The Evolution of Jazz; 7; Boogie Woogie and the Beginnings of Ragtime, Part Two
Some of these minstrel troops went to Europe that he writes was a huge success in London and in 1844 Dan Emmett's company toured England and Spain but somehow did not do too well there and couldn't get authorization to cross the Channel into France where he might have scored considerable success. Steven Foster wrote for the Christie troupe and his negro songs as they were called were actually twice removed. Being based on the songs of minstrelsy to some extent however his value and foster songs do approach the beauty and rhythmic vitality of the negro's music I'm not so sure though really. But after having heard the authentic afro american music of that same period even the best of his songs seem rather pallid in contrast. Another visitor to England. As lead tours of minstrelsy. One thousand forty eight was a negro minstrel one of the very few Negroes prominent in minstrelsy before the Civil War. He was William Henry Lane
who call themselves the Illustrated London News prefaced an enthusiastic review of his performance by stating that the negro choreography is a reality. The Virginity break down the Tennessee double shuffle the Alabama kick up the Louisiana toe and heel exist brilliantly unquote. The paper as did other journals in London went on to express or at the ease with which Juba executed his complex dances the same astonishment had been reflected by Charles Dickens in his American Notes published in 1900 too after his return from the United States. Dickens had seen a Jubal performance in New York and was valuably impressed. All of the United Kingdom in the course of his travels one Liverpool journalist was sufficiently undone as to call him a human orchestra an instrument made into a man three years before his trip to England Juba had won the championship in a sense of the minstrel world in a contest in New York where he defeated the White Minstrel master.
The remarkable John Diamond Juba had been born in South Carolina his mother a slave and a group of traveling White minstrels had seen him dance when he was a boy and that was how he entered and later conquered his kingdom of minstrelsy died in England of sheer nervous exhaustion. He was a relentless performer who exhausted himself in the course of a performance and he performed so often in the course of 11 years between 1941 and 1952. That he danced himself to death at the age of 27. His impact on minstrel so it was a lasting one and several white minstrels continued in his tradition adapting their styles to what they remembered of him as. The French critic claims that the original nature of the blackface picture of the Negro which was less a caricature of the uninformed mime changed with the growth of a highly vocal minority who opposed slavery and opposed the treatment of the negro as less than a full human being. In 1931 William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society in Boston
and the Underground Railroad was started in 1938. And so beginning around 1840 the content of some minstrel shows tended to bring about a sharper caricature of the negro sharpened by the increasing tension and conflicts of conscience among the whites particularly in the north. There are two things that some of the minstrel shows almost in voluntarily tended to reinforce the racial ostracism by depicting the negro as many whites wish to believe he existed. Happy childish carefree not as they knew however much they repress the knowledge he was frequently miserable and bitter in bondage. So the blackface songs tended to help a white audience and performers forget the hard problems of slavery by creating an idealized and quite inaccurate portrait. This though is only part of the picture because some minstrel songs were consciously aimed at presenting a truer picture of the Negro so that no generalization can barely encompass the attitude of minstrel repertoire toward the negro for example. And as a footnote on
the tension that tighten the country during the period of abolitionist activity was the fact that southern pressure in Congress led to the citing of what was then to him the coon song called The poor old slave. This was cited as seditious in 1851 in any case to continue with a history of minstrelsy theirs as reported by Ernest Borneman. By 1850 to the popularity of minstrelsy had reached such proportions that the State Albany State Register was forced to come out with this editorial. I quote the last negro melody was on everybody's tongue and consequently in everybody's mouth pianos and guitar as grown with it night and day. Sentimental young ladies sing it this is 852 sentimental young gentleman Warrigal that at midnight serenades volatile young bucks home and in the midst of their business and their pleasure boat men roared out stentorian sleep at all times all the bands play
at amateur flute players agonize over it every spare moment. The street organs grind it out every hour. The singing star as Carol hit on the theatrical boards in the concerts the chambermaid sweeps and dusts to the measured cadence the butcher's boy treats you to a strain of it as he mixes it up strangely with the harsh dingdong accompaniment of his tireless bell. Here we had the beginning the court has ended. We have the beginning of the modern wave of Tin Pan Alley hit tunes which were only very remotely and two or three of four times removed from the real Afro-American music of the time. The field hollers in the blue the pretty blue and the spirituals and the like and they are remind you that this is also paralleled in the later Tin Pan Alley phenomenon and that just is what the Albany State Register called the negro melody it was really an imperfectly assimilated copy of Afro American music. So the later pop tune while influenced by jazz has only a very
peripheral relationship to it. To continue with Bornemann history out of this mid 19th century vogue of what were thought to be negro melodies and coon songs. As they were called there grew the ragtime era which culminated at the turn of the century onwards thereafter almost imperceptibly into the jazz era. The precise dates I'm borderline separating these consecutive stages of Afro-American music from each other are of course rather vague and arbitrary. What separates these musical idioms from each other is their social background rather than their structural pattern. And it is the minstrel show in particular which reflects this background. With accuracy. Five consecutive stages of the negro's cultural and political development are most clearly recognizable in the changing attitude of the minstrel show to its protagonist in the first stages writes Bornemann which might be dated from the time of the Stamp Act. The negro is treated mainly as a barbarous comic and somewhat childish figure this was the.
Attitude of a society resting securely on the benefits of slavery unchallenged by moral and economic opposition. And thus amicably paternal in its attitude to the. But Id like to think of as the good negro who took his fate as God's will. The development of this attitude was clearly reflected in the Negro dance of 1767 by T and by other works of the period. The second stage began around 1787 when the abolitionist movement started to question slavery as moral status. This didn't become very current though until some decades later but almost immediately the minstrel stage turned to the negro with a new attitude of pity and compassion and the negro begins to emerge as a tragic figure in George Coleman's colon of 1787. And this development continues with pity for poor Africans in 1788. The African during the same year the negro boy in 1792 the desponding Negro in 1793 the dying Negro in 89 in the Negro lament for
Mungo Park eighteen twenty seven. These are all in a sense pre-menstrual see those shows because the minstrel form as it later became came to be known didn't evolve until some time later where the victory of Plattsburgh a third stage of development begins. The negro ceases to exist as a figure of fun or of compassion and begins to emerge as a patriotic character in 1814 Hawken siege of Albany sets the stage for the new attitude during the next year. 1815 the guinea boy takes up the same trend and this is followed in 1823 by the tailor in distress 1824 by the Battle of New Orleans and later that year by George Washington the fourth stage minstrel sleep proper which started in 1799 with his gay negro boy may be considered as a summary of all the preceding tendencies characterized however by a further advance in social and political awareness reflected in the use of actual folk song material but also as I
pointed out before at the same time there was a condo development especially after 1840 that returned in some shows to the picture of the negro as contented and as primitive. As a sop to conscience this use of actual folksong material both African and European origin was reflected in a possum up a gum tree in 1922. Jim Crow and 1830 the origin of which we mentioned zip coon and 1934 which is actually turkey in the straw are of later days and Old Dan Tucker in 1943. They represent four steps in the development which in 1962 led to Lucy McCann writing a letter to drive magazine which was one of the first recognitions of Afro American music has been Autonomy's form of American folk music. The recognition helped by its use in minstrelsy whereas the earliest appearance of the Negro on the American stage was a book about an appearance of burnt cork on a white performers face. The actual substance of minstrelsy as it developed later into a mature art was contributed by the negro himself and
not by his blackface cemetaries. Ragtime woman concludes the section in its widest meaning of ragged time that does that is syncopation was the defining mark of Negro progress within this movement melodically and harmonically minstrelsy was a white man's art. Only the performer not the composer marked really minstrelsy as an African departure. That is the syncopation was brought in in terms of performance it was very rarely if ever written into the music to be performed and when the negro performed or when people were particularly apt to imitating negro syncopation then syncopation could be found in early minstrelsy. So to repeat only the performer not the composer really minstrelsy is an African departure in its vocal tambour and in the brothel in the syncopation and in the Cuban NCAA sion of negro speech. Not until the advent of ragtime later did minstrelsy show any Afro-American influences on the composers part. In connection with this stuff Dean was researching minstrelsy has been a
great aid in the preparation of this lecture. Notes that there was a decline in the quality and vigor of minstrelsy around 1855 and this lasted until a partial Renaissance began in 1880. The 1880 revival was largely due to the fact that by then the minstrelsy had become more and more of an actual negro art rather than at its beginnings largely a reflection frequently distorted of Negro dance music styles and 18 By 1880 ragtime was beginning to invade minstrelsy. In fact as of any rights by 1890 there had been a general but preliminary synthesis one that is still evolving. A synthesis of various American dance influences going back to plantation days and by 1880 the afro american dance tradition had become the dominating factor in minstrelsy choreography. This whole question of afro american dance patterns. And its influence on popular dance patterns will be encountered in the section on Ragtime which follows shortly after 1880. There were still a number of all white blackface minstrel troops but by the end of the century the negro was to an
increasingly larger extent performing his own music and then so there was decreasing praise for the kind of imitation of his musical activity that much of the minstrel tradition had represented. So minstrelsy eventually died out except for its occasional use today in amateur theatricals and the like. But the whole popular dance tradition continued to be heavily influenced by steps and rhythms that go back through many intermediate changes and cross influences and occasional distortions that go back to Afro American roots. I might add parent thickly in view of the increasing popularity among the dances of this country of South American dance forms this term Afro American roots really applies to both Americas. Again in terms of popular dance tradition we're not talking about jazz now because as has been indicated previously Latin American music has been shaped by African influences. It might be well at this point in the chorus the evolution of jazz to mention again a matter I alluded to in an earlier lecture and that is the lack of precise
knowledge we have thus far concerning the degree to which Africanism survived in Afro-American music and thereby influence jazz. I mention this now because we. Have to analyzing ragtime and moving to New Orleans when ragtime and the blues which are especially. Afro-American in origin I believe it was to produce jazz. In serious writing on jazz there has tended to be an extremism of viewpoint on this subject. Some writers of thought the African's revivals to be of paramount importance and so have often neglected other influences other writers believe the survival of African isms were of little import or extent in either American Negro music or in the larger pattern of American Negro culture. And sociology of the leading leading exponent of this view. The lack of importance of African survivals is Professor Franklin Frazer who has written several important books on the American Negro. Those like A.C. Thompson
who find an overemphasis on African survivals and writings on jazz have tried to redress the balance with research much needed research on the European music that was highly important as a background for jazz. In a letter I received from Mrs. Thompson she wrote undoubtedly during the interval the Negro needed to cut his eye teeth on European music. Some African survivals must have carried over. It would be astonishing if they had not the point she continued speaking of jazz as dance music I am glad to feel that such instances of cultural lag. That is the carrying over of African musical idioms went into disappearance at a much earlier date than they did in the case of other Negro folk forms. Some rags probably persisted during the 19th century see things for a longer period among the least educated and the least privileged. The field workers in the Reich. The troops around thank you. Mrs Thompson says they had been pretty much these African isms had pretty much been liberated obliterated rather than Negro dance music by say 1815 whereas in folk
ballads and blues they may have persisted as late as 1875 at this point I can't say for sure. However even in the latter case I'm still quoting this is times when it should be understood that such survival is assuming they did occur occurred largely as nonconscious ones. That is preconscious with the like of a superficial character which had little or no meaning owing to the fact that they were long divorced from whatever functional significance they may have had within their original cultural context. And that's legs that have no significant bearing on the course of events 19:00 by the time ragtime rolled around I would say the jazz was notably free of Africans revivals of any kind. Anthropologists and sociologists skeptical of African survivors have written that after all the negro by and large was anxious certainly after 1865 to be part of the prevailing culture. And so most made a point of abandoning any exterior cultural characteristics their ancestors might have brought here and in view of the fact that there is no such thing as racial inheritance of cultural characteristics
that could have been done quite easily. As for Blue Notes mentioned earlier Mrs. Thompson indicates quite rightly that blue notes are by no means peculiar to Negro folk music we encounter them in most folk music notably whenever such folk music represents the genuine expression of untrained artists with untrained voices and untrained ears that is untrained in a sense. In the human scale of 8 tones tonic thirds and sevens are commonly flatted. In that case. They represent the to have tone step sandwiched in among the five naturals. And it is for this reason they pose special difficulties for those who lack training that goes into the whole subject of blue notes which we've covered. I've given some of the arguments of those who were over it who deemphasize the importance of African survivals because I thought it important that you know there is that school of opinion and a highly articulate one. My own view is between the two extremes. As I tried to show up through the discussion of West African music in the pre-Civil War Afro-American Work Song spiritual field hollers et cetera I am convinced there was a high degree of African survival certainly in terms of
music. The use of significant tone and speech and later in music the call and response pattern of a particular kind the emphasis on rhythm rather than harmony. I think there is no other explanation for the remarkable vocal nature of Afro-American music even when instrumental or vocal quality that continued into jazz. As for the. And also there is little other explanation for the distinctly non European kind of poly rhythms to be found in Afro American music and later jazz on the matter of these unmistakable. Poly rhythmic patterns in jazz and their probable sources in Afro-American music. And their distinction from the European tradition of poly rhythm. Winthrop Sargent's jazz hot and hybrid provide some important. Notes on the subject. I also believe that all those studies of 20th century West African music. In an attempt to find out what it may have been like 3 centuries ago are extremely tentative
nonetheless. Professor watt of Northwestern and others have by this study drawn some valid beginning points for comparison and those I tried to indicate in the section on West African music. Let me quote briefly on the subject of pali rhythm by the way from the chapter and Winthrop Sargent's book The Geography of jazz rhythm. All available evidence concerning the popular musical styles of Latin America points to one definite conclusion. Probably rhythm dominates the musical language only where Negroes form an important part of the population. This is the case in Brazil of Venezuela began its Cuba Haiti Trinidad and the smaller Caribbean islands. It is also the case in the United States. Poly rhythm is the distinguishing rhythmic mark of jazz. And every indication points to the fact that it is the contribution going way back as we have tried to do of the negro. It is true that African survivals decreased from year to year and certainly there in any case is no question. As
I cannot emphasize too heavily of racial inheritance of musical characteristics musical proclivities are a cultural phenomenon passed down through families and societal groups as habit patterns but not in existence in the womb. However I think that many African isms did survive even into the beginnings of this century. However out of original context they may have been and they survived as an important moving force in the evolution of jazz. Some We've tried to indicate and were referring to again others I've admitted for lack of sufficient documentation. It is undeniably true that much research. Remains to be done on both the African and European antecedents of jazz and none of these conclusions are intended as the final dicta on the subject. Fortunately this research is being organized finally and I recently established Institute of Jazz studies under the direction of Professor Marshall Stearns of hundred college in New York. He has enlisted on his board of directors
several of the leading anthropologists sociologists and musicologist in the country along with jazz experts and experts from other fields and eventually their combined exploration should do much to clarify this question of origins as well as many other ambiguous factors of which there are many in jazz historiography and musicology. I do not think it unduly rash to predict that whatever their findings will be a large element of African survivals will be noted. Certainly up to the civil war their significance may turn out to have been smaller or larger than many believed but they did exist. We come next to rag time a fairly widely circulated circulated definition of ragtime recently was that of in a sewer to go and lecture in jazz at the University of California. In Los Angeles he writes Ragtime is a piano style developed in the last two decades of the
19th century which makes constant use of syncopation. It is composed music for the piano to be played as written in the compositions of three of four strains and should be performed with a classical touch. It takes an academically trained pianist with excellent technique to play ragtime correctly with plantation roots of ragtime in its negro character and generally over emphasized. And since it is much more white than Negro music and the greatest negro ragtime composers had classical training the minstrel shows where ragtime began and developed and pure ragtime was much closer actually to European vaudeville music than it is to the blues. The work songs or the spirituals. The only trouble with that definition is that he is talking as he indicates about pure rag time examples of pure anything particularly in music are hard to find. So as the next section will illustrate ragtime was indeed more formal
more European in concept than any form of jazz music we've encountered yet. But since most of the pianists who played ragtime in the last part of the 19th century were not academically trained pianists variants and other transmutations came into the music. By itself ragtime could not have evolved into jazz but as we'll see when fused with the blues it became a formative influence. And as for the fact that ragtime was a style that was a composed music for the piano to be played as written I just don't think that's true. Much of early ragtime compositions of matter of fact were written down improvisation. And Scott Joplin the greatest of the ragtime composers. In. A study called the school of ragtime anyone's road disclosed that ragtime was essentially an improvised piano style and could not be precisely notated.
Well before investigating the sources of ragtime and showing how impossible it is to talk about pure ragtime or pure blues or pure jazz. Let's hear a rock. This was written and is performed here by Scott Joplin and perhaps more clearly than most rags shows the correlation and part of ragtime and minstrel music. Toward the end of minstrelsy It's called The Entertainer.
That's only the first part of the rug and next week's lecture will go more fully into the structure of the writing and its development as a form of music but I thought we should hear some example of what it sounded like. The explanation of the genesis of ragtime bears heavily on its Dan's antecedents and in connection with this I'd like to refer to the importance of the dance in West African society. I'm not drawing any definitive parallels between West African cultural patterns and those of the American Negro in the 17th 18th and 19th centuries especially in view of the. Well I just said about the nature of African survivals. But I think this should be borne in mind. Jeffrey grower in Africa dances go so far as to say that for the African the West African dancing is always held first place. The music and the decorated arts have all been involved to supplement the dance they dance for joy and they dance for grief they dance to bring prosperity they dance to pass the time. The West African Negro is the man who expresses every emotion with rhythmical bodily movement. Movements expressions and rhythms are set in their meaning
purpose an emotional overtone. Dancing to the West African is an emotional experience of a highly stylized and traditional manner. Integrated into the whole cultural pattern with a degree of formalism and ceremonial implications for which no parallel exists in European or American civilization. I gave up finally the attempt to find corresponding examples in our civilization and set each rhythm has an emotional appeal which we cannot appreciate any more than we could appreciate the violent effect which Plato claims for the Lydian and Dorian modes. These effects are obtained musically by means of complex rhythms called patterns which are stated in the first horizontal form as we might stated before introducing a first variation after the rhythm has been duly understood and the first variations have been introduced a second rhythmic phrase may be introduced in the manner of counterpoint and the number of these poly rhythmic themes may well run into the dozen or more according to the number of instrumental as taking part in the performance. During a performance of the sort of human logic or harmonic elements or introduced differences of pitch are rarely used in the sense of melodic or harmonic structure. Generally they are used merely as differentiating
factors to keep the various percussion instruments clearly separated. Even more common than pitch in the strict sense of the word and we've gone into this quite extensively. There's the use of vocal slews for brothels sounds and other elements of temper for the same purpose. Temper and its highly complex and ingenious use is basically a natively West African as any rhythmical element. And so that's a very apt prefatory account of the importance of the dance in West Africa which might be borne in mind next week when we go into the background of the dance floor and just as other African isms became transformed in America as the negro encountered the odd mixture of influences from other cultures and in turn contributed to constant reciprocal interactions. So to this kind of emphasis on the dance become transformed so that afro american dance patterns are far removed from the original West African dance mores. But it should be remembered the jazz and bass has always been a music for dancing. This is even true of almost all contemporary jazz and that whole rhythmically and otherwise complex.
- The Evolution of Jazz
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- This program, the second of two parts, explores boogie woogie music.
- Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
- Asset type
- African Americans--Music--20th century--History and criticism.
- Media type
Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 7; Boogie Woogie and the Beginnings of Ragtime, Part Two,” 1953-12-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-0p0wtm12.
- MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 7; Boogie Woogie and the Beginnings of Ragtime, Part Two.” 1953-12-18. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-0p0wtm12>.
- APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 7; Boogie Woogie and the Beginnings of Ragtime, Part Two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-0p0wtm12