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[Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created

As a music educator and (mainly classical) musician, I'm delighted to see a
musical topic here, even though I sense a web of somewhat misty questions
rather than one discrete one. Anyone's help in clarifying them or parsing
them out would be much appreciated.

Most Aprils (Jazz Appreciation Month in US schools) I have taught from a
2000 PBS video, Preservation Hall: A Night In New Orleans. It intersperses
various early jazz genres, e.g. 12-bar blues, ragtime, marches, gospel,
with brief bios and interviews of the band members. Nary a mention of
activity structures giving refuge from oppression, though they are
generally literate and university- or conservatory- trained. What I do
glean is more along the following lines:

- Certain instruments, such as trumpet, clarinet, or singing voice, produce
one tone at a time and thus lend themselves to melody (unless combined in
big-band format, which Preservation Hall is not). So one looks elsewhere,
to upright bass for chord root tones, and piano/banjo/guitar, for
instruments that can play 3 or 5 or 10 chord members at once. Those
musicians carry the role of setting the chord progressions the others fit
into or around.

- As to some extent with classical genres such as symphony, ballet, opera,
or chamber music, the venue and the genre connect, and somewhat govern the
sound. Ragtime originated in brothels, blues in bars, gospel in churches,
marches gave celebrants or mourners a beat to set their pace. Listen to
"Just A Closer Walk With Thee" and you will hear chromaticism not wholly
unlike what Bach did with the simple Lutheran tune "Sleepers Awake". The
tempo resembles blues but the chord progressions are more complex.

- Jazz is a family of styles; blues and its close relatives / descendants
are usually considered within that family.

- Most accomplished musicians can switch styles; they may be famous for one
or another, but the exact style varies from song to song and performance to


On Thu, Jun 4, 2015 at 3:18 AM, valerie A. Wilkinson <
vwilk@inf.shizuoka.ac.jp> wrote:

> Hi!  I am doing one of my dives from the abstractions of General Systems
> Theory.
> Actually, since I am always "on the fly" I don't have time to write a
> well-developed thought this time, either.
> When I read Aristotle's Categories at school, the first part of the work
> is essential. It sets up the frame. Essence or accident, a singular
> representative of a species - or the whole. (I can see that I've set up a
> bit of homework for myself)
> In that work, it sticks out like a sore thumb that the list of
> "categories", when we finally get around to it, is made of incidental and
> accidental "properties."
> Color and length don't tell one much about the animal.
> Being a generalist means I'm not going to dig in deep here.
> But in this short (so far) thread, Huw has replied with
> circumstances/environmental conditions being causal, whereas Michael starts
> out with looking for some fundamental sense in the progression of chords.
> (Harmonics is an ancient thread)
> Michael's first observation, that categories, which "someone" sets up,
> seem provisional but are soon treated as set in stone...
> And he said, "Not only for Jazz ..." (Even right brain (RB)/left brain(LB)
> are provisional distinctions in an extremely specialized field.) Does
> "that's how humans think" cover the topic?
> It's a rabbit hole. Gotta git before anyone asks me any questions!
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces+vwilk=inf.shizuoka.ac.jp@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> xmca-l-bounces+vwilk=inf.shizuoka.ac.jp@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of
> Glassman, Michael
> Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 0:43
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created
> Hi Huw,
> Just off the top of my head I would say the blues more so.  I wonder if a
> music historian has ever taken an Activity Theory approach.
> Michael
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13=osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> xmca-l-bounces+glassman.13=osu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Huw
> Lloyd
> Sent: Wednesday, June 03, 2015 11:26 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The idea that our categories are created
> The impression I have is that the roots of jazz stem from an abeyance from
> culturally perceived unpleasant/oppressive conditions and that patterns in
> chord progression would be derived from that activity structure, not from
> anything inherent in the music per se, i.e. an orientation.
> Huw
> On 3 June 2015 at 15:53, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu> wrote:
> >
> >
> > I found this article from the New York Times incredibly interesting
> >
> >
> > http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/technology/personaltech/spotify-sees
> > -a-future-where-music-genres-dont-really-matter.html?hp&action=click&p
> > gtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-
> > news&_r=0
> >
> > Having developed a very nascent knowledge of music late in life
> > because my daughter is studying to be a jazz guitarist and I don't
> > want to feel like a complete idiot when I discuss one of her concerts
> > with her - the article reminds me that we (or the media trying to sell
> > us stuff) creates categories that then for some reason become set in
> > stone until they aren't anymore (but the decisions always seem to come
> > from some place else) and the ways the Internet may be changing that
> > faster than many of us can understand.
> >
> > If you read the first paragraph and the children of the writer going
> > through different types of music as a stream -  I wonder though if the
> > writer has it wrong, that if you went back and listened closely you
> > would find they shared chord progressions taken in different directions.
> >
> > I may have this wrong the way I'm talking about it (I can see my
> > daughter rolling her eyes in my mind), but jazz has its developing
> > chord progressions, blues has its chord progressions, they swap back
> > and forth, rock and folk and new wave takes from both and from
> > classical, and derivative pop takes and simplifies from all.  Perhaps
> > there is a natural flow as they move between each other, something we
> > can never hear when there are strict category boundaries.  The
> > steaming music phenomenon makes these boundaries transparent, almost
> > as if they don't exist, so we traverse them without thinking we are
> > making some type of transgression.  How will appreciation of music
> > change when we don't have the gatekeepers (using Lewin's original
> concept) determining what we listen to?
> >
> > This of course is not just music.  In the academy there has been
> > greater and greater move towards particularization and strict
> > boundaries - AERA isn't one big conferences but hundreds of small
> > conferences.  Will the boundaries start to break down so we can see
> > and appreciate the "chord progressions?"
> >
> > Interesting to me, wonder what others think.
> >
> > Michael
> >
> >