The Birth of The Blues: Field Recordings
Episode date - February 2, 2007
Of all the shows that we have planned for the “How Music Changed” series, we anticipate that none of them will pose as many challenges as “The Birth of the Blues.” There are two rather obvious reasons for this.
The first and most blatant reason is that there is virtually no recorded evidence, because a) most of the timeframe we cover pre-dates the invention of sound recording, and b) few recordings exist afterward because ‘field’ recordings were deemed to have no commercial value. The second reason this show has been so difficult to produce is due to the enormity of the subject.
The “Blues” managed to infiltrate virtually every music form in existence today, and the ingredients that caused the blues to gel into something definable are incredibly varied. Since none of this was documented properly at the time, it is virtually impossible to speak with absolute authority about the birth of the blues. Most of what we understand is based mostly on conjecture, and on evidence that has since been provided. For clarity and perspective, it would be impossible to overstate the importance of the field recording work of John and Alan Lomax. Special thanks should also be directed to Harry Belafonte, whose own recreations of early African-American music styles provide incredible insight and clarity to a subject that has remained murky for more than 100 years.
I have dedicated a large portion of the past few months wading through endless field recordings, learning textual relationships, noting similarities and deriving conclusions based on what little authentic music actually exists. In essence, I have given myself quite an education on this subject. Now, I hope to share much of what I learned, over the course of this program. Because the subject matter is so important, and it warrants a reasonable amount of depth, “The Birth of the Blues” will be spread out over multiple segments. We will begin with the African and European roots that most likely spurred the blues into existence, and we will conclude with the first recognized blues artist, W.C. Handy. Here is the first part of “How Music Changed - Channel 6-1 – The Birth of the Blues.”
Here are tracks featured in today’s show (the absence of artist names is due mostly to their obscurity);
1) The Birth of the Blues – Frank Sinatra
2) Muslim Call to Prayer
3) Levee Camp Holler
4) I Don’t Mind the Weather
5) It’s Better to Be Born Lucky
6) Ose Yie (Ashanti War Chant)v 7) Ake (Yoruba Work Chant)
8) Hallie Rock
10) Amazing Grace, with ‘Prayer’
11) Amazing Grace – Mahalia Jackson
12) Rock Daniel, with Interview
15) Another Man Done Gone – Vera Ward Hall
16) Baby Please Don’t Go – Them, featuring Van Morrison
17) Trouble So Hard - Vera Ward Hall
18) Natural Blues - Moby