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The Real History Behind “The Sound of Music”
The Trapp Family Singers on tour in 1940. (Credit: Imagno/Getty Images)
In the climactic scene of “The Sound of Music,” the von Trapps flee Salzburg, Austria, under the cover of night and hike across the surrounding mountains to safety in Switzerland. Had they scaled the Alps in real life, however, the von Trapps would have crossed into Nazi Germany, not neutral Switzerland, which was approximately 200 miles away. 𠇍on’t they know geography in Hollywood? Salzburg does not border on Switzerland!” complained Maria von Trapp after seeing the film. “In Hollywood you make your own geography,” came the reply from the film’s director, Robert Wise, according to author Tom Santopietro’s new book, “The Sound of Music Story.” The von Trapp’s real-life departure from Austria was less dramatic, if not just as timely as the one on the silver screen. In broad daylight, the family exited the gate at the rear of their villa and crossed the railroad tracks that ran behind it to board a train to Italy, where the family had citizenship once Captain Georg von Trapp’s birthplace became Italian territory in 1920. Salzburg residents saw off the captain, a pregnant Maria and the nine von Trapp children who were traveling with suitcases in tow under the guise of a family vacation in Italy. They left just in time the next day the Austrian borders were sealed. During World War II, Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler used the von Trapp’s villa as a summer residence.
“The Jackson Statues” 1995
Cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘HIStory’ CD using photo of studio-built Jackson statue (see later below) used by Sony Music for the album’s promotion in June 1995. Click for CD at Amazon.
Part of the plan for promoting this album came from Jackson himself. Reportedly, when record executives asked him what he thought might be done, Jackson told the Sony executives “build a statue of me.”
Not only did Sony build one statue of Jackson — they built nine of them, each about 32 feet tall, constructed with steel and fiberglass. These Jackson statues — with Michael cast in military garb, bandolier across his chest, fists clenched at his side, gazing off into the distance — were placed strategically in European cities in June 1995. They became center pieces in an elaborate $30 million campaign to promote Jackson and his new album during 1995 and 1996.
On June 15th, 1995, one of the giant Jacksons was floated on a barge through London, England down the Thames River. London’s Tower Bridge was raised to let the giant Jackson pass through. The statue was then moored near the Tower of London for a week before “touring the country.” About a week after the giant Jackson statue floated on the Thames another of the Jackson statues was put into its promotional position in Berlin, Germany, on June 29th, 1995, lowered there by a giant construction crane at the Alexanderplatz public square.
One of Michael Jackson’s 9 giant statues used to promote his 1995 ‘HIStory’ album, this one floated on the Thames River at London, June 15th, 1995, then moored near the Tower of London for a week.
During the HIStory promotional campaign, other Jackson statues would appear at various locations, among them: the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France the Gallerie di Piazza Scala in Milan, Italy Prague, Czechoslovakia the Netherlands Los Angeles, California and elsewhere. Smaller versions of the Jackson statue were also positioned in theater venues, and photos of the statue were also used variously on the covers of concert tickets, CDs, and DVDs serving as an image theme throughout the HIStory campaign .
Statues & Icons
This story is one in an occasional series that will explore how America, and other countries, honor their icons — from famous politicians and military leaders, to movie stars, TV celebrities, and sports heros. Societies have been erecting statues or otherwise commemorating their famous and beloved figures for thousands of years. But in modern times, even fictional characters, their ranks swelled by cinema and television, are now joining those up on the pedestal, some for purely commercial reasons. As statues and busts, the famous personages are typically cast in outsized proportions, some placed in parks or other public spaces. Still others are found on postage stamps, murals, buildings, near sports arenas, or in this case, used in a special promotion. Not all of those so honored, however, meet with public approval, though some have broad and continuing support. The stories offered in this series will include short sketches on some of these figures — past and present — providing a bit of the history and context on each and how the proposed honor came about.
HIStory was Michael Jackson’s ninth studio album. It was a double disc set, a combination of past hits and new material. Recording started in September 1994 and continued through early spring 1995. Some of the songs Jackson wrote attacked the press and tabloids for their criticism of him.
By this time in his career, Jackson had begun facing criticism and there had been one 1993 charge of sexual abuse charges from a 13 year old boy — a case that was later settled out of court.
Still, Jackson had a huge global following and he became personally invested in the success of his HIStory album and its related activities. He was heavily involved in the production of the album and its promotion.
Among the items in the campaign was an extravagant “teaser” video that Jackson made to promote the album — a video that would run on MTV, in movie theaters and elsewhere. In the video, Jackson is shown in full military garb, striding amid hundreds of Eastern Bloc-type soldiers past delirious fans. He shot the video in Hungary and hired Hungarian soldiers to march in it. The video cost some $4 million to make.
“When they were shooting this thing in Hungary,” recounted Dan Beck, a senior marketing executive who worked on the video, “the production company would call me in the middle of the night and say, ‘Michael wants more troops’.”
Beck, relaying this tale to the New York Times years later, added of Jackson: “He dreamed the big dream. It was P. T. Barnum.”
One of the Jackson statues being positioned by crane in Berlin.
On the show Jackson and Lisa Marie revealed some details of their marriage and Jackson discussed his music and career.The Prime Time Live TV program was seen by some 60 million viewers and was one of the most watched programs that year.
The following day in London (Friday, June 16, 1995), Sony floated the huge Michael Jackson statue down the River Thames to publicize the next day’s release of the HIStory album. This statue, and eight others, were each 32-feet tall, weighed about 4,625- pounds, built with a steel truss frame and fiberglass surface. According to one report, it took a team of at least 30 people to build the statues over a three-month period, and additional expense and manpower to put them into position.
Model & Scale Up
The prep work for the giant Jackson statues appears to have begun in the New York studios of photographer Timothy White around May 1994. That’s where Jackson was photographed in his military outfit from several perspectives. These photos were then used by American sculptor and computer graphics artist Diana Walczak and her firm to build the first clay model statue of Jackson. Walczak, working from the photos arrayed around her, completed the clay model with the help of two assistants in about a week’s time.
Sculptor Diana Walczak at work on the model clay figure of Michael Jackson later digitized for the ‘HIStory’ album cover art and the other larger promo statues . Walczak worked from an array of large Jackson photos.
After a plaster cast model was prepared from the model, its dimensions and all proportions were then carefully calibrated by Walszak and her assistants in a grid-like overlay for digitization by computer so that scaling up to larger statues could be accomplished with precision (see YouTube.com video). In addition to the giant Jackson statues that were built from these designs, other smaller versions were made as well, including some 6-foot cardboard renditions also used in the HISstory promotional campaign.
Giant Michael Jackson statue used in Prague, Czechoslovakia during 1996 "HIStory" album tour.
The HIStory album, meanwhile, was released for worldwide sale on June 18th, 1995. The two-disc album was a compilation of old and new material. The first disc featured 15 Jackson hits from 1979-1991 period. The second featured 15 new tracks, some collaborations, including those with rappers Shaquille O’Neill and Notorious B.I.G, singers Boyz II Men, and guitarist Slash. A few of Jackson’s songs struck some reviewers as angry and defensive, as Jackson used some of his song lyrics to fight back against the bad press he was then getting. The album/CD also came with a 52-page color booklet with photos, lyrics, and artwork, featuring Jackson as a popular and beloved figure with endorsements from Stephen Spielberg and Elizabeth Taylor. The booklet also listed Jackson’s various music awards and showed him in photographs with U.S. Presidents and surrounded by adoring children.
“From its packaging to its songs,” wrote the New York Times’ Jon Pareles in June 1995, “HIStory is a psychobiographer’s playground. Everything is on a gargantuan scale…” Pareles especially noted the military and statue-related scenes in Jackson’s video teaser released to promote the album. Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times, also reviewing the album and its video promo, noted the “King of Pop” placards placed among the admiring throngs in the video, and also a well-placed child calling out, “I love you, Michael!” Willman concluded: “The clip doesn’t just stop at representing previously known levels of Michael mania, it goes well beyond the bounds of self-congratulation to become perhaps the most baldly vainglorious self-deification a pop singer has yet deigned to share with his public, at least with a straight face.”
HIStory broke sales records in its first week on the charts. In the U.K. it sold 100,000 copies in just two days and in Australia the advance order of 130,000 copies was the largest initial shipment in Sony Australia’s history. Similar sales figures were witnessed all over Europe. In the U.S. and 18 other countries, the album went to No. 1. In the U.S. and 18 other countries, the album went to No. 1. It eventually sold more than 15 million copies. Sony reported in August 1995, that sales at its two music subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S. rose 2.2 percent largely because of Jackson’s HIStory album. Sony added in its report that the album had sold six million copies worldwide. Sales would eventually surpass 15 million copies. In addition, five singles from the album were also released. “You Are Not Alone,” for example, broke a world record becoming the first-ever single to debut at No.1 on the Billboard music charts. In the year following the album’s release, a HIStory World Tour began on September 7, 1996. Jackson performed 82 concerts in 58 cities covering 35 countries on five continents. More than 4.5 million fans saw the show, and the tour became one of Jackson’s most successful in terms of total audience. The tour ended on October 15, 1997 it grossed a total of $163.5 million.
Jackson by this time appears to have needed every bit of money he could make from the sale of the HIStory album and his HIStory World Tour. By November 1995, for example, Jackson had sold a 50 percent stake in the Beatles song catalog he owned for more than $100 million, which one adviser at the time said would help shore up Jackson’s wobbling accounts.
Another view of one of the Michael Jackson statues built to promote his ‘HIStory’ album, displayed at Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
In the photo at left, for example, this Michael Jackson statue from the 1995 promotion is found in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, and may be a permanent installation there. It is quite possible that the remaining Jackson statues have also been placed in other locations following their use in the promotion. Others may have been destroyed, acquired by collectors, or perhaps are stored in a Sony Music warehouse somewhere.
It is known, however, that at the time of their use in 1995, there was a fair amount of criticism of Jackson and Sony for the initiative, some calling it “excessive,” “over the top,” and worse. But hey, Michael Jackson was a showman this is what he did in life, all the world was his stage. He was also a businessman and an entertainment marketer.
In any case, many of Jackson’s fans in 1995, despite his critics, were excited by, and enthusiastic supporters of, his HIStory promotion gig, however overblown it may have seemed to others.
See also at this website, “Michael & McCartney, 1980s-2009,” a story profiling some of the collaborative and feuding history between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney Jackson’s acquisition of a major Beatles’ song catalog and Jackson’s financial difficulties in his later years. For additional stories on the history of popular music, artist profiles, and selected song analysis, see the “Annals of Music” category page. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 30 June 2009
Last Update: 31 March 2019
Comments to: [email protected]
Jack Doyle, “The Jackson Statues, 1995,”
PopHistoryDig.com, June 30, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
Photo of one of the Jackson statues as used to illustrate DVD box cover.
James Hurley, MSN Music Editor, Photo Slide Show, “Jacko Floats A 30-Foot Statue Of Himself Down The Thames – 1995,” Page viewed, June 27, 2009.
Chris Willman, Pop Music Reviews, “Michael’s Back, and He’s Big…REALLY BIG Jackson’s Self-Aggrandizing Video Promotes a Lot of Audience Hisses Along With His Upcoming Album, ‘HIStory’,” Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1995, p. F-1.
Richard Harrington, ” Is He History? The King of Pop’s Crown Looks Wobbly As He Releases His First Album in 4 Years,” Washington Post, June 18, 1995, p. G-1.
“Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Makeover, The Singer, in His ‘HIStory’ CDs, Is Working Hard to Prove That He’s Been the Victim of Evil Schemes,”Philadelphia Inquirer, June 18, 1995.
Richard Harrington, “‘HIStory’: Jackson’s Past-iche,” Washington Post, June 18, 1995, p. G-11.
Chris Riemenschneider, “Jackson’s Fans Turn Out to Get Their Own Piece of ‘HIStory’,”Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1995.
Richard Harrington, “Michael Jackson Changes His Tune on Lyrics,” Washington Post, June 23, 1995, p F-1.
“Sony’s Group Profit Rises 91 Percent,” New York Times, Friday, August 11, 1995.
Another of the Jackson statues that appears to be in a park. Note young boy near base. Location unknown.
Timothy L. O’Brien, “What Happened to the Fortune Michael Jackson Made?,” New York Times, May 14, 2006.
Photo Slide Show of Michael Jackson, CharlotteObserver.com.
“Michael Jackson Kicks Off `History’ Tour In Prague,” Chicago Tribune, September 3, 1996.
Neil Strauss, “Michael Jackson’s ‘HIStory’ Shows the Growing Stature of Global Marketing,”New York Times, Monday, November 25, 1996.
Reuters, “Jackson Statues,” Video Clip.
Chris Cadman and Craig Halstead, Michael Jackson: For The Record, Authors OnLine Ltd, February 2007, 412 pp.
Iris Nippers, Forever My Thriller: A Collection Of Michael Jackson Poetry And Short Stories, CreateSpace, December 2008, 46 pp.
Bob Jones and Stacy Brown, Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask, New York: Select Books, June 2005, 163 pp.
J.Randy Taraborrelli, Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness, Pan Books, June 2004, 400 pp.
Michael Jackson, Thriller 25th Anniversary: The Book, Celebrating the Biggest Selling Album of All Time, ML Publishing Group Ltd., October 2008, 141 pp.
Aphrodite Jones and Tom Mesereau, Michael Jackson Conspiracy, iUniverse, June 2007, 296 pp.
Carrie P. Huang, “HIStory – The Making of The Album COVER,” MJblog, October 16, 2010.
The Birth Of The Blues
AlyssaBeth Archambault’s great-grandparents, Samuel and Eugenia Nainoa, were recruited by a vaudeville promoter to go to the mainland in 1912.
The family spent more than a decade on the road, touring all across the U.S. Archambault’s grandmother was born on the road, and grew up performing with her parents.
A few years ago, Archambault had an art residency in Pennsylvania, and she found out that her great-grandparents had once performed at a theater about a mile from where she was staying.
“That just sort of sent me down a path of doing research of like, wow, if they played a mile from here, where else have they played?”
The answer was hundreds of cities. And they hit most of those cities more than once over the years.
All these visits to small towns up and down the United States that the Nainoa family made — that hundreds of Native Hawaiians made — had a profound and often overlooked impact on American music.
By 1915, Hawaiian guitar music was outselling every other genre of recorded music in the United States, Troutman says.
Traveling musicians were spreading the sounds of the Hawaiian steel guitar all across America and early blues musicians were listening.
“There were droves of Hawaiian musicians who were performing throughout the deep South,” Troutman says. “There was a much greater sense of interaction that was taking place that was leading to the proliferation of all of these different sounds.”
If you listen to early blues musicians like Son House, Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters, you’re hearing the sound of the steel guitar, Troutman says.
“In fact people like Son House referred to the slide style of playing as the Hawaiian way of playing,” Troutman adds.
It wasn’t just blues. The steel guitar had a profound impact on country music too. But when you read about the history of both genres — roots music that led to rock and roll and everything that came after — you almost never read about Native Hawaiians.
“As a longstanding music historian, it’s something that I’d never heard of before, I’d never recognized and so then I began to wonder, well why don’t we know this?” Troutman says. “Why don’t we understand this central and powerful role that Hawaiians have played in the development of all kinds of musical genres?”
For decades, this history had completely been ignored by music historians.
One of the reasons this history has been overlooked, Troutman says, is because of how musical genres were racialized by the music industry.
Record companies in the 1920s would recruit musicians based on their race, basically creating race-based musical genres. Country music, for example, was categorized for white musicians and rhythm and blues for black musicians.
“And so we’ve been fighting against these race-based genres of music that cut out really critically important populations of people who were deeply implicated in the origins of that music, including Native Americans, including people from Hawaii, including Latinx people who were just written out of that history — written out of the stories.”
The result is that few people know Native Hawaiians inspired the development of the Delta blues slide guitar. Or that Native Hawaiians inspired the use of the steel guitar in country music.
“All that history was just gone, it was just absent,” says Troutman.
History of Jazz Music
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. That used to be debated by folks arguing in favor of hubs of the genre such as New York and Chicago. The discussion quieted after the publication of In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz. Historian Don Marquis’ book documents the life of the New Orleans native trumpeter (1877-1931), and also offers glimpses of the times and his remarkable sound. The Bolden family house still stands at 2309 First Street.
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) would undoubtedly have disputed the book’s title, as the New Orleans pianist often proclaimed he invented jazz. Morton, known almost as much for his arrogant demeanor as his impressive body of work, was certainly pivotal in jazz’s creation, particularly as a composer and arranger. While Bolden gained his reputation in the Crescent City, Morton rose from playing ragtime piano in brothels in New Orleans’ Storyville District (shut down in 1917 and demolished in the 1930s) to achieving international fame.
Many jazz artists, including now luminary figures such as cornetist Joe “King” Oliver (1885-1938), took the music north in search of more lucrative environs. New Orleans’ most famous musician, the renowned trumpeter and vocalist Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, took it a step further and made jazz popular around the world. Though the charismatic Armstrong (1901-1971) moved away from his hometown in 1922, he remains beloved. New Orleans’ municipal airport has been dedicated to him and a bronze statue of the trumpeter reigns over a park named in his honor. Armstrong Park, located in the Treme neighborhood, is the site of numerous festivals and is home to the Mahalia Jackson Theater, a performance venue that pays tribute to the New Orleans gospel legend. Within Armstrong Park’s gates is an area called Congo Square that holds a significant place in New Orleans music. It was there, on Sunday afternoons, slaves were allowed to retain their African drumming and dancing traditions. Those vibrations can be heard today in the unique Mardi Gras Indian rhythms and ultimately in jazz itself. Just a block from the park, the Backstreet Cultural Museum celebrates the Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals and brass band-led social aid and pleasure club parades.
Jazz Origins in New Orleans
Early New Orleans Brass Band
Photo Hogan Jazz Archives
Researchers and historians are still learning about jazz history there are many and various opinions about what is important in the history of jazz. What follows is an overview of jazz history that provides a foundation for this study.
The Origins of Jazz - Pre 1895
A review of New Orleans' unique history and culture, with its distinctive character rooted in the colonial period, is helpful in understanding the complex circumstances that led to the development of New Orleans jazz. The city was founded in 1718 as part of the French Louisiana colony. The Louisiana territories were ceded to Spain in 1763 but were returned to France in 1803. France almost immediately sold the colony to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
New Orleans differed greatly from the rest of the young United States in its Old World cultural relationships. The Creole culture was Catholic and French-speaking rather than Protestant and English-speaking. A more liberal outlook on life prevailed, with an appreciation of good food, wine, music, and dancing. Festivals were frequent, and Governor William Claiborne, the first American-appointed governor of the territory of Louisiana, reportedly commented that New Orleanians were ungovernable because of their preoccupation with dancing.
The colony's culture was enriched not only from Europe but from Africa as well. As early as 1721 enslaved West Africans totaled 30% of the population of New Orleans, and by the end of the 1700s people of varied African descent, both free and slave, made up more than half the city's population. Many arrived via the Caribbean and brought with them West Indian cultural traditions.
After the Louisiana Purchase, English-speaking Anglo- and African-Americans flooded into New Orleans. Partially because of the cultural friction, these newcomers began settling upriver from Canal Street and from the already full French Quarter (Vieux Carre). These settlements extended the city boundaries and created the "uptown" American sector as a district apart from the older Creole "downtown." The influx of black Americans, first as slaves and later as free people, into uptown neighborhoods brought the elements of the blues, spirituals, and rural dances to New Orleans' music.
Ethnic diversity increased further during the 19th century. Many German and Irish immigrants came before the Civil War, and the number of Italian immigrants increased afterward. The concentration of new European immigrants in New Orleans was unique in the South.
This rich mix of cultures in New Orleans resulted in considerable cultural exchange. An early example was the city's relatively large and free "Creole of color" community. Creoles of color were people of mixed African and European blood and were often well educated craft and trades people. Creole of color musicians were particularly known for their skill and discipline. Many were educated in France and played in the best orchestras in the city.
In the city, people of different cultures and races often lived close together (in spite of conventional prejudices), which facilitated cultural interaction. For instance, wealthier families occupied the new spacious avenues and boulevards uptown, such as St. Charles and Napoleon avenues, while poorer families of all races who served those who were better off often lived on the smaller streets in the centers of the larger blocks. New Orleans did not have mono cultural ghettos like many other cities.
New Orleans' unusual history, its unique outlook on life, its rich ethnic and cultural makeup, and the resulting cultural interaction set the stage for development and evolution of many distinctive traditions. The city is famous for its festivals, foods, and, especially, its music. Each ethnic group in New Orleans contributed to the very active musical environment in the city, and in this way to the development of early jazz.
A well-known example of early ethnic influences significant to the origins of jazz is the African dance and drumming tradition, which was documented in New Orleans. By the mid-18th century, slaves gathered socially on Sundays at a special market outside the city's rampart. Later, the area became known as Congo Square, famous for its African dances and the preservation of African musical and cultural elements.
Although dance in Congo Square ended before the Civil War, a related musical tradition surfaced in the African-American neighborhoods at least by the 1880s. The Mardi Gras Indians were black "gangs" whose members "masked" as American Indians on Mardi Gras day to honor them. Black Mardi Gras Indians felt a spiritual affinity with Native American Indians. On Mardi Gras day gang members roamed their neighborhoods looking to confront other gangs in a show of strength that sometimes turned violent. The demonstration included drumming and call-and-response chanting that was strongly reminiscent of West African and Caribbean music. Mardi Gras Indian music was part of the environment of early jazz. Several early jazz figures such as Louis Armstrong and Lee Collins described being affected by Mardi Gras Indian processions as youngsters, and Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have been a "spyboy," or scout, for an Indian gang as a teenager.
New Orleans music was also impacted by the popular musical forms that proliferated throughout the United States following the Civil War. Brass marching bands were the rage in the late 1880s, and brass bands cropped up across America. There was also a growing national interest in syncopated musical styles influenced by African-American traditions, such as cakewalks and minstrel tunes. By the 1890s syncopated piano compositions called ragtime created a popular music sensation, and brass bands began supplementing the standard march repertoire with ragtime pieces.
Jazz Pianist Jelly Roll Morton
Photo Hogan Jazz Archives
Early Development of Jazz - 1890 to 1917
Brass bands had become enormously popular in New Orleans as well as the rest of the country. In the 1880s New Orleans brass bands, such as the Excelsior and Onward, typically consisted of formally trained musicians reading complex scores for concerts, parades, and dances.
The roots of jazz were largely nourished in the African-American community but became a broader phenomenon that drew from many communities and ethnic groups in New Orleans. "Papa" Jack Laine's Reliance Brass Bands, for instance, were integrated before segregation pressures increased. Laine's bands, which were active around 1890 to 1913, became the most well known of the white ragtime bands. Laine was a promoter of the first generation of white jazzmen.
A special collaborative relationship developed between brass bands in New Orleans and mutual aid and benevolent societies. Mutual aid and benevolent societies were common among many ethnic groups in urban areas in the 19th century. After the Civil War such organizations took on special meaning for emancipated African-Americans who had limited economic resources. The purposes of such societies were to "help the sick and bury the dead" - important functions because blacks were generally prohibited from getting commercial health and life insurance and other services.
While many organizations in New Orleans used brass bands in parades, concerts, political rallies, and funerals, African-American mutual aid and benevolent societies had their own expressive approach to funeral processions and parades, which continues to the present. At their events, community celebrants would join in the exuberant dancing procession. The phenomena of community participation in parades became known as "the second line," second, that is, to the official society members and their contracted band.
Other community organizations also used New Orleans-style "ragtime" brass bands. Mardi Gras walking clubs, notably the Jefferson City Buzzards and the Cornet Carnival Club (still in existence), were employers of the music.
By the turn of the century New Orleans was thriving not only as a major sea and river port but also as a major entertainment center. Legitimate theater, vaudeville, and music publishing houses and instrument stores employed musicians in the central business district. Less legitimate entertainment establishments flourished in and around the officially sanctioned red-light district near Canal and Rampart streets. Out on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain bands competed for audiences at amusement parks and resorts. Street parades were common in the neighborhood, and community social halls and corner saloons held dances almost nightly.
New Orleanians never lost their penchant for dancing, and most of the city's brass band members doubled as dance band players. The Superior Brass Band, for instance, had overlapping personnel with its sister group, The Superior Orchestra. Dance bands and orchestras softened the brass sound with stringed instruments, including violin, guitar, and string bass. At the turn of the century string dance bands were popular in more polite settings, and "dirty" music, as the more genteel dances were known, was the staple of many downtown Creole of color bands such as John Robichaux's Orchestra.
But earthier vernacular dance styles were also increasing in popularity in New Orleans. Over the last decade of the 19th century, non reading musicians playing more improvised music drew larger audiences for dances and parades. For example, between 1895 and 1900 uptown cornet player Charles "Buddy" Bolden began incorporating improvised blues and increasing the tempo of familiar dance tunes. Bolden was credited by many early jazzmen as the first musician to have a distinctive new style. The increasing popularity of this more "ratty" music brought many trained and untrained musicians into the improvising bands. Also, repressive segregation laws passed in the 1890s (as a backlash to Reconstruction) increased discrimination toward anyone with African blood and eliminated the special status previously afforded Creoles of color. These changes ultimately united black and Creole of color musicians, thus strengthening early jazz by combing the uptown improvisational style with the more disciplined Creole approach.
The instrumentation and section playing of the brass bands increasingly influenced the dance bands, which changed in orientation from string to brass instruments. What ultimately became the standard front line of a New Orleans jazz band was cornet, clarinet, and trombone. These horns collectively improvising or "faking" ragtime yielded the characteristic polyphonic sound of New Orleans jazz.
Most New Orleans events were accompanied by music, and there were many opportunities for musicians to work. In addition to parades and dances, bands played at picnics, fish fries, political rallies, store openings, lawn parties, athletic events, church festivals, weddings, and funerals. Neighborhood social halls, some operated by mutual aid and benevolent societies or other civic organizations, were frequently the sites of banquets and dances. Early jazz was found in neighborhoods all over and around New Orleans - it was a normal part of community life.
Sometime before 1900, African-American neighborhood organizations known as social aid and pleasure clubs also began to spring up in the city. Similar in their neighborhood orientation to the mutual aid and benevolent societies, the purposes of social and pleasure clubs were to provide a social outlet for its members, provide community service, and parade as an expression of community pride. This parading provided dependable work for musicians and became an important training ground for young musical talent.
New Orleans jazz began to spread to other cities as the city's musicians joined riverboat bands and vaudeville, minstrel, and other show tours. Jelly Roll Morton, an innovative piano stylist and composer, began his odyssey outside of New Orleans as early as 1907. The Original Creole Orchestra, featuring Freddie Keppard, was an important early group that left New Orleans, moving to Los Angeles in 1912 and then touring the Orpheum Theater circuit, with gigs in Chicago and New York. In fact, Chicago and New York became the main markets for New Orleans jazz. Tom Brown's Band from Dixieland left New Orleans for Chicago in 1915, and Nick LaRocca and other members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band headed there in 1916.
Jazz Trumpeter Louis Armstrong
Photo Hogan Jazz Archives
Maturation of Jazz - 1917 to the Early 1930s
In 1917 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band cut the first commercial jazz recording while playing in New York City, where they were enthusiastically received. The Victor release was an unexpected hit. Suddenly, jazz New Orleans style was a national craze.
With the new demand for jazz, employment opportunities in the north coaxed more musicians to leave New Orleans. For example, clarinetist Sidney Bechet left for Chicago in 1917, and cornetist Joe "King" Oliver followed two years later. The appeal of the New Orleans sound knew no boundaries. By 1919 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was performing in England and Bechet was in France their music was wholeheartedly welcomed.
King Oliver, who had led popular bands in New Orleans along with trombonist Edward "Kid" Ory, established the trend-setting Creole Jazz Band in Chicago in 1922. Also in Chicago, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings blended the Oliver and Original Dixieland Jazz Band sounds and collaborated with Jelly Roll Morton in 1923.
Perhaps the most significant departure from New Orleans was in 1922 when Louis Armstrong was summoned to Chicago by King Oliver, his mentor. Louis Armstrong swung with a great New Orleans feeling, but unlike any of his predecessors, his brilliant playing led a revolution in jazz that replaced the polyphonic ensemble style of New Orleans with development of the soloist's art. The technical improvement and popularity of phonograph records spread Armstrong's instrumental and vocal innovations and make him internationally famous. His Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings (1925-28), including his celebrated work with Earl Hines, were quite popular and are milestones in the progression of the music.
Jelly Roll Morton, another New Orleans giant, also made a series of influential recordings while based in Chicago in the 1920s. Morton's compositions added sophistication and a structure for soloists to explore, and his work set the stage for the Swing era.
New Orleans musicians and musical styles continued to influence jazz nationally as the music went through a rapid series of stylistic changes. Jazz became the unchallenged popular music of America during the Swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. Later innovations, such as bebop in the 1940s and avant-garde in the 1960s, departed further from the New Orleans tradition.
Once the small-band New Orleans style fell out of fashion, attempts were made to revive the music. In the late 1930s, recognizing that early jazz had been neglected and deserved serious study, jazz enthusiasts turned back to New Orleans. Many New Orleans musicians and others were still actively playing traditional jazz. Recordings and performances by Bunk Johnson and George Lewis stimulated a national jazz revival movement, providing opportunities for traditional jazz players that persist today.
Jazz Clarinetist/Saxophonist Sidney Bechet
Photo Hogan Jazz Archives
Quotations from Jazz Pioneers on the Early History of Jazz
Sidney Bechet, "Treat It Gentle"
There was this club, too, that we played at, the Twenty-Five Club. That was about 1912, 1913 and all the time we played there, people were talking about Freddie Keppard. Freddie, he had left New Orleans with his band and he was traveling all over the country playing towns on the Orpheum Circuit. At the time, you know, that was something new and Freddie kept sending back all these clippings from what all the newspapermen and the critics and all was writing up about him, about his music, about his band. And all these clippings were asking the same thing: where did it come from? It seems like everyone along the circuit was coming up to Freddie to ask about this ragtime. Especially when his show, the Original Creole Band, got to the Winter Gardens in New York. that was the time they was asking about it the most. Where did it come from? And back at the Twenty-Five these friends of Freddie's kept coming around and showing these clippings, wanting to know what it was all about. It was a new thing then.
Baby Dodds, "The Baby Dodds Story"
[Big Eye Louis Nelson] lived downtown, and I lived uptown. He was on the north side of town, and I was living on the south side. In other words, he was a Creole and lived in the French part of town. Canal Street was the dividing line and the people from the different sections didn't mix. The musicians mixed only if you were good enough. But at one time the Creole fellows thought uptown musicians weren't good enough to play with them, because most of the uptown musicians didn't read music. Everybody in the French part of town read music.
Louis Armstrong, "Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans"
The funerals in New Orleans are sad until the body is finally lowered into the grave and the reverend says, "ashes to ashes and dust to dust." After the brother was six feet under the ground the band would strike up one of those good old tunes like "Didn't He Ramble", and all the people would leave their worries behind. Particularly when King Oliver blew that last chorus in high register.
Once the band starts, everybody starts swaying from one side of the street to the other, especially those who drop in and follow the ones who have been to the funeral. These people are known as 'the second line', and the may be anyone passing along the street who wants to hear the music. The spirit hits them and they follow along to see what's happening.
Pops Foster, "Pops Foster: The Autobiography of a New Orleans Jazzman"
From about 1900 on, there were three types of bands playing in New Orleans. You had bands that played ragtime, ones that played sweet music, and the ones that played nothin' but blues. A band like John Robichaux's played nothin' but sweet music and played the dirty affairs. On a Saturday night Frankie Duson's Eagle Band would play the Masonic Hall because he played a whole lot of blues. A band like the Magnolia Band would play ragtime and work the District. All the bands around New Orleans would play quadrilles starting about midnight. When you did that nice people would know it was time to go home because things got rough after that.
Jelly Roll Morton, "Mr. Jelly Roll" (Alan Lomax)
You see, New Orleans was very organization-minded. I have never seen such beautiful clubs as they had there. the Broadway Swells, the High Arts, the Orleans Aides, the Bulls and Bears, the Tramps, the Iroquois, the Allegroes. that was just a few of them, and those clubs would parade at least once a week. They'd have a great big band. The grand marshal would ride in front with his aides behind him, all with expensive sashes and streamers.
Nick LaRocca (interviewed by Richard Allen, May 26, 1958)
"[T]he Livery Stable Blues" became a national hit. It was all over the world, even down in Honolulu and all where American forces went. we entertained over a million men. I played on the bill with Caruso. I played on the bills with Jolson. I played on the bills with Eddie Cantor.
This history was prepared by a National Park Service study team to be included in the Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment of Suitable/Feasible Alternatives for the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in 1993.
Sources of Contribution: Subcommittee Participants
Jack Stewart, PhD
Michael White, PhD
Bruce Raeburn, PhD
Lithuania presents Baltimore with a Frank Zappa statue
When we were last in eastern Europe, we almost made a sidetrack to Vilnius. We were enticed by Lithuania's fascinating history and rich cultural heritage. But mostly we just wanted to see their statue of Frank Zappa's head.
Now, at last, Baltimore is taking a page from Vilnius' book.
Thirteen years ago, a band of plucky Lithuanian intellectuals pooled their funds, solicited their friends, and built a bronze bust of the musical iconoclast. Saulius Paukstys, longtime president of a Zappa fanclub, even convinced authorities that the statue should be erected in downtown Vilnius, in front of the Belgian embassy.
Zappa had died of cancer just two years before, in 1993, but Lithuania's capital city was an odd place for a tribute. Zappa was not, after all, Lithuanian (or Belgian, for that matter). He had never even visited the place. But his music was dearly loved by the avant-garde hipsters in the Lithuanian independence movement - and these same intellectuals were the ones running the show after the Baltic state declared independence from Russia in 1990.
"The opportunity for this Zappa statue was also like a trial for the new system and the newly established democracy," Paukstys explained to the Associated Press this week.
Before long the Zappa bust had become Vilnius' second-most popular tourist attraction (behind the rather-less-quirky Museum of Genocide Victims).
This week, Paukstys journeyed to Baltimore, USA, to make an offer to Frank Zappa's hometown: would Baltimore like a bronze Zappa-head of its own? Baltimore's Public Art Commission voted unanimously to accept the gift. "I think it's incredibly generous," said commissioner Steve Ziger. "I find the piece a good piece of art that I think we would be honoured to have here. We just need to find an appropriate placement."
Paukstys and his comrades had already arranged for the casting of a replica, and were just awaiting the OK from Baltimore authorities before shipping it across the ocean. The cost of creating and shipping the bust is estimated at $50,000 (£25,000), but the city will be responsible only for installation and maintenance.
Vilnius's mayor, Juozas Imbrasas, said he approved heartily of the project. "I hope that replication of the original statue of Frank Zappa in Vilnius and bringing it to Baltimore will perpetuate the memory of one of the greatest artists of the [20th] century," he wrote. Frank Zappa's widow, Gail, is also understood to have given her blessing.
Guido’s Music Voyage
It was these inconsistencies in the chanting of sacred music that Guido sought to rectify. Hence, Guido began to make innovations on the methods of teaching that were prevalent at that time. It seems that Guido’s undertakings made him unpopular amongst the other monks of St. Maur des Fosses, and led to his removal to the monastery of Pomposa, which was near Ferrara, Italy. Whilst in Pomposa, Guido taught music and developed his educational method. Guido himself claimed that a pupil of this method might learn within five months that which in the past would have taken 10 years to master.
Monastery of Pomposa, Ferrara, Italy ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Guido began to gain a reputation throughout Italy for his successes. It is said that this made his fellow monks in Pomposa jealous, and that it is likely that they had Guido expelled as well. Guido then moved to Arrezo, a city in Tuscany, Italy. Whilst it is unclear as to the exact date when Guido arrived in the city, we do know that it was during the time when Theudald was the bishop of Arezzo. Whilst Arezzo had no abbey, it did have a cathedral, and it was the cathedral singers that Guido was in charge of training.
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There are a number of morals which can be taken from this story. The respect of your elders is one of the clear lessons in this story. This helps show that grandparents may not be as strong as they once were, but that they are still important and useful. This is a lesson that every generation has to learn and this story serves as a subtle but important reminder.
Another important moral in this story is that of teamwork. The animals in this story are old and weak, and alone none of them would be able to achieve much. Yet, by working together they are able to achieve something that none of them would be able to achieve alone.
Often considered nothing more than a simple and fun story, “The Bremen Town Musicians,” like all Grimm’s stories, is still well written and gives the opportunity to teach children lessons that are often difficult to teach. The key to this is understanding what this story teaches are the conflicts of “The Bremen Town Musicians” including those conflicts of age, death and change.