Writing about World Music

Section X, Fall 2016

Author: maswearingen

Famous Jazz Musicians

Information comes from this article:


When researching jazz music for my project, I thought it was strange how I was quite unfamiliar with several influential jazz musicians. Not a huge fan of jazz, I thought it would be interesting to learn more of a topic that I did not know that much about. When I think of jazz, I typically imagine old black and white movies with affluent hotel lobbies and cocktail parties.  World War II connotations also come to mind. In pop music of the twenty-first century, hip hop and electric undertones commonly express themselves in music as opposed to brass. Even though jazz itself is less prevalent in pop culture than it was in prior decades, influential jazz musicians are still respected and revered.

One of the less influential musicians that is still given credit for being extremely skilled. Art Tatum, nearly blind, “revolutionized the role of piano in jazz.” Playing up the sound of cacophony, Tatum was at his apex about ten years before the advent of bebop, yet paved the way for this phenomenon. Other artists similar to Tatum include Theolonius Monk, Charles Mingus, and Art Blakey. Each overcoming his own difficulties such as Mingus’s depression, they all remain in the canon of American jazz music. While these artists primarily used American sounds, Dizzy Gillespie traveled to Cuba and incorporated some Cuban rhythms into his music. Not only a trumpet player and singer, Dizzy Gillespie was also a composer. He did much to advance the sound of Afro-Cuban jazz. As a great improviser, Gillespie remained true to bebop throughout his career and is remembered for his horn-gimmed glasses and improvisatory jazz style. Apart from trumpet, Max Roach is remembered as a renowned percussionist. Along with a few other jazz musicians, he is responsible for the modern techniques of jazz drumming. Capable of giving solo performances, Roach sometimes played alongside other famous musicians.

While they are mostly men,  jazz musicians were not always restricted to the male gender as a lot of the singers were women such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Receiving numerous posthumous Grammy Hall of Fame awards, Holiday is shown to have been quite successful as her music continues to resonate with so many. With a strong voice, Holiday used her song “Strange Fruit” to inspire because of its “powerful theme and topic” as well as the fortitude of her “performance.” Unfortunately, she only wrote but few songs; however, those she did write are able to carry the messages of several.

John Coltrane, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman also hold sway over the halcyon days of jazz music. They each made their marks on jazz music by engaging in implications to promote racial equality such as Goodman’s dogma not to tour in Southern states.  Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Duke Ellington are typically recognized at least in part by non experts in jazz. Along with their astounding repertoire of music, each’s ability to perform should not go without credit.

Arguably the most famous jazz musician is Louis Armstrong. Called “Satchmo,” Armstrong played the trumpet with a skill not like any other. One of the first scat singers, Armstrong holds prodigious influence over aspiring jazz musicians as well as music historians of the early twentieth century. Although jazz music is still prevalent in certain areas and among certain people, the influence of jazz musicians remains ubiquitous.


Carioca Dance


When I was reading Contemporary Carioca, it interested me that Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as a whole is a sort of mixing pot in that they have people from other cultures that bring their own customs to the area and merge them with those of their own. The music of the South Zone that reaches from the beaches combines with music of other areas to contribute to a completely unique sound. Moehn describes the sonic phenomenon as a form of miscegenation that does not apply to race but to the sounds themselves. The exact roots of these sounds can prove to be somewhat difficult to trace in that they come from a variety of locations. One area of Carioca that I wish to learn more about is dance.

The word “Carioca” comes from the word that Brazilians attribute to themselves that means “house of whites” or “white house” of the Portuguese inhabitants of Rio. Usually applying Samba music, the Carioca dance is generally a group dance that consists of people holding hands with each other and swaying to the sound of the music. Similar to the Machichi, the Carioca dance invokes elements of the Foxtrot and Rumba movements.  The dance is intended to allow Brazilian people to forget their everyday troubles by engaging in dance. Also, the Carioca dance is a wonderful opportunity for Brazilians to come together in a unified fashion that simultaneously fosters camaraderie. It is not relegated to a certain age group, for those of all ages are welcomed by the rhythmic gyrations of the Carioca dance. Due to the movements required by the typical Carioca dance, those of certain ages with limited mobility are not encouraged to participate in the dance. Even still, if one is physically able, the Carioca dance serves as an excellent thoroughfare to enjoyment.

Though native to Brazil, the Carioca dance was unknown to the United States until the early twentieth century.  In 1933, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers popularized it with their movie “Flying Down to Rio.” Because the two did not have enough time to choreograph their own movements, they appropriated from an earlier version of the “Fanchon and Marco Carioca dance routine” into their film. Though immensely popular following the release of the film through subsequent modifications of song and dance, the dance itself still remained largely unperformed by the masses in America. This could in part be due to people’s fears of feeling foolish after watching Astaire’s and Roger’s alacrity on the floor. Also, it could be attributed to the fear that some unfortunately possess of things unknown to them.

Even after the advent of the Carioca ballroom dance, the influence remains in the United States as seen by certain conventions such as ballroom dancing and ethnically charged motions. Although it may seen difficult, Carioca dancing is an entertaining way to exercise as well as it is quite enjoyable as a form of dance. It may have originated in Brazil, but it has since made its way to other continents as a dance form.

Works Cited:


Moehn, Frederick. Contemporary Carioca. Duke Press. 2012. Print.


You’re Never Too Old to Attend a Music Festival

Works Cited: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/07/arts/music/desert-trip-oldchella-fans.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FMcCartney%2C%20Paul&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=collection&_r=0

Many people have heard of Coachella, or the annual music festival held in Indio, California. It is an outdoor music fest in the desert that features generally popular music of the time. Due to the public demand for tickets to the festival, tickets go on sale a year in advance and often become sold out within a short amount of time. Despite the heat of the desert and the difficulty of attaining tickets, the festival is well worth it as it lasts for two weekends and features music from a wide range of artists. Commonly intended for young people, the festival does not discriminate against an older generation of music lovers who feel obliged to attend, yet there is a more suitable festival held in Indio for the classic rock fans of an older generation.

Dubbed “Oldchella” by cynical young music fans, Desert Trip is held at the same venue as Coachella. “An all star team of classic rock veterans” such as the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, the Who, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, and Neil Young was among the list of those to perform in a festival reminiscent of the days of seventies and eighties classic rock. Not only does the festival feature musical archetypes of American culture, but also it presents luxury amenities such as “gourmet food, extra bathrooms,” and a variety of different seating options. One such option for entrance is a VIP pass that comes with a “culinary experience bundle” along with airfare.

One satisfied festival attendee is fifty nine year old Julie Varon. Having grown up listening to classics such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Varon felt a need to relive with nostalgia the days of her youth. Since she is a mother of three, she decided to persuade her nineteen year old son Sam at accompany her. More into country music, Sam said that the event “was a bit of a twist.” Just one of the 150,000 people that attended the event, Varon recalls with pure bliss the ability to reminisce on  her youth through the medium of music.

Desert Trip does appeal to only American classic rock aficionados, instead it attracts crowds from different parts of the world. Native of Perth, Australia, a concert venue in its own right, Simone Harle made her way to the United States specifically for the event. Her very first visit to the United States, Harle recalls the day-long trip as a “pilgrimage” in honor of the music. She describes the experience as having caused her to “[get] goosebumps all over [her] body and eyeballs just thinking about it.” Also drawing upon the idea of the trek to Desert Trip as a sort of pilgrimage is Jon Langille. The fifty-five year old rock connoisseur rode an electric bicycle for over 1800 miles all the way from British Columbia. Understanding this to be a little extreme, Langrille justifies that while his wife wanted to just “fly in and fly out,” he would rather make “an experience” out of it. As a result of the festival, individuals such as those previously enumerated are able to conjure up feelings and emotions in the way of music that they have ceased to experience as they get older.

The Link between Music and Success

The information of this posted is cited by: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/is-music-the-key-to-success.html?_r=0

The correlation between music and success in the business is an interesting topic to explore. A lot of parents believe that in order to have a good upbringing, children must take piano lessons, for they instill in them discipline, a strong work ethic, and motivation. Many successful people have music in some form at least in their lives. For example, NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd attended college on a music scholarship and co founder of Google Larry Page played the saxophone in high school. These are just some of the numerous high profile business people affiliated with music in some form. This is no coincidence, as there is no possible way for so many successful people to be connected with music. Scientifically proven, music and math are interrelated in that they incite the same side of the brain. Therefore, music lessons of any kind whether they be piano, cello, or guitar can be beneficial in developing a child’s analytical thinking skills.

According to Bruce Kovner, the founder of the hedge fund Caxton Associates and chairman of the board of Julliard, there is a strong correlation between piano playing and investing strategy. The two relate greatly to pattern recognizing and methodical thinking. He describes a sort of synesthesia when it comes to piano playing. Perceiving patterns in three dimensional ways, concert pianist Robert Taub says that when he performs, he can “visualize all of the notes and their interconnectedness.” Therefore, as he plays, the notes appear in his head as if he could physically see them. This skill is valuable in not only musical practice, but also in the venture capitalist world.

In contrast to Robert Taub, Woody Allen believes his passion for music to be paramount to his talent. He specifically states that he gets “total traction from the fact that he is in movies.” Primarily an actor, Allen believes music to be unrelated to his everyday job. Even still, he practices clarinet at least half an hour everyday. In this way, Allen ensures that he will not lose the mouth position idiosyncratic to clarinet players while also sharpening his mind. Allen uses his skill to perform internationally with his New Orleans jazz band, which “enriches [his] life tremendously.” While his principle occupation is histrionic, Allen uses music to develop his creative thinking skills, to entertain himself as well as thousands of other people, and to provide him with lifetime opportunities.

Although certain people possess preconceived notions of forcing a child into a holed up practice room for hours on end, a child’s musical education is vastly important as it aids in the development in the child’s rational thinking and pattern processing skills. A good many of the successful financiers and investors on Wall Street have partaken in musical practices if not in early life, than at least in adulthood, for it is never too late to engage in a lifetime skill. When one is decrepit from old age and can no longer throw a baseball, at least he or she  can still play the piano. Unfortunately, musical education is in decline in the United States as many people fail to see the intrinsic value of music lessons.

Music in the Shona Culture

In certain Native American cultures, tribes would gather together to communicate to their deceased ancestors. In these rituals, the room would be perforated with smoke, causing the people to sweat. The shaman would, through altered states of consciousness, be able to converse or receive signs from the tribes’ dead. Rather than believe uncontrollable events such as illness or death to be caused by natural forces, the tribes believed harmful happenings to be a form of retribution from the dead. Similarly, the African Shona culture looked to the dead when events such as a crop failure or unprecedented illness occurred.  The Shona people valued greatly their ability to communicate with their dead relatives, and one important ritual through with they did  this was music.

While mbira (both a wooden instrument and a type of music) music is played at special rainmaking ceremonies and funereal occasions, one important function of mbira music is to be played at bira, which is an all-night ceremony that allows for a family to come together to ask a deceased relative for advice and expertise. Mbira is required not only to bring rain during a drought or stop rains during a flood or to celebrate at weddings or chief inductions, but also to deter any harmful spirits from interfering with tribal life.  Contrary to most mbira ceremonies, a bira can occur at any time of the year whenever the time calls. Bira’s typically take place after sundown and commonly last all of the night, when the spirits are most restless. Oftentimes, participants in the bira ritual will remove certain materialistically advanced items such as expensive jewelry or wristwatches, as they might serve to confuse their ancestors who were born of an earlier time. Also, they might remove shoes as they would find it more apt to stand on holy ground barefoot.


Generally, mbira music centers around dancing, singing, and handclapping. Freedom in the vocal parts allows different musicians to choose their own vocal parts and harmonize with each other without any restraints. Overtime, certain vocal parts become idiosyncratic to each singer. According to Paul Berliner’s story, an ethnomusicologist went to study mbira music and even went to the extent of memorizing one part of the recording he had made. When he returned to the village, he sang his new part, and the performers bursted out laughing and exclaimed that he was singing so and so’s voice part.

Mediums such as Hakurotwi Mude become allow the spirit to speak directly to them. They often allow a spirit to take possession of their bodies to achieve greater communication powers. Following the actual ritual, mediums can take part in the singing and dancing still possessed by the spirits, or they can resume their natural personalities. The musicians continue to play the mbira music to allow the participants to cool down from their night of strenuous activity. Beer is provided not as a form of revelry, but as a refreshment and even an anesthetic so the musicians will not feel the pain of their swollen fingers. A lot of issues in the Shona culture have been resolved thanks to the bira ritual.

Works Cited:


Berliner, Paul. The Soul of Mbira. Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe. 1979. Print.

Art and Music: David Bowie

The source of my information for this post comes from this article:


Just as poetry and music are interconnected in Sardinian culture, art and music possess an irrefutable fusion. Art can be defined as anything that expresses a feeling, sense, or emotion and appeals to the senses in one way or another. Whether the medium be oil on canvas or sound, art can reach its audience in multiple ways such as simply viewing a piece or listening to a song. Art can even be applied to fashion in the forms of clothes, shoes, and makeup because those can serve to express a certain sentiment. One artist in particular who has an intricate and inspiring relationship with art is David Bowie.

When I think of David Bowie, mostly what comes to mind is his successful music career, his marriage to Iman, and even his role in the Labyrinth. What most people do not know is that when he was still called David Jones, Bowie went to art school where most went to “learn to play blues guitar.” There he developed a taste for bas relief painting style. As an art collector with an admirable repertoire, Bowie owned a few Tinorettos and even a Rubens. His choice of art could not be restricted to a certain category, though his favorite artists were Frank Auerbach, Schiele, and Picabia. Here is a link to one of his favorite works:


Bowie often used art as an outlet through with to express and convey his feelings. Depending on his mood, Bowie’s view of a certain art piece would change. Some days he would commiserate with it and really empathize with the artist. Other days he could unleash his spiritual or emotional angst just by visualizing the painting or sculpture. Bowie used art forms of expression to influence his music career, and even woke up one morning and upon looking at a painting, said, “My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks!” Through use of sight, Bowie developed his wondrously unique musical style. Partly a reason for Bowie’s entrance to the music scene other than going to art school to “learn how to play blues guitar,” Bowie played the saxophone because he wanted to be “Gerry Mulligan” and let people know he was not trying to be Chuck Berry. He enjoyed conversations with other musicians about topics such as Expressionism and the Kabuki theatre. Bowie even states that when Ferry came out with a Dada inspired album called “The Bride Stripped Bare” that outwardly he expressed ambivalence on the work but inwardly thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Bowie’s interesting outfits are also product of his art style. By using vibrant colors and star patterns, Bowie used the medium of makeup to convey his artistic style. Bowie is not only an art aficionado, but also an artist himself. After all, he did go to art school. Bowie did many self portraits and sketches. Through the art form, the music of David Bowie evolved into the masterpiece and legacy that it now is. Here are some of David Bowie’s art works:




My Last Concert Experience


I’m Maggie Swearingen, and I’m from a town called Reynolds, Georgia, which is about two hours south of Atlanta. My music taste is pretty varied, and some of my favourite bands include Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Frontbottoms, MGMT, etc. I guess what most of these bands have in common is their use of interesting guitar riffs and various sounds. I also like some classic rock such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Police, etc.

One day last summer, my sister began listening to Twenty One Pilots and made me listen to them as well. At first , I didn’t understand their sound, lyrics or even the meaning of the band’s name. After a little exploration into some of their older albums, I soon found myself becoming part of the “clique,” or what they call their fans. Their style of music is different from what I normally listen to in that it has more symph and electronic with sporadically placed rap. Each album is very different, and from watching concert videos from when they first started performing, one can tell they have evolved greatly as performers. When they began performing, critics would chide them asking, “Where are the other nineteen pilots?” failing to grasp the meaning of their band name. Years later, however, they go on world wide tours.

For Christmas this past year when my grandma asked me and my sister what we wanted as presents, our minds immediately jumped to Twenty One Pilots concert tickets. One of our friends was already going, so we thought it would be fun to go together. On Christmas we got our tickets and could not wait until August 6.

The day of the concert, we got to the venue in North Atlanta about seven hours early to ensure early entry. As the sun beat down outside and people grew dehydrated, we began to explore the area to combat boredom, which manifested itself into us searching for the band’s tour bus along with other fans. After what seemed like years, the seven hours elapsed, and we were allowed inside the concert arena. As we had tickets for the pit, we sprinted inside in order to get to the barricade. We didn’t quite make it, yet as the opening bands went on, we squeezed our way right behind the people who were practically glued to the front. With much pushing and shoving, we grew immune to people constantly bumping into us trying to take our spots.


Once Twenty One Pilots came out, everyone in the pit forgot how angry they were at each other for hitting or stepping on each other and came together. The band played an interesting combination of songs off their most recent album and their older ones. As excellent performers, they kept the crowd entertained by switching stages and getting inside a giant hamster ball in an odd form of crowdsurfing. Accompanied by strange graphics on the screens, the songs were better live than they are in album form in my opinion. Just like every show they perform, they concluded with “Trees” off of their album “Vessel.” I left that show more basic than all of the die-hard fans I used to make fun of.