Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spectacles, and style Notions

Now, I have been in some debate about the picture of the Columbia exhibition that I use quite often on this blog, by this, I mean this one:
this picture needs not any arguments on what it is and who's present, but there is a small detail that is now being debated. 
What is it? It's if Fred Hylands at that piano is wearing some kind of spectacles. They cannot be seen barely at all from just looking at the picture above as is. 
they are still hard to see even here, but that is only because of how bright the flash was when the picture was taken. I asked several of my friends if they could see them, and they all denied it. Even with all of the "no" answers, I still held on to my position in thinking that they are certainly there. I did the little amount of photoshop that I know how to do to see if I could spot them(or just some faint frame lines), and after doing that, I still was able to see them. If you were to look at it like this, more of you might actually be able to see them:
See them? I hope so.
If you are able to see them, they actually look like these here:
(love that picture!)
Hylands probably used them for reading music more clearly, or maybe he wore them more often than I'm thinking. I don't really know, but it's certainly odd, because he's wearing them in that picture from the last post here(and yes, I still think it's Hylands there at the piano). That gets me wondering. Those glasses make him look even more like an intellectual and more quirky in some ways. He looks more like an eccentric and a more "cartoony" character(being a cartoonist, I think this way). Everything about Hylands' appearance was comical in some way. His six feet of height, flaming red hair, sensitive blue-green eyes draped with small oval-shaped glass frames, freckles, long fair hands, and of course, his weight. He would end up looking more like this:
I know I have explained this countless times, so enough of that. 

Now onto the second part of this post. This is a subject that I have to explain to many pianists who might be reluctant to hear it. It has to do with the earliest "boogie-woogie" style of piano. This style of piano, of which an amazing example can be heard here.(if you ever get a chance to see Carl live, go to it! He's wonderful!). It's a style that most players of it do not very much  understand its history. It's a very old style, that had a different shape and form back in the late 1890's. The walking and quick bass patterns were really all it was n that time, and it's very surprising that any of this made its way to cylinders. You can hear dozens of examples from listening to a bunch of records with Fred Hylands behind any singer or featured musician. The bass patterns can be noticed easily, and they are not muffled completely by the cylinders or discs. You can hear these patterns at the whistling at the last 30 seconds of  Billy Golden and Fred Hylands' "Turkey in the Straw" from 1898 and 1903.  This cylinder(the 1898 version) is a very odd one for many reasons, mainly because it's an old song mashed together with the rather "new" Rag-Time style, and that the accompaniment isn't the typical "Ragtime" that most pianists would picture in their minds, or piece together for their ears. It's a very broken-sounding style, strong to the touch, with lots of notes, and very syncopated patterns. The broken octaves at the end are really what indicate the "boogie" like playing style, but the whole of the cylinder's piano is absolutely stunning, and somewhat hard to keep up with, because there's so much going on at any single time. 

This next example if not really one of the walking bass notes, but of something else that is a part of the "boogie" style. It's not a very typical example of Rag-Time either, but it's just this one section that gets me. Here's Edward M. Favor's rendition of "Whistling Reily" from 1903. There's this single thing at o:48 that sounds very "boogie" like, and it's odd, the second time around, Hylands doesn't play that thing in the lower register, which is what made it sound like "boogie".  It's a very slight thing, that if just listening to it not very closely, it can be missed easily, even if it's pretty loud. If you sit at a piano and really figure out what it is, you'd be surprised what it really is, I was. 

This next one is a cylinder that I have shared on this blog before, but it fits into so many categories, that it is just great. It represents the "boogie' bass patterns extraordinarily well for the time. Here's Hylands and Spencer's "Whistling Rufus" 1899(cylinder starts at 6:00!). This cylinder has so many odd things in the piano accompaniment, and it's such a wild accompaniment also! There's so much of the broken octaves on this one, more so than most of Hylands' cylinders.  It was something that Hylands never let go of in this style, as you can hear him in 1905 still playing with those broken walking octaves, like on this one by Arthur Collins, you can hear the walking bass at about 1:08. It's very cool to hear that so early, and that he was still playing in the basically the same way almost 10 years after he began working as a studio pianist. His very "1896" Rag-Time style had fell out of fashion by 1903, but he still kept those ways of his.  You can hear another great example on this one, at the chorus and the whistling chorus. His style was different from Banta's in the way that it had more of a "black" feeling to it, which must have been so because while Hylands was in Chicago, he must have heard many musically illiterate black pianists, though never one to admit it, his style morphed into a style similar to that that Ernest Hogan(composer of "La Pas Ma La")said he heard. 

Hogan said that he wrote down his famous early "rag" "All Coons Look Alike To Me" after hearing a Chicago "professor" play and sing a song with similar  accompaniment and lyric. Hylands would have been one of those who heard many of those "professors" as well, only to later become one himself. The product of his wandering and listening is what we hear on all of those hundreds of surviving records. 

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