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LITR 022 Music and Literature : Blues to Bop

A guide to music primary sources pertaining to course content


Blues: “A type of music that may be notated in eight-, twelve-, and sixteen-measure forms, using one of a select number of melodic scales and rhyme schemes, and sun and/or performed with musical instruments, with the melody as the primary component. Engendered in the late nineteenth century by southern rural African Americans in oral communities, the blues has come to be performed at the present time by American and English musicians of various races and economic classes, in settings ranging from ritual celebrations to formal concert halls.”  (Komara, Encyclopedia of the Bluesp. 105)

Ethel Waters in a white dress. James Weldon Johnson Collection, Beinecke Library.

JWJ MSS 76, Box 11, Folder 134-135.

"Am I Blue" was composed in 1929 by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke specifically for Ethel Waters to sing in the film musical On With the Show.

Reference Resources


Bop: "One of the main styles of jazz, generally considered to be the foundation for modern jazz. It was developed in the early to mid-1940s by musicians such as Charlie ParkerDizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell. By the mid-1950s, it was used more generally to describe the musical language underlying various substyles, such as Cool jazz , Hard bopSoul jazz, and Postbop." - "Bop (bebop, rebop)" by Scott DeVeaux. In Oxford Music Online.

Charlie Parker, 1947, from the Stanley Dance and Helen Oakley Dance Papers, Gilmore Music Library, Yale University

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920–1955) was a pioneer of Bop, and ranks among the most creative and influential of all jazz musicians. This photograph was taken on February 19, 1947, just a few weeks after he emerged from six months in Cama­rillo State Hospital in California, where he was recovering from his her­oin addiction and other problems. Temporarily sober, Parker was in top form as he recorded Cool Blues on the Dial record label at the C.P. MacGregor Studios in Hollywood. His collaborators included singer Earl Coleman, Erroll Garner at the piano, Red Callen­der on bass, and drummer Doc West. In April of that year Parker moved to New York, where he achieved popular and critical success with a new quintet that included Miles Davis and Max Roach. Despite his unquestioned genius, Parker was never able to over­come his prob­lems, and he died in 1955, when he was only 34 years old. - Richard Boursy, Hot Spots: Highlights from the Jazz Collections in the Gilmore Music Library.