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ethnicity
  • 312166.1055

  • 312165.1116

    Charley Patton, musically untrained, was the Mozart of American Blues. With a single song, Pony Blues, he altered forever the nature of music, predicting if not inventing in one fell swoop rock and roll, soul and even disco. To comprehend Patton's nuances, musicologists will tell you bands as elemental as The Rolling Stones never made a single recording that topped the complexities of Pony Blues. W.C Handy, the inventor of pop-blues, himself trained to read and write music tried many times to imitate Patton's skills but the secret evaded him.   Here's an excerpt of King of the Delta Blues, the only definitive study of Patton's revolutionary skills.

      Pony Blues remains such an appealing song that it could have made the blues career of anyone who invented it. Its fourteen bar title verse had the kind of insinuating melody that makes for a song hit or standard. Except for its keynote phrase endings, the placid melody of the title verse was altogether untypical of blues. Its four notes employed major intervals (the keynote, major third, major fifth, and major sixth) that eliminated the tonal ambiguity of most blues. The prominence of the dominant of all three phrases further removed it from conventional blues melody, which would often lack a dominant in its first two phrases. Instead of treating the dominant as a ceiling tone (in the fashion of Maggie), Patton made it a true melody note by sandwiching it between the higher sixth and lower third. While many blues sound forced, Pony Blues began with three complementary phrases, closely intertwined as to constitute a single basic phrase with variations.
      Whereas the first half half of the initial phrase ascends during the first three beats, the last part of the phrase inverts its note sequence for four beats (descending from the major sixth to the dominant, the major third, and keynote). The second phrase begins with the same ascent, but instead of hovering at the major sixth on the sixth beat, it repeats the closing cadence of the previous phrase. The third line resumes the melody of the first six beats, and then toys with the three lowest tones for its closing measure.
      Patton’s remarkable phrasing and rhythmic presentation of Pony Blues made it far superior to the ordinary ditty, and converted what otherwise would have been a memorable melody into a masterpiece. Over the first two phrases of the title verse, he held the final word (which began on the tenth beat) for six beats while playing a guitar figure. The hold created a symmetrical effect, since the opening phrase snippet of the tune ('Hitch up my pony') had also consisted of six beats. The final word of the stanza was held for two full measures—a feat never duplicated on a blues recording.
    The vocal accenting of Pony Blues was the most complicated of any dance blues song. The unique vocal accenting of the title verse involved a tug-of-war between a 1-2 scheme and legato singing style involving sustained notes that displaced expected stresses.  As in Screamin' and Hollerin', the vocal had a weak sixth beat that Patton fortified by penetrating his singing with instrumentation. In this instance, he created a complementary rhythm with a non-melodic seven beat mosaic, beginning with a bass tonic note on the second followed by three beats of dampened and bent treble notes. A three beat variation of this phrase began on the sixth beat, Patton seems to be the only blues musician who was able to think in terms of such dual rhythm patterns.
      By using short instrumental figures, Patton not only filled in every vocal beat (except for the opening one, and the fifth beat of the final phrase), but was able to attain a variety of tones and instrumental accenting patterns. The bass and treble interplay that formed Patton’s accompaniment punctuations was extremely exotic within the realm of blues-playing. His rhythmic punctuations would have sounded unintelligible without the presence of a vocal line they were grafted onto. In this respect the arrangement given Pony Blues was musically ancestral to present day “soul” and disco songs, where percussive phrase snippets abound.
    …Patton’s timing is wondrous to behold, and he handles his instrument like a toy, producing tonal and percussive contrasts by choking strings for split seconds, muting individual bass notes, and tapping his guitar percussively during the V7 section over the third and fourth beats of the final vocal phrase. Jazz guitarist Woody Mann terms Pony Blues “the most perfect blues recording ever made."

    - King of the Delta Blues, The Life and Music of Charley Patton by Stephen Calt and Gayle Wardlow Rock Chapel Press pp 98-99
     

  • 312161.0811

    Barrelhouses were mostly illegal houses of gambling with skewed odds, prostitution, cheap corn liquor and a house pianist. As the barrelhouse became the only place men could romance women somewhat without fear of retribution, its popularity rose steadily and a circuit was established for travelling musicians - soon this began rivalling gambling as the main attraction. Barrelhouses were usually staked by farmowners hoping to sieve their workers' wages back rather than letting them spend it up north in the barrelhouses of Beale Street (Memphis).

  • 312158.1518

    Holding the cards (in this case fortunes) close to its chest, Chris McQuarrie's Persons Unknown is a riff on simula mystery, a handpicked, asymmetrical group awakens in a hotel after individualized kidnappings. The satiric implications should be obvious by now (see: Lost), a group is plucked from their daily urban-suburban nightmare, from petty conflicts and lives unfulfilled and offered an interzone that has certain properties of paradise (the key is in your bedside Bible/rubbing sticks together for fire opens an elevator), escape is not the 'true' answer so instead of utilizing the possibility of awakening they degrade at times into primitive warfare and infighting. A game loop ensues, hoping to snare an audience in the mystery. The dividing line of this captive subgenre, Prisoner vs. Matrix, knowing vs. not knowing about the trap, is where the nuances start to emerge. As cultural litmus, the abundance of this 'trope' on television is a kind of giveaway, the TV eye began by watching us unconsciously (see the CBS eye logo) and our loopy acceptance of its growing feed guarantees we can never see the imprisonment-to-come. Kathode-Ray or Plasma Kafka. As in comic-book mythology, TV mythology does not like to resolve itself - that shortens any revenue stream, which begs another question, how can myth and market evolve to a next level under the current revenue streams? And the degrading storytelling: What was once a single-dose mystery suitable for 30 minutes on The Twilight Zone is now spun-out, elongated into vast, 100 hour-long creeky narratives with leaking plot-lines and unresolveable, unintentionally comedic logic paradoxes. Incomplete myths lacking airtight structure are not necessarily problematic since it works in our mirror: bland disconnection and loose threads are what the 21st century reality is like anyway, a good reason the core audience forgives Lost. As weird as this sounds, it's a form of unconditional love one could never offer a person. The folding question with the above one, and clearly our era is interested in seeing these narratives play out, is what will elevate these stories to riveting (above a 12 share)? Above image is from the Twilight Zone episode "Person or Persons Unknown."

  • 312158.1357

    Superheroes, from hand drawn to 3-D optics, a slippery slope of myth recreated from Roman scale transitions.

  • 312146.0548

  • 312136.1305

    Cabiric painted urn, showcases influences of Eastern paradox of 'great and small' by illustrating Odysseus as a dwarf communicating with Circe. Image from Symbols of Transformation by Jung

  • 312135.1812

  • 312129.0453

  • 312117.1749

    Pudovkin achieved a subtler montage contrasted with his cohort Eisenstein, who crunched anonymous victims in the jaws of conflict. Pudovkin instead humanized each conflict and advanced storytelling techniques he discovered from his distant elder, D.W. Griffith. Here in his masterpiece Storm Over Asia, a raging trapper's son overwhelms from within, as a celebrated stooge, a White Army's outpost in Mogolia. Some of the best propaganda ever conceived in Russia.