Amoeblog

The roots of jazz - ragtime

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 24, 2009 04:48pm | Post a Comment
Although for most people the strains of "The Entertainer" and other rags now primarily evoke quaint, scratchy images of silent films projected at the wrong speed, when ragtime first appeared around the 1870s, it was the soundtrack of Missouri's whorehouses, parlors and gambling clubs.

st. louis 1870
St. Louis in the 1870s

Ragtime was also one of the first truly and distinctly American musical forms. After cakewalk, ragtime was one of the first global music crazes. That Ragtime's cradle was the river towns of the Missouri Valley shouldn't be a surprise. Missouri, located at the center of the country, has long been and remains a crossroads of cultural exchanges. No state borders more than Missouri and noted ragtime musicians came from all the neighbors and spread to them (except Nebraska and Iowa, states whose people are known to be deaf to the joys of melody and dance). The character of ragtime -- drawing from folk, European and American marches, minstrelsy, spirituals and other forms -- connects Europe, Africa and North America, town and country, classical and popular, black and white.

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The roots of jazz -- cakewalk -- Amoeba's Jazz Week

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 21, 2009 08:00am | Post a Comment
A performative, competitive dance known as the chalk line walk first appeared around the 1850s on the plantations along the Gulf Coast. Its origins lay in the African-derived dance known as the bamboula -- also the name of a drum -- and it was performed in New Orleans, where on Sundays slaves were allowed to congregate. In their limited freedom, they not only danced the bamboula, but also dances like the pile, chactas and the carabine in Congo Square and at their masters' homes. Louis Moreau Gottschalk, a local creole composer was inspired by the dances and wrote "Bamboula, dance des nègres, Op.2" in 1848. By the 1850s, the bamboula's popularity had spread to Florida, where it possibly mixed with the dance traditions of the Seminole. It eventually developed into the cakewalk, which quickly became popular throughout the Gulf Coast. 

congo square

Whereas the minstrelsy craze of the 1840s-1860s was the first major cross-racial American musical exchange, cakewalk's heyday from the 1850s-1890s was probably the second and importantly, a reversal. Minstrelsy was a product of white musicans seeking to simultaneuosly imitate and mock black customs, but cakewalks were initially produced by black performers imitating and mocking whites. Thus began a long history of back and forth musical and cultural dialogues that have been behind nearly every significant innovation in American music.

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Alice Guy-Blache - first female of film direction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 3, 2009 08:33pm | Post a Comment
 

Early Years

Alice Guy was born on July 1, 1873. Her French parents were working in Chile, where they owned a chain of bookstores. When Alice's mother got pregnant, the couple returned to Paris where Alice was born. Soon after, her parents returned to South America and left her to be raised by her grandmother in Switzerland. After eventually moving to Chile to rejoin her parents, the family returned to France and enrolled Alice in school. Once again, her parents returned to Chile. Shortly afterward, her father and brother died.


Career
In 1894, Alice was hired by Léon Gaumont as his secretary and still photographer. Whilst working for him, she began experimenting with filmmaking. A couple years later, Gaumont started his own company, Gaumont Film Company and Alice was head of production from 1896 to 1906. In the late 1890s (c. 1898), she directed her first film, La Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy). In doing so, Alice Guy became the first female film director. In addition to directing at least 324 films, she contributed as a producer, writer or in some other aspect on many more. Though she made slapstick, fantasy, sci-fi, western and action films as well as many other genres, many of her filmes were intended for female audiences and bore a deliberate and outspoken feminist sensibility.

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Edendale and the Beginning of the West Coast Film Industry

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 29, 2008 06:15pm | Post a Comment


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Edendale tract
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Edendale tract


This edition of the Los Angeles neighborhood blog is about historic Edendale. To vote for more neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Los Angeles county communities, click here.
To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

C
hicagoan William Selig had a background in vaudeville and, as a teen, was part of a traveling minstrel show. In 1894 he witnessed a demonstration of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope at an exhibition in Dallas. Upon returning to the Middle West, he set up his own photography studio and began researching how to make movies in a way that wouldn't get him in trouble with the notoriously patent-protecting Edison who wasn't above hiring armed goons to stop anyone from infringing on his cartel.

   

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