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Thread: Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk"

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    Talking Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk"

    Hi,

    I'm looking for good, college-level information on Dave Brubeck's composition "Blue Rondo A La Turk." In particular, I need "music theory" information like scales, time signature, notation, how the song compares to Turkish folk music etc. Unfortunately, I am not a musician, and so I can not ascertain this information simply by listening to the piece or viewing the sheet music - I kind of need to see the composition spelled out in layman's terms I have searched all over the internet for this information and can not find anything in-depth, so I am hoping that there's a music expert out there who can help me.

    Thanks!
    -
    Ryan

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    Lest you think I'm attempting to get people to write my paper for me, I'll post what I have already so that you can respond to it and add information, without reiterating what I already have.


    Nothing expresses the originality of American music like jazz, and no one expresses jazz quite like David Warren Brubeck. Dave Brubeck is regarded as one of the most prominent jazz musicians of the 20th century, due to his innovation compositions and time signatures. Founder of the Experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble, Brubeck’s work introduced daring time signatures such as 5/4, 5/8, 9/8, 7/4 and 11/4. While jazz traditionally finds its roots in indigenous African music, Brubeck incorporated classical European elements into his music, giving his music a distinctively Western feel. He is most recognized for his piano compositions, which couple jazz beats with classical melodies. According to the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, Brubeck’s smooth style is "heavy in touch and thick with complex harmonies [that] evolved in later years into a richer more melodic, but no less provocative, form of expression".
    Brubeck’s tendency towards experimentation is epitomized in his composition Blue Ronda A La Turk. Taken from the album “Time Out,” which showcases several of Brubeck’s unique time signatures, the pieces is played in 9/8 rhythms. As the name of the song implies, Blue Rondo A La Turk is written in “rondo form,” which consists of a repeated melody interlaced with different tunes and variations (Hoffer 334). In keeping with this form, the tune opens with nine beats per measure, arranged in a rapid “2+2+2+3” pattern, which changes to a “3+3+3” pattern every fourth measure. Near the middle of the song, the beat shifts to a more traditional 4/4 metre, which is interrupted occasionally by the thematic tune. Throughout the piece, Brubeck’s piano is accompanied by the sound of the saxophone, bass, and drums, including a lengthy saxophone solo near the end of the composition.


    Please let me know what you think of what I have here so far, and where I can go from here.

  3. #3
    the freshmaker pepperminta's Avatar
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    Hey Ryan,

    What you have sounds good - it sounds like it was partially based on the information in the liner notes for "time out" - so that is accurate.

    Here is some other info I found:

    -The song is actually play on Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" ( you should find an album w/ that piece)

    -Blue Rondo a la Turk was composed when the band was touring in Turkey and was based on a traditional Turkish 9/8 meter. The Quartet released a collection of selections recorded on the Continent as The Dave Brubeck Quartet in Europe in 1958 and Jazz Impressions of Eurasia , recorded after an extended tour in Eastern Europe and the Middle East in 1958

    I haven't heard this cd yet, but you might want to check outMarian McPartland's conversations/interviews with Brubeck...

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    The meter is called karsilama in Turkish, but Brubeck and the guys messed with it bit, so it's Turkish with a strong US inflection. It's commonly used as a dance rhythm in those parts -- pepperminta's right on the time signature, although the stressed vs. "weak" beats are a LOT different than in Western 9/8 patterns. Try Jas's Middle Eastern Rhythms page for more, including sound files. (It's a tricky rhythm -- I struggled a LOT when I was learning it!)

    Mozart's "Rondo alla turca" is the 3d movement in his Sonata for Piano no 11 in A major, K 331. There was a big fad for Turkish-sounding music at the time, though the vast majority of it is pretty speculative. (Meaning that the composers of that era made up some "exotic"-sounding themes and called them "Turkish.") In any case, the 3d movement of this sonata is radically different from the others.

    (BTW, Tower Records' search engine is one of my secret weapons! )

    Hope this is helpful -- all the best on your paper.

    ADDITION:
    In keeping with this form, the tune opens with nine beats per measure, arranged in a rapid “2+2+2+3” pattern, which changes to a “3+3+3” pattern every fourth measure.
    12 12 12 123 is straight (i.e, "pure") karsilama.

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    Fabulous information! Thank you two so much - you just made my day!




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    A quick follow-up question - what is the significance of the color "blue" in the title?

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    Ok, ok, I hate to keep bothering you, but one more question - can anyone tell me what scale this song is written in? Is it a minor scale?

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    the freshmaker pepperminta's Avatar
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    it's written in F major - is that what you're asking?

    as far as the "blue" in the title, i couldn't find anything on that - maybe because it IS bluesy.

    this is supposed to be a piece based on turkish folk rhythm - but with a bluesy/jazzy interpretation. maybe "jazz rondo a la turk" didn't sound as hot as "blue rondo a la turk"?? haha.

    anyhow - that's just my $0.02.

  9. #9
    the freshmaker pepperminta's Avatar
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    yeah - and i don't think it has anything to do w/ the color blue, i'm pretty sure it's more like BLUES blues....as in the music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pepperminta
    yeah - and i don't think it has anything to do w/ the color blue, i'm pretty sure it's more like BLUES blues....as in the music.
    pepperminta, as far as I know, you're right on the money. (Sorry I couldn't help with the key -- I'm a percussionist ) Actually, the karsilama rhythm is used in a lot of sophisticated Middle Eastern cabaret and pop music. (It's Turkish for sure, but it's spread all over the place -- they play it in Greece, too, which is close to Turkey and used to be under Turkish control.) It's a pretty common dance rhythm.

    NOTE: there's a problem with the MIDI file (see link in my previous post). There's no sense at all of the feeling of the rhythm (i.e., accented and unaccented beats). I'll try to find a better sample for you if possible.

    BTW, karsilama should be pronounced "CAR-shil [short i]-ama." There's a extra accent mark in Turkish that I can't post here.

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    surely it's called 'Blue' Rondo, because the improvisation section in the middle is over blues changes (albeit with slight harmonic alterations)

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    I've always been slightly disappointed that the solos are simply blues - would soloing over the 9/8 theme structure have been too hard on the musicians? on the audience?

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    Pickles von Funkenflute tpickles's Avatar
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    I guess soloing in something familar lets the musicians relax and stretch out on their solos rather than worrying too much about soloing in an unfamiliar meter, but this is a shame, agreed. Hearing great musicians solo in challenging times is always a pleasure!

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    more about blue rondo a la turk

    So the beginning is in 9/8 but what is the time signature after the 9/8?

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    Simple 4/4 blues.

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