The blues: a spoken language
Starting from a few lines of a blog, it’s true: a musical genre is similar to a spoken language, with its own vocabulary, terminology, grammatical rules, punctuation and so on.
In the same way, a musical tradition preserves elements that distinguish its own language:
– scales with certain intervals
– progressions and
– typical harmonies, according to certain rules.
The blues do not like fixed rules
So far it’s clear that the blues, by its nature, do not love too much-fixed rules, It’s born and developed in a context with no preordained details, there is very few of formal.
Everything comes in a natural and spontaneous way, take it or leave it, almost uneducated and yet productive, in its own way. More than a written language it’s like a spoken language made of dialects and slangs acquired with the listener’s passion combined with the musician’s mileage.
The direct experience
The direct experience of practices transmitted orally, acquired by ear, makes blues the traditional genre par excellence. It was then the whites who codified writing and tried to fix the notes on the paper, however, passages which by their nature are changeable and subject to variations in the mood of the musician.
What would “jazz” be without blues?
This practice has led to forms of improvisation that later developed into jazz. What would jazz be without blues? Probably a language without a spine. I listened to musicians who bypassed the blues jumping in jazz. Result: complex sentences and mental executions, like a purely academic exercise.
Notes that, like a river in flood, spread everywhere at random. Simple and complete sentences are considered obvious, too easy to play.
The teaching of Miles Davis: using silence
When a language is lacking in its essential features, it loses its roots and becomes something else. As Miles Davis teaches, not only to play the right notes, the black ones for instance but also to avoid playing too many.
Be aware of silence relevance, translates into a wise use of pauses.
Imagine the listener hit by incessant quatrains of sixteenths shot without breath, it’s easy to get tired right away. On the other hand, the musician who plays them without listening to himself seems not to get tired.
It may seem a paradox, but sometimes the desire to amaze, to show one’s ability at all costs in a self-celebratory way, are temptations that, if not controlled, can take over.
Just for this reason a musician, during his artistic career, should better preserve the healthy passion of listening to other musicians, rather than always his music.
The ‘musician’ listener
In the case of blues, the listener-musician captures the mood, the accents, the howling blue notes, the vibrato, all those underlying or openly declared feelings that jump out of the lines of the pentagram.
If nothing of this happens, before the doubt arises of not being able to get emotions, it is better to get back on the road, to search, other miles away. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking elsewhere. Yes, because often the notes we find occasionally without effort are not enough. It is necessary to search long, wide, up to the borders.
Searching to the phrase that ‘moves’ inside
So one day we find a phrase that moves something inside us because it has content. Series of notes and harmonic progressions set on a rhythm that takes us away.
Now we know where and how to look, it also works with people, places and everything we love to have around. When we become aware of what we really like we have taken a step forward as people and as musicians. Through a rigid selection of what we are looking for, we are also able to convey something coherent, a personality, a style, at this point it is not a choice, but a natural outcome.
It is right that we do not like all of the blues
And it’s also fair that we don’t really like everything about the blues.
It is normal that in a musical genre there are things that leave us impassive.
In the blues, we find everything and its opposite: passion and indifference, transgression and tradition, black and white, sexual strength and forced abstinence, religious gospels and profane voodoo practices, prison blues and songs of freedom, and then walking, talking blues.
Who has a blues, as we used to say, is one that has something to say, that has a story lived in the first person, not necessarily sad. The sadness of blues is a stereotype.
Communicate to involve others
Here we are talking about someone who communicates and wants to involve others.
It is perhaps for this reason that we immediately loved the blues, it was love at first sight, certainly not a simple youthful itching since it still lasts.
The success of the blues all over the world has always symbolically represented the revenge of oppressed people, it is the history of many years ago, but it is always nice to remember it because never as in this case music has contributed to the integration of different cultures.
And then in the strictly instrumental sense of how to resist the transport of rhythm, the energy that branches out to further styles and genres like ragtime, boogie, swing, jazz, rock, country, enters songs and ballads up to multi-ethnic mixes.
A journey of infinite contaminations because in any case in the blues the road becomes more important than the destination itself, as in the stories of Kerouac.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the high road, a mule track or maybe the crossroads of the movie Crossroads.
Rather, in real life it is better to avoid pacts with the devil, you risk having to be grateful for a lifetime. At some point of our existence, a crossover more seriously forces us to take a direction, otherwise, as in the song by Jimmy Cliff we can find ourselves “sitting in limbo”, waiting for someone to take us along a road that we have not chosen.
The notes played say much more than the written ones
Wow, it got late now. About this song, I should have talked to you of my new Cd Miles of Blues but it’s never easy to talk about your music, then the notes you play sometimes say a lot more than the written ones, for those who listen to them, for those who still believe in it.