qwed117 wrote: ↑25 Feb 2020 15:36
I'm not convinced. All the sources
I can find about the origins of blues and jazz
suggest a primarily Afro-American base
with classical admixture *afterwards*
. I'm also not seeing much that ties rock 'n' roll
to classical either
. The relatively well-sourced Wikipedia page links it to a WWII related reduction of jazz and big band- and this comports with everything I've learnt in my music (and American History) classes from elementary up to high school.
Also worth noting that I've seen people play Greensleeves on a guzheng and Amazing Grace on a khaen, but neither of those instruments are Common Period European, and neither are the folk songs that the other people play on those instruments
No offence, but the underlying assumptions here are kind of racist. In particular, you're refusing to distinguish between African-Americans
Rock and roll comes from the merger of white popular music with African-American
popular music. But African-Americans are not just empty vessels for some sort of ancestral spirit-knowledge - they're just as able to invent things as white people are. So being derived from the work of African-Americans is not the same as coming from Africa.
A distinction should be drawn, incidentally, between jazz and ragtime on the one hand, and blues on the other. Jazz and ragtime were created by professional musicians trained in european classical music. Blues is effectively black folk music.
Grove says: "Ballads in traditional British form extolling the exploits of black heroes (e.g. John Henry, John Hardy, Po’ Lazarus and Duncan and Brady) were part of this musical expansion [i.e. in the late 19th century, as segregation caused a stricter division of black and white cultures], and blues emerged from the combination of freely expressive hollers [simple call-and-response work songs] with the music of these ballads." Grove also says, "Blues instrumental style shows tenuous links with African music." [specifically with string music from the sahel, because drumming was prohibited - the banjo, for instance, was obviously introduced from Africa]
Regarding Jazz, I think it's telling that Jelly Roll Morton used the expression "Spanish tinge" to describe the syncopated rhythmic patterns brought by migrants from Cuba to New Orleans - telling, because these features were actually African in origin, but had by then been forgotten by African-Americans (though they were prominent in south american music).
On Jazz, Grove says:
Again, African-Americans had a leading roll in developing this music, but it was developed out of existing popular music genres of European origin - dances and marches.
Similarly, gospel music developed out of the hymnodic tradition (mostly from the classical period, as we've discussed); african-american gospel became distinct later through the addition of elements from blues, jazz and ragtime (and related genres).
Now, the exact origins of jazz (etc) may be a matter for historians. But anybody who listens to the pop music of the 1950s and 1960s (hell, of today!) should be able to hear immediately how closely it follows classical models.
Let's take, for example, Elvis' biggest hit
. This is the best-selling selling pop song of the 60s, and the fourth-biggest ever. It's pretty of a piece with the rest of Elvis' career.
How can we tell that it descends from classical music? Well in this case the big giveaway is that it was written by two Italians in 1898!
. The melody and harmonies are all from the original. Elvis has put a prominent rhythm accompaniment underneath it - but that's just a simple dance pattern not out of place in 19th century vienna. The big concession to modernity (other than the timbre!) is that clave rhythm... but that's literally just an overlaid track to spice up the rhythm, it doesn't actually change the structure or the melody. [I think it's there to emulate Puerto Rican influence in Hawaiian music? but I'm not sure].
Leaving aside the ii-V7-I right at the beginning of this piece - already pretty solidly European - listen to the line 'tomorrow will be too late'. Hear how it borrows the subdominant minor? That's a common Romantic trope that descends from (ironically, in this case) the neapolitan sixth, and that's apparently become quite common in rock music.
Or, because someone pointed this one out to me recently, let's look at something from the other end of the decade: The Beatles
. What's going on here? [the same riff begins the song, but it's more striking at the end here, where it repeats]. What's classical about this?
Well, let's see...
First, you hear how it's harmonic? The upper part is playing nothing but chords, while the lower part is playing a melody that doesn't fit into those chords? OK, so Common Practice.
Specifically, the chords are arpeggiated, a common Common Practice trope, and the bassline melody isn't any-old melody. Notice how it has a long section of slowly rising notes, and the whole melody has hardly anything that isn't stepwise? Specifically, it has one drop of a third and one drop of a fourth, and everything else is movement by one or two semitones only. This is not a coincidence: this is imitating an old-school walking bass, omnipresent in the Baroque era (these baselines are where harmonic progression comes from). In particular, the combination of a slowly walking bass with an arpeggiated upper harmony is a common form of intro and outtro in Baroque music, and emulated throughout the Classical and Romatic eras (most famously Beethoven's 'Moonlight' sonata
Next, what chords are they? Well, we're in a minor key (Common Practice!), and the basic progression here is i-V-i. The 'i' is broken up by placing the second half into a different 'inversion' (Common Practice!). The V is not a seventh, but the second half of it IS augmented (Common Practice!).
But the real fun comes from the fact that the i-V transition is extended. How? Well, first they go to a dominant chord on the second. How is that possible? C minor does not permit a D major chord! Lots of instruments wouldn't even be able to play that! Well, no, and therefore it's really weird in a global sense... but it's commonplace in Common Practice music. It's a secondary dominant, the dominant of the dominant, and it's going to resolve to the dominant.
Except it doesn't - instead, it resolves to the augmented sixth. [Oh, but first, in case sevenths weren't enough, it doubles down on its debt to late 19th century harmonic theory by adding a ninth
! This sort of harmony is common in late and post-romanticism, and indeed in jazz, but it's, in absolute terms, really weird]. A predominant augmented sixth! A German Sixth, specifically. An old holdover from the renaissance, returned to popularity in the Romantic era, and of course the Beatles resolve it as the Common Practice textbooks tell them to resolve it, according to the voice leading rules that were established way back in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In other words: this is music that you can't write if you don't know classical music. [I don't, necessarily, mean consciously know, in an academic sense - but they're using tropes that are familiar to them only because of their inherited musical tradition, that would not occur to people from outside that tradition].
For additional fun, you hear something weird about this three bar passage they keep repeating? Yes, that's right - the bars aren't the same length. They pair two bars of 12/8 with one of 6/8. Why would you do that? Well, that's what you do if you're a late 19th century Russian who is trying to emulate (or is just generally inspired by) the folk music of the Caucasus or the Balkans and does not have access to Bartok's additive notation (essentially what we're saying is that we're grouping beats in a 4+4+2 pattern). [the most famous example is Mussorgsky's Promenade melody
; another one is the second movement of Tchaikovsky's 2nd string quartet
. My point is, blame Rimsky-Korsakov!].
Basically, if you play that music on a piano, it's 19th century classical music. Give native musicians in Mali a guitar and no knowledge of European classical or popular music, and it'll take them centuries to come up with it.
[speaking of which: the guitar, a classical european instrument. That doom-laden, industrial noisiness, created by injecting non-musical sounds over the music? Thanks, early 20th century avant garde and in particular futurism! The fact that the noise is specifically electronically generated static? Thanks, mid-century avant garde and in particular electronic music! The way they alter the timbre by overlaying multiple simultaneous tapes of the same track? Thanks, musique concrete!]
My general point here is: if you look closely at pop music, you'll not infrequently find elements that you'd virtually never have arise outside classical music. But, conversely, you'll almost never find any significant element that ISN'T also present in classical music.
[Even the heavy use of syncopation may not have been the norm in pre-1900 classical music, but still showed up a fair bit, particularly in military and dance music. And sometimes even in the most 'art'-y pieces - if you haven't heard it before, listen to Beethoven's "boogie woogie variation"
from his final piano sonata...
Anyway, by comparison, consider the complexity of the rhythm in this Senegalese dancing
, or this ghanaian dancing
, or these Americans dancing to Guinean music
. Does rock'n'roll have anything like those polyrhythms?
Here's the most famous traditional kora tune
(the most common mode for kora music is equivalent to the western major - but many modes are used, some of which with no equivalent, and they don't use anything equivalent to the minor). The music, as well as having polyrhythmic elements, is also polyphonic, or at least imitative - the basic form of song construction is a kind of fugetto - so it has much more in common with european music of the mediaeval period than it does with modern classical (or pop) music.
Specifically, this is the primary African influence on pop music
(the Sahelian griot tradition) - that instrument, the xalam, is believed to be the ancestor of the banjo (only, you know, without the pickup!). You can just about see how the vocal/narrative style could have evolved into hollers, and thence into blues singing. But the rhythms (again, polyrhythm!) and melodies and scales have nothing to do with modern American music.
Where you CAN hear the echo of African polyrhythm quite clearly is in a piece like these Ritmicas
by Roldan. This is obviously classical music, but Roldan was inspired by Afro-Cuban rhythms - the same rhythms that led to Cuban dance music (and analogously to Brazilian dance music). Here's a modern rumba rhythm.
[essentially, Latin rhythms are what you get when you flatten out short sections of polyrhythms and analyse the emergent rhythm as the main rhythm]