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MUSIC: "Holberg Suite" by Grieg
Music, one of the most dazzling fruits of human civilisation,
can make us weep, or make us dance.
It's reflected the times in which it was written,
it has delighted, challenged, comforted and excited us.
In this series I've been tracing the story of music from scratch.
To follow it on its miraculous journey,
misleading jargon and fancy labels are best put to one side.
Instead, try to imagine how revolutionary and how exhilarating
many of the innovations we take for granted today were
to people at the time.
There are a million ways of telling the story of music, this is mine.
MUSIC: "The Rite Of Spring" by Stravinsky
In the 31 years between the death of Richard Wagner in 1883
and the outbreak of the First World War
music was shaken by a series of rebellions.
"Pictures At An Exhibition" by Mussorgsky
MUSIC: "The Firebird" by Stravinsky
Russian music swept westwards exuberantly,
as did the exotic sounds of distant continents.
"Voiles" by Debussy
And symphonies and operas of astonishing intensity
amazed and startled audiences.
Modernism in music was born.
The world was becoming a smaller place,
with millions of poor European immigrants seeking refuge
in the New World,
to join the white settlers, African Americans and Chinese workers already there.
From this rich mix of musical cultures,
soon to be heard on newfangled record players and radios,
would spring the blues, ragtime and jazz.
"Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin
In just over three decades music underwent a series of gigantic convulsions.
Change came in many different forms, some exciting, some bewildering.
Revolution was in the air
and all of music's laws and traditions were about to be shaken to their roots.
What happened was a series of musical rebellions.
MUSIC: "The Rite Of Spring" by Stravinsky
The first was aimed at displacing the musical giant of the late 19th century, Richard Wagner.
His ideas, his style and his musical philosophy
had been such a pervasive presence in classical music
that what might have followed him was a plague of pseudo-Wagners.
In fact what followed in his wake was an explosion of musical activity
that sought to do things very differently indeed.
It may not always have been deliberate
but there was a kind of not-Wagner renaissance.
All the things he hated most came to life. The French, for a start.
MUSIC: "Carnival Of The Animals" by Saint-Saens
In France a new wave of composers made it their business
to write music of deliberate simplicity and clarity
and to banish pretention and earnestness of all kinds.
The French were about to enjoy a musical golden age
thanks to their reaction against Wagner.
Their best 50 years ever in music blossomed
after he went off to his personal Valhalla,
with Faure, Debussy and Ravel leading a glorious riposte
to German musical dominance.
MUSIC: "Gymnopedie Number 1" by Satie
The movement was set in train by one of the most remarkable figures in music, Erik Satie.
Erik Satie's first Gymnopedie of 1888,
as well as sounding like a long, hot afternoon after a boozy lunch,
can be seen as the first shot in a war
to debunk pomposity and declutter French music.
Satie, described by his tutors at the Paris conservatoire
as "the laziest student ever", was an eccentric intellectual
who hung out with other arty dreamers in Montmartre.
Satie's music could hardly sound less like Wagner
and what the Germans were up to.
The irony is that there was a German influence
on the work of Satie's Parisian contemporaries.
Here's a clue. Composers like Cesar Franck, Charles-Marie Widor,
Camille Saint-Saens and Gabriel Faure were all trained organists,
and playing the organ means above all
knowing one particular composer's work inside out - JS Bach.
MUSIC: "Toccata" by Widor
More than a hundred years after his death,
these organist-composers in France
were invigorated and inspired by Bach's clarity and economy.
Even the master himself might have admired
Charles-Marie Widor's famous Toccata.
It was first performed by Widor himself
at the Trocadero Palace in Paris in 1889
and it's given a rousing send-off
to many a newly hitched bride and groom ever since.
The dignity and dexterity of Bach can also be heard
in the music of Gabriel Faure,
perhaps the most talented of these French organist-composers.
Listening to Faure after Brahms, Liszt, Wagner or Tchaikovsky,
it's as if someone has spring-cleaned and redecorated
a teenage boy's bedroom.
Gone are the posters of death, psychological torment,
superheroes and tragedy.
The augmented piles of clothes have been put away
and the windows have been opened
to dispel the diminished sneaker-smelling air.
Faure's exquisite music simply says, "Chill,"
or, perhaps, refrigerez-vous.
The exquisite pieces of Satie, Saint-Saens, Faure
and the new wave of French composers were mostly small in scale.
The next important step in the non-Wagner rebellion took place
in the realm of symphonic music.
And the composer who carried the torch
for large-scale orchestral and vocal music after Wagner
was about as different from him as a human being could be.
Though he championed Wagner's operas
as music director of the Vienna State Opera House,
Wagner would have despised him because he was Jewish.
He was Gustav Mahler.
The hallmark of Mahler's music is that of openness.
Unlike Wagner, Mahler invited into his music
all the sounds and rhythms and the noisy diversity
of the bustling East European communities at Vienna's doorstep,
capital of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian empire.
As an outsider in Vienna - a Jew, a Czech,
a poor country boy in a profession full of toffs -
it's not surprising that Mahler should identify
with the folklore and music of his small-town childhood.
In his symphonies it's possible to identify, for example,
the Klezmer style of strolling Jewish folk musicians.
His music encompasses passing military bands.
And he's not afraid to include boisterous children's choruses.
Mahler's symphonies are music's gateway to the 20th century,
a musical equivalent of New York's Ellis Island,
where Europe's exhausted and oppressed peoples
sought refuge and a new start.
The musical cultures they left behind in Europe
found a home in Mahler's generous symphonic embrace.
One way we can see a modern perspective emerging in his music is
its sense of reality, of truthfulness, warts and all.
The frankness of his approach is a major break with the past
and is much more characteristic of the 20th than the 19th centuries.
How can music be honest?
Well, before Mahler if you were composer
and you wanted to write a piece about loneliness or despair or depression,
you'd call it something generic like a nocturne, or a sonata pathetique.
In an opera you could have singers act out emotional or political issues
pretending to be someone from another era, in a fancy costume.
But Mahler stopped all this role-playing.
He wanted to evoke the real, contemporary world
with all its actual suffering and joy, without pretence.
He told it how it was.
Mahler took our worst fears and set them to music.
This may seem an unremarkable concept to us
but in 1900 it was shockingly, distressingly new.
The unflinching honesty of Mahler's approach is at times unbearable.
From 1901, for example,
he set to music five German poems called Kindertotenlieder -
Songs On The Death Of Children.
The sentiments of the songs are those of a parent's most unspeakable nightmares.
MEZZO SINGING IN GERMAN
In Mahler's unflinching settings,
these distant people of another century suddenly become like us.
He's made them real.
In a horrible irony, four years after he wrote the songs
Mahler's own five-year-old daughter, Anna-Maria, died of scarlet fever,
and Mahler himself was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition.
When he died in 1911 he was laid to rest in her grave.
But despite the understandable sadness and alienation we hear in his music
there is, incredibly, hope of something better,
usually associated with childhood and youth,
as in his Song Of The Earth.
The final chord of The Song Of The Earth was described
by the mid-20th century English composer Benjamin Britten
as being "imprinted on the atmosphere."
STRINGS, HARP AND OBOE CREATE A WASH OF SOUND
MEZZO: # Ewig... #
MUSIC FADES
But there's something else going on in Mahler's music
that wasn't perhaps obvious at the time.
It's deceptive.
Because of its all-inclusive style
with its borrowings from ethnic folk music
and because of the intensity of feeling he wanted to convey,
Mahler's music began to destabilise
the centuries-old Western musical system he'd inherited.
His pupils in Vienna, led by Arnold Schoenberg,
actively wanted to dismantle completely
the familiar systems that had underpinned all music
for hundreds of years
and replace them with a brand new system.
This academic rebellion was later labelled serialism, or atonality,
and it produced decades of scholarly hot air, books, debates and seminars.
And, in its purest, strictest form, not one piece of music
that a normal person could understand or enjoy in 100 years.
That's not to say that serialism hasn't always had a cultish following
but for sure these composers weren't courting a mainstream audience.
Had serialism had any chance of appealing to a paying public,
one composer who would surely have opted into it
was the musical magpie Richard Strauss,
Germany's leading composer after Mahler's death.
But he had other, far more mischievous plans up his sleeve.
He began his career conventionally enough
in a musical style that owed much to Liszt
and a little to Wagner.
Thus Spake Zarathustra is pretty typical,
with its now legendary opening, Sunrise, made even more famous
by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Kubrick uses the power of the piece
to underscore a momentous leap forward in the evolution of Man.
The power of the idea the film wants to convey,
man's discovery of weapons, needs equally portentous music.
No one did it better than Strauss.
And yet, the ever-versatile Strauss
could also write songs of heart-breaking, Mahlerish delicacy,
like the song Tomorrow, composed as a wedding present for his wife.
On the surface of it the words of Morgen! seem
to be optimistic about the future.
"And tomorrow the sun will shine again."
But it's also strangely melancholy.
It seems to suggest, in fact, that there will be no tomorrow.
It seemed at this point as if Strauss would continue to compose
in this wistful but fairly traditional manner.
But then he suddenly catapulted himself into musical notoriety
with an opera of savage, erotic power
that shocked bourgeois society and created a sensation.
In one fell swoop,
from being the genteel Kapellmeister of the Austrian Belle Epoch,
Strauss had transformed himself into the Che Guevara
of the musical rebels.
The opera in question was Salome, staged in 1905.
It was immediately banned in several countries
and it gave new meaning to the term discord...
..even before Salome herself had stripped off
for the Dance Of The Seven Veils
and scandalised the first night audience.
Salome's final, passionate solo,
addressed to the severed head of John the Baptist,
which she then kisses, was the Quentin Tarantino moment.
You can either read Salome as a strong, independent young woman
who gets what she wants by exploiting her sexuality,
cleverly outwitting her stepfather the king in the process,
or as a kind of demented junkie
who lowers humanity's moral standards to rock bottom.
Take your pick.
Strauss apparently hedges his bets,
giving the first mention of the necrophiliac kiss
possibly the most dissonant chord ever used in music at that point.
It's like the final howl of a busted civilisation.
HIGH DISCORD
CLUSTER OF NOTES
But we're not finished with her yet.
After asking whether the taste of blood on his lips is
actually the taste of love,
Salome revisits the kiss in supreme triumph.
"I have now kissed your mouth, Jochanaan," she screams
and Strauss unleashes a musical earthquake
which might be construed as a sexual consummation.
Again, make up your own mind.
GRAND, ECSTATIC MUSIC
King Herod, who had encouraged his stepdaughter to dance in the first place,
now ordered his soldiers to kill her.
For this climax Strauss reserved his most discordant and angry music yet.
VIOLENT, DISCORDANT MUSIC
REPEATED BRASS CHORDS
At this point in musical history
it looked as though the dominance of Austro-German music
that began with Bach in 1700 might continue indefinitely.
Instead, a new force had emerged
and was by the early 20th century
the most exhilarating sound in Europe.
In the closing decades of the 19th century
the sleeping giant of Russia had awoken.
Music was never going to be the same again.
And when it comes to rebellions, Russia is in a class of its own.
For all of the 18th and most of the 19th centuries
Russia doggedly copied the culture of Western Europe,
which the Russian court deemed more sophisticated and interesting
than anything home-grown.
Even Russia's most famous composer of them all, Tchaikovsky,
who became a worldwide star in the 1880s and '90s,
was still composing in a style that owed more to Beethoven or Brahms
than to anything he'd picked up on the banks of the Volga.
But there was something Tchaikovsky excelled at
that was distinctly Russian
and that contained within it the seeds of a coming revolution -
dance.
If for Italians the supreme expression of their love of music
was the emotionally charged operatic aria,
for Russians it was dance,
and Tchaikovsky wrote some of the most celebrated and memorable
dance music of all time.
The result of this flowering of dance is
that the need for a driving rhythm
began to change the character of the music itself,
making it more robust, muscular and exciting.
Russian music was about to explode into life
in a manner that was unprecedented,
and subsequently unmatched in history.
In Russia the invigorating, regulated beat of dance is everywhere,
at the ballet, in operas, on the concert stage,
lilting, driving, whirling, tiptoeing, leaping, gliding,
jumping, gyrating and twirling -
Russian music can't get enough of it.
Presumably, it's the cold -
you have to keep moving or your circulation will pack in.
The rhythms of dance first powered this Russian awakening.
The second vital element which changed the melody and harmony
came from a renewed interest in Russia's own religious heritage.
PRIEST CHANTING
A new breed of composers, starting in the 1880s,
turned their attention, not to the musical traditions of Western Europe,
but to those of their own,
especially the centuries-old Russian Orthodox chants,
with their deep basses and thick eight or 16-voice block chords.
In the decades to follow, this ancient sound,
known as Znamenny Chant, was to flow like a river
into the choral texture of all Russian composers.
No longer did they look west for inspiration.
The fuse-lighter of the Russian firework display about to unfold,
the truly original, creative path-finder,
wasn't cosmopolitan, well-travelled friend of the Romanovs Tchaikovsky,
but a former military cadet who worked in the civil service
and had a fatal vodka habit - Modest Mussorgsky.
MUSIC: "Promenade Pictures At An Exhibition"
Mussorgsky is quite simply the most original composer of the late 19th century,
a one-off whose ideas were new,
not derived from other composers of his time.
There's a reason for this.
Mussorgsky wasn't musically trained at a conservatoire
and he wasn't a professional composer.
He was self-taught
and therefore blissfully unaware of the rules he was breaking.
It was like he'd wandered onto Tsarist Russia's Got Talent,
slightly drunk, and started improvising at the piano,
to everyone's amazement.
"Promenade - Pictures At An Exhibition"
But despite the naivety of his style,
which earned him more than a little ridicule at the time,
Mussorgsky showed that Russian music could carve its own identity.
To see how radically the music of Russia had changed
in fewer than 40 years,
listen to this coronation scene from A Life For The Tsar,
an opera written by the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka in 1836.
BIG, FOURSQUARE CHORDS
Glinka had his musical training in Italy, Austria and Germany,
and it shows.
BRAHMSLIKE WRITING
Now listen to another Kremlin coronation scene
from the thoroughly Russian opera by Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov.
VIVID, ENERGETIC MUSIC
This time, complete with colours, voices and glittering effects,
tolling bells and echoing orchestra chimes,
it's been thoroughly Russianised.
Mussorgsky died in 1881, his music virtually unknown outside of Russia.
But that was about to change.
"Carnival Of The Animals" by Saint-Saens.
So many of the seeds of the rebellions of late 19th century music
can be traced to one extraordinarily fertile event.
It took place in Paris in 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution.
It was the World's Fair.
Here in the Trocadero, which overlooked the newly-built Eiffel Tower,
Widor first played his famous organ Toccata
and here also non-Russian composers heard
the music of Mussorgsky for the first time.
One such composer, then aged 27, was Claude Debussy.
His visit to the World's Fair was a life- and music-changing experience.
What Debussy learnt from Mussorgsky
was that there was a way of building up the architecture of a piece of music
that was an alternative to the developmental method
that was bread and butter to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
The development approach was to take small cells of melody or rhythm,
or both, and make up a whole discourse from them
over a 15 or 20 minute period.
So Beethoven is able to construct a whole symphony movement from this tiny idea.
MOTIF FROM BEETHOVEN'S FIFTH
Count how many times he uses it in just the first 40 bars of the symphony.
HE MOUTHS
That's 13.
That's already 33, and counting.
Debussy, inspired by Mussorgsky,
ditched 100 years of studious development technique
and started over -
Mussorgsky, because he knew no better,
and Debussy, because it suited his taste for experiment.
GAMELAN PLAYS
What revolutionised Debussy's music more than anything, though, was
a wind of change blowing to the Paris World's Fair from very far afield.
The World's Fair showcased exhibits and cultural tableaux
from all over the planet.
Thanks to increased communications,
the global village was starting to become a reality.
What especially mesmerised Debussy was a Javanese village,
complete with a gamelan orchestra,
with its gongs, bells, bowls and xylophone-like chimes.
The particular sonorities and scales of the Gamelan orchestra
intrigued Debussy so much he was inspired to attempt
an evocation of its Eastern sounds on a Western piano.
Although he couldn't replicate the unfamiliar tuning of the bells,
gongs, and other metal bars of the gamelan,
or the exact division of the Asian musical scale,
he could approximate it in two ways.
One was to make use of the so-called pentatonic scale,
the five notes that are common to all the world's musical systems
and which are especially prevalent in Eastern music.
On a piano the pentatonic notes can be found by playing just the black notes.
There's a whole section of his prelude Voiles, sails,
which is all pentatonic.
The other trick Debussy deployed was to allow his chords to hang over each other,
overlapping and ricocheting from one to the next.
This technique, on a piano at any rate,
has the effect of eking out
the sympathetic resonances, or harmonics,
latent in the reverberating strings.
Natural harmonics are hidden extra notes, usually quite high in pitch,
that are found within any given sound,
like the additional colours of the spectrum
contained within white light.
Every time you allow the felt dampers on a piano to clamp down on the strings
you shut off the natural harmonics from resonating.
CHORD STOPS
But Debussy wanted to do the opposite,
to allow the strings to ring like they would on a harp.
His hanging chords with the dampers kept away from the strings
were a kind of return to nature.
"Claire de Lune" by Debussy
Putting these ideas into action,
Debussy created a new soundscape for the piano.
The reformation of scales and harmonies that he introduced
offered a whole new palette of aural possibilities.
The piano had never sounded so exotic and so rich.
By recalibrating the traditional Western scale on Eastern lines,
Debussy's music was a radical departure
from the classical style he'd grown up with,
and his harmonic experiments based on Asian sound combinations
were still influencing musicians, especially in jazz, half a century later.
As well as kicking off a highly fruitful interest
in what we'd call world music,
the World's Fair in Paris had also put the new music of Russia on the map.
Another of St Petersburg's musical dynamos, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,
took over the torch and mined the golden seam of Slavic folklore
in a series of operatic pageants put on around the turn of the century.
Rimsky didn't just use folk stories in his plots.
Crucially he also started to borrow the melodic building blocks of Russian folk music.
These sparkling entertainments laid down a challenge
to Rimsky-Korsakov's most talented pupil, then a complete unknown.
That challenge was to blaze a path for Russian music
and put Russia onto the cultural map once and for all,
and boy, was the challenge accepted.
Rimsky-Korsakov's pupil was Igor Stravinsky.
Stravinsky's combustible arrival on the world music scene
was stage-managed
by an entrepreneurial art, dance and music impresario, Sergei Diaghilev.
In 1909 he created a dance company in Paris, the Ballets Russes,
in order to produce annual festivals of modernist Russian ballets.
He approached Stravinsky to compose the music for one
based on an ancient Russian fairytale, The Firebird.
When he was commissioned Stravinsky was unknown
and third choice for the job.
Three years later he was both the most notorious
and the most eagerly championed composer in all Europe.
The Firebird's scenario,
an amalgam of several versions of folk tales about a magical bird,
combines supernatural characters and beasts with the natural,
the fantastical world with the human world.
Stravinsky gives these two worlds different styles of music.
Human characters, like the 12 princesses in the story, are given
folk song derived melodies based on the common Western musical scale.
C MAJOR SCALE
The fantastical creatures and characters on the other hand are allotted
a much more exotic and complex musical palette,
often based on the so-called octotonic scale.
SEQUENCE OF TONES AND SEMITONES
This non-Western sounding octotonic scale had been the feature
of the music of Stravinsky's teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov,
especially when depicting the magical, malevolent
or the mysterious.
When Stravinsky borrows from Russian ethnic folk music like this
he doesn't lift it straight
but distorts it through a mischievous prism.
In field recordings of peasant folk music,
the educated, bourgeois Stravinsky had discovered
a raw, ritualistic world
from way beyond the frontiers of industrial civilisation.
His instinct to repackage it for a Parisian audience
was brilliantly provocative.
Stravinsky's rebellion against established musical conventions
wasn't just about exotic scales and weird jingly-jangly sounds
he injected into the orchestra.
Stravinsky, like Mussorgsky and Debussy before him,
wanted to find a way of assembling a musical structure
without using constantly developing nuggets of tune.
Stravinsky in particular wanted to tell his ballet stories
a different way.
He created a montage, an aural jigsaw,
one tune followed by a different tune, followed by a different tune
in tumbling succession.
For this reason, ballet, with its short, restless kaleidoscopic episodes,
was the form for which Stravinsky was born to compose.
We find the idea of musical collage, the mix,
the remix, the iPod shuffle and the mash-up, completely normal,
but we shouldn't forget
how bewilderingly unfamiliar an idea this was
to the musical establishment of the early 1900s.
When the Ballets Russes took Stravinsky's second ballet, Petrushka, to Vienna in 1913
the scandalised musicians refused to play it,
describing it as "dirty music".
All of the radicals, Mahler, Debussy and Stravinsky,
were dismantling the old system
whereby musical ideas carefully unfolded, one thing after another.
They wanted everything at once.
Stravinsky, like all Russian composers, was turned on
by the rhythmic urgency of dance
but he did something very unusual with that rhythm.
Whilst Mahler had layered melody on melody,
tangled together like a twisted knot,
and Debussy had manipulated blocks of adjacent sound overlapping one another,
Stravinsky went one step further,
superimposing simultaneous rhythms on top of each other.
Polyrhythm, as it has since been dubbed,
had long existed in African tribal drumming,
improvised on the spot by highly intuitive, skilful players.
But polyrhythm, conceived from scratch by a composer,
written down on the page,
imposed on the Western symphony orchestra player by player,
this was utterly, breathtakingly novel a concept.
It was as if Stravinsky wanted the past and the present to coexist
in one dimension,
the prehistoric ritual of his dancers
and the modern cacophony of the industrial world
and the only way he could conceive it
was to make parallel, competing rhythmic patterns fight
for the same space.
It's complicated but it's magnificent.
But here's the thing.
The Rite of Spring, which premiered a hundred years ago,
was the high-water mark of musical modernism.
It therefore presented progressive music with a dilemma.
Where the hell to go from here?
Neither Stravinsky nor Debussy in 1913 would've guessed
where the answer to that question would come from,
never mind just how massive the forces of change were going to be.
After all, revolutions don't always start with a bang.
'Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow,
'and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.'
Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of recorded sound in 1877
but in fact the first ever recording was made nearly 20 years earlier,
in France.
This is the earliest-known surviving recording of a person singing,
making the man who made it, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville,
the true inventor of recording, not Edison.
BUZZING NOISE
The recording was made on a machine now virtually forgotten,
the phonautograph.
Here's the amazing bit.
The inventor's aim was to be able to study sound in graph-like form.
What he couldn't do was play the sound back.
Then, in 2008,
American engineers using sophisticated digital technology
were able to convert the markings on the paper back into sound.
The French folk singer of 1860 miraculously sang again.
BUZZING NOISE Sort of.
The phonautograph had begun a process
that was totally to transform music.
Very soon after Edison invented a machine
that could play recordings back,
a new breed of musician researcher popped up
in virtually every country,
travelling around remote, rural areas,
recording and preserving the folk songs
they persuaded doubtless bemused locals to perform for them.
These field recordists captured the oral and musical culture
of communities now long disappeared.
SINGING AND DRUMMING
But the real future for recorded sound was in
the reproduction of music that was already popular.
TENOR: # Vesti la giubba
# E la faccia infarina... #
The first million-selling record was Caruso's Vesti La Giubba in 1907,
just before radio broadcasts began.
As well as live music, radio also played records,
thus boosting their sales.
# ..t'invola Colombina... #
The advent of recording made
the huge wealth of music already written by 1900
increasingly available to millions of people across the world,
vastly expanding their musical horizons
and turning something hitherto expensive and elitist
into an ordinary commodity.
This was a very good thing.
Recording also began to put in front of a mass audience
forms of folk and ethnic music that were up to then unknown
outside their local communities.
The music that was boosted most of all by recording, as it turned out,
was that produced by African Americans,
beginning with spiritual songs.
# When Israel was in Egypt's land
# Let my people go
# Oppressed so hard they could not stand
# Let my people go
# Go down, Moses # Go down, Moses
# Way down in Egypt's land
# Tell old pharaoh
# You got to let my people go # Let them go
# You got to let my people go
# Let them go
# You got to let my people go
# Let them go
# You got to let my people go
# Let them go, let them go
# Let them go. #
Huh!
African American slaves and their descendants
living in conditions of oppressive poverty developed
a form of religious song, the spiritual,
which seems to have been an amalgam
of half-remembered African call and response chants
and missionary hymns.
# Swing low, sweet chariot
# Comin' for to carry me home
# Swing low, sweet chariot... #
These spirituals of the Deep South were rich
with Old Testament references to the slavery of the Israelites,
visions of redemption and heavenly justice.
# I looked over Jordan What did I see?
# Comin' for to carry me home?
# A band of angels Coming after me... #
The existence of the spiritual was for a long time mostly unknown
to the white population of the United States,
let alone the rest of the world but a long fuse had been lit.
# People, they are faithful And like to say a good prayer, too
# If you ask them about their religion
# They'll say they're just as good as you... #
The Fisk Jubilee Singers, who were themselves the children of slaves,
began to make fundraising tours
singing what were called at the time negro spirituals.
But strangely, one of the first musicians
to put this music in front of a middle-class American audience
was an Englishman.
The Edwardian Samuel Coleridge-Taylor caused a sensation
on three trips to the USA, conducting his own compositions.
In one of them we can hear early and tantalising evidence
of the melodic style of what came to be known as the blues,
which, albeit in different disguises,
went on to dominate the music of the 20th century and beyond.
The clues we're looking for
are so-called flattened degrees of the musical ladder, or scale,
at the third and seventh position,
especially when the phrase is heading in a downward direction.
And here they both are, one after another, in this melody.
Third.
Seventh.
The blues, as it developed slowly and piecemeal
amongst former slave communities in the USA
in the final decades of the 19th century,
clung resolutely to the flattened thirds and sevenths,
and does so to the present day.
Indeed, they became known as blue notes.
MAN: Play that thing, boy.
Blue notes, revivalist spirituals,
the call and response or holler songs of the Deep South,
all derived from their African origins,
went into the mixing pot of the early blues.
But also mixed in were chords borrowed
from hymns and parlour and vaudeville songs,
and the folk songs of other members of the American underclass.
MAN SINGS BLUES
There's been considerable research
into song forms of the poorest Americans of all ethnic groups
in the 19th century.
It reveals the influence of Anglo-Celtic folk music
on the growth of the blues.
This folk music was learnt from the African Americans' co-workers
in the cotton fields and on the railroads,
many of whom were from the British Isles.
Amongst these song types are hundreds
which lament the burden and misery of the labourer's life.
Typical is the iconic American work song,
The Ballad of John Henry, The Steel Driving Man,
which eventually became a blues standard.
It celebrates the futile battle
between an African American railroad worker
and a new machine designed to replace him.
Music historians have traced the shape
back to the much earlier British ballad, The Birmingham Boys.
Listen out for the overall storytelling shape
and the repeated line at the end.
# In Birmingham town there lived a man
# And he had such a lovely wife
# And so dearly she loved company
# As dearly as she loved life, boys, life,
# As dearly as she loved life. #
Now here's one of the many later versions of John Henry.
# John Henry was a little baby, sitting on his mother's knee
# He picked up a hammer in his little right hand
# Says, "A hammer's gonna be the death of me, O Lord
# "A hammer's gonna be the death of me." #
One of the changes that's happened to the tune crossing the Atlantic
is that it's become entirely pentatonic.
Remember those five basic notes prevalent in Eastern music
that Debussy imitated?
And who were the other railroad workers
toiling alongside the British, Irish and African American labourers?
Now, even to suggest any European influence
on the blues is controversial,
and it's entirely understandable
that there should be sensitivity about any non-African elements
in the origin of the blues.
Since the music of the slaves, from which it sprang, was
so often a lament,
or a coded protest against the harsh treatment they received,
some African Americans quite naturally resent the idea
that the blues could in any way have been influenced
by the very people who enslaved their ancestors.
But the fact is that music does not observe racial or national boundaries.
It's a free-flowing river, open and available to all cultures,
owned by none.
Whatever elements went into its kit of parts,
the early blues musicians made something
unique and lasting of their own.
This same intermingling of styles and traditions can be seen
in the arrival at around the same time of ragtime,
which became a kind of craze.
Rag or ragtime music originated
in St Louis and Chicago bars and brothels,
from house pianists copying the popular marching band style
of the 1880s and '90s,
a fashion that reached its peak with the band leader John Philip Sousa.
In order to emulate the whole band - bass, accompanying chords and tune -
the pianist had to leap about the keys frantically,
resulting in a quite virtuoso left-hand motion
from bass to chord and back.
On top of this accompanying oom-pa the rag pianists wove a catchy tune
that pulled the rhythm around - a technique called syncopation.
Syncopation is LIKE talk-ING with THE emph-A-sis ON the wrong words
TO cre-ATE a jer-KY sound.
Listen to this bit of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag without syncopation.
HE PLAYS A SIMPLIFIED VERSION OF RAG
And now with Joplin's syncopations,
which feel like they're tripping ahead of where you'd expect them to fall.
MUSIC: "Maple Leaf Rag" by Joplin
Ragtime picked up syncopation, a playful jumping ahead of a tune,
from the banjo or piano accompaniments for cake walks,
a jokey form of dancing that plantation workers had invented
for their own amusement,
in lampooning imitation of white folks' la-di-da ballroom dancing.
The white folks in question used to enjoy
watching their staff's cake walk parties,
not realising that what they thought was a comic and ludicrous African American dance step
was actually a caricature of them.
Along with the cake walk another offspring of ragtime was
a hyper-syncopated form of piano and band-playing
that flickered into life in the Storyville district of New Orleans.
Charismatic performers like Jelly Roll Morton took it on tour
around the southern states in travelling vaudeville shows.
Though Jelly Roll called a lot of his numbers blues,
we now know this is the beginning of a distinct genre of its own, jazz.
From now on this music took on a life of its own.
As up-to-the-minute blues and its many offspring began
to revolutionise popular music,
classically-trained composers found themselves outflanked
and increasingly unloved.
Given the choice the general public voted with their feet in their millions
and took the populist path.
The coming century would see popular music,
especially American popular music, sweeping the planet.
And yet, faced with the twin rebellions
of dissonant modernism and the mass market,
the classical tradition found an ace up its sleeve
and played it with impeccable timing.
In a world of turmoil and change its response was nostalgia.
Edward Elgar's most famous piece, Enigma Variations,
embodies this response.
As the world began to slide
towards a final showdown of the European empires,
this music reminded people what they were about to lose.
From Elgar and Vaughan Williams in Britain,
Grieg in Norway, Sibelius in Finland,
Respighi in Italy,
Rachmaninov in Russia and Richard Strauss in Germany,
a musical style of tender, old-fashioned melancholy
seemed to want to hold back the relentless passage of time and progress.
That this music is so popular in our own time
testifies to its enduring appeal,
and perhaps our own continuing need for its soothing balm.
It may also indicate that in a crowded market
classical music's unique selling point is, like it or not,
its ability to wrap up the past like a beautiful gift.
MUSIC: "Rhapsody In Blue" by Gershwin
In the next programme we trace how all the developments of this 30-year period
found affirmation in a golden age of popular music.
Classical music went undercover,
morphing gloriously into a variety of new musical forms,
made possible by the onwards march of technology.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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BBC Howard Goodalls Story of Music. Part 5 of 6: The Age of Rebellion

1851 タグ追加 保存
Ntiana 2016 年 10 月 1 日 に公開
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