The Art of Rock and Roll by Charles Brown

The book The Art of Rock and Roll by Charles T. Brown basically proposes methods for analyzing music and anyone who reads the books should be able to develop techniques for listening to music and making legitimate statements about it. It treats rock and roll as a serious art form and traces it cultural roots throughout the book. Chapter one discusses the elements of rock and makes four assumptions. Assumption one states that rock is a legitimate art form. An art form is defined as a creative act that springs from the artist’s experience as it reflects or reacts against society.

It then states that acculturation, a process y which a certain people are influenced by a foreign culture, changed the Afro- Americans from their original culture to one that was a mixture of U. S. influences and African roots which played a large part in the way rock and roll sounds today. Brown proves rock is a legitimate art form by talking about its audience and its lasting power. Assumption two states that rocks roots are in folk, jazz, and pop music. Musicians who first started rock and roll must have had something to base their music on which turned out to be primarily folk, jazz, and pop.

They simple changed the pattern and style of that music and started forming rock. Assumption three states that it is just as valid to study rock and roll as European classical music. Rock will prove to be a valid means of producing competent musicians and that it demands the same type of performance as in any musical form. Since it is a valid way in which to study music in general it is just as valid to start with rock as starting anywhere else. Assumption four states that simple musical analysis of selected compositions is a primary tool for understanding musical evolution.

Through musical analysis we are able to generalize and say that rock from a certain era has common characteristics. By doing this we are able to see what influences lead rock to where it is today. The chapter then goes on to discuss the elements of music which are nonverbal communication, melody, rhythm, harmony, lyrics, and performance. Music is nonverbal in that it communicates through organized sound and is difficult to translate, the other elements are what make the sound organized and meaningful. Melody is an organized set of notes consisting of different pitches.

It is basically the up and down motion of the lead singer. Rhythm is those beat of patterns that underlie most forms of communications. It is made up of ulsations that follow a consistent pattern. It will sometimes show us the emotional feel of a song. Harmony is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes at the same time. It provides a texture for the total song. Lyrics are the words used in the song and usually tell us what the song and mood of the song is about. Performance tells us the purpose, function, and impact of a certain song.

Music generally reflects the value of society. By using the elements of music you can begin to make assumptions about how rock and roll reflects its society. It quickly took on an attitude of rebellion and eventually became a ymbol of independence for youths Chapter two discusses the listening skill needed to better understand music. Through listening we can define the social impact of a rock group and its musical style. This purpose of this chapter is to outline ways in which the individual can create his or her own system of analysis.

The chapter then goes on describing what you need to do while listening to music to better analyze it. First you need concentration, you need to change your attitude towards the music you hear everyday and block out any interference, we must treat it seriously and nalyze it fairly even if we we don’t like it. Then you need to dissect what your hearing. You have to decide what to use for a reference point and listen to the song more than once. Your first time listening to it you should get a general idea of what the song is like, what its about, and what it has.

After that you add more information by listening to each part of the music individually. Lyrics are the easiest to analyze. You must write all the lyrics down and figure out if there is a verse structure. The chapter then goes into the different types of Melody. First there is the Soprano- lead melody. The lead melody is sometimes called the soprano melody which means the highest melody. Then there is the bass melody, which is normally played by an instrument rather then sung. It is halfway between melody and rhythm, or beat. It is usually low sounding, repetitive and continuos.

It is the foundation for the instrumental ensemble. Instruments are another part of melody. It is the instruments that give rock and roll its character and beat. The drums provide the beat, the guitars provide continous rhythm, and the bass guitar plays the bass melody. When analyzing you must also recognize the Rhythm and Harmony. They both determine the complexity of the composition and we must become aware of changes in rhythm or harmony because they indicate changes in the song. Chapter three discusses the sources of Rock.

Slave music was important because when they were brought to the United states they also brought with them their music which was blues and later on early jazz. Acculturation began as soon as their were American-born slaves. They would sing work songs which were basically chants which later on formed to become blues. As blues developed so did early forms of Jazz. One of these forms was the cakewalk was the cakewalk hich was a danced step used to make fun of how stiff the white man walked and later on became the first truly Afro-American dance step.

Another form was Ragtime which was a piano style which has four main themes. Then came along other piano styles such as stride, dixieland, and the boogie-woogie which was the first obvious influence for rock and roll. In the 1930’s blues took on a different character because of changes in society, black musicians developed big bands and blues singers continued to have great importance which eventually fostered rhythm and blues. Rock and roll tarted to develop in the last part of the 1930’s mainly because of the start of the removal of the color line between musicians. Chapter four discusses early rock.

They started to somewhat define the rock category by saying that rock uses certain rhythmic devices, its lyrics and jargon came from the jump blues, rhythm and blues, country, or some combination, many pieces use a blues progression, and the basic style of performance is continuos shouting by the singer and continuos playing by the instrumentalists. There were different types of songs that started to show the development of rock. Shouting, songs in which lyrics were shouted over the band background, was a predominant style of early rock and the foundation for the careers of famous rock musicians.

Ballad singing is also an important part of early rock and roll, it is a big band tune from rhythm and blues tradition. Then there was novelties , which were a third kind of rock song. It was a song with some gimmick that makes it catchy. During the 1950’s most Americans felt secure, we started to see ourselves as a world power. We were involved in the cold war and blacks had started their movements. Because of the cultural situation rock and roll became focal point for rebellion. The marketing techniques were very primitive, but started to turn rock and roll into a multimillion dollar business.

Chapter five discusses Bill Haley and the Comets and how they set a model for rock and roll. There is not much to be said about this chapter because Haley wasn’t a great musician and others would come after him and do a better job at music then he did, but he was essentially one of the first groups to use the elements of music just right to be labeled a rock and roll musician. Chapter six talks about a person who was far more important in giving ock and roll its lasting power then Bill Haley and that person was Elvis Presley.

Presley had Musical and personal qualities that far surpassed Haley. Presley opened up markets for other musicians and served as a symbol for the development of marketing techniques. He influenced a tremendous number of musicians. There were other musicians who came from Memphis and were labeled the Memphis Mafia. They produced a more marketable combination of records using ballads and novelties. Country was also influenced by this wave of new rock musicians and created the Nashville sound. Some rockabilly musicians include

Johnny Cash, who was more influential in folk music as he developed his style, Buddy Holly, who could have contributed to rock just as much as Presley did if he had lived longer, Jerry Lee Lewis, who was one of the first rock and roll piano players, and Carl Perkins. Chapter seven talks about the broadening of the music style and the performers who came out of this period. During this time, 1950’s, rock had become legitimized as a category all on its own. By this time there were four different types of rock and roll: Rhythm and Blues/shouting, crooning, specialty songs, and novelty/monster songs.

Free acculturation also came into play around this time. Ray Charles is the musician who legitimized this position. Urbanization of rock and roll from rural to urban blues led to the circumstances in which rock and roll could be marketed. Rock and Roll began as a rough form of music. became urban blues form, and then eventually took in other forms in order to expand its market. Ballads became significant in the 1950’s because they expanded the listening audience and in turn gained acceptance by the public. The first ballads predate the invention of the term rock an roll.

Chapter eight focuses on soul/mowtown music. This music had great influence around the 1960’s which were times of tumult and confusion. Rock music had new messages and new means to communicate. Rock around this time relied heavily on the rhythm section because the style was vocally dominated. Also around this time Memphis played a more important part because it became a center for studio recording. Because of the popularity of gospel and soul along with rhythm and blues, billboard combined the categories into one called soul. Mowtown was formed by doowop groups and did fairly well.

Sixty-seven percent of the singles that came out of mowtown music hit the top of the charts. Chapter nine talks about one of the greatest influences on Rock and Roll which were the Beatles. Their musical style is defined in three periods which are early beatle, 1962-1964, middle beatles,1965-1966, and late beatles 1967- 1969. The early beatles had the following characteristics: Simple lyrics, Simple background accompaniment, Rock sound from the 1950’s, Simple drumbeat and rhythmic patters, Simple bass lines, and domination by lead singer or unison singing.

In their early era they just sang songs for that had little or no meaning and did not have any relationship with each other. The rhythmic atterns were simple with little riff orientation. The Middle beatles had different style of singing which can be characterized as poetically more complex lyrics, Symbolic lyrics, More creative music, Universal point of view, sometimes critical words, growing dissension among group members, more guitar oriented and less percussive, folklike, more complicated guitar sounds and electronics, more subjects in musical lyrics, and better background accompaniment.

The beatles came into their own during this period. The technical era was more complex. The albums began to show some continuity and there was logic in which the way he songs were placed. The late beatles music can be characterized by electronic music, studio music, technically precise music, mystical allusions, and total communication. The music during this time was both diverse and homogenous. They were able to make each song and each album tie into each other successfully. The musical style was interwoven with the message of the singing.

Chapter ten talks about California and what it gave to rock and roll. California was seen as a kind of utopia around the 1960’s so people wanted to go there, especially southern California. They were really into surfing music, hich created such groups as The Beach Boys, and some were more into nonsurfing groups, which were such groups as The Doors. Both of these major groups came out of California around this time. In northern California, cities such as San Francisco developed themselves as the center of movement, and musically, folk music turned into a particular kind of rock.

The sound that it turned into can be defined as acid rock or psychedelic rock, which means that it is associated with LSD, or acid. It became associated with very loud music and use of electronic amplification. This new development was important to rock because it nited rocks identification with rebellion, something it had lost for a while. Chapter eleven discusses Folk-rock and how it came about. Folk music is usually defined as the music of the people, it usually expresses the feelings of one particular area or group. It has many different aspects.

Rock, jazz, country, and other musical textures were added experimentally, leading to fusion. Bob Dylan is a musician who played great folk music, he is responsible for raising the sophistication level of the lyrics. Around this time, 1970’s, it gets harder to generalize about attitudes. This shift in attitudes was artially caused by the technological explosion. Communications systems became much more sophisticated, and information was available instantly. From here on the book goes on to discuss the different forms of rock that came about.

Chapter twelve focuses towards English Rock. English rock has a distinctive sound for several reasons: Depending on their upbringing, the musicians sing with a distinctive accent; There is a slight influence of skiffle in the beginning stages of music from the 1960’s; The technology of the amplified sound is different in that the amplifiers are set to amplify the armonic spectrum differently; Musical symbolism tends to be different and draws from the literary tradition of Europe; The blending of voices tends to be less emotional.

Three groups who popularized English rock in America after the Beatles were The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Elton John. They capitalized on the attitudes of the times which were sometimes tasteless and antiestablishment. The Rolling Stones and The Who eventually have an impact on punk and new wave. Elton John proves the lasting impact of a pianist and a vocalist. Chapter thirteen goes onto art and eclectic rock. Art rock is a term hat defines music that either has higher pretentions than standard rock or imitates another style that has been recognized as art.

Eclectic rock is a term applied to anything considered to be unusual. The chapter presents a mixture of styles tied together by the experimental quality of the music All of it was generally a fusion of rock and roll with western or nonwestern art music. Some musicians that represent this period are The Kinks, Frank Zappa, and Rush just to name a few. Chapter fourteen moves on to Country rock. It is analogous to rock music after the middle Beatles period in that it uses elements of different inds of music. Country rock is a combination of pop, folk, jazz, rock, and country music.

Country rock has a a few distinct elements. A band normally uses heavy amplification of the guitar instruments, the lyrics are most uncharacteristic of straight country music, and the musicians look different from traditional country musicians. One of the most important characteristics of country rock was the emergence of the songwriter as the narrator and the expression of southern pride. Some bands that represent country rock are Alabama, Charlie Daniels Band, the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

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