Distinctly American Music

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by nonsqtr, Mar 29, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi all, yesterday someone told me that "jazz is the only kind of music with distinctly American roots". I surely don't agree with that statement, and here's my short list:

    Country & Western
    Death Metal

    Can anyone comment on these, or does anyone have anything to add to the list?
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Hip hop

    And techno isn't distinctly american, the earliest techno pioneers hail from europe, kraftwerk were from germany, but even predating them, were others from europe that toyed with all electronic music, synths and such. Unless by techno you mean like club music, because that style of electronic music is american as far as I know, but it certainly was embraced by the world.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Swing falls under the Jazz umbrella.
    Alternative, Death Metal, & Gothic fall under the Rock umbrella.

    ...which all fall under the Blues umbrella. Sorry, Blues is it!!

    There is American Folk music & Native American Indian music, too.
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    you mean the "minor pentatonic" umbrella :D
  5. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    Death Metal's heavily influenced by English and Swedish metal acts, similarly w/ Gothic.

    I think Blues, Jazz and country/western are the only distinctly American musical genres. At the same time though, jazz was influenced a good deal by the blues and jazz always found more success overseas than in the US.

    As near as I can tell, there are no non-American country singers or prominent artists. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but in general I don't think there is much (if any) of a country scene outside the US. Similarly, Blues grew up in a distinctly American environment.
  6. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    Blues & CW are the same thing with different beat emphasis; Jazz is a child of the blues and gospel; bluegrass is folk+blues+yodeling. Just my opinion...
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, bluegrass' roots in Anglo/Celtic folk music is pretty well documented, so Ithink that let's bluegrass out.

    Blues is pretty much the root mother for the rest of this stuff
    blues + bluegrass = country & western
    blues + legit = jazz
    blues + loud amps = pretty much every kind of rock and roll
  8. Blues. That's it, really. Everything else either came from blues, or from another country all together.
  9. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    "Blues had a baby, and they called it Rock and Roll"

    Yup, Blues started it...then Jazz followed and then R&R.

    Country AND Western...it's the wild west of the US that got added onto that little moniker.
  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Wrong Rabbit Test-
    ...go ahead & throw yer "Minor Pentatonic" bomb at Ed.

  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    There is a popular Russian Country group called Bering Strait.
    ...there's your exception.
  12. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    Out of that initial group, "Country & Western" is the only one that I'd say has distinctly american roots. I could maybe agree with that for swing, as well, and bluegrass.. but the rest are so heavily influenced by nonamerican roots that, while america was their incubator, I don't consider their roots "distinctly american".

    Jazz and blues ESPECIALLY. But beyond this we get into the debate over "what is considered american", so it's all really a moot point.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I dunno, Funkcicle-
    Blues happened 'cause the African slaves were stripped of their homeland instruments...so, the American slaves used their voice(flat 3rds, 5ths, & 7ths, etc + 'the feel').

    (Note: Slaves in the Caribbean were allowed to keep their sacred instruments...their African rhythms melded with the local rhythms. Bam-
    Afro-Cuban music & the various other dance forms evolved).

  14. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    That's a bit of an oversimplification, I think. (Read Miles Davis' thoughts on that explanation in his autobiography! :p )

    The roots of the blues go far deeper than that. Strong French/Acadian/Creole influence, the slave influence as you mentioned, as well as numerous other influences. It could be argued that those are all components that make up what is "American", and I'd concede to that as it acknowleges the America's diverse roots.. something America doesn't like to do for some reason. Generally calling something "American" has the exact opposite connotations, so when I hear "american music" I think of Britney Spears, N Sync, etc.

    ...but that's a whole 'nother can o worms!
  15. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Hey! Be nice to the worms! Spears and N SYNC are a can of somethin' else...ugh!
  16. Beat me to it! I was gonna mention them too, except using the somewhat less graceful name "that Russian bluegrass/country band I've seen on TV, can't remember the name, has anyone else heard of them? They're actually pretty good..." :p Good call.

    I wish I had more knowledge of musical history to participate in this discussion; I'll just have to read and learn. One comment in particular I'm wondering about: Ed, what do you mean by "blues + legit = jazz"?
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    There are obviously none!! So - anything using the tonal system is based in European music and can trace itself back to Monks and the Church. So - the just temperament scale used in all the music cited so far, goes back to Bach's day.

    Truly original musics wouldn't have used this - so for example, you have Japanese "Classical "music or bagpipe music, which don't use just temperament.

    Some music may claim to have rhythmic innovations, aside from the harmony/melody - but as people have clearly pointed out - these all come from Africa originally anyway!!

    The only real claim for a totaly original American music that I can see has any slight justification whatsoever - is Free Jazz!!
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I presume he means legitimate music theory, that was added, to extend the harmonic vocabulary of musicians playin the Blues!! ;)
  19. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Whaddabout the sounds created by Native Americans(Indians)?.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Actually that's a good point - so of course there is the famous story about Dvorak being asked by his students how they could create a distinctively Amercian music and this led to the New World Symphony (No. 9). So - the slow movement is supposed to be based on Native American funeral dirges.

    Generally though - I think my point holds that any music that uses conventional scales, owes a debt to European music and especially Bach for inventing Equal Temperament....

    But it may be that the Native American music had unique scales - I dont know enough about it?