A Friendship Between Andy Warhol and Christopher O’riley


Andy Warhol
Christopher O’Riley and Two Unidentified men- Now in St.Olaf Art Collection 

gelatin silver print on paper
8 in. x 10 in. (20.32 cm x 25.4 cm)
Gift of © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

This Photo that was showed in the collection is a photo taken by Andy Warhol, probably in early 1980s. It captured the moment when the young pianist Christopher O’riley played music for Andy Warhol and three other audiences. It would be risky to guess what O’riley was playing, but from where I stand, probably jazz. As what O’riley said when he thought of the good memory with Andy Warhol:


Interview: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/christopher-o-riley-velvet-underground/#_

They were good friends. As what O’riley remembered, the man who introduced he to Andy Warhol was Stuart Pivar. Pivar went to a lot of auctions together with Warhol and they co-founded the New York Academy of Art. One of O’riley’s friends took him to Pivar’s house- and that was how he met Andy Warhol. O’riley often played music for Andy Warhol, Ford models, art collectors, and experts in the apartment. Taking these into account, through careful observation viewers might find out that all human figures in the photo can possibly be upper-middle class elite men, sitting in the delicate room with the art nouveau style lamp and Bouguereau-like academic painting on the wall.

Even more interesting, Christopher O’riley started to host the National Public Radio program From the Top in a way that Andy Warhol suggested- do absolute O’riley’s music. In the show, He started to do groundbreaking transcriptions of the rock band Radiohead with his own interpretations of classical music and new repertoires, and this made him famous for his piano arrangement of rock music.

As what he said in the interview:

“Dealing with music as a contemporary form and not something in a museum definitely led to my confidence to do my own things.”


Works Cited:


Minstrelsy Never Really Died—it Simply Changed Media

While many of these southern folk music pieces wrote by Stephen Forster presented sympathetic portrayals of African American characters, like the heartbreaking “Old Black Joe”(I mentioned in my first post), songs like “Camptown Races” and “Oh! Susanna” became linked with offensive stereotyped images of slaves, and was used in minstrel performance. Strangely, in the early and mid-twentieth century, in addition to using the songs to establish geography and time period, film scores and cartoons also began using Foster’s music as a way to negatively define a minority character’s station in life.

067.017.000.webimage 640

Although they by no means initiated the trend, film like Blazing Saddles used “Camptown Races” in a shorthand way of defining characters’ region (southern), race (african American), and personalities (hedonistic). The boss assumes his request was misunderstood. He wanted a “darky” song, like “Camptown Races.” In the film, when the boss starts to sing it, he wants to imitate a buffoon in minstrel performance with his untrained voice, awkward dance movements, and exaggerated “negro dialect”.

Cartoons like the Bugs Bunny shorts also used “Camptown Races” to strengthen the stereotype. The song was used to reinforce a drastic change in a character’s personality, or a costume change; this often happens when a character suddenly takes on blackface or even slave-like characteristics, as in Bugs Bunny’s transformation into a minstrel performer singing “Camptown Races” at the conclusion of Fresh Hare (1942). When we watch animated cartoons, how much does music shape our perception of the narrative? And why are Stephen Foster’s songs so prevalent in cartoon music in what has come to be known as animation’s golden age (1930s–1960s), especially in cartoons that depict African American slaves, blackface minstrelsy, and the South? Is it because Forster’s songs no longer deal with some exotic setting in another continent, but rather with real people in real places within the United States (Smolko, 348)?

As Daniel Goldmark says, “Minstrelsy never really died—it simply changed media.”


Work Cited:

Smolko, Joanna R. “Southern Fried Foster: Representing Race and Place through Music in Looney Tunes Cartoons.” American Music 30.3 (2012): 344-372.

El Salón México: a Production of Political Ideology?

A few scholars had pointed out that Copland’s music in 1930s-40s was somehow associated with the idea of Pan Americanism. During the promotion of “Good Neighbor Policy” time, not only did Copland serve the government in an official capacity, but he published on Latin American music and composed Latin-American–style works such as El Salon Mexico.

Audiences are pretty sure that Copland’s deep interest in Latin America music absolutely went beyond the “Good Neighbor policy”, but I personally think that Pan Americanist aesthetic ideology actually influenced Copland’s way of composing. Some Argentine critics also pointed out that Copland’s interest in Latin America was largely motivated by his leftist politics, and that this ideology, moreover, permeates the very scores of his Latin- American–themed compositions (Crist 2003). They insisted that various forces had aligned to promote U.S folklore as an emblem of progressive politics.

However, Copland did care about his audience and the music public. It is said that in his memoirs, Copland claimed El Salon Mexico had “started the ball rolling toward the popular success and wide audience I had only just begun to think about.”


Crist, Elizabeth B. “Aaron Copland and the popular front.” (2003): 409-465.


To attract the public attention (or promote the belief of Pan Americanism), Copland tried new approaches in his composition. El Salon Mexico uses an abstract ideal of musical logic in favor of a rhapsodic form that emphasizes rhetorical coherence more than structural design. In addition, this one-movement orchestral fantasy features a new accentuation of melody. As the first of Copland’s works to make extensive use of folk song, this composition captures the spirit of the eponymous dance hall by quoting traditional Mexican tunes and evoking such popular musical. For example, it shows how Mexico rhythmic developments are free and always in transition.


Copland, Aaron. “The Story behind My El Salón México.” Tempo, No. 4 (1939):2-4


I would think that during Copland’s time, he promoted folklore to Latin American composers while cultivating accessible folkloric elements in his own music- and all these qualities also valued by the government committees on which he served.


Works Cited:

Crist, Elizabeth B. “Aaron Copland and the popular front.” (2003): 409-465.

Copland, Aaron. “The Story behind My El Salón México.” Tempo, No. 4 (1939):2-4

Is Rhapsody in Blue an “Inauthentic” Representation of Jazz?

According to some jazz scholars, a racialized barrier between the black, “authentic” extended jazz compositions of Duke Ellington and the white, “inauthentic” symphonic jazz of Gershwin has emerged in critical and scholarly accounts of these traditions. However, when Ellington rearranged Rhapsody in blue, these barriers were considered to become more complex and permeable.

“Whites Cannot Play Real Jazz”- this is not only the title of a newspaper article (Pittsburgh Courier) in 1923, but inclined the idea that “in Whites’ performance, there is little real substance to black art in itself, that it is mainly a figment of white people’s racially twisted imagination.(Gerard, 101)”


Bañagale, Ryan Raul. “Rewriting the Narrative One Arrangement at a Time: Duke Ellington and Rhapsody in Blue.” Jazz Perspectives 6.1-2 (2012): 5-27.

Duke Ellington’s arrangements performed in 1925 and 1932 tried to remove long-held assumptions that the Rhapsody in blue was the provenience of white bands and provide insight into Ellington’s own development of concertized jazz. With a belief that “a soloist should be given absolute freedom,” Ellington might be one of the “angry African-American avant-garde jazz artists” that tried to point out white composers who have made money out of spontaneity and primitiveness of African- American art fail to see the skill and calculation of the Black composers/performers(Gerard, 98). In his 1932 arrangement of Rhapsody, he increased the large saxophone section into four, instead of using clarinets, hoping to achieve more complex harmonies and timbral. He also wanted to recall a social dance tradition instead of letting audiences sit on concert hall chairs. Except of an improvised piano solo, his arrangement can be played with a steady, danceable tempo (Raul, 105).

Here is a reconding of Ellington’s latest arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue:


However, would it be possible that Duke Ellington misunderstood intentions of some White composers? Chick Corea once said:


Gerard, Charley. Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print.

Thus some of White composers’ interests in jazz were primarily aesthetic, since their music does not play a part in establishing a group’s social cohesion, as African-American music does for Black culture. Whites have a strong interest in expanding the technical aspects of jazz by introducing elements from modern classical music. At the same time, it would be rigorous that a successful performance of music that has jazz elements requires that all of its traditional ingredients be present in order for it to be considered authentic. Thus I personally won’t agree that in transforming jazz into “fine art”, composers/performers sought to transform/affirm their racial status in order to “distant” blackness.


Works Cited:

Bañagale, Ryan R. Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon. , 2014. Print.

Bañagale, Ryan Raul. “Rewriting the Narrative One Arrangement at a Time: Duke Ellington and Rhapsody in Blue.” Jazz Perspectives 6.1-2 (2012): 5-27.

Gerard, Charley. Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998. Print.


Can Bluegrass be Categorized as “Folk” music ?

There is a discussion about whether bluegrass music, a kind of music promoted and developed by Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys band from 1950s, is “authentic” folk music. According to the research I did, by the time bluegrass music had been labeled as “folk”, the hallmarks of the style (e.g. acoustic instruments, fast tempo and high tenor vocals) included many of the features that had originally made up by Monroe himself, as an “original invention”, not a subgenre of “folk” music or folk revival. However, bluegrass was adopted by the revivalists later as a type of “folk” music since revivalists subjected bluegrass to ideals of authenticity that have.

When Steve Rathe interviewed Bill Monroe in Dec. 10, 1973, Bill Monroe first told audience about “what bluegrass music is and what elements have gone into its composition”.

 Ewing, Tom, ed. The Bill Monroe Reader. University of Illinois Press, 2000.

From this interview, I can see that Bill Monroe saw his music as a new production, a synthesis of genres he admired, and a way of making profits. However, at this time bluegrass music had not been ”absorbed” by folk revivalist and the best way of gaining this kind of acceptance was to characterize bluegrass as ”folk”. I assumed that it won’t be hard to see bluegrass as folk music, since it featuring much of the traditional repertoire that interested the revivalists.

For example, from the interview Bill Monroe also mentioned his reproduction of Mule Skinner Blues, which completely fit in his definition of bluegrass. I was disappointed of not being able to find an online score of this song, but I can still recognize some characteristics he mentioned in the recording.


The song uses the instrumentation of bass, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo. The rhythm, especially the syncopation featured a combination of blues songs and early 20th-century pop song, with fast-paced instrumental breakdowns. After a short entrance, Bill starts with his high-pitched, “lonesome” vocal line with four-parts harmony; and he shows his use of the folk tune “the little mule” in the second stanza. Also, he separates song verses and choruses with virtuosic instrumental soloing.

However, since bluegrass had its origins as a commercial country music in which artists performed on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded for major labels, the music couldn’t hold up as an unchanging tradition that was anti-commercial and “from the mass”. As far as I understand, putting bluegrass in folk genre was an imagined construction and lack of grounding support. Asserting membership in a genre can thus be a form of cultural affirmation, a process that Allan Moore has identified as “second person” arises when a performer succeeds in conveying the impression to the listener that the listener’s experience of life is validated.

I would love to end with what Charles Keil said about folk music:

Keil, Charles. “Who Needs” The Folk”?.” Journal of the Folklore Institute(1978): 263-265. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3813980



Resource:Ewing, Tom, ed. The Bill Monroe Reader. University of Illinois Press, 2000.


Keil, Charles. “Who Needs” The Folk”?.” Journal of the Folklore Institute(1978): 263-265. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3813980




St.Louis Blues- A Song Represents “Sexuality”?

Hollywood cinemas in mid-20th century would use blues songs as a means to articulate racial instability in the characterization of women who represented problems in terms of their sexuality, their morality, and their (lower) class status.

The song St.Louis Blues would be an example.




Composed by W. C. Handy in 1914, St. Louis Blues was first featured in black vaudeville circa 1916 by Charles Anderson. On the basis of the song’s popularity, Handy has been called “The Father of the Blues”.

The song begins with a woman’s lament for the end of the day: “I hate to see de evenin’ sun go down.” Her man has left her for another woman who had “store-bought hair” and became a temptation too great for him to ignore. Composed in G major, St. Louis Blues is a 12-bar blues that combine ragtime syncopation with “a real melody in the spiritual tradition”. Handy also addressed that features from tango music was also figured in the introduction as well as the middle strain. In the famous Marion Harris version, the tango motif was played by violins, with bassoon’s humorous staccato, creating the image of a lovesick woman, full of lovelorn sadness but still has the longing for life.

Handy writes in his autobiography:


However, did the Hollywood film production interpret the music as W.C. Handy’s interpretation? My answer would be NO- the hardness in life and love relationship was mostly lost. According to Peter Stanfield, Stella Dallas (1937) provided a good example of the complex ideological work that was often performed by blues music. Stella “decay” from a “mother” to a “sexualized” when she laying on the sofa with a sexy pose and playing St. Louis Blues on her phonograph (after seeing all these, Stella’s daughter decided to leave Stella forever). I think it is clear that the symbolic power of St. Louis Blues was shown here, by the “transgressive” female sexuality, the “blackening” of white identity, and “urban primitivism.”

I personally think it is not an occasion that the White society perceived Blues as “primitive” but “sexy” in early 20th century. Sociologist Gramsci’s idea of “culture hegemony” had to play in somewhere. White society would just love to take anything they want to take from black music- they redefined it and distorted it in order to adjust the entertainment of white people, without any further understanding of what the music actually talked about; Yet at the same time, African American musicians seemed already “accepted” the twisted impression in White society since they had to sale their music to white music dealers and singers, in order to make a living.



Stanfield, Peter. 2002. “An Excursion into the Lower Depths: Hollywood, Urban Primitivism, and St. Louis Blues, 1929-1937”. Cinema Journal. 41, no. 2. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1225853

David Evans. “Handy, W.C..” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/12322.

Handy, W. C. St. Louis blues. New York: Handy Bros. Music Co., Inc., 1914.http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/devincent/LL-SDV-09808

Are There “Unreal” Slave Songs?

According to the music review in The Scranton tribune, 1899, with the growing of market of black slave songs and spiritual songs, some composers (non-black) started to produce these kinds of black music. However, the critique pointed out that many of these “new productions” were obvious “fake”, by failing to use “correct” words for pop black culture. Among these new productions, the song “Old Black Joe” was one of the few successful examples that true to African American’s life.


“Old Black Joe” is a song composed by by Stephen Forster (1826–1864) and it was published by Firth, Pond & Co. of New York in 1860. Foster wrote it as a synthesis of his ideals for stage and parlour ballads. The lyrics for the song was from first person recount, describing sadness of losing friends “in the cotton fields”, without any use of Black slangs or tones. The oldest version of notated music of “Old Black Joe” that held in Library of Congress showed a solo male voice line (marked as Joe) with chorus of SATB. Audiences can hear “call and response” in the music in a specific Jubilee Singer’s performing style.



Recording: http://www.loc.gov/item/jukebox.1814/#rights-and-access

However, the “real negro music”, described by the writer of Modern Negro Songs, should be in chorus setting rather than solo and should be sung by men rather than women. As the writer said, “It seems absurd for a female to sing the song of a Negro man, for it is well known that in every age of the Negro song the Negro has prided himself on his bass.” However, evidence from members of The Jubilee Singers and recordings of early work songs can prove he wrong.


Women sang a work Song:


Evening times-Republican. (Marshalltown, Iowa), 08 Feb. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85049554/1919-02-08/ed-1/seq-8/>

The Scranton tribune. (Scranton, Pa.), 16 Jan. 1899. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026355/1899-01-16/ed-1/seq-5/>

Deane L. Root. “Foster, Stephen C..” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.<http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/10040>.