Tin Pan Alley The Center of American Popular Music, 1900-1930 Tin Pan Alley’s influence on popular song • Progressive: – Willing to adopt new sounds – Ex: bringing in ragtime, jazz • American Dream: – Wrote about middle-class aspirations, values – Images of patriotism • Spread Pop Culture: – Songs about U.S. pop culture (events, inventions) – Versatile, sensational • ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) “At the Telephone,” 1906 Tin Pan Alley and WWI (1914-1918) • Originally U.S. against involvement in WWI (1914-1917) • 1917: Tin Pan Alley helps sway national sentiment: “Go to war to end war” – promoted “war spirit” – Immigrant composers (I. Berlin) wrote patriotic songs, became soldiers • Arrangement with Committee on Public Information – In exchange for propaganda songs, paper rations lifted for song publishers Tin Pan Alley Song Form • Tin Pan Alley established its importance in pop by developing a simple formula: – Write lyrics that convey a single, simple message – Combine expected with unexpected – Use a simple 2-part song form • Verse - Refrain form – VERSE: sets dramatic context, tells story – REFRAIN: 4 sections of equal length A: main melody, chord changes, and lyric pattern (“hook”) A: new words, repeated chords and melody B: new words, melody and chords (“bridge”) A: return to hook with new words REPEAT! “My Blue Heaven” (Donaldson and Whiting, 1924) FORM: Intro: Cello presents “A” melody to introduce “hook” up front Verse: 2 short phrases set romantic tone (love makes the world go round) Refrain: A section – “hook” end with words “my blue heaven” A repeat – new lyrics, repeat “my blue heaven” B “bridge” – new material; heaven becomes clearer: “cozy Recorded by crooner Gene Austin in 1927 room” (domestic bliss) nature metaphor: “nest” A repeat, new lyrics Refrain 2: A section on cello with “crooning” humming A repeated B “bridge” repeated with same lyrics A with same lyrics Refrain 3: A with whistling, humming A with whistling, humming B bridge with same words A last phrase, voice rises at end for finality “My Blue Heaven” Arrangement • INSTRUMENTATION: – Cello gives sense of intimacy, sophistication – Accompaniment is soft, unobtrusive, tranquil • SINGING STYLE: – “crooning,” soft, intimate vocal quality (new and exciting at the time) – Never becomes intense – Humming creates sense of intimacy – Singing style made possible by electric microphone • Delicate, sophisticated instrumentation and vocal style compliment each other and reinforce the song’s message “My Blue Heaven” Lyrics • Lyrics reinforce melodic form and arrangement – “A” section ends with words “my blue heaven” – Images of tranquility & intimacy match musical sound • Simple message presented in verse: “Love makes the world go round” • Lyrics convey images of privacy, romantic domesticity – Use of first person: “my blue heaven” – “a fireplace,” a cozy room with wife and baby – Combines tranquil images of nature with middle class American Dream: whippoorwill’s nest = cozy den in the suburbs “My Blue Heaven” Song History and Social Context • By Walter Donaldson (music) and George Whiting (lyrics) – Donaldson was staff writer for Irving Berlin Music Co. on Tin Pan Alley – Fought in WWI, returned to write songs that promoted mainstream American values of privacy, stability, and romance • Signals a retreat from instability of war & Jazz Age – Represents mainstream values of romantic and domestic stability – Draws on cultural value of privacy, acquiring one’s own private space • Performance style and arrangement is a product of 1920s technology and musical trends – Electric microphone allows for soft crooning and quiet instruments – Relatively short performance reflects recording limitations “April Showers” (Louis Silvers, 1921) • Similar form to “My Blue Heaven” Intro “hook” taken from refrain Verse short, unimportant verse with message Refrain A B A1 C Though April showers… And if it’s raining… And where you see clouds… So keep on looking… Refrain Repeated with same words & slight melodic variation Outro orchestra repeats hook Sheet music for “April Showers” featuring the singer who made it famous, Al Jolson “April Showers,” cont. • JOLSON’S SINGING STYLE: – Loud, theatrical, exaggerated – Developed for vaudeville & Broadway – Necessary for acoustic recording • INSTRUMENTATION: – Accompanied by “sweet” dance orchestra • SIMPLE hook, SIMPLE message • LYRICS: – Hook ends with title: “April showers” – Optimistic, reassuring message: • “every cloud has a silver lining” • “hard work brings success” Vaudeville and film star Al Jolson recorded “April Showers” in 1921. – Images of birds, nature as positive result of spring rains • makes philosophy seem “natural”: “It’s only natural – see, it happens in nature!” • ARTIST HISTORY: “April Showers,” cont. – Russian immigrant, grew up in NYC tenements – Famous as blackface vaudeville comedian – Performed “coon” songs in blackface – Performance style: exaggerated, dominating “stage presence” – Style made him perfect for early recordings – Promoted himself as all-around entertainer • Comedian, singer, dancer – Took advantage of every kind of media technology • Sheetmusic, stage, recordings, radio, film • STANCE: – Public image made him likeable, authoritative – His stature makes his “advice” legit Al Jolson pictured in blackface in 1927 for his role in The Jazz Singer “Makin’ Whoopee” SONG HISTORY: • Written by Walter Donaldson (also wrote “My Blue Heaven”) for Ziegfield Follies on Broadway in 1928 • • Standard: continues to be recorded today (Rod Stewart, Elton John, Cindy Lauper, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald) Appeared in movies, Broadway, recordings, dance versions SOCIAL CONTEXT: • Dance bands integrating jazz arrangements into Tin Pan Alley song form • Crooners • Post-war fun-loving public questioning middle-class values of marriage and family STANCE: • Bing Crosby is smart, sophisticated, modern crooner • Conveyed through jazz band backing, sarcastic, slang-filled lyrics, intimate singing style Sung by Bing Crosby, accompanied by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra “Makin’ Whoopee”: ARRANGEMENT • Big dance orchestra • Form: – Instrumental intro AABA refrain – Short quote of “Here Comes the Bride” – Verse: short, brings main message: “funny take on marriage”/advice about marriage – Refrain: A lead singer with syncopated call/response • • • A B A new words bridge sung by crooning male chorus (contrast) lead singer with call/response – Refrain repeated twice by orchestra (no more vocals) • Includes clarinet and trumpet solos (jazz influence) • Rhythm: – swinging, syncopated rhythm for dancing; strong emphasis on 2, 4 – Interlocking, call/response vocals “Makin’ Whoopee”: LYRICS • • • Uses slang Makes fun of domesticity with a warning about marriage “trap” Uses repetition (song title in refrain) and short riffs A Another bride Another June Another sunny Honeymoon Another season Another reason For makin' whoopee. B Picture a little love-nest, Down where the roses cling, Picture the same sweet lovenest, Think what a year can bring. A A lot of shoes A lot of rice The groom is nervous He answers twice It's really killin' That he's so willin' to make whoopee! A He's washing dishes And baby clothes He's so ambitious He even sews But don't forget, folks That's what you get, folks, for makin' whoopee!
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