Musical improvisation is the creative activity of immediate musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians. Sometimes musical ideas in improvisation are spontaneous, but may be based on chord changes in classical music and many other kinds of music. One definition is a "performance given extempore without planning or preparation." Another definition is to "play or sing extemporaneously, by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies and harmonies." Encyclopædia Britannica defines it as "the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text. Improvisation is done within a pre-existing harmonic framework or chord progression. Improvisation is a major part of some types of 20th-century music, such as blues and jazz fusion, in which instrumental performers improvise solos, melody lines and accompaniment parts.
Throughout the eras of the Western art music tradition, including the Medieval, Baroque and Romantic periods, improvisation was a valued skill. J. S. Bach, Mozart, Chopin and many other famous composers and musicians were known for their improvisational skills. Improvisation might have played an important role in the monophonic period; the earliest treatises on polyphony, such as the Musica enchiriadis, indicate that added parts were improvised for centuries before the first notated examples. However, it was only in the fifteenth century that theorists began making a hard distinction between improvised and written music; some classical music forms contained sections for improvisation, such as the cadenza in solo concertos, or the preludes to some keyboard suites by Bach and Handel, which consist of elaborations of a progression of chords, which performers are to use as the basis for their improvisation. Handel and Bach all belonged to a tradition of solo keyboard improvisation, in which they improvised on the harpsichord or pipe organ.
In the Baroque era, performers improvised ornaments and basso continuo keyboard players improvised chord voicings based on figured bass notation. However, in the 20th and early 21st century, as "common practice" Western art music performance became institutionalized in symphony orchestras, opera houses and ballets, improvisation has played a smaller role. At the same time, some contemporary composers from the 20th and 21st century have included improvisation in their creative work. In Indian classical music, improvisation is a core component and an essential criterion of performances. In Indian, Afghani and Bangladeshi classical music, raga is the "tonal framework for composition and improvisation." The Encyclopædia Britannica defines a raga as "a melodic framework for improvisation and composition. Although melodic improvisation was an important factor in European music from the earliest times, the first detailed information on improvisation technique appears in ninth-century treatises instructing singers on how to add another melody to a pre-existent liturgical chant, in a style called organum.
Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, improvised counterpoint over a cantus firmus constituted a part of every musician's education, is regarded as the most important kind of unwritten music before the Baroque period. Following the invention of music printing at the beginning of the sixteenth century, there is more detailed documentation of improvisational practice, in the form of published instruction manuals in Italy. In addition to improvising counterpoint over a cantus firmus and instrumentalists improvised melodies over ostinato chord patterns, made elaborate embellishments of melodic lines, invented music extemporaneously without any predetermined schemata. Keyboard players performed extempore formed pieces; the kinds of improvisation practised during the Renaissance—principally either the embellishing of an existing part or the creation of an new part or parts—continued into the early Baroque, though important modifications were introduced. Ornamentation began to be brought more under the control of composers, in some cases by writing out embellishments, more broadly by introducing symbols or abbreviations for certain ornamental patterns.
Two of the earliest important sources for vocal ornamentation of this sort are Giovanni Battista Bovicelli’s Regole, passaggi di musica, the preface to Giulio Caccini’s collection, Le nuove musiche Eighteenth-century manuals make it clear that performers on the flute, oboe and other melodic instruments were expected not only to ornament composed pieces, but spontaneously to improvise preludes. The pattern of chords in many baroque preludes, for example, can be played on keyboard and guitar over a pedal tone or repeated bass notes; such progressions can be used in many other structures and contexts, are still found in Mozart, but most preludes begin with the treble supported by a simple bass. J. S. Bach, for example, was fond of the sound produced by the dominant seventh harmony played over, i.e. suspended against, the tonic pedal tone. There is little or no Alberti bass in baroque keyboard music, instead the accompanying hand supports the moving lines by contrasting them with longer note values, which themselves have a melodic shape and are placed in consonant harmony.
This polarity can be reversed—another useful technique for improvisat
Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time, it has been contrasted with classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century. Starting in the mid-20th century, a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music; this process and period is reached a zenith in the 1960s. This form of music is sometimes called contemporary folk music or folk revival music to distinguish it from earlier folk forms. Smaller, similar revivals have occurred elsewhere in the world at other times, but the term folk music has not been applied to the new music created during those revivals; this type of folk music includes fusion genres such as folk rock, folk metal, others. While contemporary folk music is a genre distinct from traditional folk music, in U.
S. English it shares the same name, it shares the same performers and venues as traditional folk music; the terms folk music, folk song, folk dance are comparatively recent expressions. They are extensions of the term folklore, coined in 1846 by the English antiquarian William Thoms to describe "the traditions and superstitions of the uncultured classes"; the term further derives from the German expression volk, in the sense of "the people as a whole" as applied to popular and national music by Johann Gottfried Herder and the German Romantics over half a century earlier. Though it is understood that folk music is music of the people, observers find a more precise definition to be elusive; some do not agree that the term folk music should be used. Folk music may tend to have certain characteristics but it cannot be differentiated in purely musical terms. One meaning given is that of "old songs, with no known composers", another is that of music, submitted to an evolutionary "process of oral transmission....
The fashioning and re-fashioning of the music by the community that give it its folk character". Such definitions depend upon " processes rather than abstract musical types...", upon "continuity and oral transmission...seen as characterizing one side of a cultural dichotomy, the other side of, found not only in the lower layers of feudal and some oriental societies but in'primitive' societies and in parts of'popular cultures'". One used definition is "Folk music is what the people sing". For Scholes, as well as for Cecil Sharp and Béla Bartók, there was a sense of the music of the country as distinct from that of the town. Folk music was "...seen as the authentic expression of a way of life now past or about to disappear" in "a community uninfluenced by art music" and by commercial and printed song. Lloyd rejected this in favour of a simple distinction of economic class yet for him true folk music was, in Charles Seeger's words, "associated with a lower class" in culturally and stratified societies.
In these terms folk music may be seen as part of a "schema comprising four musical types:'primitive' or'tribal'. Music in this genre is often called traditional music. Although the term is only descriptive, in some cases people use it as the name of a genre. For example, the Grammy Award used the terms "traditional music" and "traditional folk" for folk music, not contemporary folk music. Folk music may include most indigenous music. From a historical perspective, traditional folk music had these characteristics: It was transmitted through an oral tradition. Before the 20th century, ordinary people were illiterate; this was not mediated by books or recorded or transmitted media. Singers may extend their repertoire using broadsheets or song books, but these secondary enhancements are of the same character as the primary songs experienced in the flesh; the music was related to national culture. It was culturally particular. In the context of an immigrant group, folk music acquires an extra dimension for social cohesion.
It is conspicuous in immigrant societies, where Greek Australians, Somali Americans, Punjabi Canadians, others strive to emphasize their differences from the mainstream. They learn songs and dances that originate in the countries their grandparents came from, they commemorate personal events. On certain days of the year, such as Easter, May Day, Christmas, particular songs celebrate the yearly cycle. Weddings and funerals may be noted with songs and special costumes. Religious festivals have a folk music component. Choral music at these events brings children and non-professional singers to participate in a public arena, giving an emotional bonding, unrelated to the aesthetic qualities of the music; the songs have been performed, by custom, over a long period of time several generations. As a side-effect, the following characteristics are sometimes present: There is no copyright on the songs. Hundreds of folk songs from the 19th century have known authors but have continued in oral tradition to the point where they are considered traditional for purposes of music publishing.
This has become much less frequent since the 1940s. Today every folk song, recorded is credited with an arranger. Fusion of cultures: Because cultures interact and change over time
Walter Brown "Brownie" McGhee was an African-American folk music and Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, best known for his collaboration with the harmonica player Sonny Terry. McGhee was born in Knoxville and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. At about the age of four he contracted polio, his brother Granville "Sticks" McGhee, who later became a musician and composed the famous song "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee," was nicknamed for pushing young Brownie around in a cart. Their father, George McGhee, was a factory worker, known around University Avenue for playing guitar and singing. Brownie's uncle made him a piece of board. McGhee spent much of his youth immersed in music, singing with a local harmony group, the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet, teaching himself to play guitar, he played the five-string banjo and ukulele and studied piano. Surgery funded by the March of Dimes enabled McGhee to walk. At age 22, McGhee became a traveling musician, working in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and befriending Blind Boy Fuller, whose guitar playing influenced him greatly.
After Fuller's death in 1941, J. B. Long of Columbia Records promoted McGhee as "Blind Boy Fuller No. 2." By that time, McGhee was recording for Columbia's subsidiary Okeh Records in Chicago, but his real success came after he moved to New York in 1942, when he teamed up with Sonny Terry, whom he had known since 1939, when Terry was Fuller's harmonica player. The pairing was an overnight success, they recorded and toured together until around 1980. As a duo, Terry and McGhee did most of their work from 1958 until 1980, spending 11 months of each year touring and recording dozens of albums. Despite their fame as "pure" folk artists playing for white audiences, in the 1940s Terry and McGhee had attempted to be successful recording artists, fronting a jump blues combo with honking saxophone and rolling piano, variously calling themselves Brownie McGhee and his Jook House Rockers or Sonny Terry and his Buckshot Five with Champion Jack Dupree and Big Chief Ellis, they appeared in the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
During the blues revival of the 1960s, Terry and McGhee were popular on the concert and music festival circuits adding new material but remaining faithful to their roots and playing to the tastes of their audiences. Late in his life, McGhee appeared in small roles on television, he and Terry appeared in the 1979 Steve Martin comedy The Jerk. In 1987, McGhee gave a small but memorable performance as the ill-fated blues singer Toots Sweet in the supernatural thriller movie Angel Heart. In his review of Angel Heart, the critic Roger Ebert singled out McGhee for praise, declaring that he delivered a "performance that proves Dexter Gordon isn't the only old musician who can act." McGhee appeared in the television series Family Ties, in a 1988 episode entitled "The Blues, Brother", in which he played the fictional blues musician Eddie Dupre. He appeared in the television series Matlock, in a 1989 episode entitled "The Blues Singer". Happy Traum, a former guitar student of McGhee's, edited a blues guitar instruction guide and songbook, Guitar Styles of Brownie McGhee, published in 1971, in which McGhee, between lessons, talked about his life and the blues.
The autobiographical section features McGhee talking about growing up, his musical beginnings, a history of the blues from the 1930s onward. One of McGhee's last concert appearances was at the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival. McGhee died of stomach cancer in February 1996 in Oakland, California, at age 80. Traditional Blues, Vol. 1 Brownie McGhee Blues Brownie McGhee Sings the Blues Traditional Blues, Vol. 2 Brownie's Blues Blues Is Truth Facts of Life with the Ford Blues Band The Folkways Years, 1945–1959 Brownie McGhee Blues Washboard Band: Country Dance Music Folk Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee Blues with Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee Down South Summit Meetin' with Lightnin' Hopkins and Big Joe Williams Down Home Blues Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry at the 2nd Fret Sonny Is King Sonny & Brownie Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry Sing "Back Country Blues" Songs for Victory: Music for Political Action with the Union Boys American folk music Woody Guthrie List of blues musicians List of folk musicians List of people from Tennessee Union Boys Brownie McGhee at Encyclopædia Britannica Center for Southern African American Music - Brownie McGhee — McGhee bio and audio samples Brownie McGhee on IMDb Series of taped interviews with Brownie McGhee
The harmonica known as a French harp or mouth organ, is a free reed wind instrument used worldwide in many musical genres, notably in blues, American folk music, classical music, country, rock. There are many types of harmonica, including diatonic, tremolo, octave and bass versions. A harmonica is played by using the mouth to direct air into or out of one or more holes along a mouthpiece. Behind each hole is a chamber containing at least one reed. A harmonica reed is a flat elongated spring made of brass, stainless steel, or bronze, secured at one end over a slot that serves as an airway; when the free end is made to vibrate by the player's air, it alternately blocks and unblocks the airway to produce sound. Reeds are pre-tuned to individual pitches. Tuning may involve changing a reed’s length, the weight near its free end, or the stiffness near its fixed end. Longer and springier reeds produce deeper, lower sounds. If, as on most modern harmonicas, a reed is affixed above or below its slot rather than in the plane of the slot, it responds more to air flowing in the direction that would push it into the slot, i.e. as a closing reed.
This difference in response to air direction makes it possible to include both a blow reed and a draw reed in the same air chamber and to play them separately without relying on flaps of plastic or leather to block the nonplaying reed. An important technique in performance is bending: causing a drop in pitch by making embouchure adjustments, it is possible to bend isolated reeds, as on chromatic and other harmonica models with wind-savers, but to both lower, raise the pitch produced by pairs of reeds in the same chamber, as on a diatonic or other unvalved harmonica. Such two-reed pitch changes involve sound production by the silent reed, the opening reed; the basic parts of the harmonica are reed plates and cover plates. The comb is the main body of the instrument, when assembled with the reedplates, forms air chambers for the reeds; the term comb may originate from the similarity between this part of a hair comb. Harmonica combs were traditionally made from wood but now are made from plastic or metal.
Some modern and experimental comb designs are complex in the way. There is dispute among players about; those saying no argue that, unlike the soundboard of a piano or the top piece of a violin or guitar, a harmonica's comb is neither large enough nor able to vibrate enough to augment or change the sound. Among those saying yes are those who are convinced by their ears. Few dispute, that comb surface smoothness and air-tightness when mated with the reedplates can affect tone and playability; the main advantage of a particular comb material over another one is its durability. In particular, a wooden comb can absorb moisture from the player's breath and contact with the tongue; this can cause the comb to expand making the instrument uncomfortable to play, to contract compromising air tightness. Various types of wood and treatments have been devised to reduce the degree of this problem. An more serious problem with wood combs in chromatic harmonicas, is that, as the combs expand and shrink over time, cracks can form in the combs, because the comb is held immobile by nails, resulting in disabling leakage.
Much effort is devoted by serious players to sealing leaks. Some players used to soak wooden-combed harmonicas in water to cause a slight expansion, which they intended to make the seal between the comb, reed plates and covers more airtight. Modern wooden-combed harmonicas are less prone to swelling and contracting. Players still dip harmonicas in water for the way it affects ease of bending notes; the reed plate is a grouping of several reeds in a single housing. The reeds are made of brass, but steel and plastic are used. Individual reeds are riveted to the reed plate, but they may be welded or screwed in place. Reeds fixed on the inner side of the reed plate respond to blowing, while those fixed on the outer side respond to suction. Most harmonicas are constructed with the reed plates bolted to the comb or each other. A few brands still use the traditional method of nailing the reed plates to the comb; some experimental and rare harmonicas have had the reed plates held in place by tension, such as the WWII era all-American models.
If the plates are bolted to the comb, the reed plates can be replaced individually. This is useful because the reeds go out of tune through normal use, certain notes of the scale can fail more than others. A notable exception to the traditional reed plate design is the all-plastic harmonicas designed by Finn Magnus in the 1950s, in which the reed and reed plate were molded out of a single piece of plastic; the Magnus design had the reeds, reed plates and comb made of plastic and either molded or permanently glued together. Cover plates cover the reed plates and are made of metal, though wood and plastic have been used; the choice of these is personal. There are two types of cover plates: traditional open designs of stamped metal or plastic, which are there to be held
Coon songs were a genre of music that presented a stereotyped image of black people. They were popular in the United States and the United Kingdom from around 1880 to 1920, though the earliest such songs date from minstrel shows as far back as 1848; the first explicitly coon-themed song, published in 1880, may have been "The Dandy Coon's Parade" by J. P. Skelley. Other notable early coon songs included "The Coons Are on Parade", "New Coon in Town", "Coon Salvation Army", "Coon Schottische". By the mid-1880s, coon songs were a national craze; the most successful songs sold millions of copies. To take advantage of the fad, composers "add words typical of coon songs to published songs and rags". After the turn of the century, coon songs began to receive criticism for their racist content. In 1905, Bob Cole, an African-American composer who had gained fame by writing coon songs, made somewhat unprecedented remarks about the genre; when asked in an interview about the name of his earlier comedy A Trip to Coontown, he replied, "That day has passed with the flowing tide of revelations."
Following further criticism the use of "coon" in song titles decreased after 1910. On August 13, 1920, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League created the Red and Green flag as a response to the song "Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon" by Heelan and Helf; that song along with "Coon, Coon" and "All Coons Look Alike to Me" were identified by H. L. Mencken as being the songs which established the derogatory term "coon" in the American vocabulary. In the 1830s, the term had been associated with the Whig Party; the Whigs used a raccoon as its emblem, but had a more tolerant attitude towards blacks than the other political factions. The latter opinion is what transformed the term "coon" from mere political slang into a racial slur, it is possible that the popularity of coon songs may be explained in part by their historical timing: coon songs arose as the popular music business exploded in Tin Pan Alley. However, James Dormon, a former professor of history and American studies at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, has suggested that coon songs can be seen as "a necessary sociopsychological mechanism for justifying segregation and subordination."
The songs portrayed Blacks as posing a threat to the American social order, implied that they had to be controlled. At the height of their popularity, "just about every songwriter in the country" was writing coon songs "to fill the insatiable demand". Writers of coon songs included some of the most important Tin Pan Alley composers, including Gus Edwards, Fred Fisher, Irving Berlin. One of John Philip Sousa's assistants, Arthur Pryor, composed coon songs. Many coon songs were written by whites. Important black composers of coon songs include Ernest Hogan. Classic ragtime composer Scott Joplin wrote at least one coon song, may have composed the music for several more, using lyrics written by others. Coon songs always aimed to be funny and incorporated the syncopated rhythms of ragtime music. A coon song's defining characteristic, was its caricature of African Americans. In keeping with the older minstrel image of blacks, coon songs featured "watermelon- and chicken-loving rural buffoon". However, "blacks began to appear as not only ignorant and indolent, but devoid of honesty or personal honor, given to drunkenness and gambling, utterly without ambition, libidinous lascivious."
Blacks were portrayed as making money through gambling and hustling, rather than working to earn a living, as in the Nathan Bivins song "Gimme Ma Money": Coon songs portrayed blacks as "hot", in this context meaning promiscuous and libidinous. They suggested that the most common living arrangement was a "honey" relationship, rather than marriage. Blacks were portrayed as inclined toward acts of provocative violence. Razors were featured in the songs and came to symbolize blacks' wanton tendencies. However, violence in the songs was uniformly directed at blacks instead of whites. Hence, the spectre of black-on-white violence remained but an allusion; the street-patrolling "bully coon" was used as a stock character in coon songs. The songs showed the social threats. Passing was a common theme, blacks were portrayed as seeking the status of whites, through education and money. However, blacks except during dream sequences succeeded at appearing white. Coon songs were popular in vaudeville theater, where they were delivered by "coon shouters", who were White women.
Notable coon shouters included Artie Hall, Sophie Tucker, May Irwin, Mae West, Fanny Bric