~ Amer Afro Euro Latin Musics ~

~ worldwide music history 101 ~

wiki ~ William Faulkner

~ simply by following history's natural time line of Americana musical artists we illuminate a thorough study of music; its essential theories and evolutions through tonality.

That this story can roam far far beyond our studies here, we often find that by looking back into history and its characters, we re-imagine new ways of moving forward with our own expressions today ~


"Art is visual history."

wiki ~ Agnes Hsu-Tang

A nutshell. Americana music history is as fascinating as its musics. Our discussions here try to bring together how the 12 pitches we own today, not only go all the way back in our academic historical records, but we can use history's timeline to watch their evolutions, as the same pitches weave into the new musics of succeeding generations and songtellers of a historical era.

The history of how accurately we've tuned the same pitches from the beginning helps ceneter the history studies and timeline here. For refinement in tuning over the centuries, of the original 12 pitches, encouraged new ways of composing music, and musical art evolved.

Rhythm nutshell. And since all Americana cultures of today share many if not all of these same 12 pitches, it's oftentimes in a song's rhythms, where its ethnic origins shine so as to be be easily traced to its culture. This works both ways of course; cliche ethnic rhythms instantly bring their classic roux of flavor (rhythm), and without a roux ... we might just not get the gumbo (song) we love. Bon appetit!

And as theorists ... sometimes we just have to believe that the solution of an inquiry can be something quite simple, even obvious. And with history, the further back and some things are a real challenge to 'prove.' Faith.

Yet the three main elements of our now set in stone composer's aural palette;

the 'scales ~ arpeggios ~ chords'

Their evolutions in tuning have become markers of changes in the history of music many many times over the thousands of years of our music history. While each will have its theory, each also has its own histories found in art, they each alone have created epic events in musical art, ones that defines a generation and whose ripplings and reverberations are absorbed by generations there ever after, at least for those that are curious to know :) That's us.

Years in numbers. At these combined theory - history mileposts there's a number too yes ? That these markers designate an era by a number, for example 1887. Which in itself is the marker of a new pathway to new art.

As theorists examining the music of 1887 Americana, we might see how V7 directed the traffic in the chord progressions of popular songs, maybe even catch a hint of a double 'Two / Five' arpeggios and bass lines, surely a composing / chord progression mainstay in the musics of this era. And surely find blue note shadings all within scales, arpeggios, chords and single note melody lines, both written and improvised, at any point along the way.

Combined, these ideas spark creative and we grow our art. Most artists find their niche and stick to it, comfortable as they are experts in what they do and consistently produce wonderful art experiences. And some artists keep to the search; ever creating greater challenges to their ability to 'think' and move musically through time, all while making memorable new musics.

'into the wayback for the ancient pitches ...'

With drums the now ancient pitches. A recent archeological discovery, made in 1995 in Slovenia, central Europe, unearthed what is known today as the Neanderthal flute. Here's a pic, screenshot borrowed and thanks in advance to wiki. Give it a click, the music is played by Ljuben Dimkaroski.

Looks like a part of a flute right? If I can get you to believe that this 'fragment' is indeed a flute, our story here of music theory now comes to life through the same pitches and through a 1000 plus generations of our ancestors. This fragment is part of a flute made by cave cat dwellers a long time ago, and we musicians of today just got to love that our memory melodies can reach that far back, as we have the same pitches today. And if our memory serves us well we might rediscover today in our own songs, age spanning ancient melodies that we all will understand, and bring us all together with music :)

wiki ~ ocarina
wiki ~ common era
wiki ~ Neanderthal flute
wiki ~ Ljuben Dimkaroski

Slovenia ! Deep in the heart of early Europe where lots of coolness began.

( this screenshot from google, thanks in advance )

With our modern scientific computer modeling and 3d printing capabilities, archeologists recreated a complete version of this early flute fragment, revealing that the fingering holes on this flute are spaced to create the pitches of our own diatonic scale. Today and historically speaking, these pitches could easily and quite clearly translate to the white keys on a piano, as from say 'A up to A.' Example 1.

Thus the beginning of our pitches, now each letter named to further identify their uniqueness within the group of seven, which then become the modes, which when perfect tuned got stack into chords. And voila, millennia later, today's modern pitches. Got these pitches under your fingers yet ? Find a keyboard and sound them on out, sing along as you go, make up your own modern melodies with ancient pitches :)

Controversial archaeological rumination and jealousy, plus modern computer wizardry, all add up to enough drama to write a three act opera with overture :) Yet, consider that the pitches with us today have created melodies for perhaps as many as 2000 generations of our ancestors. That is a lot of melody lines. And if the pitches have been there for that long, then our memories of them are somewhere there also. Thus one tasking of today's artist, to find these ancient melodies and bring them forth into the new light of today, reminding us all of the common ancient heritage we share together through these pitches and our musics.

Cross my heart, true story. Recently I gave a pre-concert talk for a jazz group from NYC, that was performing here in Anchorage. Low and behold, when I mentioned this ancient source of our pitches of today, one cat chimed in that he and his family have visited this cave, within this mountain, in modern day Slovenia. A noted musician and educator himself throughout Alaska, Justin's hair like stood straight up and he had tears in his eyes, while he told us all the story of standing in this cave with his family and digging its vibe, believe U me we all got some goose bumps too :) I believe !

'how it all started and up to today ...'

Start with one melody. Like the singing of a song by a bird? Or the tones of a wind chimes conjured to life a breeze? That proverbial tune we carry in a bucket? Just whistling up a ditty? That new hook that comes to us from where ? Oh, there? And just' where is there ?'

All of these melody creators can be sounded as one melody line, a succession of musical tones moving through time that catches our ear. All monophonic? Yes.

'mono = one

phonic = voice'

And in our music history timeline, go all the way back as far as the wayback machine can take us, music comes into being with a single melody line of single pitches knitted together. From the dawn of time to say 1200 AD one melody defined the musics. Click the golden balance and hear a line from these 1200 AD monophonic times.

Two or more melodies sounding together. Two birds talking back and forth figuring something out? Mama and child singing a song of love? Duets of romance ? When we're all liberally singing "Happy Birthday" for the birthday celebrant? Two melodies from two flutes, fiddles or kazoos jamming up a story?

Weaving two unique melodies together. From one melody line to two, sounded together moving through time. For now we as theorists can examine this music and compare one pitch to another, as they move together through time. So, a 'point (pitch) versus point' study, as in the very formal academic and exacting study of counterpoint ? And in theory, we can look to the 'distance / interval' between two pitches, and muse about their relative consonance or dissonance or tonal gravity to one another ? Precisely. Label, measure, match, mix them up and re-label, re-measure and vary to our hearts content.

wiki ~ counterpoint

'Polyphonic' is our theory term; 'many - voices.' Like traditional Americana dixieland of the 1900's ?

wiki ~ dixieland jazz
wiki ~ Marcel Mouly

One melody line supported by chords. We probably know this mix the best for it covers most if not all of our Americana musics through the last few centuries. Were there kalimba and xylophone players with the early Afro Americans peoples coming up through the Caribbean to America ? Was there some sort of piano / keyboard instrument on the Mayflower and later rigs coming from Europe around the same time ?

Interesting questions to search. Once these two unique peoples combined their musics, Afro and Euro, they also supported their melodies with chords. And gradually over the decades has become the music we know today.

A melody line with chords = is the homophonic style

And from this point in our collective history as we often say, 'the rest is history :) So around 1800 and forward? Yes, by the early 1800's all the elements are in place. And our written record tells us of the predominance of the homophonic compositional style both here in the Americas and throughout Europe as well.

'... now the ancient sources of our modern colors ...'

Organizing the musical colors. An easy way to understand the music theory of today is to get hip to its history. For truth be told, era by era, new layers of art are added by music loving artists and thinkers. As each new generation further expanded what we knew and could do with the pitches, we evolve the next new. And with our research engines of today, any numerical year can provide us with a historical window into the life and times of the musical pitches of that day and what cats did with them to make their music dance.

Hollywood even gives us a sort of visual / audio wayback machine with their catalogue movies. Any era of history, and they've created some video capturing the scene. As there's usually a music score for the film that depicts the peoples and physical aspects of any era with music, all sorts of new ideas can conjure. And while not all a movie's music will be 'period exact', chances are somewhere in the score is a more legit recreation of the music of that era that's close enough, for jazz :)

There's even a fair chance there will be a cliche lick or idea, those super character timeless bits of music that in an instant, can capture the era with a set the mood aura of a point in our collective histories. Easy, cool and a fun to explore at the end of the day, movies and their musical scores are a cornucopia of our global musics and the histories they represent.

Chances are that other curiosities and questions will arise while reading along, pursue them and you'll discover other worlds and ways of life that love their music too, that all can contribute today to create the true and ever evolving Americana musics we love, both interpreting the old songs and imagining the new ones.

' ... first into the mists of our Euro antiquity ...'

( 1 ) 2500 years ago or so, the ancient Greek Pythagoras, created the 'cycle of 5th's' that we still use today. His work forms a pillar of our music theory system, which in this text is labeled and described as the 'silent architecture' of our music. We never hear it but it's magics are always in play.

Legend has it that Pythagoras discovered the principles while hearing a blacksmith's hammer strike blows to an anvil, hearing "tones within a tone", our fundamental pitch and its overtones, he set out to better understand and define these natural phenomena of sound through the mathematics he loved.

He did this by building a one stringed instrument called a monochord, in which string length and points within could be accurately measured. Coaxing forth the natural overtones from the string, just like we can do today on any ol' stringed instrument, Pythagoras determined, by ear, that the intervals of the octave, the perfect 5th and its inverse the perfect 4th, were the 'purest' tones of our local musical universe. And that's why we still call them perfect today.

The softer 'overtone' sounds jump right out when properly coaxed from their location on a length of taut string and seemed to correspond to the pitches heard within the 'clang and ring' of the blacksmith's hammer. Moving from his fundamental starting pitch up a perfect 5th, then from that pitch up another 5th, i.e., C to G to D to A etc., Pythagoras envisioned a cycle of pure 5th's that closes upon itself. Creating a loop of pitches, that includes the 12 different pitches of our present day, equal tempered chromatic scale or loop. For everything must loop and close n'est-ce pas?

Unfortunately for Pythagorus' cycle of pure 5th's, and anyone else's for that matter, his ending pitch was a wee bit sharp of his starting pitch. We call this out of tuneness, that this circle of 5th's does not close on its original pitch level, the 'Pythagorean comma.' The 'why' of this comma baffled musicians, astronomers and mathematicians alike, taking nearly 2000 years to figure out and create an acceptable musical solution.

While probably meaningless in its day to the players working the magic, whom presumably all played by ear, this 'tuning comma' as a mathematics problem will roil over the continent, through dozens of intellects unsolved until the dawn of the 17th century. And even once solved, the 'new pitches' were resisted for another century or so, yet folks persevered :)

And yet from this era, we do gain and retain four of the seven modes we still use everyday today in making our musics. From this earliest era, the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian modal colors still work the ancient magics. And surely everyday these days, we get to rub these old 'comma pitches' against the 'new tuned' to make our Americana blues melodies. Read this whole story in the Isacoff book, an amazing tale by a masterful storyteller for all who remain curious to know.

' ... notation begins the written record of a melody ...'

( 2 ) Set the waybac for 1200 years past tense Europe, so around 850 AD, and we find the development of what is termed 'mnemonic' note symbols for music notation. As the term implies, musicians created a series of symbols to 'help them remember' their lines. Sound familiar? To rote learn your lines ? Developed in part by the monks and nuns in various European monasteries, it sets the notes of a melody as 'pitch levels' but cannot account for the rhythms within that really brings it to musical life.

The 'timing solution' comes a bit later, to us as 'mensural notation', beginning around 1250 or so. The solution was to use different shaped notes for their various time values, as measured to a steady beat moving through time that creates our measures or bars of music. We 'set the pitch level symbols in moving time.'

Around 1350 in France, these mensural symbol shapes are refined, becoming capable of achieving a higher degree of rhythmic complexity of the beats, all within defined measures of time. So just a more exacting ability developed through refinement, all to better notate for posterity, melodic 'essence.' These are the symbols we still use today.

So from this point forward and up to today, any groove that is countable is then notate-able in symbols on paper, and able to be recreated as such by cats who read. So ... song writing becomes a legit profession ... ? Well yes !

wiki ~ mnemonic notation
wiki ~ mensural notation
wiki ~ notation history
moving through time

note shapes / writing skills

learn songs by heart

song writing

showbiz professions

With this new way to record their music, these cats could now write out everything they were already doing and songs they already knew by heart. This ability, along with the new works that came into being, and surely in making extra copies of course, created a whole new dimension of musical opportunities, now including those people with various writing skills in the mix with players.

We moderne's get to see this type of game changing ability to 'capture musical art' in our own recent history with the invention of the tape recorder in America in the later 1800's. And by the 1930's, musicologists such as John Lomax are roaming America in search of our old melodies. By getting recordings of the early folk and blues artists and songs, which later we're transcribed off the recording to music notation symbols on paper.

Quick review. The capabilities we of notating music in writing, on paper, is achieved through a 1000 years or so of refinement of its symbols. There was a always 'just a better way to do a something.' Keep in mind that while this 1000 year notation refinement is evolving, so is the tuning of the pitches. Plus the evolutions within the families of musical instruments, that bring the pitches to life, in the skilled hands of the musicians, who form and play in groups, and play songs for, mostly dancing. :) And of course today we have MIDI, and all the new ways to capture and notate our ideas.

wiki ~ John Lomax
wiki ~ tape recorder

wiki ~ musical instrument classification



' ... melody reigns in the music ...'

( 3 ) 1000 years ago, using Pythagorus' pitches and cycles, for Medieval musicians and composers monophonic music was the rage. Mono meaning one and phonic meaning sound, this rather ancient style of composition / performance consists of one main melody that everyone in the band plays, sings or motorizes on the drum. Strings and wind instruments have always been popular. The voice of course becomes the caller and teller of their stories.

The monophonic style is among the oldest compositional forms of music we have record of, and has been used in many styles of the many cultures of our world. Listening to the musical sounds of our own American Native music is a good representation of indigenous, monophonic music. The Gregorian styled chanting of Medieval Europe are also considered to be composed in the monophonic style.

wiki ~ monophonic music

Gregorian chants

We can hear a mostly monophonic approach today when listening to 'Irish fiddle musicians', where each of the instruments involved play the same melody line together, musically termed in 'unison.' The monophonic sound also helped to shape our early American blues. At the religious revival meetings were the early Gospel sounds emerged, everyone sang the melody. And while not everyone was a trained singer and on pitch with the actual written melody, the combined sound of variably pitched voices sounding together, created an 'out of tune quality' that the blues artist captured as 'blue' notes when rubbed against the notes of the piano, an in tune voices.

Often accompanied by the six string guitar, the blues artist often sings their melody pitches a wee bit out of tune with their strings, or use a 'slide' on the strings to find their blues notes 'in between' and work the magic. These blue notes oftentimes live between the pitches created by the frets, kinda like a blue 'sweet and sour' of pitches but mixed all together nice over a big, quarter note, 4 / 4 thump. Once heard, the sounds and potential power of this monophonic based style and variations are never really forgotten.

And from the earthy simplicity of one melodic line it was inevitable that sooner or later ...

'The evolution of a two stranded musical DNA helix ...'

( 5 ) Around 700 years ago, polyphonic music solidly emerges in written records and on through to today, is still a main course for composers, players, listeners and everyone in between. In between back then and now, Bach mastered the times of his day in this 'polyphonic' way of making music. Sounds like this ...

As the name implies, the "poly" means many, so polyphony is "many sounds." Artists collage them together in all sorts of unique ways. In our case as theorists and musicians, polyphony generally means two or more melody lines played simultaneously, oftentimes with independent rhythms in each line or voice. And how we synch them up determines the band.

Quite a dramatic increase in complexity over the monophonic style, polyphony is an important part of the pre-Baroque period style of European music and perhaps reached its apex many centuries later with the fugues of German master J.S. Bach pictured just above. Our Americana New Orlean's styled jazz is bigtime swinging polyphony, making it up as we go along, and usually more than two voices all motorized with a rhythm section for dancing. That's our history :)

With the creation of the piano forte in 1700's in Italy, the next advancement in music complexity is in some ways a step backwards towards the monophonic one line style. Although this time, any single melody line is lusciously supported by chords, and will be henceforth be :)

Now, the individual voices of polyphony, many voices, can align themselves vertically, as stacked pitches sounded out as chords, and placed progressions with cadential motions. We theorists love scarfin' this tamale, commonly ordered up as 'harmony.'

For with the 'equal tempering' of the pitches, tuned into and through the multiple octave range / pitches of the piano, all 12 pitches now become equal partners in a vast and smoothly tuned tonal universe, full on capable of mono, poly, chords and with a sustain pedal, as more a any one of us might imagine. If there's a 'beyond a super theory game changer' kaboom, then this one is it.

For in this mechanism / instrument; all the notes, the letter pitches, scales, modes, arpeggios into chords, motored in rhythms, a pedal to shape the timing of any colorful motion, the theories that glue all this together, anyone who wants to push a button or two, can bring to aural life any idea that comes to mind. Imagine that ?

'Ding ding ding dang ...' and there's our motive. Shall we improvise on that motive? Write these improvised ideas down to play them the same ways as next time? Build our motive ideas into a form? Form it into a song? Form up songs into a symphony? Or an opera or a movie score, that tells a story that we tell in music ?

Such is the life and role of the musical artist since 1700. The year Christofi figured out and built up the wooden mechanism that support and controls each keystroke on a piano. One instrument that includes 63,000 years of evolutions. Totally a cool instrument to know about. Here's a picture of a really old piano, still in good shape, that always could play the jazz.

... the piano, give it a whirl ...

' ... getting hip with the harmony ...'

( 6 ) Nearly 500 years ago, homophonic music began emerging at the early dawn of what was to become the European Baroque era (1650's) and later flowered brilliantly during the Classical period (1750's) and forward. And from this point forward in Western music, the homophonic style of musical composition has had no peers and has never looked back.

The homophonic style of music, meaning literally 'same sound', is characterized by one melody line supported by the distinct vertical 'stacking' of pitches of chords.

Today, while we may take these wonderfully powerful musical components for granted, lest we forget that at their emergence, chords and the lovely effect they create when paired with a single melody line, was a rather huge leap forward for all of the musical crafts people of the day; the composers, players, divas, builders, tuners, production people et all and dramatically altered the course of our musical evolution, the path of which of course we continue to follow today in the digital age.

wiki ~ Baroque
wiki ~ Classical

'Americana ... the opportunities of a new world are revealed ...'

( 7 ) Nearly 400 years ago, a 'New World' of Americana was developing on the American continents. Peoples from across the globe were coming to the Americas to merge with our native peoples. And of course they brought their musics.

From heartland Native American artists, the 'big 4' pulse of their rhythms creates the big beat for melodies of minor pentatonic colors. Banjos, open tuned (?) mostly to a major triad from Africa. Equal temper tuned pianos from Europe. Spanish styled classical six string guitars traveling up from Mexico. And always voices to carry the melodies, to carry and convey the traditional stories of all these peoples, that were in it together, as they made an new Americana life and a new music. This 'all in it together' comes across strong in "Jazz" by Ken Burns. And thus, getting along with one another is the way of survival in a new land.

American music today boasts of its mixing of all of the cultures of the world. And amazingly it does. Especially now in our modern ways of 'sampling ' to create songs as collages of samples, deftly knit together into modern coolness for storytelling.

pool of 12
musical styles

In combining African and European ideas, places monophonic African melodies over European equal temper harmony, Moving through time on the steady quarter note pulse from Native American musics, all the elements are in place and we're really just an accent away from bringing the swing. Add in the military cadences for marching, and sooner of later the 2 and 4 beats get accented. This sets in motion 'pull' we associate here with swing.

pool of 12
musical styles

' blues roots ... the polyrhythms and swing are built right in ...'

Around 200 years ago, wiki history tells us that there was a park in New Orleans called 'Congo Square.' Legend has it that on most Sundays, the drummers from the farms would come in to town, for a jamm session at this park. Once word got out, the dancers and singers and string and horn players came out too. From these musics, and the layering of independent drum parts, is where we get out rhythm potentials. This music probably sounded a bit like this.

Feel the swing in the groove? That 'pull' as one drummer lays a bit of the mark to syncopate their contribution to the mix? Click it again. Feeling this 'pull' begins our own quest to get our lines and rhythms to swing ... for it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.'

For the rest of this Americana music history, set aside time for the 10, two hour episodes of "Jazz", by Ken Burns and Crew. Fabulous, informative and fun, taken in parts or together, just a super illuminating historical education as to why our musics evolved as they did, creating a perspective of where we are today. For jazz leaning cats? Probably essential at some point, to bring the theory evolutions and music it created into a historical focus of the artists that created the magics.

wiki ~ Congo Square
wiki ~ Babatunde Olatunji
wiki ~ "Jazz" Ken Burns

'... Banjo, please meet Guitar :)

Surely the story is out now how many of our early southern Afro settlers were making and playing their banjos, and when the European Spanish six stringer came up and on through Texas and points beyond from the Latin Americas, word got around quick. That they were tuned differently was never an issue. For the top four strings of the six are just a one string, one twist away from the four string open tuning of the banjo. Like this, example 1.

the banjo
wiki ~ C.F. Martin

As early blues artists could easily transfer their four string banjo tune-ings to six strings, add a slide, and be right with all their banjo magics on the guitar. By the 1830's, 'CF' Martin Guitars was in production in NYC, everyone wanted one, 'and the rest they say is history.'

'and now decade by decade starting with Mr. Armstrong ...'

One hundred years back then forward from there. Writing this in the year 2020, going back 100 years is a perfect setting on this waybac time control feature.

The solo voice in jazz. It's the 'roaring 20's in America and Louis Armstrong is a reigning king of Americana's most popular music, jazz. Thanks to the leadership Edison and Tesla and crews, the radio is coming full on across the country. In the later 20's, we find Armstrong paired up with his mentor and group leader Joe Oliver. In such a trumpet duo, he's tasked to trade riffs with Oliver as well as ensemble work with full rhythm section.

With this backing band, Armstrong gradually expands to longer solos of his own design and emerges as a true first of the jazz soloists. Now, one's own 'voice and artistic signature' trumpet tone and phrasing will float over radio waves and make Armstrong a star, the first of many pure local and totally global Americana 'blues and jazz stars' of the next 100 years.

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong
wiki ~ Thomas Edison
wiki ~ Nikola Tesla
wiki ~ "Jazz" Ken Burns
evolution of the 1/8th note

Invents swing. While Armstrong's rhythm sections played a steady four beat; 'chop chop chop chop' style rhythms, 'Armstrong is credited with 'floating' his melody lines above while accenting the '2 and 4', and the upbeats of a 1/8 note pairing.

We know from recordings that Amstrong's vocal lines are sometimes WAY behind the beat of the band, which when kept up long enough to the band's steady big 4 beat, creates that sense of 'pull' in time which we can physically feel and groove to, sets our toes tapping, brings a smile this physical 'pull' of notes moving through meaured time we call swing.

This next idea attempts to write out in standard notation about 50 years of evolution of a swing rhythm of the eighth note, an essential core rhythm subdivision of our Americana blues / jazz improvisations.

Armstrong's recording of "Tiger Rag" is considered a first preserved recording of his swing. Even today, push or accent a bit on the 2 and 4 in of a walking, quarter note bass line and feel the inherent swing and forward motion come alive in the line. Lead voice in 1/8th notes leans on in to find the swing.

The swing era of the 1930's. This new found way to groove fills the dancefloor like never before as the 'lindy hop' dance style is the rage. The radio is nationwide and the airwaves are full of swing. Bandleaders Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman becomes kings of swing, improvisers create melodic lines that thread through chord changes, and big band jazz orchestras all swinging together in the homophonic style; one melody line over changes and more often than not, with a featured vocalist.

In the mid 1930's, the Count Basie orchestra comes out of the Midwest to show the NYC cats a new way to swing, and swing hard. With a bit of country in this style of swing from the Midwest Americana, a decade or two later Basie's 'jump' becomes lookout ... the 'rockabilly' of the 50's. Louis Jordon, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.

There's a deep rooted blues from the deep South in the 1930's, making its way North on the radio airwaves and buses during the 30's. Three chords and the truth, and the stories told in such a way that all folks in this countrywide economic depression can relate to. This blues is heading for Chicago.

To begin the sunsetting of the 'big band swing era', in 1939, Coleman Hawkins records "Body and Soul." Using an arpeggiated approach to his solo, a new way of 'through the changes' improvisation is sparked to life. This changes near all the jazz music that comes after its release, at least for the next 20 years or so.

wiki ~ Duke Ellington
wiki ~ Benny Goodman
wiki ~ Count Basie
wiki ~ Louis Jordan
wiki ~ Chuck Berry
wiki ~ Elvis Presley
wiki ~ Chicago blues

Bebop of the 1940's. The economics of these war years reduce the size of the big bands into smaller groups. Mostly with a couple of horns and rhythm section, thee groups are sleeker, and in music, sleeker often means faster tempos. Jazz is still America's 'pop' music, and along with country and the blues, create the Americana catalogue.

Americana music reaches a new pinnacle of complexity, both compositionally in its theory and in technical prowess, with the advent of bebop. Pioneered by saxophonist Charlie Parker, this music finds blue's hued diatonically melodies supported by chord progressions that cycle through all of the diatonic positions within a key center. The accelerated tempos of bebop gradually gets the dancers to sit and listen, but only till the rhythm and blues kicks on in in the late 40's and forward, then they're back on the dancefloor with their big smiles.

wiki ~ bebop

Rockin the 1950's. Rhythm and blues crosses over to rock and roll. And while there's still a 'pop' on the 2 and 4 beats of 4 / 4 time, to bring the swing, rock phrasing hits and lands on beat 1. Rock will go on to influence every other style we gots. For it's fun, easy to play, creates quite a scene and dancing is not only permitted ... but encouraged :)

Everything takes off anew in the 50's. For America is post - world war and won, so not it's time to rebuild the world, or help everyone else rebuild their world. At the lower end of Manhattan island, the beacon light is lit. There's a new dawn.

In jazz, the beboppers have gone to hard bop, a more rhythm and blues based style with a dollop of gospel. The pace is slower and the swing runs deep. Drummer Art Blakey and trumpeter Miles Davis lead the way back to root blues and gospel carrying the new message.

Blakey building in a new sense and call of the ancient Afro drumming. Davis' horn and leadership crafting possibly 'perfect' improvised group art, captured in recordings in single takes. Their 'calls' will be heard by many, and responded to this very day today.

wiki ~ bebop
wiki ~ Art Blakey
wiki ~ Miles Davis

Rockin' the whole USA in the 1960's. Rock music has basically taken over both the AM and FM the airwaves. Pop on AM, the 'heavier' rock on FM, mostly. The signature rock beat lick, that it 'hit's on beat 1 with a snare pop on beat 2', fills the dancefloors globally. By '62', the truth of the blues has gotten to London with Muddy Waters and friends, and the younger Brit rockers have gotten badly bitten, and will always carry this need for blues healing in their own art, blues rock. An invasion of the $US market is about to arrive.

Country music, always a mainstay in Americana, gets on the rockin' electric wave and fills the airwaves dancefloors coast to coast. Guitarist and producer Chet Atkins helps Elvis lead the new rockin' country way.

Merging Atkins' seriouso classical guitar chops with the essential 'three chords and the truth' of the blues and gospel in Elvis, they pair up to make the homespun folk and country stories we all love, and need, to hear.

Jazz in the 60's jumps right into the rockin' fray too as we motor up for the 60's Americana's idea of freedom; that all are created equally. All becomes a cry to listen, behold and recon with. For as many will now learn, 'you can't hold a person in a ditch without being down there with them.' As that gets old for everyone, 'jazz rock' brings together large gatherings of like-minded folks, giving them something they can understand individually and share together as community.

Hearing jazz music, maybe because it is often simply instrumental with no human voice in the mix, its melodies seem to make us imagine a different sense of things as we listen and experience; of ourselves, of how we are thinking about what we are thinking about, what visions and visuals are conjured by a mind not engaged with focusing in on spoken words as a language, but in pitches phrased as language moving through time. Add in the big boom boom of rock and wow, now everyone is going to get some :)

wiki ~ Fender guitars
wiki ~ country music
wiki ~ Chet Atkins
wiki ~ Declaration Of Independence
wiki ~ Jazz 1960

The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Americana pop music goes super kaboom with three composers in the 60's. Coupled with radio and record stores, fans purchased a 45 for their own collections, and through the 'pop music of the day, got their message out.

wiki ~ Stevie Wonder
wiki ~ The Beatles

In theory. To neatly describe the completeness of this collection of music, in its combined contribution to our understanding of our modern music theory of today; far out near absolute. For in combining these growing libraries, numbering well well over 100 songs, these cats visit near every nook and cranny of our modern palette of colors, and setting the pitches moving through pop time, (music that is easy to dance to).

For every one of their songs is, as they might say in academia, 'well crafted.' For it has a melody, chords, rhythms, words and a hook, a chorus, a verse with a story, a form, a message, often a reprise with lyrics, an intro, outro and many many embellishments of all these elements, that together brings us a newness of 'filigree' to the vocabulary of popular music. For readers here, the author came of age with these songs, knowing not an eighth from quarter, until 30 years later. When I realized that I'll use these songs to reverse engineer the theory and our curriculum for learning it. Click over to explore more of this way of learning the theory.

1970's and onward to today, and the rest as they say is history :) Make your own way and your own history through exploring. For in seeking the 'history' of your own curiosities, a pathway unfolds that already knows and is waiting for you to begin. A pathway that loops again and again, knowing there's no place like home.

~ inside outside ~

Inside / outside. This next section is devoted to the history of the evolving tonality and its expansions beyond to 'outside' the diatonic 'inside' realm.

The last 100 years or so. Tis a while back now that a collegiate colleague mused about how the European classical cats took about 400 years to move their art from what we Americana jazz players think of tonally as 'inside' to 'outside', whereas in our Americana musics, this transition too about 100 years.

Inside implies diatonic. That the pitches of the melody perfectly align with the pitches of the harmony. 'Inside' and thus 'through the changes', is a fundamental academic basis of improvisation. It's a way an improvising artist can 'conjure up' ideas given any set of changes, form, theme and variations et all.

Outside implies beyond the diatonic. Knowing that we've 12 pitches in total, and we need fully seven to create the diatonic realm, ANY sounding in any component of any one of these five and we could be said to be moving 'outside.' Outside of the diatonic realm.

While 98% of our songs are nearly pure diatonic in spirit, meaning we can feel its gravity and predict its cadencing, 97% of these songs have some of the blue hue somewhere, for it's our pure Americana spice. And in getting some 'blue', we borrow some outside and bring it on in, fits like a glove.

In 400 years of Euro classical. So from the completely inside magic of Monteverde, Scarlotti, Bach, Hayden to Handel and east to Mozart and Beethoven, who's late quartets were to 'outside' thus unplayable in his own day, on through to Brahms and even Wagner, with his veiled half diminished Tristan chord, and on to Paris and the 'French Five's, then into Hindemith, Stravinsky and Shostokovich, to the atonal cats of Schoenberg, Ono and Glass, the latters who's use of silence in one way provides the perfect 'outside' closure to this 400 year mostly Euro journey for the evolution of tonality, from inside to out.

wiki ~ classical music composers

To less than 100. America's 'inside to outside' tonality journey is not quite a quarter in length of the Euro cats, so about 80 years worth of development give or take, and excepting the 'blues hue' weavings through songs in all our styles, 'outside' is probably a 99% a jazz thing.

Commencing around 1880 or so with ragtime, the early diatonically generated 'inside' gospel and folk musics now gives room to include some 'outside', mainly by merging in cycles of V7 / dominant type chords, the basis of blues harmony, first sounded in the deep South.

From this point forward, 1900, there will always be the potential for the 'diatonic inside' to have a bit of the 'non-diatonic outside', as the blue notes of the melody and two pitch tritone in the V7 chords can create the 'outside blues rub' at the drop of a hat.

When true Americana pioneer Louis Armstrong takes center stage, and by the 1920's is mixing not only his new swing rhythms but powerful blue notes as well into the conventional V7 styled chord progressions of the day, the components of rhythms, pitch and form are in place for artists to begin to organically evolve the inside diatonic to the outside non-diatonic.

By 1960, at least in jazz and jazz rock, there's a 'free style' of improvisation. And when created in moving time, is commonly termed as 'outside.' So from tonal and predictable to atonal and free, and a lot in between, in less than 100 years. So, now we have a spectrum of inside / outside tonality to go with a spectrum of styles to weave together. Cool ?

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong
wiki ~ "Sweet Georgia Brown" pub. 1925
wiki ~free jazz

~ theorists through history ~


c. 570 – c. 495 BC

Creates our silent architecture of the pitches.

wiki ~ Pythagoras


c. 375 – c. 335 BC

Among a lifetime of doing good deeds, solidifies for us today finding pitches by ear.

wiki ~ Aristoxenus


c. AD 100 – c. 170

Among a lifetime of doing good deeds, helped to solidify for us today pitches through mathematics.

wiki ~ Ptolemy


c. 477–524 AD

Music is a window, and that through understanding its mathematics, opens a way to understand the local universe.

wiki ~ Botheus


c. 991-1033 AD

Among a lifetime of doing good deeds, solidify for us today our notation symbols.

wiki ~ Guido


c. 1488 – 1563 AD

Among a lifetime of doing good deeds, solidifies for us today the modes.

wiki ~ Glarean


c. 1517 – 1590 AD

Among a lifetime of doing good deeds, solidifies for us today the early arts of counterpoint and tuning.

wiki ~ Zarlino

Vincenzo Galilei

c. 1520 – 1591 AD

Created Galileo the astronomer, and as a monster lutenist himself, wrote an instructional text for lute, proponent of the 'rule of 18', which is the mathematics for the proper placement of stationary frets for creating pitches capable of expressing an equal temperament tuning of the pitches.

wiki ~ Vincenzo Galilei


c. 1548–1620 AD

First to write about creating 12 equal pitches within the octave numerically created with the '12th root of 2.'

wiki ~ Simon Stevin
12th root of 2


c. 1571 – 1630

Universal planetary mathematics applied to music, using newer geometric ratios to create the pitches, not the older, original arithmetic pitch ratios from the Greeks.

wiki ~ Kepler


c. 1683 – 1764 AD

Created an instructional text for the writing of music based on a tonic pitch, and within a key center.

wiki ~ Rameau


c. 1874 – 1951 AD

Developed the 12 tone serialism technique for composing music.

wiki ~ Schoenberg

If ever necessary. Though not formatted out in any organized way, all of the combined natural and mathematical principles to create the full spectrum of Americana musics is included in the dialogue of this book. From the oldest flute on through the overtone series and its taming through equal temper to create chords, the rule of 18 and newer fret spacing, why the dots on the neck are where they are and how to temper that monster piece of chordal furniture we affectionately know as a piano, it's all in here somewhere.

Still gotta build all of it of course, physical to make the pitches, and from scratch. So if future hipsters ever need to create the blues from scratch, and recreate the musics all the way through to the how, and why, of songs such as Coltrane's "Giant Steps" happened, the whole puzzle to recreate this music is in this e-book.

Review. The history of music is a fascinating story that chronicles the evolution of the societies in which we have lived. Our story in this chapter starts with the Neanderthal flute, a cave bear bone fashioned into a flute some 50,000 years ago. We then moved up about 47,000 years to the ancient Greeks and Pythagoras in particular. He is credited with creating the cycle of 5th's, giving us our present day 12 pitch system of music.

Early Western music was monophonic and created from one main, unaccompanied melody line. This evolved by adding additional, independent melody lines into polyphony. The next major phase came about with the invention of the piano and its eventual need for equal temper tuning. This new system made possible the full palette of chords or harmony for composers. Music written thus is said to be homophonic and uses stacks of pitches or chords struck simultaneously to support a single melody line.

German composer and player J.S. Bach, while a prolific composer of the polyphonic style, was also said to be a champion of this new way of tuning called equal temper, of the wonderful chords it produces and its equality for each of the 12 pitches.

Our American sounds come from a varied mix of music from cultures from all over the world. Knowledge of music history is cool in that it provides perspective of our present by looking at the past, while we can combine these two tenses and speculate about the future. So cool.

"I think therefore I am."

wiki ~ Rene Descartes

The American fabric of sounds of course includes all of the folk music of the many other immigrant groups that came and to a certain extent, are still coming to America, often retaining their original ethnic flavor. For example, we can clearly hear this today in the music from the British Isles, or Klezmer music, the traditional sounds of the Eastern European Jewish folks.

More recently is the addition of the Latin percussion sounds into the jazz of the 1940's or the Jamaican reggae beats in the 70's. And while American musicians are often the leaders in setting global trends, as say in pop music and culture, without the continued importing of new ideas from around the world, I sometimes wonder if our musical leadership would be sustained. For at the core of the Americana genius lies the concept of diversity, that healthy, natural and invigorating principle that keeps our music fresh, evolving and alive.

"Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going."
wiki ~ Jim Ryun

"We knew this wasn't going to be easy, change never is."

wiki ~ Becky Sauerbrunn

"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as the result of hard work."

wiki ~ Booker T. Washington

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

Find a mentor / e-book / academia Alaska. Always good to have a mentor when learning about things new to us. And with music and its magics, nice to have a friend or two ask questions and collaborate with. Seek and ye shall find. Local high schools, libraries, friends and family, musicians in your home town ... just ask around, someone will know someone who knows someone about music and can help you with your studies in the musical arts.

go to a public library and ask the librarian

Always keep in mind that all along life's journey there will be folks to help us and also folks we can help ... for we are not in this endeavor alone :) The now ancient natural truth is that we each are responsible for our own education. Positive answer this always 'to live by' question; 'who is responsible for your education ... ?

Intensive tutoring. Luckily for musical artists like us, the learning dip of the 'covid years' can vanish quickly with intensive tutoring. For all disciplines; including all the sciences and the 'hands on' trade schools, that with tutoring, learning blossoms to 'catch us up.' In music ? The 'theory' of making musical art is built with just the 12 unique pitches, so easy to master with mentorship. And in 'practice ?' Luckily old school, the foundation that 'all responsibility for self betterment is ours alone.' Which in music, and same for all the arts, means to do what we really love to do ... to make music :)


"These books, and your capacity to understand them, are just the same in all places. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."

wiki ~ Abraham Lincoln

Academia references of Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's finest resident maestros !

~ comments or questions ... ? ~

~ jacmuse@ak.net ~