What is Wrong with Rock?

final blog

“Rise and Shine”

St. Olaf student, Laura Anderson, wrote in 1972 about that she met with a group of young fellows living and performing in Minneapolis. The group, previously knows as “Debb Johnson,” added several members to the group and renamed themselves “Rise and Shine.” This group had performed at St. Olaf previously. Unfortunately, Laura does not mention what music genre the group performs. However, the groups sees a future for music.

Laura reports, when she sat down with “Rise and Shine,” they arrived on the topic what is music. Laura quotes one of the band members: “The days of stoned-out boogie bands (and audiences), destruction on stage, and sloppy music are gone. People are tired of obnoxious music and egotistic performers — it’s not showmanship, it’s insanity.” Laura believes that music should consist of good musicianship. She finds loud music and quickly produced music to be disgusting. “Rise and Shine” lives to together and is constant writing and performing their own music. Their favorite groups are Shawn Phillips, the Beach Boys, and Joni Mitchell. All these uniques sounds contribute to their creative sound.

Laura’s articles shows that music, especially in the popular world, has been constantly  changing, as people get bored and look for something new to entertain them. As we have seen since the 50s, music has evolved from Rock ‘n’ Roll to disco, to boy bands. Even today music seems to be evolving as people strive to create new music.

Seltzer and Native American Portrait Study

Olaf Carl Seltzer was a painter well known for his landscape paintings. At a young age, Seltzer showed talent in painting and enrolled in Danish Art School and Polytechnic Institute. However, a couple years after enrolling, his father died, and the family moved to Great Falls, Montana. Here he worked as a cowboy, painting and sketches the whole time.

His most famous works are of the Native Americans, ranchers, or wildlife depicted in the natural countryside of Montana. However, St. Olaf College Flaten Art Museum archives own a work by Olaf Carl Seltzer entitled Native American Portrait Study. This work, instead of portraying a whole landscape, only shows two Native American heads, one in the the foreground and one in the background. The head in the foreground is painted in shades of brown and the head in the background is in shades of grey.


Olaf Carl Seltzer, Native American Portray Study, watercolor on paper, 12 in x 9 in



Many of Olaf Carl Seltzer’s works containing Native Americans do not depict them in action, hunting or perhaps fishing. Usual the Native American people are riding on horses, pausing at a creek or thoughtfully looking ahead. The same goes for his Native American Portrait Study; the two men are looking off into the distance. I believe Seltzer thought of the Native American’s and poised, reverent people. Unfortunately, there is not date to this portrait, but around Seltzer’s lifetime, many thought of the Native American’s as savage people. However, I believe that Olaf Carl Seltzer’s background, moving from Copenhagen to Montana, had a significant effect on how Carl viewed these people.

* All historical background from https://www.wildlifeart.org/collection/artists/artist-olaf-carl-seltzer-330/


Transcriptions and Telling the Whole Story

Upon studying an unfamiliar culture’s music, there are many different aspects of the music that could be taken into account. Simply the notational aspects of the music can be notated, such as pitches, rhythms, dynamics, tempos. However sometimes there are extra things that a western 5-lined staff cannot display in detail, such as pitch-bending, amount of vibrato, sliding, and tone-quality. This has been a challenge for many ethnomusicologists for years.

Two transcribers produced books regarding some to their findings about Native American Song. Theodore Baker published his dissertation ber die Musik der Nordamerikanischen Wilden (On the Music of the North American Indians) in 1882 while studying in Leipzig. His book describes most of the primary characteristics of the music he witnessed, like the rhythm, singing quality, dancing, and instruments. His notations include grace-note ornaments and chromatics slides. However, Baker does not go into detail how these features fit in with the music he transcribed, nor does his commentary note what function the music plays in Native American Spiritual life.

Frances Densmore, a well known ethnomusicologist, published The American Indians and their Music in 1926. Her book contains many of the same features as Baker’s, except her transcriptions do not include any grace-notes like Baker. However, she offers far more written context on the music. She has a whole section devoted to each dance, game, and Native American life. Overall I think that Desmore captures more accurately the meaning behind the music.

When looking into another culture that is not one’s own, it is important to mention all aspects that go into music because does not just involve the print ink on the page — it involves our cultural experiences and knowledge.

“Note for Note Indian”: Finck’s claim on Edward MacDowell’s “Indian Suite”

Henry T. Finck wrote in Century Illustrated Magazine about Edward MacDowell’s success in creating an American sound that is a “mixture of all that is best in European types, transformed by our climate into something resembling the spirit of American literature.” In fact Edward MacDowell has become well known as the writer of the 10 Woodland Sketches, including tunes such as “To a Wild Rose.”

Finck was specifically speaking of MacDowell’s Second Suite commonly known as the Indian Suite. As Finck points out, “the introduction has almost a Wagner touch thematically, but it is note for note Indian.” However, when have you listened to any type of Native American music and thought it sounded like Wagner? Even though MacDowell’s piece sounds western to our ears, MacDowell was trying to create a savage piece. However, The fact of the matter is that Edward MacDowell used the transcriptions of Native American by Theodore Baker entitled On the Music of the North American Indians. These tunes have been written down on a western staff using western notational conventions. As you may know, Western staff notation can only speak in notes and rhythms but fails to represent all the subtle dips and bends in pitch.

Yes, I would agree that Edward MacDowell’s Indian Suite is a note-for-note representation of Theodore Baker’s transcription, but I believe that it cannot be considered note-for-note Native American. Native American music’s style is so distinctive from Western style that I think it is impossible from western music to properly represent all the Native American music has to offer.

All Quotations from:

Finck, Henry T. “AN AMERICAN COMPOSER: EDWARD A. MACDOWELL.” Century Illustrated Magazine (1881-1906) LIII, no. 3 (01, 1897): 448. http://search.proquest.com/docview/125517908?accountid=351.

Henry Cowell’s Heavenly Music?

Anyone who has taken Music History alongside the Norton Anthology knows Henry Cowell as the composer of the epically stated The Banshee. However, The Banshee is not the only Irish mythological topic that inspired his music as noted by Dr. Charles Pease, writer of the “As I See It” column in the Evening News, published in San Jose, California in 1922.[1] This column does not specify which piece he heard, so I did some extra research to find out which piece is most likely.

The volume of The Evening News was published three years before Cowell’s The Banshee was premiered.  I found another piece written in 1912, entitled The Tides of Manaunaum: No. 1 of “Three Irish Legends.” This piece accurately fulfills all the descriptions found in Dr. Charles Pease’s article; it is based on Irish myths, voices “the crashing movements of the incredible forces and masses conveyed in strange ‘chord-clusters’, and includes “the old Dorian modes developed perhaps five or six centuries before Christ.” However, just because this piece includes chord clusters and the Dorian mode, does this piece really show a “World Closer to God?”[2]

The edition published in American Piano Classics selected by Joseph Smith includes the story according to John Varian:

Manaunaum was the god of motion, and long before the creation he sent forth tremendous tides, which swept to and fro through the universe, and rhythmically moved the particles and materials of which the gods were later to make the suns and the worlds.[3]

Yes, the low clusters the show the crashing tides against the shore created by the “god of motion” and the Dorian mode points back ancient Greece. But does this music really transcend over all other music the godly cosmos of another world? The ideas of chord clusters had been around as Igor Stravinsky used dissonant clusters in his music, and composers had been looking back to the Greeks for some time. Henry Cowell is just another development in the scope of music.

[1] Dr. Charles Pease, “As I See It: Cowell’s Cosmic Music World Close to God,” Evening News vol. 78 no. 73 (09-25-1922) : 6.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Henry Cowell, “The Tides of Manaunaum,” in Americn Piano Classics: 39 Works by Gottschalk, Griffes, Gershwin, Copland, and Others, ed. Joseph Smith (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001), 44.

Newport Folk Festival Hosts Composer of the “The American Folk-Song Mass”

As the folk tradition started to die out, American folk started to take flight when John and Alan Lomax recorded and collected music of the rural regions of the United State, particularly in penitentiaries. In the 1940s, artists around the country decided to takes these recorded folk songs and make their own recordings. A single vocal accompanied by a guitar became the standard folk song, and people decided to write their own songs in the “folk” style.1

Along with this surge of new folk composers came Father Ian Mitchell, “the guitar-toting Episcopal priest…, and his wife, folk-singing star Caroline.”2 Father Ian Mitchell composed The American Folk-Song Mass, consisting of several liturgical and some original text set to the twang of the guitar. The Chicago Defender stated that “Father Mitchel composed [The American Folk-Song Mass] because he got tired of ‘cloying, cornball, 19th Century hymns.’”3 Later, Father Mitchell released Catholic version of his folk-song mass, incorporating the texts of the Roman Catholic Liturgy. According to the liner of the Catholic version of the mass, Father Mitchell was later commissioned to compose the Funeral Folk Mass.

According to the Chicago Defender, Father Ian Mitchell and his wife Caroline signed on to the Newport Folk Festival, best known for hosting renowned folk singers such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, to perform songs from their newly released album Songs of Protest and Love. However, I hardly consider Father Mitchell’s music to actually be “folk.” Father Ian Mitchell was “a city-dweller who spent three years in the wastelands of Utah,” seemingly making him more apt to folk styles.4 All he did was take liturgical text and sing them with a different melody with a guitar accompaniment. According to Oxford Music Online, “the [folk] revival spawned a large number of singer-songwriters who accompanied themselves on the acoustic guitar but had little in common with those concerned primarily to bear witness to the tradition.”5 I believe that Father Ian Mitchell falls into this category and his “folk-song” mass should be considered “Mass: Plus Guitar, Minus Organ.”

1 Laing, Dave. “Folk Music Revival.” Grove Music Online. www.oxfordmusiconline.com (accessed Mar. 12, 2015­)

2 “Newport Folk Festival to Feature “Singing Priest”.” Chicago Daily Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1966-1973), July 12, 1969. http://search.proquest.com/docview/493434506?accountid=351.

3 Ibid.,

4 Mitchell, Ian. Rev. “The American Folk-Song Mass” F.E.L Records. Back Cover.

5 Laing, Dave. “Folk Music Revival.”

The Memphis Blues: A Controversy of Publications

Luke P. Simonson

C. Handy, considered to be the founder of blues, published The Memphis Blues in 1912. The Memphis Blues was originally written without lyrics; however, the version included in A Treasury of the Blues: Complete Words and Music of 67 Great Songs from Memphis Blues to the Present Day includes lyrics, but does not disclose who wrote the lyrics. We can only assume that these lyrics were in fact written by W. C. Handy himself. Here is a recording of the Victor Military Band playing E. V. Cupero’s arrangement of The Memphis Blues in 1914. Cupero’s arrangement accurately takes every note and rhythm from A Treasury of Blues version publication.

Memphis Blues 1
The Memphis Blues by W. C. Handy


Memphis Blues 2

The Memphis Blues page 2

Memphis Blues 3

The Memphis Blues, page 3


Memphis Blues 4

The Memphis Blues, page 4


From listening and looking at the score, one can tell that this piece unfolds in three binary sections. The first section (which I will refer to as Section A) includes the AAB structure of the 12-bar blues. Section B (page 2) features an AABA form and from A Treasury of the Blues lyrics it also contains the same two bars of singing and two bars of instrumental break feel (shown below). Section C (pages 3-4) does not have the same structure as the previous sections, yet still contains the instrumental fills.

Interested in learning more about The Memphis Blues, I continued to search for more recordings. I came across Morton Harvey’s performance of the work recorded 3 months after the Victor Military Band’s. At first listen it sounded exactly the same, just with lyrics. Slowly I started to notice that the lyrics were not the same as The Treasury of Blue’s printed lyrics. Curiously, the lyrics and performers matched a copy of The Memphis Blues that I found of imslp.org.  The cover of the score (found below) claims that this piece was “George A. Norton’s” only founded on the W. C. Handy’s “World Wide ‘Blue’ Note Melody.”

Memphis Blues Norton cover

Memphis Blues Norton 1

However, George A. Norton’s version takes out the most crucial opening A Section (see above), only including a tiny bit of the A section and tacking it on the end of the B section. As mentioned before, the A Section is 12-bar blues form. Without this section, I hardly believe that this piece can be entitled The Memphis Blues. Even the B section of A Treasury of the Blues version is marred by Norton’s lyrical arrangement, adding lyrics to the two bar instrumental interludes (see Norton page 2 and Handy page 3). I think it is a crude infringement on Handy’s blues form, changing the piece from The Memphis Blues to The Memphis Ragtime.

Oneida Community and the Fisk Jubilee Singers




From 1848 to 1881, the Oneida Community resided just outside Oneida, NY. Founded by extremely religious preacher John Humphrey Noyes, the community strived to lead its life parallel to the ideals of Perfectionism, in which its member “persevered in a course of self-improvement, overcoming many obstacles.”1 Among some of Noyes’s greater ideals, he lived to help the anti-slavery cause. In The Hand-book of Oneida Community, Noyes states, “My heart was greatly engaged in [anti-slavery] work. At Andover I had become interested in the Anti-Slavery cause, and soon after I went to New Haven I took part, with a few pioneer abolitionists, in the formation of one of the earliest Anti-Slavery Societies in the country.”2 Certainly J. H. Noyes invigorated the members of his community to think in the same way.

Yet, in the copy of the Oneida Circular Newspaper printed on April 15, 1872, author H W B wrote a review when a group of nine African-American singer from Fisk University, called Fisk Jubilee Singers, came to perform at Oneida. H W B and quoted author Theo F. Seward, in this article, use words, such as pathetic, unfortunates, wholly untutored minds, and phrases like “As to the words which accompany their songs, they are even more broken and irregular than is the music,” and “The reason for [their success] cannot apparently be traced to the superior talent of the singer themselves” as the author only believes that three of four of them have nice voices, to describe the Fisk Jubilee Singers.3

How, then, can one say that the Oneida community was really built of J. H. Noyes’s fascination of the anti-slavery movement? It seems that the community members have a problem with allowing the African-American singers to be on a level ground with whites. As mentioned before, the author stated that the students had “wholly untutored minds,” although they all studying at Fisk University. I believe that shows that the Oneida Community had fallen away from its markers original ideals.

1 Oneida Community, Hand-book of the Oneida Community: With a Sketch of Its Founder, and an Outline of Its Constitution and Doctrines. (Wallingford, Conn. : Office of the Circular, Wallingford Community, 1867) 8 .

2 Ibid., 7.

3 H, W. B. “The Jubilee Singers.” Oneida Circular (1871-1876) 9, no. 16 (Apr 15, 1872): 126. http://search.proquest.com/docview/137675405?accountid=351.