Usually a simple, attractive song, composed for home entertainment
Lyrics are often romantic, nostalgic, gentle, or "sweet"
Pretty melodies, simple accompaniment
The developing sheet music industry in the U.S. published many parlor songs beginning
in the 1850s (minstrel songs, also)
Essentially develops into Tin Pan Alley style music (1890s-1930s)
Predictable form: Most often, a short introduction, followed by a poetic verse with music
that follows an AABA structure
The sections of music labeled "A" sound very similar, although the lyrics change;
the contrasting "B" section has different music to add variety
During the late-1920s, a move to bring culture and
tourism into this poor ($) community led to the establishment of new music clubs (jazz, blues, dance bands). Locals and tourists spent money to go out on the town and have a vibrant, exciting experience; social interaction, physical activity (dancing), drinking (even during Prohibition), etc.
o Popular venues included the Savoy Ballroom ("the home of happy feet") for dancing, the Cotton Club for exotic theme nights, and the Apollo Theater for more formal stage performances. [I won't ask for specific club names; just be aware that there were many popular venues in Harlem at this time]
o Styles included instrumental music (piano solos and dance bands) and vocal music (TPA songs performed by jazz singers, classic blues, Broadway hits)
Popular dances such as the Lindy Hop (and numerous others); new dance styles developed during the Swing Era and became central in the growth of popularity of swing music.
By the mid-1930s, dance bands were a constant presence, especially in big cities. The
size of the ensemble increased ("big bands") and was more suitable for larger performance venues, theaters, outdoor performances, etc. In New York (Harlem and Manhattan), various clubs were home to "big bands" and the music they provided for dancing. Cross-country tours, radio performances, and record sales contributed to the spread of swing music to the broader American audiences.
o Swing music is credited, in part, with lifting the American economy out of the Great Depression through record sales, especially; people craved this kind of entertainment, and embraced it as a form of escapism to help forget their troubles
we can rely on these, whether the piece is fast and excited, or slower and more romantic
Steady beat (remember, this is dance music; having a steady beat keeps the music organized, sustains the energy, and gets people dancing!)
Syncopation (off-beat accents; this gives rhythmic vitality and energy to the music; can create an edgy, unpredictable quality. We heard this in ragtime, earlier)
Call-and-response (musical "conversation"; often one instrument or group of instruments plays a line, and is answered by another instrument or group. For instance, the saxophones play a line, and the trumpets play a line in response)
Solo sections (most jazz music features solo playing, by any of the instruments in the band, or by a solo singer; instrumental solos maybe partly or entirely improvised/made up during performance)
As the Depression came to an end, American saw the emergence of the Teenager as a
new social class; more young people had disposable income for the first time, and spent that money on records, movie tickets, and magazines. Products were marketed to the Teenager, and music was considered an important commodity
o By 1940, record sales were thriving; swing music was especially popular. Countless swing records were made, and consumers purchased them happily. This meant there was less of a demand for live performance by big bands, since it was so easy to hear the sounds of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, etc. on records and the radio. Great for the record industry; lousy for the performers who relied on live gigs to earn a living. This problem increased after the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941— people simply weren't going out as much, thus the performing musician suffered
became one of the most popular singing stars of the 1940s; his very romantic image, and his rich style of crooning style attracted a large audience, especially young women. Sinatra did not study music formally, but he listened to records and picked up the classical style of Italian opera singing, known as bel canto (beautiful singing) that added depth to his particular style of crooning, with relaxed vibrato and a rich tone color. Still reliant on the electric microphone, as we saw with 1920s crooning, Sinatra and other 1940s crooners (Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Mel Tormé, Nat King Cole) definitely possessed a much more overtly romantic image than Gene Austin and the earlier crooners. This inspired the ecstatic emotional response known as swooning (crying, screaming, fainting, etc.—a similar response happens with the Beatles in the 1960s, and even more recently with "Bieber Fever"!) first commercially-successful genre of R&B of the late-1940s; associated with Louis Jordan and the Tympani Five; "hard-swinging" party music, boogie-woogie style, humorous or witty lyrics. Jordan's group usually featured saxophones, trumpet, piano, upright bass, and drums, plus Jordan singing the lead. (Smaller version of a big band.) Showmanship! Lively stage performances, dancing, interacting with the audience; this style is related to the minstrel show tradition (Jordan's earliest professional experience was in a popular black minstrel show) "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie" (Louis Jordan, 1946) is a great example of jump blues—it has all of the elements of swing music, but with witty, story-telling lyrics to entertain the audience. Female African-American performers such as Ruth Brown and Big Mama Thornton carried on the traditions of Classic Blues, although in the newer R&B style. Faster tempo, edgier quality, still heavily influenced by southern gospel singing (both women grew up in the South, singing in Baptist church choirs); appealed to younger audiences, as did jump blues. Lyrics from the female perspective, often with an assertive, "take charge" tone concerning relationships. This is especially true in Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1952), in which she calls her boyfriend out on his bad behavior in no uncertain terms. Ruth Brown's "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" (1953) has an unusual blend of adult frustration and a young-sounding "girlish" complaining (to her mother). Both songs were crossover hits on the R&B and mainstream Pop charts, which underlines the growing popularity of this music, as the serious attention it was given in the industry. Established in Hawthorne, CA in 1961 (led by Brian Wilson); first associated with the Southern California surf craze. Over several years, this group's style went through various stages of development, from imitation of rock 'n' roll/ R&B hits (Chuck Berry's music was especially influential, "Surfin' USA," 1962), to a more innovative style, expanding on traditions ("I Get Around," 1964, first Number One hit for the group), and eventually highly experimental styles (The album Pet Sounds, 1966, and the single track "Good Vibrations," 1966, both produced by Brian Wilson).
Pet Sounds (1966) is considered the first concept album, which carries one theme/narrative from the beginning to the end of the album. Not commercially successful upon its release, but today is recognized as one of the most important albums in popular music history, and influential on many artists, including the Beatles.
"Good Vibrations" (1966); originally recorded for the Smile album (not completed until 2004). This single track was a Number One hit when it was released. Features a non-traditional form (begins verse-chorus, then departs from this), and unusual instruments (organ, flute, cellos, Theremin, plus more traditional rock instruments). Expensive to record: approx. $75,000, in 1966, and weeks of recording sessions in a variety of locations. Multi-track recording was still relatively new, and Wilson's complex production style was highly innovative and unlike anything else that had been recorded until that point.
English rock band formed in 1960; first popular in the UK and Germany; "Beatlemania" spread to the United States a bit later, surrounding their first tour in early- 1964. Began with cover versions of American rock n' roll hits; enduring commercial success through their own music; influences include American R&B and country blues, as well as "exotic" instruments and music from India
The Beatles' musical style: Reference to traditional popular music forms; verse- chorus, AABA, 12-bar blues; emphasis on melody; imaginative instrumentation; music often reflects the lyrics
Various examples illustrate the diversity, but also universal appeal, of their style in the mid-1960s:
"A Hard Day's Night" (1964): Title song of the film by the same name, starring the Beatles. The song contains updated traditional elements; modified AABA form; modified 12-bar blues (in section A, "blue notes" added to traditional harmonies; the chord changes don't always happen in the expected places)
"Yesterday" (1965): Released on the album Help! Solo voice: Paul McCartney; instrumentation: acoustic guitar and string quartet; romantic ballad; strong roots in Tin Pan Alley; form: similar to "A Hard Day's Night" (modified Tin Pan Alley)
"Eleanor Rigby" (1966): One of the Beatles' most experimental songs; traditional verse-chorus form; unusual instrumentation: string quartet (like "Yesterday," without guitar). Poetic, abstract lyrics describe two lonely people and their futile lives. Music reflects the lyrics: harmony alternates between two chords (loneliness, futility); melody does not lead anywhere. Verse-Chorus form—alternates between persistent refrain and narrative; some overlap toward end.