Culture is one of the most important components, which form every nation. It is one occurrence that distinguishes and unites all the people who live in the world. But it is impossible to imagine the culture without music, a very big part of our life.
Every nation has one’s own music and I think that inside music are concluded all peculiarities of the nation, it is contain the key for understand the soul of people.
When I was associated with foreigners (they were Americans) I noted that they liked our folk music, they frequently listened it and each of them had without fail an audiocassette with Russian folk music. They told me about the most popular in United States Russian singers and composers. Our pop music is not famous outside Russia. But many people from other countries love our folk and classical music.
On the contrary we know nothing about American folk and classical music and I would like to discuss about it.
By my opinion a serious study of American music is arrestingly important at this time. Music has become on of American leading industries American performing standards are probably now higher than anywhere else in the world, and Americans are making rapid strides in music education. How large a part in all this activity is American music to play? How good is it? How does it differ from Russian music?
There are many signs of an awakened interest in American composition. More of it is performed, published, and recorded than ever before. This interest is not confined to the United States alone. During the past few years Russians who have always liked American popular music (like Brithney Spears, Madonna, Michael Jackson) have discovered that America have several composers in the serious field well worth its attention. As for the foundations, fortunes are being spent to discover, to train and to encourage American native talent.
We could imagine a pattern, which would include Billings, Harris and Gershwin. Each of them contributed substantially to American musical tradition, and when American can grasp their interrelationship they perceive that there is indeed an American music, a hardy one just beginning to fell its strength and destined to stand beside their other contributions to world culture.
I would like to tell about my three favorites American composers.
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn on September 25, 1989. He was by no means a prodigy, and his musical education was spasmodic. He took lessons at the piano and later studied harmony. In his teens, he acquired a job as song plugger at one of the largest publishing houses. Before long he was writing songs of his own; and in 1919, he was the proud present of a “hit” that swept the country – Swanee. His rise as one of the most successful composers for the Broadway stage was rapid.
In 1924, he composed his first serious work in the jazz idiom, the historic “Rhapsody in Blue” the success of which made Gershwin famous throughout the world of music. After that he divided his activities between writing popular music for the Broadway stage (and later for the Hollywood cinema) and serious works for concert hall consumption. In both fields, he was extraordinary successful and popular. He died in Hollywood on June 11, 1937, after an unsuccessful operation on the brain.
It is mainly since Gershwin’s death that complete awareness of his musical importance has become almost universal. The little defects in his major works – those occasional awkward modulations, the strained transitions, the obscure instrumentation – no longer appear quite so important as they did several decades ago. What many did not realize then and what they now know – is that the intrinsically vital qualities of Gershwin’s works reduce these technical flaws to insignificance. The music is so alive, so freshly conceived, and put down on paper with such spontaneity and enthusiasm that is youthful spirit refuses to age. The capacity of this music to enchant and magnetize audiences’ remains as great today, even with, familiarity, as it was yesterday, when it came upon us with the freshness of novelty.
That he had a wonderful reservoir of melodies was, of course, self-evident when Gershwin was alive. What was not quite so obvious then was that he had impressed his identity on those melodies – his way of shaping a lyric line, his use of certain rhythmic phrases, the piquant effect of some of his accompaniments – so that they would always remain recognizably his.
Other my favorite American composers is Roy Harris.
Few American composers of XX century and our time have achieved so personal a style as Roy Harris. His music is easily identified by many stylistic traits to which he has doing through his creative development: the long themes which span many bars before pausing to catch a breath, the long and involved development in which the resources of variation and transformation are utilized exhaustively, the powerfully projected contrapuntal lines, the modal harmonies and the asymmetrical rhythms are a few of the qualities found in most Harris’s works.
Through Harris has frequently employed the forms of the past (toccata, passacaglia, fugue, etc), has shown a predilection for ancient modes, and en occasion has drawn thematic inspiration from Celtic folk songs and Protestant hymns, he is modern in spirit. His music has a contemporary pulse, the cogent drive and force of present –day living; there is certainly nothing archaic about it. More important still, it is essentially American music, even in those works in which he does not draw his ideas from folk or popular music. The broad sweep of his melodies suggests the vast plains of Kansas, the open spaces of the West. The momentum of his rhythmic drive is American in its nervousness and vitality. But in subtler qualities, too, Harris’s music is the music of America. “The moods”, Harris once wrote, “which seem particularly American to me are noisy ribaldry, then sadness, a groping earnestness which amount to suppilance toward those deepest spiritual yearnings within ourselves; there is little grace or mellowness in our midst”.
Such moods as noisy ribaldry, sadness, groping earnestness are caught in Harris’s music, and to these moods are added other American qualities; youthful vigor, health, optimism and enthusiasm.
Harris was born in the Lincoln country, Oklahoma, on February 12, 1898. While still a child, he learned to play the clarinet and the piano. In 1926 he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. In Paris he wrote his first major works: of them, The Concerto for the Piano, Clarinet and String Quartet (1927) was the most successful. His Fifth Symphony has been dedicated to the “Heroic and Peace-loving People of the Soviet Union”.
I guess, we know nothing about American folk music excepting jazz-singers and composers. The sole and the most famous of them is Louis Armstrong. I believe that all people know this name and I would like to tell about my favorite album of his legendary music, it’s called “Louis and the Good Book”.
Anyone who has ever read a history book on jazz knows that there’s a connection between jazz, spiritual music, work songs and the blues. But often historians don’t explain this relationship clearly enough. The phrasing of the arrangements for the brass and read sections in big jazz bands are of course a direct inheritance from the preacher’s call and the parishioner’s customary response in church. The some is true for today’s funky songs, which derives from gospel. But all this illuminates only specific styles without saying anything about the antecedence and legacy of jazz in general. This album introduces some aspects of this history and by my opinion is the best album of Louis Armstrong.
During the first three years of his recording career, Louis Armstrong played blues and stomps. In fact, that was what he recorded in his very first session with king Oliver in 1923. Then same rhythmical airs and other hits of that era were added. During those years his technique and musical concepts acquired such a degree of substance and affluence that he became the first jazz virtuoso. Beginning with the late 20’s he added a new kind of melody to his repertoire: the “ballad”. In these interpretations another side of his talent unfolded, incorporating a whole series of standards into his jazz repertoire. Standards refer to themes taken up by all musicians. Thus, he not only demonstrated that jazz phrasing is applicable to these kinds of melodies and tempos, but he did it so well that the mood of show ballads became an integral part of every form of jazz. This is not the first time that Louis Armstrong interprets spirituals. In 1938 he recorded same versions of four pieces with the Lynn Murray choir for MCA. Shadrack, based on the traditional form of spirituals, Jonah and the Whale, Going to Shout All Over the God’s Heaven and Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. Two years later he did a version of Cain and Abel with the big band he was directing at that time. He had actually recorded Motherless Child in 1930. While the melody is identical to the second part of the Dear Old Southland interlude by Creamer and Layton, which he recorded in a duo with the near legendary pianist Buck Washington, the melody of Motherless Child is also very close to others that he used in several blues, better known in their broad versions: Steady Roll, Round the Clock, My Daddy Rock Me. So, a number of spirituals are blues at least in form.
On My Way in this volume obviously belongs to the blues, which are most commonly known in the 12 measures from today. One stanza, musically of four measures – iambic pentameter in prosody – the stanza is repeated and finally a third stanza which rhymes with the first, completing the couplet. Some maintain that in its most archaic form of the blues the first stanza was repeated three times instead of twice, thus arriving at a verse of 16 measures. On My Way is precisely of this format. Rock My Soul belongs to a different category of blues with 16 measures. Each chorus consists of a verse with eight-measures played in “stop-time”, each time in a variation ending with the same refrain every time. If you know Georgia Grind, which Louis Armstrong recorded in 1926, or Hesitating Blues, by Handy, which he recorded in 1954, or even Blue Suede Shoes, you know the shortened version in 12 measures of this type of blues with refrain. Go Down Moses in this album is structured in this manner.
A jazz musician playing spirituals? In a sense that Louis Armstrong has been doing all along.
A few other features need to be painting out. The second chorus in Down By the Riverside starts with a break (the steady rhythm being interrupted for an instant) just the way it is in dozen of work songs.
In This Train there is so-called stop-time interlude, which Louis Armstrong used so successfully in several of his instrumental renderings during the 20’s. The “call and response” formula can be heard in This Train, Didn’t it Rain, and Go Down Moses.
But for me Louis Armstrong’s greatest talent is the way he handles the exposition of a melody. The trumpet solo in Swing low, Sweet Chariot and down By the Riverside sow what I mean. Of course his play is forceful and convincing. But there are suspensions; almost imperceptible melodic changes showing his offbeat rhythm. All this will immediately and most directly bring out the melody, enhancing it to a point of opening up new vistas that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
The arrangements are by Sy Oliver who was also the musical director. Oliver’s career as trumpeter – composer – arranger goes back to the time of Zack Whyte’s orchestra in the early 30’s and he, more than anyone else, created the style of Jimmy Lunceford’s powerful orchestra between 1933 and 1939. After that, he was Tommy Dorsey’s arranger and has since become one of the principal arranger – directors for MCA.
As for pop American music I believe that since death of Frank Sinatra in the U.S have not anyone real pop-singer. By my opinion “Sinatra was America and America was Sinatra”.
Frank Sinatra has been called the greatest popular singer of the century. Whether that is true, in a century that also offers us Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and many others is, of course, a matter of personal emotional choice and, therefore, unknowable. What can be said is that under the intense and fickle scrutiny of the pop marketplace for nearly two-thirds of a century, Sinatra's music was in the air the world breathed and fell out of fashion only long enough for the deserters either to grow up or recognize that what was offered in its place was almost always trash by comparison.
Sinatra was born December 15, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J., and as a schoolboy nursed ambitions to be a journalist. The earliest known example of Sinatra on record come from his 1935 performance on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, in which he was matched with three other aspirants to sing "Shine." After the program they were sent out as a group, the Hoboken Four, on a Major Bowes road show.
Sinatra touched the big time in 1939 when Harry James, fresh out of the Benny Goodman band and