Impressions (Part II)

A Selected Annotated Bibliography

See Part I here.

Meadows, Eddie S.. 1987. “Ethnomusicology and Jazz Research: A Selective Viewpoint”. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no. 95. University of Illinois Press: 61–70.

Eddie Meadows is a faculty member of the Department of Music at San Diego State University. In this paper, he explores novel musical notational techniques designed to better express jazz music. The representation of ‘blue notes’ plays an important part in this analysis. Better written notation would help bridge jazz performance and written music, allowing for better ethnomusicological research.

Schuller, Gunther.. “Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development”. 43.

Schuller explores the roots of jazz, drawing attention to the limitations of early analysis of the blues scale. Unlike other mainstream authors, Schuller looks at how and why blues notes were adopted by African-American musicians. Blues scales work well with simple tetrachords used in the 1920s, mirroring  quartal harmony East-African singing.

Barrett, Samuel. 2006. “Kind of Blue and the economy of modal jazz”. Popular Music 25/2, Cambridge University Press:185-200.

Samuel Barrett is a faculty member of the Department of Music at Cambridge University. In this paper, he explores the popular association of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue with modal blues and jazz approaches. He asserts that the meaningful use of the blues scale in the album were meant to further 1950s integrationist ideals, but have been smoothed by record companies to reflect less ‘controversial’ ideas.

Charlie Gerard, “Jazz in Black and White”. Blog.

Charley Gerard analyses black and white attitudes on jazz using Bell Hook’s theory of ‘Essentialism’. Gerard explores the use of the blues scale, ‘soul’ and black attitudes towards white jazz musicians. His criticism of Amiri Baraka’s analysis of Paul Desmond and Charlie Parker illustrates inherent biases towards whiteness and classicism in mainstream literature.

Hein, Ethan. “Blue notes and other microtones”. Accessed 11/01/2015.

Ethan Hein’s blog is one of the few online sources that relates the microtonal nature of blue notes to that of Indian, Arabic and Klezmer music. It provides important non-Eurocentric insights into the use of microtonal scales outside equal temperament scales.

Kubik, Gerhard. 2008.  “Bourdon, Blue Notes, and Pentatonism in the Blues: AN AFRICANIST PERSPECTIVE”.  In Ramblin’ on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues, edited by DAVID EVANS, 11–48. University of Illinois Press.

Kubik’s interactions with blues musician Robert Belfour and east African music expert Moya Alia Malamusi cast light on the east African origins of the blue note. Malamusi’s commentary on traditional Delta blues provides a framework for blues ‘theory’ outside the even tempered scale.

Kubik, Gergard. 1999. “Some Characteristics of the Blues”. In Africa and the Blues, 82–95. University Press of Mississippi.

This piece provides insight into the theoretical characteristics of the Blues in a Western sense, but crucially laments the lack of expressive notation. The author draws an analogy between European’s trying to transcribe the blues and classical Chinese notation being used to describe the same music. Several cultural and contextual messages in the blues are lost when placing them in a foreign notational system.

Kubik, Gerhard. 1999. “The Blues Tonal System”. In Africa and the Blues, 118–45. University Press of Mississippi.

This chapter of Africa and the Blues helps cement a theoretical background for tonal systems used in the blues, focusing on ‘blue notes’ around the flattened 3rd and 7th notes of a Western diatonic scale.

Tallmadge, William. 1984. “Blue Notes and Blue Tonality”. The Black Perspective in Music 12 (2). None: 155–65. doi:10.2307/1215019.

Tallmadge draws attention to the lack of consensus on the meaning or origin of the ‘blue note’ amongst mainstream musicologists and ethnomusicologists. Much like in Africa and the Blues[8], a lot of Tallmadge’s theoretical analysis revolves around the flattened 3rd and 7th, though in a decidedly more Western context.

Madura, Patrice D.. 2001. “A Response to David Carr, “Can White Men Play the Blues?: Music, Learning Theory and Performance Knowledge””. Philosophy of Music Education Review 9 (1). Indiana University Press: 60–62.

Madura’s response to a piece by David Carr explores the idea that opposition and oppression are required to produce ‘authentic’ blues. The institutionalization of blues as the music of ‘oppression’ provides important cultural context to the idea that African-American retentions require a unique notational system to be properly expressed.



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