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In class so far we have been getting into the introduction of music learning different terms that play a big part in music. We started out with the basics talking about the beat which is the pulse of the song. We talked about tempo which is the speed of the tune. We also talked about rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and even some offbeat meters. I’m a drummer and I have been drumming for about twelve years, but it’s always to freshen up on material like this in class.
Starting this week we started talking about the early history of music starting with African American music. These topics of early music are always really interesting to me because most of this information is all new to me. A few things I have learned about African American music so far is the pattin’ juba which an improvised circle dance to clapping. Drums were prohibited by slave owners which was really interesting to find out, but at the same time not that surprising because of how loud drums are. Being a drummer, I can definitely understand why they were prohibited by these slave owners.
Another topic that we started to talk about was Minstrelsy, which was a topic I have never heard of before. Minstrelsy is whites (later blacks) performing caricature of African American dances. I’ve never heard of anything like this, and it was very strange to hear that was a thing back then. I just thought it was very odd, but understandable at the same time because this took place during the 1830’s. One of the famous Minstrelsy actors/dancers we were learned about was a man by the name of Thomas Dartmouth Rice. Rice imitated the dancing of a black man, but his character was Jim Crow who is known for the Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws were laws that basically engaged in racial segregation. Once again, this information was all new and interesting to me because I never knew about music during this time.
One man we also talked about this week was a man by the name of Stephen Foster. Stephen Foster is the first great American pop song composer. He is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and he has his own statue down in the city. His first big hit was a song I have actually heard of before which is, “Oh, Susanna.” (1848). He was known a minstrel artist because he composed minstrel songs.
We also learned about a group that I have actually heard of before which was “Tin Pan Alley.” Tin Pan Alley was very active and popular from 1875 to about the 1950’s. Tin Pan Alley was the center of the music business and they played pianos that sounded like tin pans, hence the name “Tin Pan Alley.” I’ve heard of this group before from a previous music class I had, but never really knew anything about them.
We just started getting into the blues, which I am a little more familiar with because it’s progressing towards today. The blues is African American folk music and originated around 1900, but it was first recorded in the 1920’s. The location where blues originated from isn’t really anywhere exact, but all that is known is that it came from the South. Blues music is a major part of jazz, but it was the main foundation of rock and roll.
All the information we are learning about in class so far is really interesting, and it’s only going to get more interesting as we progress through the 1940’s to today’s music.