Blues Music In Motion

Piano Cartoon 1Blues music is a traditional form of music that originated among the African American communities emanating in the Deep South from the late 19th century. Spirituals, work songs, and narrative ballads turned into an entire litany of deeply emotional and story-form types of music. The feel of the music itself is blatantly innovative and characterized by improvisation and pathos.

The mood of blues music is generally sad and melancholy emphasizing hardship and overcoming difficult situations. The music itself is characterized with an engaging mood with a strong beat emphasizing 8 or 12 chord progressions. The blues artist will usually have a message that is being relayed in the song in a strong and tenacious manner. Some of the songs used what is termed call and response shouts which moves the song along and involves the audience.

The origin of blues music can be traced directly to African modes, but of course time changes and morphs music as well as language, but much of the original sentiments and beats were of African origin.

W.C. Handy was one of the first to formalize the Blues as he became a writer and publisher of this type of music in the early 1900’s, as he was a trained musician and had the ability of composing. He claimed to be “the father of the Blues” but his music was a compilation of many tunes that came before him. He is best known for composing “The Saint Louis Blues”

As Blues music began to mature the development of “rag time”, Delta Blues, Boogie Woogie, and Memphis Blues all exhibited individual flavors and blues piano style. Much improvisation, bending and sliding of notes characterized the delivery of the vocals and instrumentals as well.

The 30’s and 40’s brought such sophisticated bands as Count Basie and Glenn Miller. Miller’s “In the Mood” is a well-developed jug band blues song. Artists that would be considered contemporary since they would range in time from the 20’s to the 80’s would include Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, and Della Reese. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, BB King and Ray Charles would be more notable artists who were forerunners in the field and more well-known to a modern audience.

The blues music was a very large influence in the formation of rock and roll. When Sam Phillips signed Elvis Pressley, a blues type of music was introduced to the white population. The explosion of the English singers later became an extension of a type of blues music with the guitar and bass being the prime means of instrumentation backed with a heavy drum line.

The music called Blues is an expression of the society that brought it to the forefront. Originating from a slave society that expressed the hardship and lament of such a life, it morphed as the society changed. Still it claimed the territory of the depth of a people possessed with a sense of who they are and where they came from. The stories told by the blues are personal, epic and