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The Roots Of Popular Music.....

The first major influence on the development early popular music was of course the music it superceded - folk music, which began when man first realised he could sing, make noises by banging things together, or by blowing through animal bones. True folk music evolved over millenia through a long oral tradition, and is not produced for profit.
In Europe many traditional folk styles were developed as accompaniments to dance, and the distinctive feature of the vast majority of these folk-based dance tunes is that they are in 3/4, or triple time. This fact, alongside the absence of a profit motive, sets them apart from much of today's popular music. Having said that, folk melodies were a major element of ballad opera and early music hall. More significantly, the early European settlers of North America took dance tunes, ballads and laments with them, beginning a tradition of old-time music, which would later contribute a great deal to the development of modern American country.

A second element derives from the romantic love songs of the troubadours of 12th century Europe, the western world's first songwriters, who began a tradition which fed into some areas of early classical music, into the chansons, ayres and madrigals of the Renaissance, into ballad opera, and from there into operetta and some elements of musical theatre.

Thirdly there is religious music, the first form to be notated, as long ago as the 6th century A.D. The most influential element here is plainsong ( often known as Gregorian chant ), whose modal structure is hard-wired into the folk music of many cultures, and out of which came polyphony ( literally, "many sounds" ), the embryonic stage of modern classical music.
A second and later religious element is the tradition of church hymn singing, which developed following the Reformation ( 1517 - mid 1600's ), and became a significant ingredient in negro spirituals, the precursor of gospel.

A fourth element was the military and concert marches of composers such as John Philip Sousa and Henry Fillmore, which were very popular between about 1850 and 1930. Their strict 2/2, 2/4 or fast 6/8 time with two beats to the bar fed directly into ragtime and later into jazz.

Finally, and arguably the most important influence of all in the development of 20th century popular music, is the folk music of early black America - the field hollers, chants and work songs which form the basis of the blues, and derive ultimately from African origins.

So here we have elements as disparate as European folk and classical music, military marches, church hymns and negro spirituals, blues and ragtime. Add these to the previously mentioned forms of mass popular entertainment - music hall, vaudeville, the minstrel show etc. - and you have a mix of styles which were all present in turn-of-the-century North America. They form the seedbed of a remarkable musical transformation, which took place when the recently emancipated negro population began to embrace European musical traditions and merge it with their own. The result was jazz - a uniquely American style which was to change popular music forever.

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