HOPEFULLY, I will update this site every month and put some interesting information about music or composers that we are studying, or something about current events in music that might relate to us, or who knows what! If you have ideas for me, let me know!
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 Music From Where???

Often as we listen to a particular piece of music we think, "That sounds like music from Israel." Or, "That sounds like music from Africa." Or, "That sounds like music from China." Or Ireland, or Central America, or India, or... Or sometimes we might note that it sounds like Native American music or Zydeco (Cajun music).

What makes us say that? What in the music makes it sound like it comes from a particular country or culture?

A lot of it has to do with what instruments are being played (and HOW they are being played!), but as we have noticed in band, it isn't just instruments! As we work on "La Fiesta Brava" or "Israeli Dance" or even "Greasy Kids Stuff", we know that an 85 piece concert band is NOT the group that would have been heard originally when any of these pieces were first played, yet we can tell that we are playing a Spanish bull fight song, a folk song from Israel and a 50's rock & roll tune. How does that work?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the scale that the piece is built upon and then how that scale is used to create the harmonies. Rhythmic patterns are also important in giving a piece its cultural character.

In this month's tidbit, we will look a little bit at:

Klezmer Music and Music from the Jewish Tradition

(Speaking of Tradition, most of the music from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, fits into the description below!)

Much of the music of the Jewish tradition is built on the Ahava Raba or Freygish mode. Below is an Ahava Raba mode in D:

If the play bar shows below, click on it to hear the Ahava Raba mode. If the play bar doesn't show, play the scale on your instrument or on the piano.

If you know your minor scales you might notice a relationship here... the notes in this scale are the same as the G harmonic minor scale, but the Ahava Raba mode starts on d!

This mode is often used for prayers -- those of you of the Jewish faith, listen in temple and if prayers are being chanted, chances are they are in this mode. (Hmmm.... bar or bat mitzvah coming up?? Create your own prayer to use!! It is easy to make up really neat melodies with this mode!)

This mode is also used in celebration music - dances, songs and such. Klezmer music is generally built on the Ahava Raba scale. So what makes it sound like Klezmer music instead of a prayer??? The answer to that question is in the rhythms, the tempos, the instruments used and how they are played. Klezmer groups usually have a fiddle and a clarinet among other instruments. The clarinet player makes the melody slide around - almost like a trombone! The syncopated rhythm (see the example below) is the backbone of Klezmer music; you will find it in almost all upbeat Klezmer arrangements.

Another characteristic of Jewish dance music is the changing tempo. Dances often start out slowly - even in a stately manner - and gradually get faster and faster and faster! Another tempo change that frequently occurs is the sudden slow section -- the music suddenly slows for a short period of time and then ends in a very fast tempo.

It is impossible to describe all music of a culture in a few short paragraphs, so don't think of the above description as being everything there is to know about Jewish and/or Klezmer music!! I have barely scratched the surface. Learn more & create your own pages & I will link them here!

Related Links:

The Jewish Music Home Page (http://www.jewishmusic.com/) This is a commercial site where you can buy Jewish music, books, CDs, etc., but it also has a listening station where you can download and listen to some examples of Klezmer & other Jewish music.

Klezmer Music in a Few Words (Actually, there are a lot of words, but the Yiddish ones are defined!) Good info on the scales used and history of the music.

Jewish Music, an Overview - a page on the Jewish Student Online Research Center. There are links to many interesting articles, such as, Jewish Music, or Music of the Jewish People? (hmmm... interesting thought!)

There is a Klezmer Web Ring (http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=klezmer;list) with many sites by and about Klezmer musicians and their music. There are lots of jumping off points from here.

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Music From India

Music from the Western countries (Europe & the Americas) is built on scales, harmonies & rhythms. The scales are created from the 12 semitones of the chromatic scale. Music from India and some of the other Eastern countries can have more than 12 semitones in an octave. Indian music also has "Shrutis" which are microtones other than the 12 semitones in an octave - there are 22 within an octave! Traditional Indian music uses rhythm and melody, but very little, if any, harmony.

Traditional Indian music is very spiritual in nature. Like music of most countries, it has grown out of a need for expression of religious & spiritual feelings. Each classic Indian piece is built around a "raga". Ragas are not the same as scales: scale are just the notes, the pitches, that can be used. The notes of a scale can be played in many different styles - the same scale can be used to create a religious prayer, a country western song, an acid rock tune, a symphony or a dance melody.

There are estimated to be over 6000 ragas based on 72 "melas". Melas are kind of like the scales that our modes are created from. So what is a raga??? You can't learn exactly what a raga is from this short essay -- you would need to study with a guru for years and years to really understand -- but I will try to give you the basic idea.

A raga is based on a certain set of notes (including those microtones that are smaller than our half steps), but more than one raga can use the same notes. What makes them different is HOW you use the notes. A ragas might have a particular group of notes that is often used together. It might avoid certain other notes. It might make use of a slide between particular notes. There might be a particular pattern that is used when the melody goes up and another pattern used when the melody goes down. (Do you remember that the melodic minor scale does that!)

All ragas are linked to one of the nine "rasas". A rasa is an emotion or feeling. The nine rasas are: Shringara (romantic and erotic): Hasya (humorous): Karuna (pathetic): Raudra (anger): Veera (heroic): Bhayanaka (fearful): Vibhatsa (disgustful): Adbhuta (amazement): Shanta (peaceful). So one raga might be linked to the rasa, Shanta, and therefore the music played with that raga would be very peaceful.

Ragas are also linked to a time of day or a season of the year and are best when used, performed and listened to during that time of day or in that season.

Another important piece of a raga is its "tala". The tala is its rhythmic feel. Talas have a particular number of beat per cycle. (This is similar to beats per measure, but the cycles are often much longer than the measures of Western music. Perhaps it is more like beats in a section of music - like a blues has 12 measures or 48 beats. But even that doesn't really explain the tala.) A tala can have any number of beats: 5,6,7,8,10,12,14, and 16 beats to a cycle are the most popular talas.

Ravi Shankar explains further,

"The division in a tala, and the stress on the first beat (called sum), are the most important rhythmic factors. While there are talas having the same number of beats,they differ because the division and accents are not the same. For example, there is a tala known as "Dhamar" which has 14 beats in the cycle divided 5+5+4: another tala, "Ada Chautal" has the same number of beats, but is divided 2+4+4+4: still another tala, "Chanchar: is divided 3+4+3+4."

The Bare Bones Raga Guide has an audio clip of a piece composed with a particular raga (raga Todi).

To listen to more Indian music go to Chandrakantha Courtney's Music Page - Streaming Audio of Indian Music: http://www.chandrakantha.com/musicpage/index.html



The most commonly known Indian instrument (to us westerners), and perhaps the most popular stringed instrument in India is the sitar.

For more information on sitar check the page: Sitar - About Sitars http://www.buckinghammusic.com/sitar/aboutsitar.html

This picture comes from the webpage: Sitar - an on-line Sitar tutorial http://www.buckinghammusic.com/sitar/sittut/btut.html


The tabla is a drum from northern India and like the sitar, is an instrument that has found its way into Western music - especially pop music.


For an explanation of tabal and rhythm in Indian Music, see the webpage, Basic Overview of the Northern Indian Tabla http://chandrakantha.com/tablasite/articles/overview.htm. (Picutre taken from this webpage)


There are a number of flute type instruments from India. for more information on these and to hear an example of the bansuri, go to the page: Bansuri & Venu - Indian Flutes http://www.chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/bansuri.html


Related Links:

Ravi Shankar on Indian Music (http://www.ravishankar.org/indian_music.html). Ravi Shankar is one of the most widely known sitar player from India. He became really well known in the Western world when Beatle, George Harrison, went to India to study sitar with Ravi Shankar. (You can hear sitar on the later Beatle albums!)

Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth (http://www.spicmacay.org/hindustani-raga.html). This site has another explanation of the raga

RagaNet (http://www.raganet.com/RagaNet/) is an e-zine dedicated to learning about Indian music. It has midi files, lessons on a number of Indian instruments, history and many other interesting sections! Especially check out the section on instruments.

An Introduction to Indian Classical Music (http://www.lsi.usp.br/usp/rod/sounds/indian/indian.html)

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Latin American Music

Much of what makes Latin American music identifiable & makes it so well loved is its rhythm. Whereas a blues is based on its harmony and its form (how the music is put together), and the Jewish / Klezmer music we looked at is based heavily on the mode, and Indian music is based on a raga, Latin music is primarily on rhythmic patterns. There are many Latin American dances and each type has its own characteristic rhythms. The mambo was featured in our recent musical production, so let's look at that dance! For other styles see the page Latin American Music Styles - check out the example of a paso doble (our piece, La Fiesta Brava, was a paso doble), the rhumba, cha-cha-cha and others.

A Mambo is a typical Cuban dance rhythm; it is similar to the Cha-Cha-Cha, but a bit faster. Pérez Prad, Tito Puente & Tito Rodriguez were all involved in the evolution of the mambo. The mambo became a very popular dance in the United States in the mid-1950 (Damn Yankees was written in 1957, so that is probably why the show includes the mambo scene!). To play a mambo properly, it is essential to use the correct rhythms and to have at least conga/tumba and a cowbell or timbale. Brass instruments are often used in contrast to the piano and bass figures.

Below are some typical rhythms used in a mambo (Sulsbruck p. 117)

If the play bar shows below, click on it to hear this example of mambo rhythms (synthesized).

Related Links:

The history of the mambo can be found at Mambo Mania (http://www.laventure.net/tourist/mambo.htm).

Latin American Music Styles has audio examples of many different styles of Latin American Music.

For examples of how to do the various dances, see the excellent site: History of Latin-Amercian Dancing

Source used for the mambo rhythms:

Sulsbruck, Birger. English translation by Ethan Weisgard. Latin-American Percussion: Rhythms and Rhythm Instruments from Cuba and Brazil. Copenhagen: Den Rytmiske Aftenskoles Forlag, 1986. pp 96-115.

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