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This week's lecture includes several flash file links.  You must have Flash Player installed on your computer to view these. 

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Flash Download


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.

Your textbook does a good job of categorizing these influences into

Be sure and review the explanations in your text (p. 42-45).


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)








The blues emerged in the 1890's from the South


[Keep an eye out for how many of our most popular genres come from the South!]



Robert Johnson was an important blues singer who influenced many who came after him.



Robert Johnson (1911-1938)




"Hellhound on My Trail"







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."

Read about Bessie Smith on p. 53-54 of your textbook.







Bessie Smith (1894-1937)


Her song, "Down Hearted Blues" (1923) sold over a million copies.


Watch this




Why was she important as a cultural icon in addition to her success as a singer?


The basic rhythm of the blues is called the shuffle.


Check out this version of  Big Joe Turner singing "Doggin' the Blues"


Rock 'n Roll is only a short step away from the blues played at a fast tempo.


It is not difficult to trace the legacy of Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters to Chuck Berry and the rest is history!

As a matter of fact, the blues were a huge influence on The Rolling Stones!  They even took their name from a Muddy Waters song of the same name.



For some more info on The Blues, and some examples to help you with this week's assignment, follow this link:

Blues Page



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