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Topic: OT : Music history question

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  1. #1

    OT : Music history question

    You're watching an old western on TNT. Our hero makes his way down the dusty main of rumble tumble frontier town, eyes sharp for ne'er-do-wells and gunslingers with an agenda. Thirsty at the end of a long day, he pushes through the swinging doors of the local saloon and shouts an order for whiskey over the din of voices and piano that fills the air.

    Question: What style of music is that guy playing on piano!?!?! If you grew up in the US, you know that sound by heart, but I've never heard a name for it.

    My first thought was that it was ragtime, but that's more of an African-American/early 20th century/urban style of music. Is that style of music simply an invention of Hollywood studios?

    Just curious

  2. #2
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    Re: OT : Music history question

    What would have been played in saloons at the end of the 19th Century would most likely be ragtime, or popular dance tunes or songs of the day, or even light classics like transcriptions of Offenbach or the catchier, lighter operatic tunes if the place had pretensions of "culture".

    Not knowing specifically which western film you are refering to, I think a good guess would be that the music is an invention of the film composer or drawn from a mixture of styles - often a hyped-up version of ragtime. Ragtime had a pretty long life and developed both in the big cities as well as more rural areas. Until fairly recently, most films were not too concerned with absolute historical accuracy, at least as far as music was concerned.

  3. #3

    Re: OT : Music history question

    I have to agree that it probably was ragtime music. Listen to this MIDI clip of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" - in my opinion, it sounds quite similar to the saloon music heard in old western movies.

    Maple Leaf Rag

  4. #4
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    Re: OT : Music history question

    More likely Steven Foster (born 1826) and his minstrel type melodies, Oh Suzanna, Camptown Races etc.

  5. #5

    Re: OT : Music history question

    Quote Originally Posted by dermod
    More likely Steven Foster (born 1826) and his minstrel type melodies, Oh Suzanna, Camptown Races etc.
    Is there a name for that period / style of music?

  6. #6

    Re: OT : Music history question

    Quote Originally Posted by dermod
    More likely Steven Foster (born 1826) and his minstrel type melodies, Oh Suzanna, Camptown Races etc.
    I haven't watched a western in years, but I agree that Oh Suzanna and Camptown Races is more in line with what I remember as the actual music played "within" the movies themselves (as opposed to the soundtrack).
    ;-)
    jim

    Jim Jarnagin - no not THAT Jim Jarnagin, the other one.

  7. #7
    Senior Member newmewzikboy's Avatar
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    Re: OT : Music history question

    I remember it as a retrograde inversion

  8. #8

    Re: OT : Music history question

    I've called it 19th century parlor music.

  9. #9

    Re: OT : Music history question

    What was actually played in the Old West, and what you hear in films, are probably two different matters.

    But what you hear in the old Westerns, I think I'd probably call "honkey-tonk".

    David
    www.DavidSosnowski.com
    .

  10. #10
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    Re: OT : Music history question

    At the time, 1840s and thereabouts, the popular jazzy tunes were usually referred to as Ethiopian music, being the era of burnt cork minstrels and showboats. Howe, a prominent collector and publisher of compendiums for parlour piano,fiddles, and so on (published today by Mel Bay) entitled one of his collections as The Ethiopian Glee Club (1846). You find tunes like Dixieland in it.

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