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And so it can be said without too much simplification that the African tradition was preserved in America as long as living conditions held any basis of comparison to those in Africa because of the fact that since music and especially folk music does not come about by accident they are produced by complex chains of environmental determinations and most powerful among them are social. The tradition was weakened as soon as the urban civilization of the North had swallowed up the last memories in the musician's mind of the Southern environment which had preserved negro music until then on its way from the African sections via the southern plantation to the northern big city the tradition became stabilized during the later plantation years and in the first years of the Southern agricultural emancipation It was then and there after the Civil War that the best American Negro music Negro folk music that is began to grow. One important point we've just
surface late night so far is what happened musically when the negro slaves adapted to their African musical tradition. Quite different in many respects European music they found around them and also the ways in which they in turn changed. And this leads to the second lengthy quotation with musical illustrations from Ernest Borneman the anthropologist looks at jazz. He writes When the slaves first heard the white man's music of the New World they try to imitate it first in the characteristic African spirit of satire and parody but so it is a matter of habit and tradition elements of harmony. Alien relatively alien to African music were altered and curtailed and gradually these songs which had come into existence as mere imitations began to emancipate themselves and emerged as Afro American folk songs of a new type some of which we've already listed. And Illustrated obstacles in the course of this union and a good deal beyond racial untag and isms on a purely musical level the European
tradition which had long lend its best efforts to harmonic and instrumental developments was bound to clash most violently with the African tradition which had developed timing and Tambor at the expense of melodic and harmonic achievements up to the time when slavery for us brought Africans into extensive contact with alien civilizations African music from the Ivory Coast of the Congo and remained without any developments of the native harmony. Although Here let me point out that that statement may be somewhat overgeneralized Alan Merriam wrote in a recent study that we are coming to realize that there is a basic harmonic structure beneath the great deal of African music primarily expressed in alternation of the Tonic and Dominant with the subdominant also appearing but with less frequency. However a musicologist friend of mine tells me that that is not so. So the question remains still open. In any case nobody's moved within a simple non Hemet tonic kind of tonic
system in African music that has a scale of five tones which coincides with five intervals of the diatonic scale that we're accustomed to and clashes with two of them that is the third and seven steps which are semi tone intervals in the diatonic and are therefore alien to the African ear. So for example our C scale from C to D is a whole tone from D to E is a whole tone. But for me the f is a half tone and going up the scale from B to C is a hot tone. When faced with music in the diatonic major The African will tend to become uncertain wherever the third or seventh or any of the chords are approached and you'll tend to get around them by violent bridle effects until they reach a scalar value that is the next higher or the next lower tone and become effective. Either that way or as shops or flats. And those third and seventh notes in jazz performance because of this reason have long been termed the Blue
Notes. In the course of time such modulations tend to crystallize into new scalar patterns which can no longer be shrugged off as freaks but must be accepted into our musical vocabulary as native creations of a new Afro-American tradition. Such scales have risen in the sorra NAMI region of the abaya region of Brazil all over the Caribbean and West Indian islands and on the North American mainland out of one of these scales and a large part of the tradition of American jazz. A full discussion of this matter which disagrees in some parts with Boardman's analysis can be found in Winthrop Sargent's book Jazz hop and hybrid as aforementioned one of the first serious studies of jazz music and a revised edition has recently been reprinted. The scale which influenced jazz is a diatonic major with added minor thirds and sevenths which is sometimes been called the blues scale. At first sight the blues scale
appears to consist simply of the subdominant modulations with alternatives of major and minor but on closer inspection the diminished notes and chords show themselves not as regular half tone modulations But as with sound or thanks which I link more closely with the use of significant tone. This use of pitch and intonation in African speech than with any proper element of music as we're accustomed to it in our Occidental music train singers voice differ as from an untrained one namely by the regularity and control of it's a brothel in Africa way of a bride I was served to define lingual meaning the bride o control is not a matter of regularity but of adaptation to a purpose. The African singer also has both frequency and amplitude of his Bravo according to the meaning of the words in the preface of the song. Signs of great emotional debt that are invariably signed with a fast and narrow the bridle. Given a harsh fact at its climax points African instrumentalists try to reproduce this effect by lip and tongue the bridle by vibrating their
instruments with their hands their legs or their whole body. Singers and wind instruments sometimes reach for broader effects of such amplitude and violins but they appear as half tone tremolo and in these cases all differentiation between tambour and pitch becomes academic. And there's occasionally quite frequently as a matter of fact occurs in the blues that it does occur more frequently on the third and seven step of the scale than any other is the result of viewing the diatonic scale through the eyes of the pentatonic. The five tone hole the five full tone scale the tonic third is approached as the seventh of the subdominant and they've a broad o amplitude becomes effective as a flattening of all sub dominant chords. Let's have some musical examples of this which may clarify it. For example here is a recording of a West African tribe them I link a tribe of a love song this tribe has been influenced by Arabic influences and the bravado in Arabic music is also pronounced so we
have what might be called Eva Bravo compound it. When I met. You that it was I think that it. Was better than what it was and you know what we have what might be called an Afro American blues. You know the use of a Bronco and withstand the effects Winship the hills things careless love. Was.
Was. There is another contrasting example that's like the song summertime which is not a jazz tune but can be when played by jazz musicians and hear it first as song in the European classical tradition with an attempted regularity of into a nation and an avoidance of the Bravo. The same song as sung by The Jazz Singer.
Yet one man continues the complex structure of the traditional 12 bar blues which will go into at
some length shortly. Could hardly have been evolved without the survival of a third Africanism rhythmic variations on a metric theme. West African music a rhythmic theme that is a series of beats with a definite pattern of volume and timing sometimes strung to a tune and sometimes not may be varied by Want to more music musicians until complexities are reached which may well compare with the finest of our own melodic and harmonic variations on given themes. Things in variations may evolve contrapuntally that is the variation they appear in simultaneously with a theme or two themes may interweave rhythmically or the theme may be assumed as existing in the listener's memory and variations may then evolve on a third plane of complexity frequently beyond the understanding at least the initial understanding of the Occidental ear. Wherever Africans are taught or become exposed to Occidental music they tend at first to strip down its harmonic structure and apply their own variations of tambour and timing and the syncopation is no Africanism
and is found though often in an African music and numerous other forms of rhythmic variation yet syncopation is one of the first and simplest rhythmic variations generally applied by Africans to our music. For example the Scotch example we played before was not really technically syncopated but there was enough of a melodic they're a ation of accent however elemental to make it especially adaptable to some of the Afro-American variations later in its first and simplest form listening to patient and Afro-American music takes the shape of handclaps on the weak beats while the feet mark the strong beat and the voice rests strongly on the beat at the next stage hands and feet cease marking all but the second or fourth bar line and allow the voice to proceed by implied syncopation. At the third stage these pauses are artificially produced by curtailing the end of one line and the start of the next so as to insert short
solo passages whose timing stands in direct or implied contrast to the adjoining lines of music. After a while the solo passages become standardized and traditional and are then used contrapuntally against the melodic line in the manner of a complex muscle continual. Here's an example from a later blues sung by Bessie Smith with instrumental accompaniment of how a line is crude tailed in the neck started before the next it started a short solo passages are inserted called in jazz breaks. Home. Wesleyan Methodist hymn is what form the original themes of the great many spirituals
were therefore transformed by American Negroes in a fairly general and standardized manner the accent was shifted from the strong to the weak beat. Same thing later happened to my tunes. I only wanted two lines out of the total length of the tuner accepted and these were varied in repetition by shifted beats glissando and the bravado effects and finally by the introduction of flattened thirds and seventh I hear as an Afro-American version although a somewhat light and partially sophisticated one of the hymn I'll be there for. I am I and I am I and I am I
am. The. Inevitably rhythmic variations had their effect on the whole structure of the song. All untrained singers Africans as well as occidentals tend to sharpen the accent and beats him to flatten the unaccented ones. Strong beats shifted to weak ones by syncopation tend to be flattened in the process and the Africans natural tendency to diminish. Certain notes and chords of the diatonic scale is confirmed and encouraged. Moreover syncopation tends to encourage a glissando import the mental effects of portamento
in the way it's used here by Bournemouth as a gliding from one tone to the next through all the intermediate pitches and a glissando as a gliding effect produced sounding in quick succession several adjacent tones more precise definitions of the words can be found in the Harvard Dictionary of Music. Each and all of these elements drove American Negro music quite inexorably towards one definite form. Among other is which would combine surviving African isms with as much of the white man's music as was accessible and acceptable to the negro singers and in secular music this form was the blues. Before we get to it and its enormous importance in the evolution of jazz elsewhere in his work one man restated part of this material and it's worth quoting to bring out even more clearly the vital this vital aspect of Afro American folk music the whole European tradition again was a striving for regularity with the pitch
of time of tambour and of a brothel whereas the whole of West African music strove precisely for the negation of these elements. Negro languages and here he includes more than those of West Africa. Refrain from direct statement and instead of circumlocution the direct naming of a thing was taboo. That's the European goal. Go call a spade a spade seems little short of Ovation isn't able breeding to the African rational philosophy which aims at reducing all phenomena to their basic principles is generally alien to African mentality the very opposite has sought for the veiling of all contents an ever changing paraphrases is considered the criterion of intelligence and personality. That is this is in terms of African cultures before considerable white influence. Language too is not a matter of consonants and vowels alone. For this could merely lead to precision but also into a nation and into a nation in West Africa includes pitch tambour and rhythm among its defining marks. Music includes these same elements not in a
striving for regularity but in a striving to deny that regulate that regularity by teasing and eluding it. No node is ever attacked stright the voice or instrument always approaches it from above or below. Plays around the implied pitch without ever remaining on it for any length of time and departs from it without ever having clarified its exact meaning. Similarly the beat Israelis stated it is implied or suggested anticipated or retarded tied to a robot. Finally the tambour especially that of the voice but also that of all wind instruments and many string and percussion instruments is varied by constantly changing the bridle and overtone. Thanks. All this results in a musical mentality which is basically different from the European tradition even though that is a melody counterpoint and invention are common to both musical traditions. An illustration of this can be found in this set of variations on the tune we've been using before Summertime by the
New Orleans soprano sax is sitting in the shade on summertime. Note here how he uses swooping effects attacking a note from a bar or below note is changing vibrato effects and they always imply him but rarely stated beat. So DBA Shay's summertime. So it is summer time with the beat stated by the drums
but never directly by himself. As a matter of fact he continually creates complimentary additional rhythm suspended around it next to the most important form of Afro American music in terms of becoming the growth of jazz blues. And we'll start on that in the next lecture. You have been listening to the evolution of jazz recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff under the auspices of Northeastern University and presented by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. The evolution of jazz was recorded in the Boston studios of WGBH Af-Am. This is the national educational radio network.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Influences Merging, Part Two
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, explores the continued merging of the various influences that lay at the foundation of jazz.
Series Description
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.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
African Americans--Music--20th century--History and criticism.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Performer: Bechet, Sidney, 1897-1959
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:34
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, Part Two,” 1953-11-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, Part Two.” 1953-11-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, 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