Culture is one of the most important components, which form every
nation. It is one occurrence that distinguishes and unites all the people
who live in the world. But it is impossible to imagine the culture without
music, a very big part of our life.
Every nation has oneТs own music and I think that inside music are
concluded all peculiarities of the nation, it is contain the key for
understand the soul of people.
When I was associated with foreigners (they were Americans) I noted
that they liked our folk music, they frequently listened it and each of
them had without fail an audiocassette with Russian folk music. They told
me about the most popular in United States Russian singers and composers.
Our pop music is not famous outside Russia. But many people from other
countries love our folk and classical music.
On the contrary we know nothing about American folk and classical
music and I would like to discuss about it.
By my opinion a serious study of American music is arrestingly
important at this time. Music has become on of American leading industries
American performing standards are probably now higher than anywhere else in
the world, and Americans are making rapid strides in music education. How
large a part in all this activity is American music to play? How good is
it? How does it differ from Russian music?
There are many signs of an awakened interest in American composition.
More of it is performed, published, and recorded than ever before. This
interest is not confined to the United States alone. During the past few
years Russians who have always liked American popular music (like Brithney
Spears, Madonna, Michael Jackson) have discovered that America have several
composers in the serious field well worth its attention. As for the
foundations, fortunes are being spent to discover, to train and to
encourage American native talent.
We could imagine a pattern, which would include Billings, Harris and
Gershwin. Each of them contributed substantially to American musical
tradition, and when American can grasp their interrelationship they
perceive that there is indeed an American music, a hardy one just beginning
to fell its strength and destined to stand beside their other contributions
to world culture.
I would like to tell about my three favorites American composers.
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn on September 25, 1989. He was by
no means a prodigy, and his musical education was spasmodic. He took
lessons at the piano and later studied harmony. In his teens, he acquired a
job as song plugger at one of the largest publishing houses. Before long he
was writing songs of his own; and in 1919, he was the proud present of a
УhitФ that swept the country Ц Swanee. His rise as one of the most
successful composers for the Broadway stage was rapid.
In 1924, he composed his first serious work in the jazz idiom, the
historic УRhapsody in BlueФ the success of which made Gershwin famous
throughout the world of music. After that he divided his activities between
writing popular music for the Broadway stage (and later for the Hollywood
cinema) and serious works for concert hall consumption. In both fields, he
was extraordinary successful and popular. He died in Hollywood on June 11,
1937, after an unsuccessful operation on the brain.
It is mainly since GershwinТs death that complete awareness of his
musical importance has become almost universal. The little defects in his
major works Ц those occasional awkward modulations, the strained
transitions, the obscure instrumentation Ц no longer appear quite so
important as they did several decades ago. What many did not realize then
and what they now know Ц is that the intrinsically vital qualities of
GershwinТs works reduce these technical flaws to insignificance. The music
is so alive, so freshly conceived, and put down on paper with such
spontaneity and enthusiasm that is youthful spirit refuses to age. The
capacity of this music to enchant and magnetize audiencesТ remains as great
today, even with, familiarity, as it was yesterday, when it came upon us
with the freshness of novelty.
That he had a wonderful reservoir of melodies was, of course, self-
evident when Gershwin was alive. What was not quite so obvious then was
that he had impressed his identity on those melodies Ц his way of shaping a
lyric line, his use of certain rhythmic phrases, the piquant effect of some
of his accompaniments Ц so that they would always remain recognizably his.
Other my favorite American composers is Roy Harris.
Few American composers of XX century and our time have achieved so
personal a style as Roy Harris. His music is easily identified by many
stylistic traits to which he has doing through his creative development:
the long themes which span many bars before pausing to catch a breath, the
long and involved development in which the resources of variation and
transformation are utilized exhaustively, the powerfully projected
contrapuntal lines, the modal harmonies and the asymmetrical rhythms are a
few of the qualities found in most HarrisТs works.
Through Harris has frequently employed the forms of the past
(toccata, passacaglia, fugue, etc), has shown a predilection for ancient
modes, and en occasion has drawn thematic inspiration from Celtic folk
songs and Protestant hymns, he is modern in spirit. His music has a
contemporary pulse, the cogent drive and force of present Цday living;
there is certainly nothing archaic about it. More important still, it is
essentially American music, even in those works in which he does not draw
his ideas from folk or popular music. The broad sweep of his melodies
suggests the vast plains of Kansas, the open spaces of the West. The
momentum of his rhythmic drive is American in its nervousness and vitality.
But in subtler qualities, too, HarrisТs music is the music of America. УThe
moodsФ, Harris once wrote, Уwhich seem particularly American to me are
noisy ribaldry, then sadness, a groping earnestness which amount to
suppilance toward those deepest spiritual yearnings within ourselves; there
is little grace or mellowness in our midstФ.
Such moods as noisy ribaldry, sadness, groping earnestness are caught
in HarrisТs music, and to these moods are added other American qualities;
youthful vigor, health, optimism and enthusiasm.
Harris was born in the Lincoln country, Oklahoma, on February 12,
1898. While still a child, he learned to play the clarinet and the piano.
In 1926 he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. In Paris he wrote
his first major works: of them, The Concerto for the Piano, Clarinet and
String Quartet (1927) was the most successful. His Fifth Symphony has been
dedicated to the УHeroic and Peace-loving People of the Soviet UnionФ.
I guess, we know nothing about American folk music excepting jazz-
singers and composers. The sole and the most famous of them is Louis
Armstrong. I believe that all people know this name and I would like to
tell about my favorite album of his legendary music, itТs called УLouis and
the Good BookФ.
Anyone who has ever read a history book on jazz knows that thereТs a
connection between jazz, spiritual music, work songs and the blues. But
often historians donТt explain this relationship clearly enough. The
phrasing of the arrangements for the brass and read sections in big jazz
bands are of course a direct inheritance from the preacherТs call and the
parishionerТs customary response in church. The some is true for todayТs
funky songs, which derives from gospel. But all this illuminates only
specific styles without saying anything about the antecedence and legacy of
jazz in general. This album introduces some aspects of this history and by
my opinion is the best album of Louis Armstrong.
During the first three years of his recording career, Louis Armstrong
played blues and stomps. In fact, that was what he recorded in his very
first session with king Oliver in 1923. Then same rhythmical airs and other
hits of that era were added. During those years his technique and musical
concepts acquired such a degree of substance and affluence that he became
the first jazz virtuoso. Beginning with the late 20Тs he added a new kind
of melody to his repertoire: the УballadФ. In these interpretations another
side of his talent unfolded, incorporating a whole series of standards into
his jazz repertoire. Standards refer to themes taken up by all musicians.
Thus, he not only demonstrated that jazz phrasing is applicable to these
kinds of melodies and tempos, but he did it so well that the mood of show
ballads became an integral part of every form of jazz. This is not the
first time that Louis Armstrong interprets spirituals. In 1938 he recorded
same versions of four pieces with the Lynn Murray choir for MCA. Shadrack,
based on the traditional form of spirituals, Jonah and the Whale, Going to
Shout All Over the GodТs Heaven and Nobody Knows the Trouble IТve Seen. Two
years later he did a version of Cain and Abel with the big band he was
directing at that time. He had actually recorded Motherless Child in 1930.
While the melody is identical to the second part of the Dear Old Southland
interlude by Creamer and Layton, which he recorded in a duo with the near
legendary pianist Buck Washington, the melody of Motherless Child is also
very close to others that he used in several blues, better known in their
broad versions: Steady Roll, Round the Clock, My Daddy Rock Me. So, a
number of spirituals are blues at least in form.
On My Way in this volume obviously belongs to the blues, which are
most commonly known in the 12 measures from today. One stanza, musically of
four measures Ц iambic pentameter in prosody Ц the stanza is repeated and
finally a third stanza which rhymes with the first, completing the couplet.
Some maintain that in its most archaic form of the blues the first stanza
was repeated three times instead of twice, thus arriving at a verse of 16
measures. On My Way is precisely of this format. Rock My Soul belongs to a
different category of blues with 16 measures. Each chorus consists of a
verse with eight-measures played in Уstop-timeФ, each time in a variation
ending with the same refrain every time. If you know Georgia Grind, which
Louis Armstrong recorded in 1926, or Hesitating Blues, by Handy, which he
recorded in 1954, or even Blue Suede Shoes, you know the shortened version
in 12 measures of this type of blues with refrain. Go Down Moses in this
album is structured in this manner.
A jazz musician playing spirituals? In a sense that Louis Armstrong
has been doing all along.
A few other features need to be painting out. The second chorus in
Down By the Riverside starts with a break (the steady rhythm being
interrupted for an instant) just the way it is in dozen of work songs.
In This Train there is so-called stop-time interlude, which Louis
Armstrong used so successfully in several of his instrumental renderings
during the 20Тs. The Уcall and responseФ formula can be heard in This
Train, DidnТt it Rain, and Go Down Moses.
But for me Louis ArmstrongТs greatest talent is the way he handles
the exposition of a melody. The trumpet solo in Swing low, Sweet Chariot
and down By the Riverside sow what I mean. Of course his play is forceful
and convincing. But there are suspensions; almost imperceptible melodic
changes showing his offbeat rhythm. All this will immediately and most
directly bring out the melody, enhancing it to a point of opening up new
vistas that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
The arrangements are by Sy Oliver who was also the musical director.
OliverТs career as trumpeter Ц composer Ц arranger goes back to the time of
Zack WhyteТs orchestra in the early 30Тs and he, more than anyone else,
created the style of Jimmy LuncefordТs powerful orchestra between 1933 and
1939. After that, he was Tommy DorseyТs arranger and has since become one
of the principal arranger Ц directors for MCA.
As for pop American music I believe that since death of Frank Sinatra
in the U.S have not anyone real pop-singer. By my opinion УSinatra was
America and America was SinatraФ.
Frank Sinatra has been called the greatest popular singer of the
century. Whether that is true, in a century that also offers us Bing
Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and many others is, of course, a matter of personal
emotional choice and, therefore, unknowable. What can be said is that under
the intense and fickle scrutiny of the pop marketplace for nearly two-
thirds of a century, Sinatra's music was in the air the world breathed and
fell out of fashion only long enough for the deserters either to grow up or
recognize that what was offered in its place was almost always trash by
Sinatra was born December 15, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J., and as a
schoolboy nursed ambitions to be a journalist. The earliest known example
of Sinatra on record come from his 1935 performance on the Major Bowes
Amateur Hour, in which he was matched with three other aspirants to sing
"Shine." After the program they were sent out as a group, the Hoboken Four,
on a Major Bowes road show.
Sinatra touched the big time in 1939 when Harry James, fresh out of
the Benny Goodman band and not yet a major star in him own right, hired him
to be vocalists in his new band. In August he recorded "All Or Nothing At
All" with James, but the record would not become a major hit until Columbia
reissued it during the recording ban in 1943. Sinatra was on a fast
trajectory to the top himself. He left James to take an offer from Tommy
Dorsey, with whom he recorded more than 90 songs before he left. The Dorsey
years connected him to Axel Stordahl, who would arrange and conduct the
first four Sinatra records under his own name in 1942 and become his chief
musical architect for the next decade. He also made two movies with Dorsey,
Las Vagas Night at Paramount and Ship Ahoy at MGM. But aside from two
pictures with Gene Kelly, Sinatra's film career would be of passing
interest until the 1950s.
The band singer period ended in September 1942. When Sinatra went out
on as a soloist, it was to join the stock company of vocalists on the
weekly "Lucky Strike Hit Parade." But there was buzz in the air about
Sinatra, and it burst wide open when in 1943 when he was booked as a
supporting act to Goodman at the Paramount Theater. Goodman introduced him,
turned to kick off his band, and before he could lower his arm heard an ear-
shattering scream of 3,000 mostly female fans explode behind him. "What
they hell is that?" Goodman muttered.
During the bobby-sox years, Sinatra recorded for Columbia and turned out a
steady flow of romantic ballads backed by Stordahl's tasteful
orchestrations. But nothing as intense as the Sinatra phenomenon of the
'40s could sustain indefinitely. The energy ran out of the Sinatra boom and
by the 1952, it is said, he was washed up.
With the '40s behind him, however, the stage was set for his golden age.
Capitol Records signed him up and concentrated on marketing him to young
adults through carefully planned long playing albums organized around a
mood, an idea, a feeling, a concept. In the Wee Small Hours, crafted by
Nelson Riddle, became the matrix for his recording career from then on.
Among the ballad albums, All Alone, arranged by Gordon Jenkins in 1962,
stands in a class by itself for its stark sense of melancholy.
After Wee Small Hours, Sinatra turned to develop a side of his musical
personality that had never been exploited -- the swinging Sinatra doing
upbeat tempos against jazz-styled big band charts that caught some of the
feeling that the new Count Basie band was generating on the instrumental
The albums and a string of successful films took Sinatra into the '60s at
the top of his fame and form. He played the Newport Jazz Festival in the
'60s, recorded with the Basie and Ellington, and played the Chairman to a
colorful Clan that included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and other chums.
Talent was the admission ticket.
Yet, the force of youth movement and rock music in the late '60s and early
'70s seemed to shake his own confidence in his own hipness, and he tried to
embrace some of the new material. But after a period of retirement and a
few false starts in the recording studio, he returned to form doing the
kind of music that told stories worth telling. In the '90s his stubbornness
paid off. The youth icons of the '60s and '70s finally came to him to sing
his song on his terms. Duets may have received mixed critical reaction, but
once again Sinatra was king of the hill, scoring the largest album sales of
Sinatra received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983. He died May 14,
1998, at the age of 82.
In 1998, Sinatra was elected by the Readers into the Down Beat Hall of
From the times of the Pilgrims American people have liked music and
made it a part of their lives. They have played and sung and fashioned
their own songs for all occasions.
There were, however, no European courts for the cultivation of art
music and opportunities were rare for the training and development of
individual talents. When sufficient number of professional musicians had
arrived to establish centers of serious musical culture American role as a
backward province of European music was firmly established. I was only
natural that the foreign arbiters of taste would regard any deviations from
European musical thinking as deplorable savagery to be resolutely put down.
Small wonder, then, that a serious dichotomy developed in the field
of American composition. American educated young people, fresh from French
or German influences, did their loyal best to write good German or French
music. For subject matter they turned to Уremote legends and misty mythsФ
guaranteed to keep them from thinking about the crudities of the land,
which they found so excruciating upon their return from abroad. They did,
however, bring back with them a professional competence, which was to be
their significant contribution to the American scene.
Meanwhile the uneducated creator, finding good stuff about him,
carried on a rapidly developing music speech, which was a blend of European
folk music, African rhythm, and regional color, and discovered that the
public the public liked his music and was ready to pay for it handsomely.
As a result via the minstrel ballad, through ragtime into jazz, a genuine
popular American music made its appearance and was given every
encouragement by the entertainment industry. European musicians were quick
to recognize the originality and value of this music and, beginning with
Debussy, accepted it as a new resource.
The American serious group, however, anxious to preserve their new-
found dignity, nervously dismissed this music as purely commercial (a lot
of it was and is), and until it was made respectable by the attention paid
to it by Ravel and Stravinsky there were only occasional attempts to borrow
from its rhythms and melodies. The highly successful popular group, on the
other hand, has developed the notion that the technique of composition is
not only unnecessary but an affectation. Such needs as may arise for their
concerted numbers, ballets, and orchestrations they can well afford to pay
for from the hacks (the underprivileged literate musicians). GershwinТs
contribution to the American scene is significant beyond his music itself
in that he was able to reconcile the two points of view and achieve popular
music in the large traditional forms.
Americans are ex Ц Europeans, to be sure, and as such have
responsibilities to the preservation and continuance of European culture,
but American are also a race Ц and a vigorous one Ц and it is increasingly
evident that we are capable of developing cultural traditions of our own.
As for Russian music it is impossible to describe its contribution to
the world musical culture, and will be difficult to estimate it. Of course,
the great musical occurrence is the Russian classical music, and I would
like to tell about my favorites Russian composers.
Sergei Procofyev was five when his mother gave him his first piano
lesson. At the age of six he was already composing and actually writing
small pieces for the piano and a few years later he write an opera to his
own libretto called The Giant. Procofyev graduated from the Conservatoire
in the spring of 1914. Taking his final exams as a pianist, he won the
highest distinction: the Anton Rubinstein gold medal and prize.
Procofyev worked for nearly fifty years in all spheres and genres of
music. His powerful and original talent has won universal recognition. His
best works Ц and these are not few Ц have enriched the legacy of world
Procofyev belonged to the older generation of Soviet composers who
entered upon the scene before the October Revolution. He was a pupil of
Rimsky Ц Korsakov and Lyadov who educated the young composers of their time
in the spirit of the finest Russian classical traditions, which they strove
to protect from modernistic influences.
Procofyev was a man of independent thinking who traveled his own way.
He was one of the greatest masters of the new, Soviet period in the history
of the Russian music. Never satisfied with his achievements, Procofyev was
forever probing, forever working on new ideas. The development of music in
the first half of this century is unthinkable without him.
Operas and ballets held an important place among the works he
created. The opera Love for Three Oranges was written in1919 and has become
very popular. Procofyev wrote another opera in the twenties Ц The Flaming
Angel, but did not live to see it on the stage. No more than two fragments
of it were performed in his lifetime.
Ballet music appealed to Procofyev even more than the opera. Besides
his Buffoon he wrote three other ballet scores while abroad Ц The Age of
Steel, The Prodigal Son, and On the Dnieper. The Fourth Symphony, the last
to be written abroad, was the most interesting.
ProcofyevТs best works, written after his return to the Soviet Union
are: the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1935 - 1936), the symphonic fairy Ц tale
Peter and the Wolf (1936), the heroic cantata Alexander Nevsky (1938 Ц
1939), the opera War and Peace (1941), the Fifth Symphony (1944), the
ballet Cinderella (1944).
The last five years of his life brought such important works as the
Seventh Symphony, the oratorio On guard of peace, the symphonic suite
Winter Fire and the ballet The Stone Flower. Unforgettable are ProcofyevТs
sonatas and concertos for violin and many other compositions revealing the
finest qualities of his tremendous talent.
Other greatest Russian composer is Igor Stravinsky.
Stravinsky was a pupil of Rimsky Ц Korsakov, but his reputation was
made by the music he wrote for the Diaghilev Ballet in Paris (The Firebird,
Petrouchka, The Rite of Spring). This period is marked by interest in
Russia folk song and brilliant orchestral coloring. The most varied rhythms
are used for percussive effects to accentuate the brutally harsh
sonorities, and a highly dissonant harmony results from the use of
About 1920, Stravinsky struck out in directions that were new, partly
in technique and partly in the kinds of subjects and mediums employed. His
technique showed a new restrained, a less dissonant and more tonal style,
and greater clarity of form; in short, a tendency toward the neoclassic
style. His material was typically drawn from the classics of the eighteenth
century. The great variety of the musical types after 1920 is astonishing:
oratorios, chamber music, concertos, ballets, symphonies, pieces for a
piano, and so on. Every work of StravinskyТs has a special individuality,
and in each he achieves a uniqueness of style and solves a problem to which
he seldom returns. Directly after first World War, Stravinsky wrote a
number of works marked by economy of means and expression, using a few solo
players (The SoldierТs Tale; The Wind Octet). Later, in his УthirdФ period,
he returned to the larger forms of the symphony (Symphony in Three
Movements, 1945). StravinskyТs early interest in American jazz rhythms
dates from Ragtime (1918). A more ambitious work , Ebony Concerto (1945),
for jazz band, appeared after he had settled permanently in the United
On the whole, StravinskyТs style is essentially anti-romantic. The
elasticity and primitive vigor of his rhythms was calculated to represent
his non-romantic subject matter, and his melodies, especially in later
works, are deliberately matter Ц of Ц fact, dry, and occasionally
commonplace, as a reaction to the expressive melodies of Romanticism.
Stravinsky uses the tonal material of the diatonic (seven Ц tone)
scale, sometimes combined with the old modes. His early polytonality is
replaced later by clearer tonality, but his dissonant harmony is often the
result of the combination of polyphonic voices. A special feature of his
style is parallel dissonant chords or intervals.
Stravinsky was always a virtuoso orchestrator. A fondness for the dry
brilliant sonorities of the woodwinds and particularly the percussion
instruments tended to relegate the strings to the background. To
individualize the voice parts of chords, Stravinsky often used instruments
of different timbre.
As a young man, Stravinsky burst on the musical scene with ballet The
Rite of Spring. It excited everybody, exhilarated a number, and outraged
more. StravinskyТs later styles were also viewed with alarm Ц often by
those who had just accustomed themselves to his earlier style. They were
dry, the wells of inspiration had run out, some said. The truth was, of
course, that Stravinsky was simply being himself, and like every great
artist, his style changed, as he did, from work to work. No one, however,
has ever denied StravinskyТs consummate draftsmanship, his deep respect for
the past, or his extraordinary impact on the music of the present day.
As for Russian pop music I could say almost nothing. I donТt know a
contemporary pop singer or compositor who, by my opinion, bring in world
musical culture anything really great. But I think that our time arranges
to make anything memorable in the musical area and may be soon we could see
a birth a new Russian musical talent.
In conclusion I should say that music is the greatest occurrence in
our life. From this work we can see that music donТt has limits and however
it try to unite the people in the world. Someone famous said that
mathematics is the universal language. IТm ready to argue Ц music is the
universal language, because this language understands everyone. If you want
understand foreigner Ц listen his native music and you will see his true