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27 September 2008


Chris Becker

"...there was a point of reinforcement between French New Orleans (circa 1727) and Senegambian New Orleans: both sides played unequal eighth notes....This is the Baroque practice known in France as notes inegales. It is also the standard performance practice of jazz, where - with the upbeats accented - it is known as swing."

"If the Ursulines (nuns who arrived in New Orleans in 1727 and taught music), who were educators, were teaching the musical practice of notes inegales, that only helped to establish it in an environment where white, free colored, and enslaved musicians all crossed paths...I would also note the sometimes extreme fondness for melisma in New Orleans (e.g., the ornamentation of Aaron Neville's singing or James Booker's piano playing)...is an attribute of both French Baroque and the music of the Islamized Senegambia."

Both excerpts are from Ned Sublette's recent book The World That Made New Orleans. I know from living, working, and performing in New Orleans that there are plenty of tributaries to explore in the quagmire that is its music (including jazz and classical) and that our socialized preconceptions of what is "European" and what is "African" can quickly fall apart once you dig into history even a little bit.

All fascinating - I've corresponded with Ted and enjoyed his work Katrina Ballads. I'm sorry I missed his show (I was out of town in Richmond, VA for a show). Hoping to find some write up of it somewhere.


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