Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The beginnings

After hearing about the origins of film, I began to wonder why the idea of film was developed and what how other types of art might have come to exist.  If Thomas Edison, the Lumiere brothers, and Georges Melies were able to envision something as complex as film there must have been other people who were the same designers within their art.  Immediately I began to think of blues music.  I first started with the history of the blues, which is very similar to the beings of cool, starting mainly through the slaves.  No one can take full credit for the idea of the blues, or at least that person has never been given that credit.  It has taken many years and many different people to make the blues what they have become today. 

One of the first notable blues song is The Memphis Blues by William Handy.  It was simply a song that was about a mayoral candidate, but it is in the style that is now recognized as the blues.  Just as film has grown from the small store front nickelodeons that only lasted a few minutes, so too has the blues.  Slaves would use call and response solos while working to pass the time and to create bonds between them.  Who knew that the tragic situation of slavery would bring an art form that would evolve into so much more?  Blues music was expressive, in some ways it seems much more expressive than most other music.  It was a way for feelings to be shown.  Like early film there were many different topics for blues music.  Like The Memphis Blues, many songs dealt with things as simple as a job or an outing, but of course it also spans the gap to feelings of love and hard times.  Films brought people together, just as the blues have always done.  

As time passed on the music began to evolve into so many more things.  It has developed into rhythm and blues, jazz, blue grass, early country, and even rock and roll.  The blues have come to mean a lot and be well represented by a number of famous artists.  Musicians like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton may not have been in the beginnings of the blues, but they continue to grow and mold the art form.  Just as film continues to push new boundaries, the boundaries of the blues are ever changing.  The art of the blues and its history are summed up well by Who's Gonna Fill Those Shoes by Buddy Guy.


  1. I really like your comparison in this post. Kinda ironic that when I think of music that expresses "cool", I automatically think the blues. :D

  2. Not only the blue, but if you look hard enough, you will find that most every cool thing we have today (aside from certain nerd culture) came from black culture somehow.

    With this black president though, I am not sure how much longer we can rely on that subculture to provide us with cool.

  3. Good points about the Blues, though Blues itself came from freedmen. Slave field gospel singing -> church gospel singing -> Blues. If you want an interesting read, do a search for "coded slave songs." Not only will you see the forerunners of a lot of gospel music we hear today, each song is actually a coded hope for the end of slavery. The most famous would probably be "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

    Good post!