Two New Orleans Songs
TA: Leslie Chavez
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Court Carney’s “New Orleans and the Creation of Early Jazz,” (2006) raises issues like diaspora, commercialism, racial difference, and the urban/rural dichotomy, as influences in the formulation and evolution of jazz. Listening to the tracks in our “Two New Orleans Songs” listening list, consider how this music’s dynamic background in cultures such as Creole, French and Spanish, as well as variation of musical influences such as brass band, ragtime, dance music and blues, contribute to the ways that musicians worked together. How is the music impacted by social issues such as the relationship between blacks and whites and how does this relationship affect the music in return? Carney describes New Orleans Jazz as “something produced outside the framework of mass culture,” and its growth and alteration is essential in its crossing over to the mainstream American music scene. In this topic, we’ll address some of the ways that music is affected by this process, and speculate on what might be lost and gained.
DISCUSSION (Due October 29 — or submit by October 25 at noon to get TA guidance toward an essay): Choose two recordings (of the same song) from “Two New Orleans Songs” listening list. Compare them in terms of one of the following elements:
(1) Instrumental arrangement—how do the layers of instruments interact? How does the interaction change from one part of the song to another? — you don’t have to be certain of what’s what in the instruments of the band; simply describe what you hear.
(2) Improvisation—how do solo musicians vary their approach, or their expression, in different sections of the recording? Indicate when a musician breaks from the melody to improvise, and try to describe how the improvisation feels, and what it expresses to you.
After thinking about one of the issues above, consider whether what you hear in this song reflects anything you have learned about its time, or its place in the evolution of jazz.
Your thoughts, in about 150-250 words, should be posted to this webpage, by clicking on the “create new post” button on the upper left corner. (You’ll have to login to see it.)
ESSAY (Due October 29 — if you choose to write an essay in this unit): Choose two recordings (of the same song) from the “Two New Orleans Songs” listening list.
First, describe the musical content of the songs using terms and techniques you have learned in class. These fall into two main categories:
a. form — recognizing repetition and contrast within a melody
b. melody, accompaniment, and the role of improvisation in both — recognizing that some aspects of any recording are planned in advance (related to a composition, or an arrangement of a composition) and some are a matter of individual musicians’ personal, immediate expression.
Second, making reference to the Court Carney article, and concepts in both the Barker and Taylor chapter and the Elijah Wald chapter from Unit 1, consider the relationship between an “authentic” tradition beginning in turn-of-the-century New Orleans, and the developed concept of New Orleans Jazz as it is gradually popularized and internationalized.
All of the New Orleans songs given here have similarities: the standard components of jazz (syncopation, layered rhythms, and improvised elements) and even some elements of the blues. But they also contrast with one another. Given Carney’s summary of the cultural influences on this style, what can you say about how the songs differ from one another? Consider issues like performance style (by a singer or instrumental soloist), syncopation, relationships between melody and accompaniment, and the amount of improvisation used.
Your essay, in the form of a post to the Two New Orleans Songs Essays page, is due on October 29 at noon. It should be about 600-800 words long. Double-check your facts, and proof your work to make sure your peers will understand your argument and your ideas. Please write clearly and concisely — big ideas count more than big words.
When you are done, please take time read your peers’ posts and essays, compare and contrast your thoughts, and continue discussion.