Chapter Study Outline

  • I. Introduction
    • A. Musical transmission is dependent on processes of remembering.
      • 1. Song texts and melodies can remind us of people, places, and events.
      • 2. Through repeated performances over time and in different settings, music draws on a partly subconscious bank of memories, sometimes triggering long-forgotten recollections and emotions.
      • 3. The physical processes involved in musicmaking calls on what has been termed "habit memory."
    • B. When we participate in or hear a musical performance, we experience a feeling similar to that in which a memory was first generated.
      • 1. The study of musical transmission requires us to think about the processes of remembering.
      • 2. Musicmaking depends on both individual and shared, or collective, memories.
  • II. REMEMBERING THROUGH MUSIC
    • A. Case Study: The Corrido
      • 1. The Mexican corrido (ballad) is an example of the ability of music to convey memories of particular places, people, and events.
        • a. In the corrido, as in most other ballads, memories are carried primarily in the text.
        • b. The melody supports that text and helps the singer recall it during a performance.
      • 2. The corrido first emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century as a song genre shaped by intercultural conflict.
        • a. Influenced by conflicts between Mexicans and Americans in the Mexican-US border region
        • b. Became a medium through which Mexicans and Mexican Americans could respond to American domination
      • 3. Corridos of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused on the actions of important individuals, recounted in hero corridos.
        • a. The corrido Gregorio Cortez is a famous example of this repertory.
          • i. Portrayal of larger-than-life Mexican figures
          • ii. Important to Texan Mexicans
          • iii. The corrido underwent a period of decline and transformation after its great popularity in the 1910s and 1920s.
      • 4. The texts about heroes were replaced with what have been termed victim corridos.
        • a. Emerged in the 1930s just as Mexican American society was becoming part of a more urban, Americanized culture
        • b. Used song to inspire the Mexican American community to take collective action on the victims' behalf
      • 5. New revolutionary corrido repertory arose that commented on social and economic hardships.
        • a. Critiqued the Mexican political situation in the 1990s
      • 6. Narco-corridos, or "drug ballads," also have been popular in recent decades.
        • a. Compared with gangsta rap
        • b. Widely performed by popular groups such as Los Tigres del Norte
          • i. Intended as constructive criticism, not praise
          • ii. Many of the songs speak of the difficult lives of Mexican immigrants to the United States.
      • 7. In the twenty-first century, the corrido continues to chronicle major events and ensure they are remembered through music.
        • a. Black September commemorates the attacks of September 11, 2001.
        • b. The Ballad of Osama bin Laden adapts the classic hero corrido format to interrogate the motives of the commander of the same attacks.
  • III. Aquitanian Polyphony
    • A. Case Study: The Jazz Funeral
      • 1. Marks the death of a musician or some other person of note.
      • 2. Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong had two funerals:
        • a. A conventional ceremony near his home in New York City
        • b. Old-fashioned jazz funeral in New Orleans, the city of his birth
          • i. Features a jazz band, which improvises on both the melody and accompanying parts of popular songs
            • a. The band leads a procession, followed by a hearse carrying the coffin, mourners, and members of the funeral association
          • ii. At the cemetery, the band plays hymns (sacred songs for worship) and dirges (slow instrumental laments)
          • iii. Music played during the return from the cemetery is a fast, lively repertory, in accordance with African American belief that the funeral is not only a farewell, but also a celebration of the person's life and a time for rejoicing.
            • a. Onlookers join the second line, a crowd that follows the band and the mourners as they process through the streets.
            • b. Once the band is a respectful distance from cemetery, it plays lively marches or popular tunes that contrast with the solemn hymns played on the way to the cemetery.
  • IV. RECONCILING MEMORIES THROUGH MUSIC
    • A. Case Study: The Syrian Jewish Pizmon
      • 1. Music can sustain memories that seem at odds with the present-day settings in which the music is transmitted.
        • a. Pizmon literally means "adoration" or "praise."
          • i. Most of these hymns consist of Hebrew texts set to melodies borrowed from Middle Eastern Arab music.
          • ii. Syrian Jews have continued to sing these hymns and have also composed new pizmonim.
      • 2. The sound of the pizmon
        • a. The pizmon tradition had its beginnings in the late Middle Ages.
          • i. Contrafactum is the use of a preexisting melody with new text.
          • ii. The use of well-known, preexisting melodies ensures that the new text will be remembered more easily.
        • b. Most pizmonim borrow tunes from Arab songs and are based on the Arab musical system of maqam.
          • i. Maqam are the core of Arab music.
          • ii. Each maqam is a category of melodies that share pitch content, range, and characteristic ornaments.
          • iii. There are at least a dozen important categories of maqamat, each distinguished by its pitch content and ornaments.
            • a. Scales based on tetrachords
        • c. Syrian Jews prescribe one maqam to be emphasized each week. Selected pizmonim and important prayers are sung in the weekly maqam.
          • i. Maqam nahawand from the late nineteenth century has remained popular into the present time.
            • a. Sounds similar to the minor scale of Western music.
            • b. Western notation helped standardize maqam.
            • c. Pizmon Attah El Kabbir is an interesting case study of musical transmission. It spread as Syrian Jews migrated from Syria to other places.
            • d. Has a layali (improvised vocal introduction) that establishes the maqam of the subsequent song.
            • e. Pizmon melody maintains a well-known Arab three-part form, the muwashshah.
          • ii. Maqam ajam is very similar to the Western major scale.
            • a. Resembles Western melodies
            • b. Not based on Arab sources
      • 3. The settings of pizmon performance
        • a. Most performed to celebrate births, bar mitzvahs, weddings, etc.
          • i. A new pizmon is often composed for the birth of a baby.
          • ii. If a given pizmon becomes popular, it can be performed at subsequent events and enter the chain of musical transmission.
        • b. Important setting for pizmon transmission is a Sabbath afternoon songfest called the Sebet
          • i. Plays a major role in Syrian Jews' ceremonial and social life, including helping to reinforce memories
          • ii. Transplanted through migration
          • iii. Includes only unaccompanied pizmonim sung in Hebrew
        • c. Pizmonim are also performed at parties known as haflah that celebrate special occasions, such as anniversaries.
          • i. Performers sing the original songs from which the pizmon melodies have been taken, complete with their Arabic texts.
          • ii. Songs in Arabic with instrumental accompaniment.
      • 4. Musical sources for diaspora pizmonim
        • a. Pizmon melodies have been drawn from many sources, including from music traditions Syrian Jews encountered in their new homelands.
        • b. Mifalot Elohim, written for a wedding in New York City, became a popular pizmon for a time.
          • i. Based on the groom's high school song, which had also been based on the Christmas carol O Tannenbaum.
          • ii. Rarely sung in Syrian Jewish circles because they began to associate its melody with Christmas rather than the school song.
          • iii. Classified as maqam ajam, even though not an Arab source.
      • 5. Musical sources for diaspora pizmonim
        • a. Pizmonim depend most heavily on the Arab musical tradition for their inspiration.
        • b. Pizmon Ramah Evarai was composed for a bar mitzvah.
          • i. Also used for the dedication of a newly copied Torah scroll the same day as the bar mitzvah.
          • ii. Based on the Arab song The Wheat Song
            • a. By borrowing a melody from this song, the pizmon carries memories of Middle Eastern life.
            • b. The Hebrew contrafactum text has many hidden meanings, with references to Jewish law and custom.
          • iii. The pizmon composer Louis Massry chose the melody of The Wheat Song because it was memorable.
  • V. Conclusion