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Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part IX December 16, 2012

Posted by rwf1954 in Amazon, Andrew Shahriari, Argentina, book review, books, Brazil, ethnomusicology, Mexico, music, Peru, South America, world music.
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I indicated that my final blog post on this subject would be about Leonard Bernstein’s The Unanswered Question, a discussion of tonality and the nature of music. We will get there, but after a ten-part detour into commentaries on the book World Music: A Global Journey by Terry E. Miller and Andrew Shahriari. This is a logical detour after absorbing Bruno Nettl’s information about ethnomusicology. I will do individual blog posts about each of the areas covered in the book, focusing mainly on the musical examples provided. I will first comment on general observations about the area and the selections provided. I will then post specific notes on each individual selection. These comments are not intended in any way to be definitive exhaustive examinations of the types of music discussed. They are just my comments on the musical examples provided in the context of my discussion of music, physics and metaphysics. (Also, this study will contribute to the new music I am in the process of creating, an effort to meld many international styles together. This is not some politically correct effort to create a global music for humanity. It is simply my fascination, as a composer/music creator, with all the different sorts of musical approaches available to humans. Technology allows me to explore this fascination and create based on it.)

Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part I
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part II
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part III
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part IV
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part V
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part VI
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part VII
Book Commentary/Review – World Music: A Global Journey, Part VIII

South America and Mexico: The Amazon Rainforest, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico

General Comments: As in the Caribbean, discussed in the previous post, we have a blend of styles from different places. Brazilian music combines African and European music. Some other examples seem almost completely European. And, we have examples of Amazonian and Peruvian panpipe music which appear to predate European or African music.

CD 3, Track 11 from World Music: A Global Journey
Brazil: Amazonian Chant
This is totally rudimentary music—no drums, no pitched instruments, just male voices. They chant a pitch, then bend the pitch down, then speak rhythmically, then return to the original pitch. There are no scales, no melodies, no harmonies. This is interesting music because it is music at a very basic level. It can serve to help us understand the nature of music for humans, but there is not much for me to latch onto for my own future music projects.

CD 3, Track 12 from World Music: A Global Journey
Peru: Sikuri (Panpipe) Ensemble
This piece sounds like a panpipe marching band. The rhythm emanates from a quick-paced driving bass drum on down beats, skipping an occasional downbeat, but never enough to lose the momentum of the rhythm. The simple melodic line is a pentatonic minor scale—there is no 7 to distinguish it as harmonic or natural minor. The melodic line is harmonized by other panpipes playing other parts of the pentatonic scale. This music would be easily grasped by “Oriental” or Celtic cultures. Because of the pentatonic scales and the flute instruments, the music has a universal feel. Those scales and that instrumental sound can be found almost everywhere. This music may provide an example of universal human music.

CD 3, Track 13 from World Music: A Global Journey
Argentina: Tango
An accordion plays a minor key “Western” theme that could be from a Paris café as much as from South America. This example, with a solo accordion, does not seem rhythmic enough to be dance music. I suspect there are better examples of the tango to listen to. (I am not that concerned about finding a better example of the tango for my study of this subject or for my future music projects.)

CD 3, Track 14 from World Music: A Global Journey
Brazil: Samba
The rhythm is the huge defining factor for this music. We have a strong beat one, with an eighth note pickup to a strong three. The two and four also drive the beat, functioning as strong after-beats. The exotic chord progressions add to the effect. We certainly have a tonic, and a basic tonality. But the chords do not come in simple triads, and the moves are smooth but adventurous, not I-IV-V-I type moves. Common tones bridge what on paper could seem to be unrelated chords. I love the rhythm and the chord-moves as something to emulate in some of my own music.

CD 3, Track 15 from World Music: A Global Journey
Brazil: Capoeira
This is much more basic music from Brazil. It sounds African, with a solo-response concept. Drums, including almost Gamelan sounding percussion, back up the male chorus. The melodic line is three notes, starting on 3 of a major scale, moving to 1 then back up to 3. This repeats as a basic melodic chant with a soloist moving in and around it. The metallic percussion seems to sound 5 to 4 to 5 of the scale, but the pitches are indistinct. And like the samba, there are some eighth note pickups within the rhythm that give it a fresh exotic feel.

CD 3, Track 16 from World Music: A Global Journey
Mexico: Mariachi
This music is like a fast waltz in a major key, moving through a number of chords with a basic I-IV-V-I feel. The B section moves briefly to the V as a key center, using II7 to get there. But it slips back to I quickly. The harmonic structure is tonal/Western European. The Spanish vocalist and the trumpets chattering in thirds identify this as distinctly mariachi music.

Personal Compositional Note: The rhythms of the samba and capoeira music are enticing to me as I meld styles. I also love the sound of the Peruvian panpipes. This could all end up in music I will create in the future. The Brazilian music reminds me of the Caribbean fusion of African and European music, though they do manifest this fusion in slightly different ways.

The next and final post of this series within a series will move to Canada and the United States.

Previous posts on this topic:

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin

Music, the Brain and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain

Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr

Good Vibrations/The Physics of Music by Barry Parker

Measured Tones by Ian Johnston

Exploring Music by Charles Taylor

Music and Mathematics: From Pythagoras to Fractals, edited by John Fauvel, Raymond Flood and Robin Wilson

Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde by Joscelyn Godwin

The Study of Ethnomusicology by Bruno Nettl