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I love blues but I'm not going to let it ruin my life - Steve James, Blueprint interview

Author Topic: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation  (Read 12479 times)

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Offline CF

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #75 on: January 21, 2008, 06:52:06 PM »
That's great Nevada, never saw that before.
OK, if ya'll will humour me here, don't know exactly where I'm going with this but here's a link to Tony Bennet & Christina Aguilera singing that old chestnut 'Steppin Out'. Now Tony ain't exactly a virtuoso anymore but listen to how much better he sings than Aguilera, someone who can technically sing circles around him. The first impression I get is that He is listening to the lyrics, he is a 'song man', he gets how a song is supposed to be delivered. Aguilera sounds like she's constantly showing off, constantly on 10 & doesn't give a shit what words she is saying. Their age difference is apparent in so many ways! (you may want to fast forward through the dance intro)

Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #76 on: January 21, 2008, 07:21:13 PM »
Being a sucker for a pretty face I liked watching her more than him.  But I wouldn't argue with ya otherwise.  I'm going to have to watch it a few more times though just to be sure.  In any case Tony Bennet has been around the block a few more times than Christina Aguilera so I hope his experience shows through.  We are straying somewhat from the Country Blues path.  And I thought I was pushing the envelope referring to jazz musicians, never mind opera singers and the Godfather...  No matter, to paraphrase Louis Armstrong (I think?) we're all people so that makes it all folk music.

Pic   
If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #77 on: January 21, 2008, 07:53:07 PM »
An endless series of meaningless crescendos to nowhere, thats the Whitney Houston aesthetic..makes me puke! But that lame successive crescendo business is all over pop music and Broadway these days. Its so un-musical.
 Singing has always been important to me, even though my voice, as its gained mileage, has become less than cooperative (ages twelve and forty five-big changes). I do think every bit as much attention should be payed to the vocal as to the guitar part of a song. In the absence of being able to inject oneself with an accent and a "sixty years being Black in Mississippi and picking cotton serum" , I recommend imitation. It won't be pretty at first,or possibly ever, but you'll learn a lot about the song, including things that will make the guitar parts more comprehensible.
After you've learned the vocal part of a particular song seek out another blues voice close to your own range, and study it. Then pick a third singer whose work you love and try singing like them for a while. Then go back to the original tune with those voices and phrasings in your head and I'll bet you emerge with something that elucidates the song, sounds period appropriate, and maybe even original. Synthesis is the name of the game in art.  I would be wary of an authenticity test for vocals (I.E. am I singing honestly in my REAL voice?). Many of the singers of the twenties and thirties altered their voices to get a better result.  And I guess try to avoid grunting whenever possible.

PS.  I love the Michael Bolton (MCD-multiple crescendo disorder) and Cookie Monster observation.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #78 on: January 21, 2008, 08:33:56 PM »
When I hit the reply button, this quotation popped up:

"You try to sing like Muddy Waters, and play like Lightnin' sounds. But since I blowed on my harp you're feelin' mean and confused. It's got you chained to your earphones - you're just a white boy lost in the blues - Brownie McGhee, White Boy Lost in the Blues by Michael Franks performed by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee"


Coincidence?  I think not!   :D

Mr. O'muck, the process you describe above is pretty much how I learned how to sing the blues.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #79 on: January 21, 2008, 09:01:10 PM »
This seems to produce guys who either sound like an unholy mixture of Michael Bolton and the cookie monster (in an attempt to reproduce the way they imagine Son House to sound)

 :D

You do have a way with words, Frank...

Offline Slack

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #80 on: January 21, 2008, 09:51:39 PM »
Here is a related thread named "In Who's(sic) Voice?"  about the vocal plights of Weenies in the 21st century.  ;)

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=2771.0

There may be other related vocal topics lying around the forum as well - vocals and how many of us don;t sing enough seems to crop up once in awhile.

Quote
I have not been, but are there many workshops on blues vocals offered at Pt Townsend or Augusta? Of the posters here, how many really have spent considerable effort trying to sing as well as play in the style? (If so what have you done?)


Pt Townsend offers singing workshops.  Gospel Choir is a big part of PT.  Suzy Thompson, Gaye Adegbalola, Maria Muldaur have all taught singing. (I took Suzy Thompson's class - it was excellent.)

What has helped my singing is to join a band where no one else wanted to sing - trying not to make a fool of yourself is a powerful motivator. :P Singing is a lot of work, it is so much easier, less exhausting, to sit down and just noodle play a progression on a guitar.  I agree with O'Muck, you've got to work on vocals about as hard as the guitar part.

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #81 on: January 21, 2008, 10:12:29 PM »
I agree with O'Muck, you've got to work on vocals about as hard as the guitar part.

Personally, I need to put more in to it, for the simple reason that I think it matters more.

Re:
Of the posters here, how many really have spent considerable effort trying to sing as well as play in the style? (If so what have you done?)

Listen and imitate.  The easiest thing for me to do is to focus on pitch and timing - harder for me is to pinpoint specific methods of tone production.  I'm just not good enough of a singer to work that out on my own with any kind of real success, so it's trial and error, there.  Working out my tone (my "voice," as it were) is a long-term project for me.  Picking apart the singing of Robert Wilkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Dick Burnett, Tom Ashley, Walter Vincson (I'm gaining on my yodel!), Ed Bell and Furry Lewis has been of almost incalculable value to me.

You do have a way with words, Frank...

It's a gift.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #82 on: January 21, 2008, 10:24:29 PM »
One of the things I recall from one of Suzy's workshops (into which I wandered miscellaneously with some kind of blues guitar hangover, so correct me if I'm wrong) is the point she made about going over a song vocal line by vocal line, the way us guitarists will frequently go over a guitar part, copying the vocal lines, not with the goal of reproducing the singing part as a carbon copy, but as a way to learn how to sing the material, how this person approaches their vocal, how you could change it etc. She made the point of needing to repeat it until you get it, the same way one learns an instrumental part. For someone who did not grow up singing in a gospel choir or at church, like me, this seems like a really good approach. So much of vocals are feel, but we do need to listen to all the nuances, whether it's Ma Rainey, Clifford Gibson, Jesse Fuller or whoever. Inattention to the vocal part I think can lead to a kind of square reproduction of the melody, ignoring the fact that, oh, that second line is phrased differently, that end of the third verse goes to a different note for variety, she's singing a bit ahead of the beat etc etc.

Advice I need to follow more often myself...

Offline CF

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #83 on: January 22, 2008, 06:55:00 AM »
A lot of the great singers started out & continued to be great mimics. All the great bluesman & women mimiced someone. Eventually your own voice will emerge. There's skill in mimicing. Some people stumble on their own voice thinking they are copying another faithfully. There should be an open & loose joy in singing, in guitar playing. When your brain is in the back seat but still in control then you're doing it right.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #84 on: January 22, 2008, 07:46:53 AM »
A lot of the great singers started out & continued to be great mimics. All the great bluesman & women mimiced someone. Eventually your own voice will emerge. There's skill in mimicing. Some people stumble on their own voice thinking they are copying another faithfully. There should be an open & loose joy in singing, in guitar playing. When your brain is in the back seat but still in control then you're doing it right.

Good!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #85 on: January 22, 2008, 08:15:01 AM »
A lot of the great singers started out & continued to be great mimics. All the great bluesman & women mimiced someone. Eventually your own voice will emerge. There's skill in mimicing. Some people stumble on their own voice thinking they are copying another faithfully. There should be an open & loose joy in singing, in guitar playing. When your brain is in the back seat but still in control then you're doing it right.

Right on.

Also, further to O'Muck's point about not worrying about an authenticity test for vocals. This is another question that one sees come up here and elsewhere (and I just know Waxy's blood pressure is already rising at the thought of someone telling him to sing in his own REAL voice!). I say amen to this as well. Much of singing is a put-on, whether you're Christina Aguilera (I agree, great pipes, no taste) or Blind Willie Johnson (great taste, unusual pipes).

The thread that Slack cited above (
http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=2771.0
) is well worth a look as it deals with these questions of vocal authenticity. One song I mention in that thread is Blind Willie Johnson's Let Your Light Shine on Me. Where's his real voice in that song? He starts out natural with a little vibrato, adds a little gravel for the 2nd verse, hits the full "false bass" in the 3rd verse, switches at the last moment in the last line of the song to his "natural" voice again. It's a freakin' masterpiece. 

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration fellas, I gotta work on this stuff.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #86 on: January 22, 2008, 08:32:34 AM »
Yeah, I sing. 25 years of an acting career (with professional training) has taught me that I can make almost any voice "my own" (altho I seem to have lost my falsetto years ago -F-) . I guess it has also helped me to understand using my vocal apparatus to honestly translate emotion into song. Actually, I would recommend to anyone, of a college age or there about, who really wants to sing the blues, to take a few acting courses. Not only will this help you get over the performing threshold, but vocal production and emotional freedom are invaluable in singing the blues.

All for now.
John C.
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George Bernard Shaw

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Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #87 on: January 22, 2008, 08:42:48 AM »
Here is a related thread named "In Who's(sic) Voice?"  about the vocal plights of Weenies in the 21st century.  ;)

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=2771.0

Great thread. But do you think anyone would have been interested in hearing Beverly Sills sing a Rossini aria with a natural, unaffected, genuinely her own, Brooklyn accent? Well now that I put it that way..YES! But only as a novelty. This is ART as in Artifice we're talking about. Picasso said Art is a lie that tells the truth. Back at the open mike nights at the old Gaslight cafe which in those halcyon days of yore were called "hoots", as in nobody gave one, there were people who tried to sing blues in "operatically trained" voices. It was cringe inducing, when not outright hilarious.
This music has a tradition and a sound which includes certain pronunciations and vocal tropes without which it just ain't the Blues. It has now miraculously become a music for the ages, and its progenitors are almost all gone. The vocal inflections and accents of that time and place probably don't exist in Mississippi or South Carolina exactly as they were in the thirties anymore than New York accents are the same as they were then. It seems to me that the Opera analogy is an apt one. If you're going to be singing a nineteenth century Italian aria you're going to try and assume the pronunciation and phrasing most in keeping with the piece. Sounds right to me.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2008, 04:39:54 PM by andrew »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Rivers

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #88 on: January 22, 2008, 04:08:33 PM »
'Art is a lie that tells the truth'. Hmm, good line, have to remember that one. Picasso should have gone into politics.

Just for the record I reckon Frankie has an excellent voice. I, on the other hand...

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #89 on: January 27, 2008, 08:30:46 AM »
The criticisms (constructive, I hope) and praise in this thread pretty much apply to all of us - I know I make lots of bad choices & only occasionally find something that works for me.  It's all about being willing to experiment & finding something you can live with that sounds real to you. 

I totally agree about the value of mimicry, but if a singer doesn't woodshed pitch & timing, mimicry will definitely come off as a caricature.

ps:  thanks for the vote of confidence, Rivers - I'm not so good at graciously accepting anything remotely resembling praise, so I'll just stop there!

 


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