Download American Popular Music (2008) by Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman PDF

By Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman

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Waters was “discovered” in the Mississippi Delta by the folk music scholars John and Alan Lomax, who recorded him in the late 1930s for the Library of Congress. In 1943 he moved to Chicago and found work in a paper mill, while continuing to work as a musician at nightclubs and parties. In response to the noisy crowds, and to the demand for dance music, Waters soon switched from the acoustic to the electric guitar (1944) and eventually expanded his group to include a second electric guitar, piano, bass, amplified harmonica, and drum set.

The career of Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) exemplifies these developments. Waters was “discovered” in the Mississippi Delta by the folk music scholars John and Alan Lomax, who recorded him in the late 1930s for the Library of Congress. In 1943 he moved to Chicago and found work in a paper mill, while continuing to work as a musician at nightclubs and parties. In response to the noisy crowds, and to the demand for dance music, Waters soon switched from the acoustic to the electric guitar (1944) and eventually expanded his group to include a second electric guitar, piano, bass, amplified harmonica, and drum set.

The result is startling and hypnotic. Like a secular version of a transfixed preacher, Brown leaves traditional notions of grammar and meaning behind in an effort to convey a heightened emotional condition. Later, Brown would leave the structures of 1950s R&B far behind and abandon chord changes entirely in many pieces. By the later 1960s a characteristic Brown tune like “There Was a Time” offered music focused on the play of rhythm and timbre. While the singer does tell a story, the vocal melody is little more than informal reiterations of a small number of brief, formulaic pitch shapes; the harmony is completely static, with the instrumental parts reduced to repeating riffs or held chords.

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