To get started

  1. Chris Marsh
    Chris Marsh
    Just to get started, I banged this out on my Portastudio last night.
  2. Chris Marsh
    Chris Marsh
    I can see where this is going.

    . . . "Well, Mr. Flood,
    Since you propose it, I believe I will."
    -- E. A. Robinson

    At least until I get bored and delete this group.

    So, the first thing to notice here is the number of chords -- about twenty in all. Far more than we're used to hearing today, in Bluegrass or Rock, for example.

    Also the kinds of chords -- plenty of sevenths and diminished, with an augmented and add 11 thrown in.

    To pull this off, the composer had to know his theory.

    Under The Yum Yum Tree is in the key of B flat major.

    But instead of starting on B flat, which we might expect in a modern song, it begins on G minor, the vi chord of the scale.

    That the song is not in a minor we find out when the chorus arrives.

    The chorus pretty well stays within the key, but with some passing chords to help with the transitions.

    So a fair number of chord substitutions -- B flat minor and G flat major being borrowed from the parallel minor scale to spice things up a bit.

    And a D major out of nowhere to give us a jolt.

    So, was all this careful craftmanship worth it?

    I think so, at least from a musical perspective.

    It was written in 1910 and owes more to the sophisticated European musical tradition than, say, the simplicity of Blues, or Jazz, which it predates.

    But music is only half of a song, so let's look at the lyrics.

    To me, the words are just happy nonsense. To hear a song like this you'd think there was nothing wrong in the world.

    Which puzzles me, since it was written in the midst of the American Progressive Era, a time when Americans were turning their attentions to fixing some of the long-standing problems in the country -- some of these being mine explosions, political corruption, poisonous food and medicine, lynching of Black Americans, trusts, child labor, twelve-hour workdays, violent strikes, and massive income inequality.

    The History of the Standard Oil Company appeared in 1904, The Jungle, in 1906. People were reading McClure's and attending Chautauquas.

    Where I live, when this song came out, the Slovak Strike was going on, which lasted almost 16 months with thousands of families evicted from their homes and fifteen miners/miner family members killed and hundreds wounded.

    Why would people write songs like this in such a social climate? Woody Guthrie this guy was not.

    The most creditable theory I can come up with is that its function was to serve as a pleasant escape from the harsh realities of the late-Victorian world. But I suspect not.

    Contribute to the moon-June-spoon tradition?

    Or just a product to make a buck?
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