1 February 2005
Here's a link to the varied collection of blues and blues-related examples I constructed last week

The advantage of using The Blues as a musical example is that it's easy for even a musically unsophisticated inquirer to connect with many of the accessible facets; the main disadvantage is that it's really easy to get tangled up in the Blues, trying to sort out influences and styles and relationships.

Even talking about the essential elements of the Blues is fraught with difficulties/opportunities for digression. Consider this tiny sample, on call-and-response on a stretched string , arguably one of the almost-universal facets... and see how quickly even this very simple example gets into complexities.

Other elements I've mentioned (or meant to mention...) and said I'd get back to: scat singing, polyrhythm, instruments, the participatory essence of these musics, gospel... obviously, we can't do them all. But which can I bear not to include?

What I seem to have is an ever-growing heap of very loosely linked examples, each of which tugs in multiple directions, with polyvalent Siren voices. And more seems to surface every day. Case in point: I ordered Scorsese's The Blues: a musical journey (see scorsesefilms.com, William Benzon's critique and sequel, a differing view from Buddy Seigal, and the PBS series homepage), and we just have to see some bits of the first in the series...

Talking of digressions, I also just got a CD Anthology of Scat Singing (nudged by a reference to The Heebie Jeebies --see Story 3 on the Smithsonian site), and that occasioned a detour into finding out about Gladys Bentley (see more...)

And today's mail brought a book I ordered a week ago (and where that quote about Elvis's moves came from): Michael Ventura's Shadow Dancing in the USA, which has a long chapter ("Hear that long snake moan") on Voudun/Voodoo and its connections with New Orleans, and with the emergence of jazz... and tells the story of Marie Laveau, "Voodoo Queen Marie" (see also The Voodoo Queen ...and Google has lots more...), and mentions Congo Square, seemingly one of the few places in North America where Blacks, slave and free, were permitted to use drums (see Keeping the African Beat Alive and congosq.com) ...now known as Louis Armstrong Square.

funky, mojo, boogie, cool (Ventura quoting Robert Farris Thompson)

So today may be a bit of a bridge, since I want to explore African musics on Thursday.