Amoeblog

>Examine text adventure - Ask will Generation Text revive the popularity of text-based adventures?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 6, 2009 02:37pm | Post a Comment

Like silent films, old time radio, male grooming and slide shows, the text-based game is a largely dead art form. Like the other examples, it's uniquely enjoyable and was snuffed out by its flashier, less imaginative offspring in the pursuit of realism and technology. (Don't get me wrong, I think GUIs are la mamá de Tarzán and I even crossed the security line at Xerox PARC on a nerd's tour of historic Silicon Valley to drink from the fountain where the Xerox Alto was born back in 1973.) But the quiet pleasures of text games are enjoyable in their own right and with a whole generation almost incapable of communicating through any means except texting, the text game seems ripe for a comeback.

 

Instead of using graphics, text-based games use prose to tell the story. Players type specific commands to such as "go north" to play. A lot of the fun (and frustration) comes from having to type them precisely. For example, if you type "omg go north lol!!!," the computer will reply, "You used the word north in a way I don't understand." It may be frustrating at first to not punctuate every command with "lol," but once you get the hang of it, you'll find text games can be highly addictive. Besides, frustration puts hair on your chest.


The fact that there are no pictures can make physically creating a map with a pencil and paper neccessary. It also requires using your imagination and problem solving that you may not be accustomed to. Text games can be very challenging and sometimes you may want to type an expletive. If you do, the programmers have in nearly all cases thought of that and you might get a response like, "Not right now. I'm tired."

  

The earliest text games were created for mainframe computers in the 1960s, allowing multiple users to play online. Adventure was the first widely-played MUD (or multi-user dungeon) and set the standard for text games that followed. Over the years, text games were continually modified and ultimately many of them ended up being ported to personal computers. I, for one, greatly enjoyed The Sumer Game, and most of all, Oregon Trail, on our family's Apple ][e... and Zork on the TRS-80.

 

Here's a by-no-means-complete list of some of the more significant text games which debuted on mainframes:

BBX (1961), The Sumer Game (1969), Highnoon (1970), Basbal, Oregon Trail and Star Trek (all 1971), Hunt the Wumpus and Star Trek (both 1972), dnd and Dungeon (both 1975), Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), Empire, Mystery Mansion, Oubliette and Zork (all 1977), Acheton and Decwar (both 1978), Avatar Battlestar, Brand X, HAUNT, Martian Adventure and New Adventure (all 1979), Hexarin, Kingdom of Hamil, Monsters of Murdac, Quondam and Rogue (all 1980), LORD (1981), FisK (1982), Avn, Castle and Dunnet (all 1985), Fylfeet (1986), Crobe, MIST, Nidus and Quest of the Sangraal (all 1987), Spysnatcher (1989), and Rise to Glory (1997)

  

When personal computers began appearing in homes around the turn of the '80s, programmers like Scott & Alexis Adams, Don Daglow, Jonathan Partington, Jon Thackray and others began professionally making text-based games for the new market. Anyone that was familiar with programming languages could make their own with relative ease. I wrote my own, Voyage to Zeus, based on the bizarre imagination of my younger cousin, Carly. What I wouldn't do to have a copy of that! Big companies like Adventure International, Infocom, Synapse Software (who referred to text games as "electronic novels"), Melbourne House/Beam Software, Angelsoft, Topologika and Spectral Associates spun what had once been an amateur hobby for a few nerds into commercial gold. In 1982, games with graphics became popular, but as this partial list suggests, popular text games continued into the '90s.



Adventureland, Pirate Adventure
(1978), Voodoo Castle (1980), C.I.A. Adventure, Eamon and Mission Impossible (all 1980), The Count, Ghost Town, Madness and the Minotaur, Mystery Fun House, Pyramid of Doom, Saigon: The Final Days and Strange Odyssey (all 1981), Deadline, The Golden Voyage, The Hobbit, Savage Island and Starcross (1982), Enchanter, Forbidden Quest, Infidel, Suspended - A Cryogenic Nightmare, The Witness and The Wizard of Akyrz (all 1983),  Cutthroats, High Stakes, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Mindwheel, Seastalker, Sorcerer and Zyll (all 1984), A Mind Forever Voyaging, Brimstone, Essex, Hampstead, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Spellbreaker and Wishbringer (all 1985), Breakers, Mindwheel and Terromolinos (all 1986), Philosopher's Quest (1987), Amnesia, Braminar, Dodgy Geezers, Jacaranda Jim, The Lurking Horror, Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It, Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels and Stationfall (all 1987), Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I. (1988), Arthur - The Quest for Excalibur, The Hound of Shadow, James Clavell's Shōgun and Journey (all 1989), Humbug (1990), Danger! Adventurer at Work! (1991), and Spy Snatcher (1992)

 

For many younger people today, the thought of life without a constant flow of text messaging is, if not unimaginable, incredibly stressful. Though it, like the text game, goes back to the mid-'60s, text messaging didn't really explode until the peak of BBS use in the late '80s/early '90s. In the early and mid-90s, I killed a lot of time (partly because it was dial-up) on ISCABBS and even made friends whom I'm still in contact with regularly today -- as unlikely as that sounds. My brother, meanwhile, was often using IRC to do the same.

 

Not coincidentally, as peer-to-peer communication through personal computers grew more common, conversely, text games became less so. Cell phones weren't really an issue at first, as they were still primarily used to make telephone calls. Although the first phones with SMS appeared in Finland in 1993, when I got my Motorola StarTac in 1997, it (like most cell phones) was bulky clamshells with external antennae and a simple diplay of phone number. Not to mention, they were so large that I carried mine in a pleather holster attached to my belt.



Nowadays cell phones are more like tricorders than conventional phones and there are many days (weeks?) where mine's phone function goes unused. As I walk the streets of Los Angeles, I routinely have to dodge hunchbacked textlemmings blindly stumbling around, no doubt in most cases merely making inconsequential small talk or sexting their friends. But what to do when your friends are busy, or their phone is dead, or your continued coordination of multiple Stove Top Stuffing meals has left you hungry for something new? Why not, just for lolz, run a terminal emulator and play a text game on your phone? You'll be glad you did. And check out the computer game section at Amoeba. We've been known to feature some pretty classic antiques at low, low prices. Though to play them may require tracking down a floppy disk drive, text games are doorways to whole 'nother worlds and therefore worth the effort.

One final note, should this whole "text-based games on cell phones" thing take off-- under no circumstances attempt to play them whilst driving. Just look what happens when a group of chavvers get wrapped up in a game of Eamon!


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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 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.

Though ragtime is primarily written for the piano, it was also played on other instruments, notably the banjo. Although its syncopation is generally discussed as a defining characteristic, not all ragtime truly is and the term "syncopated" was applied much as “swing” was later, as a sort of shorthand for an indescribable feeling. Scott Joplin even wrote, “Play slowly until you catch the swing,” and described the effect as “weird and intoxicating.”

As insisted upon by "The King of Ragtime," Scott Joplin, ragtime was meant to be played exactly as written. Although discouraging improvisation, James P. Johnson stated that he and other New York pianists would routinely appropriate sections of ragtime and improvise, unaware even of the song's authorship, giving birth to a style known as stride.


THE BIRTH OF RAGTIME

Ragtime is usually said to have first appeared in the 1890s (when it first was published) and 1897 is usually named as the year of ragtime's emergence. However, E.A. Phelps’s "The Darkies’ Patrol," published in 1892, is a rag -- a fact noted on the sheet music by the publisher. Ragtime had, in fact, been around many years before it was commited to paper. Scott Joplin heard ragtime when he first arrived in St. Louis in 1885. Blind Boone, skipping school in the mid-1870s, did as well. The place they both heard it was St. Louis's famed Chestnut Valley tenderloin/red light district, where sporting houses employed pianists to provide a score for their client's various activities. Chesnut Valley had a reputation for being so hot that supposedly cops wouldn't set foot in it. It was in Chesnut Valley, on Targee St. in 1899, where Allen (Johnny) Britt got killed by Frankie Baker a lover's quarrel, a crime immortalized in the song "Frankie & Johnny."

ST. LOUIS'S CHESTNUT VALLEY

       
               Artie Matthews                                  Joe Jordan                                         Charles Hunter

    
      Louis Chauvin                     Tom Turpin                      Charley Thompson                Ralph Sutton

Georgia-born Thomas Million John Turpin, aka Tom Turpin, had strong ties to Chestnut Valley. Turpin's father, Honest John Turpin, ran the Silver Dollar Saloon. Turpin the younger opened two of the most famous venues for ragtime when, in 1900 (the same year he met Scott Joplin), he opened the Rosebud Bar, an enormous venue (with rented rooms upstairs) which featured many of the city's best ragtime musicians. The Rosebud also played host to many traveling musicians and was the sight of cutting contests between pianists from various locales. His other venue was the nearby Hurrah Sporting Club.

For his patronage, work as a publisher, and as a ragtime composer himself, Turpin earned the nickname "The Father of Ragtime." Other venues for ragtime in the district existed too. Arthur Marshall was employed at The Spanish Café. Madam Betty Rae ran a bawdy house that employed Louis "Bird Face" Chauvin and Sam Patterson. The Magic Horshoe was yet another venue.

 
                                        The Rosebud Bar                                                                       Chestnut Valley

As ragtime's popularity grew, the district attracted composers from nearby states. Artie Charles Hunter came from Tennessee and gained fame there. Charlie Warfield came in 1897 when he was just fourteen. Artie Matthews came from across the river in Illinois. Joe Jordan came from Ohio. Charlie Matthews moved there from Illinois in 1905.

Other musicians associated with the city over the years, including natives and transplants, are Sonny Anderson, Paul “Can-Can” Sedric, George Reynolds, Walker Farrington, Owen Marshall, Conway Casey, Rob Hampton, Gertrude “Sweety” Bell, Louella Anderson, Thehodosia Hutchison, Lucian Porter Gibson and Harry Belding. In response to the influx of musicians and composers, publishers like Jos. F. Hunleth Music Co., Buck and Lowney and Placht and Son soon appeared.
 

THE SEDALIA SCENE

   
                     Scott Joplin                                       Arthur Marshall                                       Scott Hayden

No city is as closely associated with ragtime as the tiny Missouri town of Sedalia. It may seem odd that a place with only a few thousand residents could claim primary parentage of so large a phenomenon but several factors made that possible.


First, the George R. Smith School of Music was founded there to provide a respectable education for blacks and soon attracted many aspiring composers and musicians from around the south and midwest, including Texas-born Joplin, Indiana-born Etilmon Justus Stark and Arthur Marshall, of nearby Saline County. Marshall and Joplin, after receiving a musical education, themselves turned to teaching. Without a doubt, their most celebrated pupil was a local Sedalian, Scott Hayden.

Downtown Sedalia

Another factor allowing for the tiny town's contribution to ragtime was the surprisingly vibrant nightlife.  East Main Street was the location of Sedalia's sporting district, where townies and railroad workers alike went after the sun went down in search of sport at bars and clubs like the Williams BrothersThe Maple Leaf Club, Tony Williams's The 400 Dance Club, and Hustlers' Hall and guest houses run by Nellie Hall and Mrs. L. WrightAt these venues, the aforementionEd respectable and talented ragtime pianists (and others, like Otis Saunders) found employment, earning up to $1.50 a night (plus tips).

      

In 1885, John Stark came to town with his publishing company, John Stark & Son. Soon after his arrival, he and Scott Joplin would sell over one million copies of the sheet music for "Maple Leaf Rag" -- the first million-selling instrumental piece in American history. So strong was the pull of the ragtime scene that, at just fifteen, S. Brunson Campbell (Brun Campbell) wisely left Kansas in search of Joplin and Saunders. He found them and they nicknamed the precocious teenager "The Ragtime Kid."

Sedalia's ragtime scene came to a screeching halt with the arrival of reform. Totalitarian teetotalers soon completely succeeded in destroying the town's culture and ragtime musicians responded by heading for greener pastures. Not surprisingly, John Stark & Sons and most of the local musicians headed downriver to Chestnut Valley. Soon after, in 1901, Hustler's Hall closed. By 1909, the sporting belt was dead and all vestiges of culture disappeared. Today, KMOS Channel 6 (the local PBS affiliate for Central Missouri) is the only sign of cultural life.


KANSAS CITY'S 18TH AND VINE

    
        Charles L. Johnson                   Euday Louis Bowman                                  Calvin Lee Woolsey

Though less-widely recognized, Kansas City, Missouri's 18th & Vine district, in Downtown East, is of equal importance as more famed music-associated streets like Basin St., 52nd St., Beale St, and Central Ave. It was there that ragtime flourished, with ragtimers like Ed Kuhn, E. Harry Kelly, Irene Cozad, Maude Gilmore and Mamie Williams all representing Kansas City.

Later, 18th & Vine would be the center of Kansas City's vibrant and more commonly-celebrated jazz scene, but it was ragtime that first took hold, a fact not lost on locals. In the 1930s, "Kansas City’s finest outdoor theater for colored people,” the Highland Garden Theater was enclosed and renamed the Boone Theater after the pioneering ragtime musician.

Though he lived in Fort Worth, Texas, Euday Louis Bowman routinely journied to Kansas City to promote and sell his compositions, including songs like "Fort Worth Blues," "Kansas City Blues" and "Twelfth Street Rag," which became popular with early jazz performers like Bennie Moten and Louis Armstrong. Calvin Lee Woosley was drawn to Kansas City from nearby Tinney's Point.

18th & Vine

Kansas City was an early center of ragtime publishing too. Local ragtime composer/publisher Charles Neil Daniels bought Joplin’s 1898 “Original Rags” and arranged it for Carl Hoffman Music Co. of Kansas City. With ragtime's exploding popularity and the resulting emergence of Tin Pan Alley in New York, there was a talent drain on Kansas City and local composers such as Daniels moved to New York. According to Jelly Roll Morton, by 1911 there were no decent pianists in the city. However, some composers stayed, such as Charles L. Johnson, who preferred KC to NYC. He owned his own publishing company (Charles L. Johnson & Co.) and was so prolific he also published under the alias Raymond Birch. Ethel May Earnist and Fannie Bell Woods were long thought to be other aliases of his but recent discoveries have suggested that both women were quite real. Earnist was a Nebraska-born composer and Woods was from Louisville. Other local publishers included JW Jenkins’ Sons Music Co. and Will L. Livernash.


CENTRAL MISSOURI - LITTLE DIXIE

  
                                  Blind Boone                                                              Wilbur Sweatman

Perhaps more than any other musical figure in the 19th century, John William “Blind” Boone bridged the gap between black and white music. Like Gottschalk and Big Tom before him, he wrote and performed music that drew from both musical traditions and synthesized a uniquely American sound. Born in Saline County, Blind Boone had been sent to a school for the blind in St. Louis where his mother hoped he'd gain a musical education. At first he did, but when the school changed hands and he was instead taught the more practical skill of broom-making, he frequently ditched, prefering to hang out in Chesnut Valley.

Boone's truancy led to his expulsion and the blind musician ended up held captive by an unscrupulous gambler. After a group from his hometown secured his freedom, he moved to Columbia's Sharp End neighborhood. In 1880, Sharp End hosted a cutting contest between Blind Boone and the famed early black musical sensation Blind Tom. There, local publisher Allen Music Co. published several of his works.

Downtown Columbia

Wilbur C. Sweatman hailed from nearby Brunswick and moved to Minneapolis in 1902. However, he retained his ties to ragtime, recording and composing many hits. His wax cylinder recording of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" was supposedly the first of the song. He also had strong ties to a then new style, jazz, and was the first black musician to record songs with "Jass" and "Jazz" in the titles.


THE OZARKS - THE CARTHAGE SCENE

    
         James Scott                      Clarence Woods                 Percy  Wenrich               Theron Catlen Bennett

Though today the Ozarks are more recognized for their hillbillies, back in the day, the small town of Carthage boasted a ragtime scene hot enough in its time to attract composers from outside the state.

 
Happening Carthage

Though Carthage is now best known as the home of the Precious Moments Inspiration Park, at the turn of the century, Dumar Music Co. and the local ragtime scene lured the likes of Clarence "Ragtime Wonder of the South" Woods from neighboring states to the town of around only 10,000 inhabitants. Percy "The Joplin Kid" Wenrich, as his name suggests, was from nearby Joplin. Theron Catlen Bennett hailed from nearby Pierce City. The most famous ragtime composer, the celebrated James Scott, originally of nearby Neosho, traveled to St. Louis to meet Scott Joplin but stayed in Carthage until 1914, when he moved to Kansas City to teach piano. 


THE SPREAD OF RAGTIME'S POPULARITY

Ragtime quickly spread around the lower middle west and upper south, first by itinerant musicians and then sheet music and piano rolls. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, pianists from nearby states gathered outside to seek money entertaining the crowds and in the process exposed and exchanged the syncopated style. Soon ragtime struck a chord in the major cities of the area such as Indianapolis, Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati.

1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

In the 1890s, ragtime spread down river to New Orleans where it took root in the storied Storyville neighborhood. Had that not happened, jazz would've probably never happened. After the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (aka St. Louis World's Fair), visitors from around the country and the world were exposed to rags and the music quickly spread. In Europe, not yet recovered from the throes of an obsession with cakewalk, ragtime became the new thing.


RAGTIME BEYOND THE SHOW ME

Other composers from outside Missouri were soon publishing rags over the following years, including A. Shaw, Abe Holzmann, Adeline Shepherd, Ben Harney, Cecil Duane Crabb, Charley Straight, Charlotte Blake, Clarence C. Wiley, Ernest Reuben Crowders, Felix Arndt, Gene Greene, George Botsford, George Botsford, George L. Cobb, Harry Jentes, Harry P. Guy, Harry Tierney, J. Russell Robinson, Jacob Henry Ellis, Jelly Roll Morton, Johann C. Schmid (under the pseudonym "Marie Louka"), Joseph Lamb, Joseph Russel Robinson, Julia Lee Niebergall, Kerry Mills, Les C. Copeland, Luckey Roberts, May Frances Aufderheide, Muriel Pollock, Paul Pratt, Paul Sarebresole, R.J. Hamilton, Robert Hampton, Roy Fredrick Bargy, Russell Smith, Sadie Koninsky, Theodore H. Northrup, Thomas E. Broady, Thomas Henry Lodge, Tony Jackson, and William Beebe.


HYSTERICAL HISTORICAL QUOTES ON RAGTIME

As with all musical developments, conservatives reacted with reactionary panic to what, over time, seems completely harmless. With ragtime's seduction of America's youth, there was predictable concern among wide numbers of both black and white Americans, albeit for different reasons. Blacks often expressed that it was the worst sort of primitive expression that impeded their collective progress as a people. Whites, on the other hand, usually worried that it was corrupting music and white morality. In some ways, the reaction against ragtime helped unite blacks and whites, just as the appreciation of it did.

Louis Blumberg noted, “It can not be denied that the lower types of 'rag-time' and the bulk of it – has done much to lower the musical taste and standard of the whole musical public, irrespective of color."

The New York Herald warned "Can it be said that America is falling prey to the collective soul of the negro through the influence of what is popularly known as ragtime music? If there is any tendency towards such a national disaster, it should be definitely pointed out and extreme measures taken to inhibit the influence and avert the increasing danger if it has not gone too far. American ragtime music is symbolic of the primative immorality and perceptible moral limitations of the negro type." 

Composer Edward Baxter Perry warned, "Ragtime is syncopation gone mad and its victims can be treated successfully, in my opinion, like the dog with rabies, with a dose of lead. Whether it is simply a passing phase of our decadent art culture or an infectous disease that has come to stay, like leprosy, time alone can tell."

Other composers were more pragmatic. Arthur Farwell said, “I often catch my foot in the act of appreciating it [ragtime] when my higher nature is caught off guard.”


RAGTIME'S CO-OPTION AND DECLINE

As with every black American musical development, ragtime was quickly co-opted and in many cases perverted by whites. And, as with all musical crazes (from cakewalk and ragtime then, to alternative and indie today) the term "ragtime" was eventually applied to almost any new composition, in an effort to cash in on the craze.


COON SONGS

Coon songs arose when composers applied ragtime's syncopated rhythms to the tired old minstrel stereotypes of the pre-Civil War era. Coon songs became so popular in the late nineteenth century that both white and black composers wrote them. Though offensive, the songs nonetheless helped open doors for black composers and black-derived music such as cakewalk and ragtime. Nonetheless, with many coon songs being misleadingly labeled as ragtime, many of the criticisms of ragtime began to come from progressives who were incapable of distinguishing coon songs from the genuine article.

Scott Joplin himself jumped to ragtime's defense, arguing "What is scurrilously called ragtime is an invention that is here to stay. That is now conceded by all classes of musicians... All publications masquerading under the name of ragtime are not the genuine article... That real ragtime of the higher class is rather difficult to play is a painful truth which most pianists have discovered."


LATER DEVELOPMENTS

As it declined in popularity, ragtime at the same time began incorporating and mixing with other genres to interesting effect. In 1912, W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues" was advertised as "A Southern Rag." However, even this shot in the arm couldn't keep ragtime vital forever. Whereas in 1899, 124 rags had been released, in 1919 there were only seven and ragtime was deposed by its offspring, jazz.


RAGTIME'S REVIVAL

Many years later, in 1951, interest in ragtime was renewed. Again, in 1973, the film The Sting brought it back to life yet again. That year, Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," featured in the film's ragtime soundtrack, almost unthinkably reached number three on the pop charts. Seems like we're long overdue for another'n.

*****

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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. 


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.

The cakewalk was initially a sort of whiteface satire of the slaves' owners and involved mocking their customs with participants adopting the exagerated postures witnessed in the courtship rituals of their toff masters, making it sort of a reverse minstrelsy. Participants doffed hates, bowed exaggeratedly, puffed out their chests, high stepped and twirled their canes alternating with expressive and more obviously acrobatic moves. The performance judged best earned the winners a cake or other prize. The accompanying music, also known as cakewalk, combined the polyrhthmic character of West African music with the various European-derived forms played by brass dance bands. The result was a syncopated music with a swinging rhythm that led to the development first of ragtime and ultimately of jazz.

  

For their curious white masters, the cakewalk could be co-opted in a simultaneous mocking and expression of fascination with black practices, almost as with minstrelsy, then in decline. The first published cakewalk was Rollin Howard's 1871 hit, "Good Enough!" In 1876, cakewalk was demonstrated at the Centennial of the American Independence. Harrigan and Hart's 1877 jam, "Walking For Dat Cake," followed and the popularity of the music and dance quickly spread. Initially, as with all expressions of minstrelsy, the cakewalks would regularly close blackface medicine shows, helping white audiences overcome their fears of blacks by reducing the recently-freed and no doubt ex-slave-owner-hating blacks to cartoonish images of harmless buffoons who loved life as slaves. At the same time, it cautiously opened the door for black musicians and their music, furthering the great cultural dialogue at the center of American art.

     

Over time, as with most appropriations of black American culture, the watered down version was soon judged to be impure and white audiences began to pursue the authentic black expression. Beginning in 1892, The National Cakewalk Jubilee was held anually, going from 11:00 p.m. till 5:00 a.m. the next morning.


In 1893, the famed duo of Johnson and Dean were a featured attraction at the Chicago World Fair. The monacle-wearing Charles Johnson and his partner Dora Dean were another celebrity cakewalk duo.  Famed black entertainers Bert Williams and George Walker incorporated cakewalk into their routine and played for forty consecutive weeks at Koster & Bial's and appeared in advertisements for Philip-Morris.
 
   
       

Caricatures of cakewalk stars were soon collected and traded like baseball or Pokemon cards today (assuming kids still do that). As evinced by the sheet music, caricatures of cakewalkers could be cartoonish and grotesque, but nowhere near as much as coon songs, the spiritual offspring of minstrelsy. In many cases, the images didn't seek to mock their subjects at all. As the popularity of cakewalk spread, it became accepted amongst high society, whose members used the popularity and subsequent semi-respectiblity as an opportunity to unleash their otherwise carefully repressed libidos.

  

Although John Phillip Sousa disliked cakewalk, his Missouri-born trombonist Arthur Pryor often arranged them and Sousa relented in the face of public demand. Sousa's band performed cakewalk at the Paris Exhibition in 1900, and a veritable cakewalk craze was instigated in Europe. Not long afterward, Pryor left Sousa's band to start his own, explaining, "The regulation bands never got over being a little embarassed at syncopating. The stiff-backed old fellows felt it was beneath their dignity and they couldn't or wouldn't give into it."

      

Soon after, the most famous cakewalkers toured England, France and Germany, where even Kaiser Wilhem shook a tailfeather. In Europe, the cakewalking teams were highly paid celebrities and their exploits were covered in newspapers which had previously banned depictions of blacks. In 1903, Edward VII requested cakewalk lessons for the British royal family. By 1905, the peak of cakewalk's popularity had largely passed.


In 1913, Claude Debussy published "Golliwog’s Cakewalk." In 1915 there was a bit of a revival and cakewalk was increasingly viewed nostalgically. However, the revival proved to be short-lived and by the latter part of the decade, the cakewalk had truly declined and far fewer examples were published. To a large extent, the cakewalk dance had transformed into the Charleston and Jazz had begun to completely supplant cakewalk and ragtime music's position as the new, popular black American music.
 
     

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Novelty rap and the harsh realities of adolescence -- Freddy Rap and other strange happenings of 1987

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 10, 2009 10:44am | Post a Comment
Back in 1987 and '88, before Chucky and the Leprechaun came along and divided the loyalties of urban cineastes along racial lines, Freddy and the hip-hop community were hand in metal-clawed glove. It was the year Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was released. Why did Freddy rap occur then and not sooner? There had been a building sense of unease for several years, as evinced in Rockwell's 1984 hit "Somebody's Watching Me" and Dana Dane's 1985 hit "Nightmares." It was the climax of the Cold War, after all. Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was widely viewed as the best entry in the series and was the most successful until FVJ in 2003. It may've just been me, but I also think 1987 was just a weird, wonderful year.


For me, it was full of confusion and mystery. I'd grown somewhat comfortable with my classmates over the seven years of elementary school, but in 1987, I was off to junior high. The air on the school bus was a gaseous psychotropic cocktail of aquanet and Jheri Curl. When the smoke cleared, I found myself at Jefferson Jr High, in the middle of town. The formerly all-white school, my black Social Studies teacher informed us, had been the domain of the devil and his wife (a witch) when he was growing up during segregation. I later figured out her reasons for creating that myth, but it might as well have been true to me at the time. Junior High, in contrast to the relative peace of elementary school, was a trial by fire where violence could and frequently did break out as the pecking order got sorted out. I quickly learned to never use the restrooms. There was tremendous pressure to adopt a sort of uniform with classmates scrutinizing and passing judgment on hair, jackets, shirts, pants, shoes, musical tastes, &c. Brands and styles of (generally tightrolled) jeans (something I'd honestly never thought about) were cyphers that revealed more about their wearer's personality and background than their cracking voices ever could.


Beyond Jeff's hallowed halls, the larger world also seemed to be full of of violence and mystery, both solved and unsolved. The Unabomber was doing his thing, In Chuvashia, Vladimir Nikolayev was caught by authorities in the act of cooking one of his neighbors, the Moor Murderers helped the cops find the body of someone they'd killed 24 years earlier, Korean Air flight 858 was shot down and, perhaps most disturbingly, the airwaves were briefly highjacked in an incident that became known as the Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion Incident.

At home, my mother rented Blue Velvet, a film that captured the time. She also turned me onto U2, an Irish group who dressed like they were waiting for Edward Curtis to snap their portrait. However, the band that may've most eloquently captured the bizarre tone of the times was The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, who cut bluntly to the chase with their single, "1987 (What the Fuck is Going On?)" It's a strange world isn't it? Do you know the Chicken Walk?

Anyway, I present you with the cream of the Freddy Rap revolution of '87/'88:



MC A.D.E. - "Nightmare on ADE Street"





Stevie B - "Nightmare on Freddy Krugger Street"





MC Chill - "Nightmare on Chill Street"





Krushin' MCs - "Nightmare on Rhyme Street"



 Gregory D & DJ Mannie Fresh - "Freddie's Back"


Fat Boys - "Are You Ready for Freddy?"




 DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "A Nightmare on My Street"


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BEST OF THE EAST BAY 2009 + OTHER BAY AREA WEEKEND EVENTS

Posted by Billyjam, August 7, 2009 11:10am | Post a Comment

Jody Colley (EBX) talks to Amoeblog about today's big event

Once again this summer weekend in the Bay Area there are a wealth of wonderful happenings, many of them free. One of the biggest events is, of course, the mega, must-attend East Bay Express' (EBX) big annual Subcultures souls of mischiefBest Of The East Bay Party at the Oakland Museum of California featuring the Amoeba Music Main Stage with such acts as Goapele, Souls of Mischief, 7th Street Band, C U Next Weekend, Maldroid, Fracas, and Social Unrest. The above video is of Jody Colley, the tireless publisher of the independently owned and operated weekly, taking a break from setting up for this evening's big event to talk briefly with the Amoeblog about what to expect at the event that starts at 5pm sharp today (Friday August 7th).  That's exactly when, on the Amoeba Music Main Stage, The Thrill of it All -- the first of 13 acts scheduled to play on that stage -- will prompty begin. Social Unrest, the closing act, will hit the stage at 11pm for their half-hour punk rock set.

Same as last year's party, Amoeba Music will again have a booth set up (stop by and say "hi" to Naomi S. and the rest of the Amoeba crew) where you can spin the wheel of fortune and win goodies and get free stuff. But that is just the tip of the iceberg at this event, which, as Jody says in the above interview, is expected to draw 10,000 people. The diverse mix of entertainment includes a Kids Zone, Gearhead Garage, Professional Contact Sports, plus much more in the museum's outdoor garden area. Of course, the Oakland Museum's exhibits -- alone worth the trip -- are also all open to the public. As Jody stresses, since a lot of people are expected to be converging on the big, free party (especially after word about how dope last year's party at the same venue was), try to get there earlier rather than later to ensure admission and leave your cars at home (valet bike parking provided).

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