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Musical Links Investigation

Century traditional Cantonese Opera and 20
Century Jazz Blues are
two differing musical genres that originated on two separate hemispheres,
during two distinct and distant time periods. Despite the vast geographical
distance between the lands these musical cultures emerged in, they shed a
considerable number of similarities in the elements of harmony, rhythm,
texture, timbre and pitch. Although these two musical cultures developed at
different time periods, they both utilize a similar structure, and make use of
the pentatonic scale (scale mode) and a homophonic texture. These are
three distinct links that I have chosen to compare and contrast with, as they
provide vivid characteristics for each culture.
It is important to distinguish the relationship between music and culture
in this investigation, as music is a significant part of culture, and culture is the
basis of what differentiates societies and their value systems. By understanding
the musical influence on a culture, we can understand the roots and values of a
particular society. This blog post will analyze the Cantonese culture through the
characteristics presented in the cultures most popular art form, Cantonese
Opera against African American Blues, a prominent ______-__.
The two pieces that will be used to represent each musical culture are
(Fragrant Sacrifice), for Cantonese Opera, and Sweet Home Chicago by Robert
Johnson for the Blues.


Cantonese Opera originated in Southern China in the 13
century and
progressively expanded towards the Northern part of China. Serving as a form of
informal education, Cantonese Opera carried message and lessons about
behavior _____ to its audience in a time where widespread education in China was
not available to most commoners. Showcasing virtues of love, politics, loyalty
and patriotism, Cantonese Opera imposed the strongly held beliefs of Chinese
ancestors onto the modern society, encouraging traditional philosophies and
Cantonese Opera is one of the many versions of Chinese Opera, all of
which are similar in style, but emerged in different locations in China. Cantonese
Opera is a traditional Chinese art form that combines music, singing, martial arts,
acrobatics and acting into its performance. However despite this wide variety of
acts in its show, it is often said that the single most important part of the Opera
are the lyrics spoken in the music.

While Cantonese Opera was heavily influenced by classical schools of
thought that instilled conservative values and belief systems onto its viewers,
the Blues provided a more personal and emotional connection to its audience,
expressing the personal adversity, pain and self-pity felt by the composer- who
had been slaves in America. While Cantonese Opera acted as a means of cultural
identity and national pride, the African America work songs of the Blues was an
outlet to relieve the pain felt by the African-American slaves during the late 19

century in Southern America. Rather than artists expressing cultural myths and
stories like Cantonese Opera did, Blues music expressed the genuine emotion by
the men who had felt it themselves.
Similar to Cantonese Opera and its relationship to Chinese Opera, Blues
comes under the branch of Jazz, which includes and encompasses multiple
genres such as Blue Grass, Bebop, and swing. Both musical cultures spread
through aural tradition, and were taught from generation. For this reason, it is
very hard to find an original score, as it simply was never created. The blues
were the most common form of black music in Northern America during ___
Blues rhythms and lyrics were passed from musician to musician through oral


The only harmonic feature seen in (Fragrant Sacrifice) from the
Cantonese Opera The Princess Sacrifice and Worry Blues by Jesse Lockett are
their similar tonality.
As with most Chinese music, Cantonese Opera utilizes the pentatonic scale as its
mode. (Fragrant Sacrifice) is both in a major and a minor tonality, with no
subdominant or leading tone, thus employing no semitones in the scalar patterns
of the music. The use of the pentatonic scale in this example of Cantonese Opera
allows for simple a harmony with clear-cut phrases. Due to the lack of
dissonance, simplicity and clarity of the voice are maintained throughout.
Building and adding additional notes to the pentatonic form successfully adds
richness to the melody.

Contrastingly, all blues songs are built on the Blues scale, a combination of
several different scales with differing numbers of pitches. Of the __ (#) blues
scales, ____ by ___ employs the hexatonic scale, otherwise known as the minor
pentatonic scale.

Blues leads are played relying heavily on the notes of a minor pentatonic scale.
The minor pentatonic scale played over major chords creates the baseline for the
dissonances that drive blues to a resolution. The flatted seventh degree of the minor
pentatonic lines up with the flatted seventh in the V7/IV chord which ties the chord
progression and the leads together.


Despite the similar comparisons between these two musical genres, they
contrast in their form.

Although the two musical styles differ in the way the content of their pieces
develops (as the Blues follows a strict form and the Cantonese Opera doesnt)
they both begin with a brief instrumental introduction. The reason for this is a
result of differing performance atmosphere. Cantonese Opera was always
performed to a live audience, whereas the blues were recorded and published
for playback.

Sweet Home Chicago begins with a 2 bar introduction that leads into the 12 bar
blues form that comprises the entire piece. In this introduction, a guitar is
plucked for the first bar, and then strummed for the continuation of the
introduction, and moves into the 12 bar structure.

After the introduction, Home Sweet Chicago begins a 12 bars blue structure. The
strumming of the guitar occurs in the chord progression of ___ to, ___ to, and back
to ____. It is repeated in an ostinato pattern as a baseline accompaniment for the
solo male voice throughout the entire song. This short repeated pattern is known
as a riff. The main melody of the voice as well as the baseline in the strummed
guitar are repeated in an ostinato pattern in the three line verse structure of A A
B where the initial statement of _______ is restated and then followed by the
resolution of _____.. The 12 bar blues structure and three line verse structure
are both typical of the Blues. talk about bout the blues cultural.

The introduction of Fragrant Sacrifice is much shorter and acts as a brief and
sudden opening to this particular scene in the Opera. There is an initial
downward strum of the (instrument) that welcomes the first female solo voice.
From this point on, the vocalist is at the forefront of the act, telling a story in a
sing-able manner. There is no strict or set form that the performance follows. In
contrast to the repeated verses seen in Sweet Home Chicago, Fragrant Sacrifice is
through composed, continually providing new and different verses, not repeated.

- call and response, improvised.
- Instrumental improvisation.

Texture- Both the texture of Home Sweet Chicago and Fragrant Sacrifice is
largely homophonic.

The texture of Home Sweet Chicago stays identical throughout the piece. While
the male vocalist has melody, he is accompanied by repetitious chords being
strummed on a guitar. The entire accompaniment part is in strict imitative
counterpoint until the end, similar to the melody which is also repeated

Contrastingly, whilst the Blues Home Sweet Chicago focuses on short Ostinato
patterns, the Cantonese Fragrant Sacrifice focuses on a long melodic line,
telling a story in a lyrical and singable form. This vocal part continuously
progresses forward with no ostinato or repeated patterns.

The texture thickens as the music progresses, as new string and percussion
instruments are introduced and built on top of one another, leading the music to
become polyphonic.

Opera: Homophonic-becomes polyphonic later on. accompaniment (string and
percussion), clear cut phrasing, texture thickens as piece progresses.

The texture thickens as the music progresses, as new string and percussion
instruments are introduced and built on top of one another.
No imitation.
Balance between string and percussion accompaniment to the vocal solo

Vs Opera: Large orchestra? Large ensamble

Rhythm- syncopation (swing rhythm and syncopation)

Blues: Swing rhythm and syncopation.
-Syncopation on first beat, emphasis on the first note. Strong light light
light repeated.
-time signature: 4/4
-Swing rhythm was necessary in the blues. Leads to a laid back feeling
Hard to find emphasized beat.

Dynamics: creshendos, diminuendos, accents

Style; of the voices? Glissandos?

Melody? Contour, disjunct vocal phrases, high vocal pitch,
OPERA: -this introduction: played by a range of percussion instruments.
(luo, muyu, dagu, luogu)- playing polyrhythms.
Polyrhythms: created when there are two different rhythms
at the same time.
Free rhythm?
vocal vibrato, glissandos
Syncopation in the voices ALLLLLL

Blues music was a way to give a voice to the voiceless during a period of
depression. Blues remains popular today, as people are easily able to relate to
the pain that their ancestors endured. . Cantonese Opera- less popular today:

Rhythm: beat, meter, tempo, syncopation
Dynamics: forte/p, creshendo/decres
Melody: pitch, theme, conjunct disjunct
Harmony: chord, progression, consonant, dissonant, key, tonality
Tone color: register range instumentaion
Texture: homophonic, imittation, counterplint
Form: binary ternary, through composed.

Narrow Tessitura, Glissando, minor pentatonic, rubato, clear cut phrases

Opera: pentatonic scale, clear cut phrases, homophonic texture initially, becomes polyphonic
(melody with accom- strings and percussion), has an introduction played by percussion,
polyrhythm??, vocal vibrato, glissandos, syncopation in voice, scoops in voice, vibrato in
voice, emphasis on lyrics, conjunct narrow tessitura on scring accompaniment. thickening of
texture- adding more and more instruments. Call and response (antiphonal) between two
female voices, one high pitch one medium. string accompaniment baseline that follows the
vocal line throughout is being plucked. Rubato in voice at the end of phrases.little dynamic
changes- stays forte throughout. mostly syllabic
string part: legato, played arco throughout
membranophone: struck with mallets, in duple meter (44)
Ends unison in voices. instrumental play out

no structure

Blues: Ostinato pattern repeated in instrumental (guitar strum of chords accompaniment) as
well as repeated lyrics in voice.
BOTH VOCAL: singing the words as if telling a story.
verse structure A A B (statement, resated, resolution). three line verse structure
Improvisatory (repetition of first line gives singing time to think of third line)
12 bar blue form:
blues scale
swing rhythm
emphasis on first beat. vocal glissandos, vibrato, syncopation,
light melody, repeated chorus line