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Latin American Music

Many people in the United States came from Spanish-speaking countries. The south-western part of the United States first belonged to Spain and later to Mexico. There are many Mexican-Americans in such states as California, Texas and Arizona. Mexican folk music is a part of their culture. Mexican folk music and dance is closely related to Spanish and native American folk music. On special occasions, Mexican bands called mariachi bands play their music. The musicians wear large Mexican hats and Mexican cowboy suits with short jackets and silver decorations.

After World War Two many Spanish-speaking people came to the United States from the islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba. They settled in the big cities in the East and in Florida. They brought Latin American music and instruments with them. This music is often called “salsa” (sause, in English). Like the chili sauce, this music is “hot”. It combines Spanish music with African drums and rhythms.

Many popular musicians have Mexican or other Latin American backgrounds. Stars like Richie Valens and Carlos Santana have made Latin American music popular with all Americans.

Jazz musicians have also used Latin American sounds. Miles Davis, Chick Corea and many other jazz stars play music with Spanish or Latin American instruments and rhythms.

Leonard Bernstein, a classical musician, wrote the music for West Side Story. This musical is a New York story based on Shakespear’s play Romeo and Juliet. The two lovers belong to two different teenage street gangs. The two gangs are enemies and the show ends in a street fight. One of the gangs is Puerto Rican. Some of the songs, like “America”, have a Latin or Salsa sound They tell about the problems of young Puerto Ricans growing up in a big American city.




The early years of the century are marked by an outburst of song-writing by German composers, on a scale and with a concentration only equalled by the English Madrigal writers of the end of the XVI century. Composers seized the opportunity presented to them by the lyrical verse of the Romantic poets, and by the development of the pianoforte into a subtle medium of expression, to write songs for domestic use of a new type, often as simple and direct as folksong and, whether easy or difficult, free from the elaborate and decorated style of writing for the voice which was still the rule in the opera of the day. Schubert is, of course, the first and most prolific of the writers of "lieder"; Mendelssohn's contribution is slighter, but Schumann and Brahms are in the great succession.

Little of outstanding merit was produced by English composers of the first half of the century. The steady flow of native song, varying in quality but always maintain­ing an acceptable level, from the lutenists down to Dibdin and Shield, seems to have dried up. The best that appeared was but a pale reflection of Mendelssohn; the average was vapid and sentimental in the extreme. The example from John Hullah has, for all its sentimentality, a restraint and under-statement in both words and music which give it a place as a representative of a somewhat barren period. With Sullivan a genuine revival begins, and though, outside the Savoy operas, he could at times descend to embarrassing sentimentality, his songs to words from Shakespeare have a fresh and attractive ring.

France, again, offers little at this period. The fine songs of Berlioz are outside the range of a book of this kind, but an example from Gounod is given to represent the French spirit with some degree of elegance if not of profundity.

Two colossi, Verdi and Wagner, bestrode the operatic world of the century. The vocal demands of both composers make it almost impossible to include examples from their most significant and fully-developed works. But two extracts from Wagner and one from Verdi are given.

A feature of the XIX century which affected music deeply was the rise of Nationalism in a conscious and often politically active form. The romantic movement had revived the national interest of most European countries in their own particular cultural heritage. At first a slight national flavour was given to music otherwise written in the common musical language of Western Europe—largely Italian in the late XVIII century and German in the early XIX—by the use of characteristic melodic phrases or national dance rhythms, but in the latter half of the XIX century composers strove for a radical remodelling of the whole texture of musical language in their efforts to make their music characteristic of their various countries. Dvorak in Bohemia, Grieg in Norway, and the Russian Nationalists, of whom Moussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov are the chief, are outstanding examples of this trend.

America, with its rapidly expanding population drawn from most of the countries of Europe, its aboriginal Red Indian culture and its large Negro element, did not achieve, during the century, a distinctive “American“ music. The negro influence is first felt in the subject-matter of the songs of Stephen Foster; the genuine negro “spiritual“ was not made a matter of serious study until later in the century, nor was the music of the rapidly vanishing Indians. A realization of the wealth of traditional song, some brought from England, and some springing from the conditions of pioneer­ing—work-songs, rail-road songs and others—came with the XX century. “John Brown’s Body,” to its original words, not those of the national hymn that replaced them, deserves a place here, for its political significance as much as for its direct and vigorous words and tune.




"Popular" and "Serious" music


The most marked feature of the period, as far as Song is concerned, has been the complete cleavage that has come about between "popular" and serious music. Such a situation has not occurred so markedly in the history of music before; at any period, the music that has appealed to the less musically educated has been in the same idiom, however diluted, as contemporary serious music. For instance, the music of Sullivan or Offenbach, or even of the composers of "musical comedy," spoke the same language, differing in degree but not in kind, from that of the serious composers of opera of their day; even the popular and trivial drawing-room ballads of the XIX century were related, at a distance, to the output of the great composers of "lieder." But there is no discernible common ground between Jazz, and its variously-named derivations, and the music of even the less extreme modern composers, not to mention that of Schonberg and his followers.


New Trends


Three main trends of development can be observed in the whole field of XX century music, all of them aimed at, or resulting in, the discovery of new resources to replace or supplement those of the tonal musical language common to the whole of Europe for 200 years; first, a continuation and extension of nationalist ideals, notably by Kodaly (born 1882) and Bartok (1881-1945) in Hungary, and Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) in England; second, a working out of the chromatic language of Wagner to the limits of tonality and beyond, by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), and, more radically, by Schonberg (1874-1951) and his disciples, leading to "a-tonality" and the invention of the "note-row" system of construction; third, the emergence and exploitation of the entirely new kind of popular music mentioned above, which originated with the underprivileged negroes of New Orleans, a music stemming melodically from spirituals and negro work-songs ("blues"), and rhythmically from a remoter African past. So far there are few signs of a merging of these strands into a common idiom, though they are not necessarily mutually exclusive; Bartok used note-rows on occasion, Vaughan Williams was expert at handling two keys at once, and Stravinsky (born 1882) takes from any source what serves his purpose at a given moment. Attempts to merge the jazz idiom with that of "serious" music have not proved very fruitful, though the American George Gershwin (1898-1937), approaching the problem from the popular side, and the Englishmen William Walton (born 1902) in "Facade," and Constant Lambert (1905-1951) in " The Rio Grande," had isolated but striking successes.


England since 1900


Some important composers have already been mentioned, but a few more details of particular developments in this country will help to put into perspective much of the song music of the period in regular use.

Towards the end of the XIX century a new spirit was abroad in English music. Com­posers like Parry (1848-1918) and Stanford (1852-1924) were much influenced by Brahms, and had a feeling for the literary quality of the verse they set to music, which brought back to English song a fastidiousness which had been generally lacking for a century or more. Elgar (1857-1934) used the operatic idiom and form of Wagner in his oratorios with an impressive breadth, but was not always successful in smaller vocal forms. The discovery that genuine folksongs were still being sung in the countryside reached a peak in the researches of Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) and others, whose finds, now in such wide-spread use, inspired such composers as Vaughan Williams and Gustav Hoist (1874-1934) to continued research and to the creation of a musical language which would be as English as that of the Russian Nationalists was Russian. The publication during the 1920's of scholarly editions of the bulk of the surviving English XVI century music had an equally stimulating effect. Most of the outstanding song-writers of the period show these influences to varying degrees, as well as individual qualities; Arthur Somervell (1863-1937), Charles Wood (1866-1926), John Ireland (born 1879), Armstrong Gibbs (born 1889), Herbert Howells (born 1892), Peter Warlock (1894-1930) and others all contributed significantly to the renaissance of English song.

Only since the end of the Second World War have any English composers fallen under the spell of the Schonberg school of composition, and it is too soon to say how permanent an influence this may become. Benjamin Britten (born 1913) has forged for himself a highly individual and distinctive style of writing, particularly for the voice, with which he has already achieved outstanding and international success in opera. His fluency and output are remarkable in modern times, and are possibly comparable in English music only with those of his idol, Henry Purcell




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Date: 2016-04-22; view: 347

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