The Music of Aurthor Pryor
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1870, Arthur Pryor
exploited the possibilities of the slide trombone and its mechanism in
production of smears, as upward and downward glissandi. The trombone of
Pryor spoke in a humorous folk dialect. His compositions preserve the
flavor of marching bands that once paraded town streets to advertise
minstrel shows, circuses, and electoral candidates, as well as marching in
patriotic and holiday parades. Pryor formed his own band marching and
dance band that played with far more syncopation than other brass bands of
his day. He was an important figure in the evolution of ragtime and jazz
from the marching band to the ragtime orchestra. Playing in Sousa's Band
he was the one that arranged popular and ragtime tunes for the band's
concerts. Pryor was with the Sousa Band from 1892 to 1903 and was the
assistant conductor with the band as well as one of its arrangers. The old
timers of Sousa's Band were a little embarrassed at syncopated music.
They felt it was beneath their dignity to play it. Pryor's band programs
showed a connection between original cakewalks and long-standing brass
band music traditions. He created a new genre of band music. It was Pryor's
arrangements of cakewalks and ragtime that Sousa played on his European
tour that was met with energetic acclaim. His arrangements and Sousa's
Band influenced European classical music and this influence led to many
famous composers using this ragtime genre in their compositions, to name a
few: Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud and
many others. Sousa and Pryor gave ragtime and jazz the legitimacy it
needed to be accepted as an art form. The rest is history. Pryor composed
many cakewalks and ragtime pieces as well as the traditional marches and
band suites of the day. Perhaps his most famous song is "The Whistler
and His Dog."
||Coon Band Contest
||Mr. Black Man|
||On Jersey Shore|
||Toute La Nuit|
||The Whistler and His Dog|
||Triumph of Old Glory|
||We'll Be There Uncle Sam|
Coon Band Contest - 1899
Pryor wrote this piece for concert band performance.
The music illustrates the link between brass band music and the Negro type
music, i.e., the cakewalk. Published in 1899, it is a very good example of
the cakewalk genre using the characteristic cakewalk rhythm and
syncopation. There is also a very characteristic trombone performance with
a generous use of the glissando.
Southern Hospitality - 1899
Marked a ragtime cakewalk, we find the name of "Sousa's Band" following Pryor's name on the composer's credit. The introduction has an interesting use of the cakewalk rhythm in unison. It is marked "Marcia Moderato," again linking the cakewalk music to the march and brass band. Using both the cakewalk rhythm and the syncopation of ragtime it is a bridge between the two styles.
Skipperjack Dance - 1901
Written in 1901 during the ragtime era it is
called a 'dance,' using triplets and eight-notes in its themes, we do
find some use of syncopation. It is in the regular march form with a
repeat of section A which leads to a 'poco piu animato finale section
ending with a two bar coda marked piu mosso.
Mr. Black Man - 1904
Marked 'March and Two-Step" "Mr.
Black Man" is a fully developed cakewalk. In the 2nd section we find unison in the
13th measure using the cakewalk
rhythm, a tradition with any 'authentic' cakewalk. There is an
interesting use of the Scotch snap (o o). In what is similar to a trio, we
find lyrics in the sheet music, the melody being repeated with new music.
"Oh Mister Black Man, what have you been. I'se
gwine to leave you if you don't' run right round here and love you
Baby love. Love her true for it you don't she'll lose you."
Except for the dialect it is not the traditional stereo
type for a cakewalk, and shows the respect Pryor had for this style.
On Jersey Shore - 1904
One of three Pryor marches on the program,
it contains 4 sections with a repeat of the trio to a fine ending. Using
traditional harmony there is no syncopation present but the march sounds
like a typical march of the period at the turn of the 20th century.
Toute La Nuit (All Night) - 1904
Marked a One-Step-Two-Step-Rag, it is
arranged by the well-known concert band arranger/educator, M. L. Lake. It
is in march form, much like early ragtime form, again linking the march to
the evolution of early jazz and ragtime. There is little use of
syncopation and sounds more like a march than ragtime.
The Whistler and His Dog - 1905
Played by Arthur Pryor and his band the
melody of this piece is probably familiar to most people. It is marked a
Caprice and is not to be played too fast. The melody is used as background
music for many early motion pictures for a relaxed background or a lax-a-
daiscal attitude of a present. It begins with the familiar melody but
includes other section of material leading back to the main melody. This
main melody is brought back three times with interludes between. The cover
shows a small boy whistling, sitting on a barrel with a small dog
attentively listening with some observers looking over a fence with a
poster about the upcoming performance of the Pryor Band.
Razzazza Mazzazza - 1905
There are no marking as to the type of piece
this is but in examining the rhythmic structure it should be placed in the
ragtime style. There is much use of syncopation but with no use of the
cakewalk rhythm. It is written in ragtime form having sections A, B, A2,
C, a repeat of B ending the composition. The cakewalk rhythm is used a few
times but the rhythm begins with a tie on the first note of the rhythm (o
o o o). The rhythm of the Scotch snap is found (bars: 8,16, and 18 of
section A. The modified use of the cakewalk rhythm is found in section B
in measures: 23, 25, 28, 31 and 35.
The Triumph of Old Glory - 1907
"The Triumph of Old Glory is marked
"Our President's March," which would at this time have been
Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909), it is a series of 8 marches, written is 16
and 32 bars in length. Section D is marked 'trio' and changes from 2/2
meter to 4/4 meter. Section C uses a modified cakewalk rhythm in certain
measures, but mostly in regular march rhythms and styles associated with
Captain Cupid - 1908
Written in 6/8 meter it is a short march but
is marked a 'two-step,' once again showing the relationship between
the march and the early jazz dance the two-step. There are three sections,
each 16 measures long, beginning with a 4 four introduction.
Canhanibalmo Rag - 1911
Using the typical cakewalk rhythm this
composition shows the close relationship between the cakewalk and the rag.
This pieces uses the cakewalk rhythm with syncopation. The piece was
arranged by Charles Roberts and seems to have been published for dance
orchestras, piano and full band. It modulates from Bb to Eb in the trio,
which is in two sections. The trio has some unusual and more demanding
rhythmic figures. Written in 1911, one can see the development and the
influence of the rag by the cakewalk. Both styles were on the downward
scale in popularity during this time and would not last past the lst World
War. It also can be seen that dance music is becoming more technically
demanding with the rhythm becoming more complicated.
Fox Trot - 1914
The title "Fox Trot" names the most popular
jazz dance of the 20's, made popular by the dancing pair of Vernon and
Irene Castle. The rhythm uses dotted patterns in all sections with section
D a repeat of section B. The use of syncopation is found in section C.
Section C uses the typical ragtime feeling and one can notice that this
song shows the evolution from ragtime to the popular Fox Trot, a
characteristic song of the new jazz age.
We'll Be There Uncle Sam - 1917
Written in 1917 during the First World War, it is
marked a 'Patriotic March song," containing words throughout. It is
in two sections, each 32 bar long, acting like a verse and chorus format,
it shows the patriotic feeling of Americans during the 'Great War."
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