Fundamentals of Music

MUSC 2133 



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Music Dictionary  



Our popular music in America came from either Europe (mostly English pubs and Irish folksongs) or Africa (mostly West Africa as a result of the slave trade).

We specify "mostly West Africa" because to lump all of Africa together and discuss "African music" would be even tougher than trying to talk about "American music" and including all of North, Central, and South America in the discussion!!

West African drummers


African music has profoundly affected our popular music.

We can categorize these influences into


1.  Blue Notes

"flattened" tones of the scale; particularly the 3rd and 7th scale degrees

2.  Unique tone a rougher texture, both vocally and instrumentally
3.  Motor Rhythmdriving rhythms, steady beats
4.  Syncopationdisplacing the regular accents in music
5.  Swing feelingthe basic feel of long - short - long - short, instead of equal note values
6.  Improvisationmaking up the music as it is played (or sung)


Here is a good representation of the development of early jazz.  Feel free to explore the links.

Jazz Roots





Scott Joplin 

Scott Joplin 1868-1917

The "King of Ragtime"


Scott Joplin composed music in a form similar to marches. 

Listen to John Phillip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever


Notice how each section is repeated and then there is a new section? 

Now listen to Joplin's Maple Street Rag - same deal!


The syncopated rhythms were referred to as “ragged time,” which was eventually shortened to - you guessed it - Ragtime.

Rags (shortened again) became very popular


He made a modest living as a composer during his lifetime. 

The big awards came much later.

1973:  An academy award for Best Film Score (Joplin's original music)  in the movie The StingAcademy Award

1976:  A Pulitzer Prize for his opera Treemonisha (the first opera ever Pulitzer Awardcomposed by an African American)








You can follow the link below to learn about "blues songs". 


The Blues


Here is a blues song that shows you the 3 chords used. (Right click the image and choose play from the dropdown menu)

Sweet Home Chicago


12-bar blues form is used in country and rock songs also.  It's everywhere!!

Led Zeppelin


Now try some interactive composition!

Interactive Desktop Blues


Here's an example of the blues form:


I'm gonna lay my head on some lonesome railroad line. (make a statement)

I'm gonna lay my head on some lonesome railroad line. (say it again)

And let that 5:15 train pacify my mind. (add a punchline and make sure the last word rhymes)



You can even compose your own blues song (no music, just words). 



Click on the example below to hear how your blues song could sound. 

Choose Kansas City Blues from the videos on the page.




The first recording  by  a black singer was made in 1920 by Mamie Smith singing "Crazy Blues."


Bessie Smith (not to be confused with Mamie Smith) became famous in the 1920's and was called


"The Empress of the Blues."



Here are some of the Blues Greats.





When we think of New Orleans, we think of Dixieland Jazz.  Where did that term originate?

Here's the story:

Maryland and Pennsylvania had a border dispute, so two guys named Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were hired to survey the land in order to establish an official border.  The survey was complete in 1767.

The line became known as Mason's and Dixon's Line.


It was gradually shortened to Mason-Dixon Line.


This line came to be considered the unofficial boundary between the "North" and the "South" and the "South" came to be known as

"Dixon-land" and then eventually "Dixieland" and then just "Dixie."



Follow the link below to learn about New Orleans Jazz. 

New Orleans Jazz



Ken Burns on New Orleans after the hurricane






He claimed to be the inventor of jazz.

Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941)

From New Orleans, Jelly Roll came to Chicago in 1923.

He represents the culmination of the New Orleans jazz style and was a transitional figure into jazz piano styles.

Black Bottom Stomp  listen


Links to more music (optional)





Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)


founder of "hot jazz"

Follow the link below to learn about Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong

West End Blues   listen



Photograph:Bix Beiderbecke 

The first major influential white jazz artist.

Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931)

founder of "cool jazz"

Singin' the Blues  listen









Glen Miller Band


The only time when jazz was the most popular music in the country

and (naturally) the most commercially successful.

 $ $ $




it The







Then:  Swing dancing  watch  watch


Now:  Last year's finalists watch


Makes me tired just to watch . . .






Fletcher Henderson  Wrappin' It Up  listen

Count Basie  Doggin' Around  listen

Duke Ellington  East St. Louis Toodle-Oo  listen

Glenn Miller  In the Mood  listen

Bennie Goodman

Tommy Dorsey

Artie Shaw

Woody Herman


Swing music and the Big Bands were significantly affected by 3 political realities:

  1. Many band members went overseas during World War II

  2. Also because of World War II, gas rationing curtailed bands from touring

  3. Musician's union strikes crippled the recording industry for a time

Read this 1942 article from Down Beat magazine




Jazz moved on to Bebop, and the smaller combos plus singers, like Frank Sinatra,


became the most popular style in the late 40's and remained so until Rock 'n' Roll.







1945-1955         East Coast



"bebop" was a scat word that described a quick two-note phrase


Bebop (as a style of jazz) was usually very fast, technical, and complex - difficult to play . . . impossible to dance to!


Bebop was more for the musicians than the audience. 

Audiences wanted smooth, danceable tunes. 

The musicians loved to cut loose on improvisations without so many restrictions.


The best of these musicians were truly virtuosic.


But . . .


Jazz became less commercial.


Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie


Thelonious Monk


Charlie "Bird" Parker


KoKo   listen







1949-1955           West Coast


Cool jazz was a reaction to Bebop.


(You remember the earlier versions of "Hot Jazz" and "Cool Jazz")


Dave Brubeck 

Take Five   listen

This song is unusual in that the beats are in groups of 5 instead of the most common grouping of 4

Hence the name of the song!!

Try counting to 5 over and over as you listen to get the feel of the meter.


This is the best-selling jazz single of all time.

Guess that makes it pretty popular!

Dave Brubeck

(1920-    )







Your textbook calls it  "a jazz version of the prevailing rhythm and blues style in the 1950s."



 horace.jpg (17786 bytes)

Art Blakey


Goldie  Watch


Horace Silver


Senor Blues Watch










Bossa Nova was a combination of Cool Jazz and Brazilian influences like the samba.




Girl From Ipanema   listen

Stan Getz



Charlie Byrd











Miles Davis Poster by Herman Leonard



Miles Davis was a very influential figure in legitimizing rock elements in the minds of the artists within the jazz genre.


If it was ok with Miles,

it must be ok

image id: black music / jazz / herbie hancock / herbiehancock_bm

Miles Davis



Herbie Hancock

(1940-    )

Watermelon Man  listen











Free Jazz   listen


Coleman's album

Free Jazz:  A Collective Improvisation

was both innovative and controversial


and provided the name for this type of experimental jazz

less structured and more dissonant than any other type of jazz


(Be sure and look up a definition for "dissonant")


Ornette Coleman

(1930-   )



There's no place to go from here!!

Jazz went from enjoying the largest share of the popular audience in the

Swing Era to losing most of its audience as it became more and more experimental, culminating in Free Jazz




but you can still hear all of the styles of jazz played today.

Which is your favorite?







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