainers. By 1880 many of the vaudeville productions were beginning to travel to other cities. In the beginning of the 20th century, Florenz Ziegfeld was presenting his Ziegfeld Follies which was an extravaganza of music, dance, and comedy. Through the 1910’s and 1920’s, musical theater was extremely popular.
In 1927 history was made on the New York stage with Showboat, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. This was the first musical theater production that had a story line and developed characters. The Broadway musical became like a modern-day opera, except, instead of opera’s recitative, Broadway musicals included spoken dialogue. Broadway musicals include acting, well-written dialogue and catchy musical pieces, and scenery changes. Some of America’s best musical talent was located in New York City in the 1920’s.
In 1929 the stock market crashed and sent the entire world into a depression. Broadway was hit hard because few people had disposable income to spend on shows. Many of the actors and musicians moved to Hollywood. By the middle of the 1930’s Broadways was up and running again, but not to the level it had been pre-depression. Broadway has continued to create many successful musical shows, some of which continue to be performed on and off into the present. Some of the big names associated with Broadway musicals are:
Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim
Andrew Lloyd Webber
The Broadway musical follows some of the same conventions as opera. There is usually an overture that takes place before the show begins. The overtures sometime contain themes from some of the important songs in the show done instrumentally. Let’s look at the Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The story is based on the book Le Fantôme de L'Opéra by Gaston Leroux in 1910. The book did not get a lot of attention until American Actor Lon Chaney starred in the silent film version in 1925. The story is about a deformed recluse who abducts a beautiful young woman in the Paris Opera House. The story is based on rumors of a similar event that allegedly took place in the mid-19th century. In 1988 Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical version opened on Broadway in the Shubert Theater where it is still running as of December 2019 and is the longest running Broadway musical in history.
The Phantom is an organist and composer who haunts the grand Paris Opera House and lives in a hidden area of the building. He is a disfigured, lonely man who discovers a beautiful young soprano has joined the opera company and is filling in the lead role in a production. He befriends her and tutors her, never showing his face. The Phantom falls in love with Christine, but, at the same time Christine reunites with her old childhood sweetheart, Raoul. Christine tells Raoul of her “angel of music” who helps her, but has never seen. Even though the Phantom causes problems for the opera house owners, Christine is drawn to him. She believes he is an angel promised to her by her late father. When the Phantom realizes Christine and Raoul are becoming close, the Phantom abducts Christine, taking her deep below the opera house into his underground home. The next morning, after Christine awakes, she sneaks up on the Phantom and removes his mask, revealing his disfigured face. After releasing Christine, he comes to find out that she is in love with Raoul.
In the Second Act, the Phantom attends a masked ball at the opera house and gives the management an opera he has composed and insists that Christine be given the lead part. On opening night, the Phantom murders the leading man and takes his place. As he sings a song professing his love to her, she rips the mask off his face exposing his deformities to the audience. In a fit of rage, he grabs her and escapes with her underground. Raoul and others are close behind. When Raoul finds the Phantom’s lair, the Phantom puts a rope around his neck and tells Christine that she must remain with him, or he will kill Raoul. Christine kisses the Phantom which has a magical effect on him and he agrees to let them both go. As the two leave, a mob breaks in and grabs the Phantom and rip his cloak off, but as the step back with his cloak, the only thing they see is his mask on the ground as he has vanished.
This Broadway show includes a number of musical works that have gained fame on their own. Listen to two of these songs in the links below.
EXAMPLE: “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, A.L Webber, sung by the Phantom
EXAMPLE: “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera, A. L. Webber
This musical was also available as a motion picture in 2004 which used the same music as the show. This film is available through Amazon Prime.
This chapter examined three genres of music from the 20th century that were close relations to music of the Western Tradition. In the previous chapter we examined how the art music of the 20th century began moving into experimental areas of music. Composers of the 20th century art music created music that many people have difficulty understanding. At the same time, elements of the Romantic Era went on to influence new forms of music that reached a much wider audience. The operatic conventions of the 19th century influenced the film composers in the 20th century. These film composers used the ideas of the leitmotiv that was created by Richard Wagner as well as the power of his instrumental orchestrations.
Western harmony fused with elements of African music to create the only music unique to America – jazz. Jazz became the popular music of the 1930’s and 1940’s eventually setting the stage for rock and roll, as well as a number of various jazzes genres. Jazz also helped to create virtuosi performers, much like those of the Romantic era before them. An effect of 19th century Romanticism was the 20th century creation of the Broadway Musical. Broadway musicals have been popular since their inception and many of the songs written for these musicals have been recorded by pop stars over the years to become music hits outside of the show.
The History of Film Music, Mervyn Cooke. Cambridge University Press, 2008.