Friday, June 15, 2012

R&B - so much to learn!

I've been studying R&B lately - everything from looking through old Billboard charts, seeing the changes in R&B and vocal style from the 1940s, watching videos from the 40s, 50s and 60s, watching some of my favorite artists like Stevie Wonder, reading scholarly material such as Dr. Richard Ripani's study on R&B (which was originally published as his doctoral dissertation - not to be taken lightly!) The New Blue Music 1950-1999. I'm also reading simultaneously Dr. Craig Werner's study of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Curtis Mayfield in his book Higher Ground. Needless to say, my head is spinning!! But it's so weird, because I haven't been this excited about music in so long, to the point I want to stay up and read at night. And even weirder is the fact that Ripani's book is very theory-based - he studies the blues scale, its history, the blues form - in depth. He traces it back to its African roots and even explains heavier concepts, like Pythagoras' musical theories, and the way our Western ears hear scales in current times, as opposed to how they heard them in the Middle Ages, or even in the Baroque, for example. Things changed when the keyboard instrument became "well-tempered," which means it was divided evenly into twelve equally-spaced notes. (Bet you didn't know that it wasn't always that way!) I am truly blown away by these wonderful scholars' works. Wow!

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