Category Archives: World music

Folk lexicon

weavers

Folk lexicon: Lexicon of the modern folk fan was published by Caffè Lena in 2013.

This free online resource provides information on the folk music scene as it has evolved (mainly in North America) since the 1950s. Categories include awards, folk festivals, instruments, musical styles, publications, radio shows, and record companies, along with discussions of terminology and corny nicknames.

Above, the Weavers were influential founders of the contemporary scene. Below, the group’s 1980 reunion at Carnegie Hall.

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Lloyd Miller and Oriental jazz

A multi-instrumentalist and multi-linguist who has lived and performed in Tehran, Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Stockholm, and Frankfurt, Dr. Lloyd Miller has been fusing jazz and world music since the early 1960s.

The California native finds that the modal music of Asia is completely compatible with the African American tradition. “It is all the same musical system,” he says. “The same spirit, the same feeling, the same notes, and some of the same melodic patterns and repetitive and mirroring phrases.”

Long documented only by rare recordings, Miller’s music can now be heard in the compilation A lifetime of Oriental jazz (Jazzman JMANCD 208).

This according to “Jazz in an unfamiliar key: The wanderings of Lloyd Miller” by Francis Gooding (The IAJRC Journal XLIV/2 [June 2011] pp. 9–13]). Below, a compilation of Miller’s broadcasts.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, World music

Jazz and globalization

 

The music of the South Korean vocalist Na Yun-seon may be understood as challenging which sounds may be classified as jazz, and who may be included in its audiences.

Na may also be seen as negotiating the increasing freedom of jazz that stems from the proliferation of media globalization to imagine new interrelations between the political and economic hierarchies that influence the flow of such media objects. She thereby addresses a tension fundamental to the dynamics of globalization.

This according to “Jazz at large: Scapes and the imagination in the performances of Moses Molelekwa and Nah Youn-Sun” by  Jan Harm Schutte (Jazz research journal IV/1 [May 2010] pp. 43–56). Below, Na’s Calypso blues exemplifies some of the challenges that she proposes.

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Grainger and world music


Today, on Percy Grainger’s 130th birthday, let’s recall his reflections on the two broad stylistic groups he discerned in world music.

Grainger believed that strong musical and human characteristics unite the musical output of the Nordic countries, which include Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and several others.

The melodic habits of Nordic music are more like those of China and other Mongolian countries than those of such European countries as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Austria. The Mongolian-Nordic musical tradition favors solemn or spiritual unadorned melodies with long sustained notes, gapped scales, and a tendency to underlying polyphonic thought. The Nordic musical mind seeks inspiration in nature.

In contrast, the southern or Mohammedan tradition favors nervous, excitable, and florid tunes with quickly fluctuating notes, closely filled-up scales, and a tendency to seek surface complexity in technical passagework rather than in harmony.

This according to Characteristics of Nordic music, a talk broadcast on New York’s WEVD radio on 4 July 1933. Grainger’s talk is reprinted from a typescript held by the Grainger Museum, Melbourne, in Grainger on music (Oxford: Clarendon 1999, pp. 258–266). Above, Grainger with a radio microphone in 1928; below, some vintage recordings.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, World music

The first Karnatak music conference

On 27 May 1912 the first Karnatak music conference was convened in Thanjāvūr.

Hosted by the celebrated practitioner of Siddha medicine and devotee of Karnatak music Abraham Pandithar (inset, 1859–1919), the conference’s stated purpose was “to promote an academic interest in and to diffuse a knowledge of all that was best in the science and practice of Indian Music; to correct all conflicting notions in regard to Ragams and determine the precise and scientifically correct methods; to concert measures to the advancement of Indian music.”

At the conference Pandithar established the society Sangeetha Vidhyalaya Mahajana Sangam; the group met five more times between 1912 and 1914.

This according to “A centenary of music conferences” by Sriram Venkatakrishnan (Madras heritage and Carnatic music, 25 May 2012). Above, the society’s group photograph, taken after the first morning session; below, Pandithar Thottam, the farm in Thanjāvūr where Pandithar grew traditional medicinal plants.

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Filed under Asia, Ethnomusicology, World music

Digital Library of Appalachia

Produced by the Appalachian College Association, the Digital Library of Appalachia provides online access to archival and historical materials related to the culture of the southern and central Appalachian region. The database’s contents are drawn from special collections of Appalachian College Association member libraries.

Above, the Bog Trotters Band in Galax, Virginia, in 1937. Below, the legendary Roscoe Holcomb at home in Kentucky.

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Filed under North America, Resources, World music

World & traditional music

Part of the British Library’s Sounds project, World & traditional music features tens of thousands of recordings by ethnomusicologists and collectors, including those of the pioneering Africanists Peter Cooke (b.1930), Kenneth Gourlay (1919–95), Hans-Joachim Heinz (1917–2000), Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980), David Rycroft (1924–97), and Klaus Wachsmann (1907–84). This online resource is available free of charge for noncommercial research, study, and private enjoyment.

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Le fonds Brăiloiu

Established in 2009 by the Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire at the Musée d’Ethnographie in Geneva, Le fonds Brăiloiu is an open-access collection of 3028 recordings by the Romanian ethnomusicologist Constantin Brăiloiu (1893–1958) and his colleagues. The collection has also been issued by VDE-Gallo as Collection universelle de musique populaire/The world collection of folk music: Archives Constantin Brăiloiu, 1913–1953, a set of four CDs.

Above, Brăiloiu records Gheorge Musuleac in Romania in 1928. Below, one of Brăiloiu’s 1941 recordings of the Serbian flute player Milan Trandafir.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, Europe, World music

Charles Seeger and folkness

The folk revival movement is the result of the common folkness of the folk and the supposedly non-folk surfacing in cities. In the meantime the folk has been doing what it has always done: appropriating all of the non-folkness it could.

Perhaps non-folkness is that which tries not to be folkness, while folkness is that which has not discovered more non-folkness than it could assimilate. The two categories may not be mutually exclusive; they may be two aspects of the same entity.

This according to “The folkness of the non-folk vs. the non-folkness of the folk” by Charles Seeger, an essay included in Folklore and society: Essays in honor of Benj. A. Botkin (Hatboro: Folklore Associates, 1966, pp. 1–9).

Above, Charles plays the harmonium for a family musicale in 1921, with his son Pete on his lap. Below, Pete’s half-sister Peggy Seeger performs The foolish frog, a traditional song with a story that Charles made up to entertain his children.

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Filed under Curiosities, Ethnomusicology, Humor, World music

How Cooke heard America singing

A great mystery surrounded I Hear America Singing, the 13-part series that Alistair Cooke produced in 1938: How had the BBC managed to borrow recordings from the Library of Congress when no other broadcaster was allowed access to them?

The circumstances were extraordinary. First, Cooke wrote an eloquent and charming letter to Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress. “When I first became interested in American folk songs,” he wrote, “I had no idea so little had been done in recording, and how desperately hard it is for an amateur to get within earshot of the music he is interested in and excited about….I found that the Library, and only the Library, has recorded a score or more of the songs which can make my series possible.”

Moved by Cooke’s letter and the goal of the series, Putnam agreed to grant one-time rights with notable restrictions: the BBC would send the Library any copies that were made when it returned the recordings; the series would be broadcast live, and only once; and no recordings of the series itself would be preserved. As a result of this arrangement, many recordings were broadcast that had never before been heard by anyone outside the Library.

This according to “Alistair Cooke: A radio and TV icon in the Archive of folk culture” by Stephen D. Winick (Folklife Center news XXVII/1–2 [winter/spring 2005] pp. 6–8). Above, Cooke interviews an unknown singer for the series in 1938. Below, Vera Hall (1902–64) sings Trouble so hard, recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress in the 1930s.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, North America, World music